A Glossary of Translation Terms

Discussion in 'Bible Versions/Translations' started by John of Japan, Oct 21, 2012.

  1. John of Japan

    John of Japan
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    I've been thinking for quite some time of working on a glossary of Bible translation terms here on the BB. It would include definitions of various theories and styles, various tools and methods, related terms from linguistics, and so forth.

    The definitions can be your own or quoted from a book or other source. There can be more than one definition for each term--feel free to add your own or definitions from other sources. Also, if you don't understand a definition, feel free to ask questions.

    Here goes. I'll start with a definition from Dr. James Price of his theory of optimal equivalence, used in the NKJV and HCSB.

    "Optimal Equivalence--a theory of translation that focuses on the equivalence of words, kernel clauses, transformations, and literary form" (A Theory for Bible Translation: an Optimal Equivalence Model, p. 336).
     
  2. Salty

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    will there be a test?
     
  3. John of Japan

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    Are you properly enrolled? :laugh:
     
  4. John of Japan

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    I should explain this. It's kind of obscure, isn't it? Dr. Price is working from a linguistic tool called transformational grammar.

    1) equivalence of words: finding the optimally equivalent word to carry the meaning of the word in the original--the best word to give the meaning of the original word. So OE is what is called a verbatim translation method.

    2) kernel clauses--in transformational grammar, a kernal clause or sentence is: "a basic sentence type from which more complex structures are derived" (Diane Bornstein, An Introduction to Transformational Grammar, p. 241). You take that kernel clause/sentence and do transformations from it.

    3) transformations--Remember in high school English or college English where you took a simple sentence and did things with it? "I ran home" can transform to "I didn't run home," "I will run home," "I can run home," etc. In translation we do that as we put the original sentence into the target language, looking for the best grammatical form in the target language to represent the grammatical form of the original.

    4) "literary form"--in optimal equivalence we don't just translate literally, we aim for good readability and literary quality.
     
  5. John of Japan

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    "Verbatim translation: "Complete translation of every word in the original text" (Morry Sofer, The Translator's Handbook, p. 403).
     
  6. Van

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    Thanks for describing "transformation". If I understood, it refers to rearranging the words based on the grammatical relationship of the source language to the word order which maintains those relationships in the target language. So in Revelation 13:8 where some append before the foundation of the world to slain, others "transform" it differently and append the phrase to "written."

    If this view is valid, then many of the translation differences, when working from the same textual source, are caused by differing understandings of the underlying grammar. For example, if the Granville Sharp's rule is valid, that would explain why older (pre 1800) translations did not "transform" the sentence in the same way as today.
     
    #6 Van, Oct 21, 2012
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  7. Van

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    I see I made a mistake concerning Revelation 13:8, it should have read, "where some append from the foundation of the world to slain, others "transform" it differently and append the phrase to "written."
     
  8. John of Japan

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    You have a start at understanding TG. What you need to understand is what deep structure and shallow structure are to fully understand it. Here is an article I wrote for my son's blog that may help: http://paroikosmissionarykid.blogspot.jp/search/label/Bible%20translation
     
    #8 John of Japan, Oct 21, 2012
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  9. John of Japan

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    Your Rev. 13:8 example is more of an example of Greek exegesis than TG or optimal equivalence.
     
  10. John of Japan

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    Everyone has their own definition of "literal translation," usually considered to be the same as word-for-word translation and called by dynamic equivalence advocates "formal equivalence." I'll give three here, two biased and one even-handed.

    Eugene Nida is biased away from literal translation. He wrote, "literalness: quality of a translation in which the form of the original is reproduced in the receptor language in such a way as to distort the message and/or the patterns of the receptor language" (The Theory and Practice of Translation, by Eugene Nida and Charles Taber, p. 203). The problem here is that Nida-Taber have a presupposition that literal is always bad, in spite of the fact that some DE renderings could also be described as literal.

    Biased the other way is H. D. Williams, formerly of the KJVO Dean Burgon Society: "Word-for-word translating: rendering a word or words in a receptor-language the same as in a source language. It is not interpreting, giving meaning, or giving the semantics of a source-language word" (Word for Word Translating of the Received Texts, p. xx). He further defines the DBS method as follows: "Verbal Plenary Translating: This is a term coined by Pastor D. A. Waite, Th.D., Ph.D. for translating all of the inspired, preserved words of God (the canon of the Bible known as the Received Texts) into a receptor-language using the principles of syntax" (ibid).

