Linguistics and Bible Translation

Discussion in 'Bible Versions/Translations' started by John of Japan, Feb 6, 2014.

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Linguistics and Translation

Poll closed Mar 8, 2014.
  1. Linguistics is always necessary for the Bible translator.

    2 vote(s)
    40.0%
  2. Linguistics is never necessary for the Bible translator.

    0 vote(s)
    0.0%
  3. Linguistics is sometimes necessary for the Bible translator.

    2 vote(s)
    40.0%
  4. I don't know.

    1 vote(s)
    20.0%
  5. Other (Please explain)

    0 vote(s)
    0.0%
  1. John of Japan

    John of Japan
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    Perhaps we can get away from comparing versions for awhile and discuss the usefulness of linguistics for Bible translation, edifying one another.

    There are two kinds of linguists: the kind that studies linguistics and the kind that is an expert in a certain language. (For example, "He is a linguist in Chinese.") It goes without saying that the translator must be a linguist in both the original language the target language of his translation.

    What this thread is about is the other kind of linguistics, where the scholarly discipline of linguistics is in view. This would include historical linguistics (how a language develops), descriptive linguistics (systematizing the grammar and semantics of a language), communication theory and so forth.

    So, how necessary is linguistic knowledge for a translator? is it necessary for a Bible translator to us linguistics or not at all? Or sometimes necessary but often not?
     
  2. John of Japan

    John of Japan
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    Two people have said that linguistics is always necessary for Bible translation. Care to explain why? And how?

    I say that it is sometimes necessary.
     
  3. John of Japan

    John of Japan
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    The area where linguistics is most valuable is in tribal translation work, where the translator has to use descriptive linguistics to record the grammar and vocabulary of the language through phonetics, phonemics, etc. Such languages have no written language, and thus no written literature or dictionaries or grammar books.

    In these cases, a knowledge of modern linguistics is very important. This is why such schools as the Summer Institute of Linguistics (SIL) and Baptist Bible Translators Institute (BBTI) and the exist--they teach linguistics to would-be tribal translators. However, think about it. Translators early in church history such as Ulfilas did not have the tool of modern linguistics (which began in the 18th century), but still were able to invent written languages and translate the Bible. How good a job they did is still debatable, but they did the job.

    Consider also a modern translator. Someone tell me why a modern translator into a major language with plenty of dictionaries and grammars would have to know linguistics.
     
    #3 John of Japan, Feb 7, 2014
    Last edited by a moderator: Feb 7, 2014
  4. Jkdbuck76

    Jkdbuck76
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    So his/her translation would make sense? My father has a degree in linguistics; not me. My degree is in sociology...though I wasn't an athlete! :)
     
  5. John of Japan

    John of Japan
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    The key in translation is the translator's ability. So more and more, modern secular translation theory makes the translator central to the theory. The research often centers around how the translator does his or her work, not the linguistic aspects of the process.

    Secular translation scholars usually point to Bible translation consultant Eugene Nida as the pioneer of using linguistics in translation. For example, Edwin Gentzler in his book Contemporary Translation Theories has a whole chapter entitled "The 'Science' of Translation" in which he examines Nida's theories (which are largely from linguist Noam Chomsky). Some secular theorists (Venuti for one) actually oppose Nida's dynamic equivalence and his use of linguistics.
     

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