    Williams has very odd definitions. In the first place, he is using DE terminology, "receptor" instead of the more normal "target," thoough he opposes DE. Secondly, he opposes semantics, which is simply the study of meaning, and says we should not give the meaning of a word in the receptor language. Huh? You mean "tree" in English and in Japanese have different meanings? Then he talks about the "principles of syntax," which don't exist. Syntax is just sentence structure. Everyone has different principles for looking at syntax.

    Finally, a secular scholar gives a balanced definition of literal translation: “Literal translation is a translation strategy or technique involving a choice of TL equivalents that stay close to the form of the original while ensuring grammaticality in the TL” (Key Terms in Translation Studies, by Giuseppe Palumbo, 70). (Note: TL is "target language"--JoJ)

    Palumbo further says about literal translation, “Newmark (1981) sees this technique as the best option for translating texts where the form is as important as the content, such as great speeches, autobiographies and literary works; these are the kinds of text that require what he calls a semantic translation approach.”
     
  11. Van

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    Hi JOJ, thanks for the link to the blog post, very informative. I especially like the idea of employing rules to minimize subjective translation, i.e. give the job to a computer programer.

    And I liked the test method, like in math if you divide a number by a number, you can multiply the answer to get the original undivided number. For Transformational Grammar, the test is to transform the translated kernel back into the source language. If the back translated kernel matches the original source language kernel. the process was completed properly. Again something a computer program could be required to do.

    One issue I see is where our current modern translations sometimes violate the syntax based on believing the idea is different from what is driven by the syntax. If this view is not just whitewash for ends driving translation, then the computer would mistranslate those kernels.
     
  12. Yeshua1

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    maybe also give a bible translation that reflects best the various theories underlining bible translation practices?
     
  13. John of Japan

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    Interesting that you should say this. Dr. James Price, the scholar who developed optimal equivalence, was first a research engineer in optics and electronics. His dissertation for his Ph.D. in Hebrew way back in 1969 was, "The Development of a Theoretical Basis for Translating from Hebrew to English."
    Computer translation is still in its childhood, though translators have long hoped for progress. Eugene Nida had a chapter on it in Toward a Science of Translating way back in 1964, but it is still not a valid option for a Bible translator. (1) Translation programs are still not sophisticated enough, and the product has to undergo extensive rewriting. (I have a cheap English-Japanese translation program.) (2) No one has yet developed a program that translates from Biblical Greek or Hebrew to my knowledge.
    As a textual scholar friend reminded me when I mentioned another scholar's effort to do textual criticism with a computer program, "Garbage in garbage out." Any software designed to translate the Bible will operate just like the translator's philosophy of translation.
     
  14. John of Japan

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    I might do this after I finish defining the different translation methods; can't promise, though.
     
  15. John of Japan

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    Let's defind paraphrase, in particular as a philosophy of translation.

    Nida-Taber define it this way: "paraphrase: the restatement of a meaning in a different form" (ob cit, 204). This seems vague to me, though.

    Try this one. "paraphrase: The statement of the contents of a passage, text, etc., in the same or another language, without following the original text verbatim" (Dictionary of Linguistics, by Mario Pei and Frank Gaynor, p. 159).
     
  16. Van

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    Yes, but the problem is if a program could correctly transform the syntax, but the syntax was wrong, the computer would mistranslate the kernel. But yes, if the computer code uses syntax rules that are mistaken, i.e. lacking the Granville Sharp rule, then it would make two people out of one with two characteristics.

    I expect the reason we do not have a computer driven translation of at least the NT, is that translation is more art than science, more subjective than objective, and more ends driven than claimed.

    But I remember the words of one of my heros, MLK, who asked the question how long, and answered it not long. Praise God.
     
  17. John of Japan

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    I agree that translation is more art than science. Recent secular theories of translation focus on the translator himself more than the translation.

    One of these days I'll let my Japanese translation software translate some Japanese verses into English and post them on the BB just for fun.:type:
     
  18. Yeshua1

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    Doesn't the HCSB claim that it is the most compuetr checked/verified translation yet been made? that it complied and compared based upon the Accordance bible program?
     
  19. Rippon

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    We've talked about this P&G quote before. By following their definition all Bible translations could be called paraphrases because none follow the original text verbatim unless you call interlinears translations.
     
  20. Yeshua1

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    Yes, as just trying to study from say the 1901 ASV as contrasted with say the NASB 2005! There is "literal, and there is Literal!"
     

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