Nida & De Waard, From One Language to Another

Discussion in 'Bible Versions/Translations' started by John of Japan, Jul 12, 2010.

  1. John of Japan

    John of Japan
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    I recently finished reading this book, authored in 1986. As far as I know, this is the last major book by Nida on his translation theory. As I have time I want to give a chapter by chapter review.

    First of all, in the Preface the authors tell us that this book is an update of the Nida methodology and theory based on "some important insights from sociosemiotics" (p. 7; this is often called social semiotics). Unfortunately they don't define this term for us at this point, and unbelievably it is not even listed in the index! I am no doubt greatly simplifying, but this is the view that the social context determines meaning. Semiotics is "the science that studies sign systems or structures, sign processes and sign functions" (Translation Studies, by secular scholar Susan Bassnett, p. 21). This is a natural continuation of Nida's dependence on existentialism and the code theory of communication.

    Another purpose of this book given in the Preface is that Nida tries to abandon the DE (dynamic equivalence) term and replace it with "functional equivalence" (a term used briefly in his previous book (1982) with Charles Taber, The Theory and Practice of Translation). The authors write, "Unfortunately, the expression 'dynamic equivalence' has often been misunderstood as referring to anything which might have special impact and appeal for receptors. Some Bible translators have seriously violated the principle of dynamic equivalence.... It is hoped, therefore, that the use of the expression 'functional equivalence' may serve to highlight the communicative functions of translating and to avoid misunderstanding" (pp. vii-viii).
     
  2. John of Japan

    John of Japan
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    Chapter 1--"Translating is Communicating"

    In this chapter the authors clearly preach the code theory of communication as a necessary tool for understanding how to translate. In their explanation on p. 11 they say (stating it as fact), "For any communication there are eight principle elements: source, message, receptors, setting, code, sense channel, instrument channel, and noise." So unfortunately they present code theory as the only established, factual and scientific way to understand communication (and thus translation), and it is not.

    Much of the rest of the chapter of Nida-De Waard discusses code theory. I don't have time to explain these theories here, but would be happy to try to answer any questions on the subject. Personally, I think code theory is inadequate as a help for translation, and secular scholars almost all agree on this. None of the main secular theories of translation out there use code theory, and some scholars outright oppose it.

    In his book on Bible translation, Relevance Theory, Ernst-August Gutt blows code theory out of the water. For just one example, talking about "our intuition that utterances need to 'make sense'", Gutt says, "The code model has no theoretical tools for handling this notion of 'making sense'" (p. 34).

    To continue, in the rest of the chapter the authors endorse source criticism (pp. 11-12), sneer at the very existence of a Byzantine text (calling it the "so-called Byzantine text" on p. 12 and thus showing their ignorance of textual criticism), and give no objections to the desire of one group to translate Leviticus first because they like all the taboos (p. 15), and another group's translation of Amos first to aid in a Latin American revolutionary movement (p. 18)!
     
  3. jonathan.borland

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    Just wondering: Is there a generally accepted translation method among linguistics scholars, say those at UCLA, Cambridge, etc.? If so, what it is?
     
  4. John of Japan

    John of Japan
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    Hi, Jonathan.

    In the past several decades a whole discipline of "translation studies" has arisen in the secular world. Linguistics-based translation methods are somewhat passe in translation studies, but rather translation studies scholars study professional translators and how they translate. There have been several theories developed out of this trend, and I give brief introductions to those theories at: http://www.baptistboard.com/showthread.php?t=63008
     
  5. John of Japan

    John of Japan
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    Chapter 2—“Functions and Roles in Bible Translating”

    First of all, I’ll discuss what the authors mean by “functions.” By this they mean theological issues, though why they did not say so I’m not sure. At any rate, this section is a mixed bag: some good points and some really bad ones.

    The first “function” mentioned is “motives.” One strong motive given for Bible translation is evangelism. However, the problem here is that DE (or FE) has as its goal the “receptor” understanding the Bible just like the original reader did. What DE does to achieve that is reword the Bible so that it communicates better in the “receptor” culture. That reveals a misunderstanding of the doctrine of revelation. God’s revelation is eternal truth, automatically adaptable to all cultures. All that must be done is faithful translation.

    By the way, this is one area where Nida’s theory is attacked by secular critics. According to Edwin Gentzler, “The translated text, according to Nida, should produce a response in a reader in today’s culture that is ‘essentially like’ the response of the ‘original’ receptors; if it does not, he suggests making changes in the text (emphasis in original) in order to solicit that initial response” (Contemporary Translation Theories, 2nd ed., pp. 53-54).

    Another function the authors mention is “religious language.” In this section we see Nida’s existentialism in action when he says, “In primary religious language, experience generally outweighs rationality” (p. 21).

    In commenting on “contemporary exegetical principles,” the authors speak of “reading a virgin birth back into Isaiah 7:14,” (p. 23) thus showing liberal bias, since it is Matthew in the NT who actually does so with parqenoV, the Greek word which unarguably means “virgin.” However, they rightly advise against “inclusive language” in a translation for the reason that the Biblical culture was male oriented (p. 24). This was surprising to me in that receptor response theory seems to call for inclusive language.
     
  6. jonathan.borland

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    Thanks for posting these chapter reviews, John.

    Could you please elaborate, perhaps with an example?

    Jonathan C. Borland
     
  7. John of Japan

    John of Japan
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    I documented Nida's existentialism here: http://www.baptistboard.com/showthread.php?t=54801

    The truth is that reader response, the linchpin of Nida's theory, is existential. How the original states things is of secondary importance. What is most important to Nida is how the "receptor" receives the message. Therefore, the grammatical form of the original can be ignored at will, as long as the "receptor" is getting the right idea. Again, existentialism shows up in Nida's semantics, in which context can sometimes invent new meanings for a word.

    This can be seen in Nida's most famous example, in which he commends the J. B. Phillips rendering of "give one another a hearty handshake all around" when the original has "greet one another with a holy kiss." Even secular translators have criticized this, such as Susan Bassnett who wrote, "With this example of what seems to be a piece of inadequate translation in poor taste, the weakness of Nida's loosely defined types can clearly be seen" (Translation Studies, p. 33). Interestingly, Jin Di, Nida's Chinese partner in a secular book backed off somewhat from DE after partnering with Nida in On Translation for this very reason.
     
  8. John of Japan

    John of Japan
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    Here is a quote from Jin Di about his disagreement with Nida:

    "The idea is that things hard for the target-language readers to comprehend may be replaced with something familiar to them in their own culture. In fact, this is exactly Dr. Nida's view which I have taken exception to in the aftermath of our cooperation in 1982. I will not repeat what I think I have made clear in some of my essays, except that the issue arose over Dr. Nida's support for replacing 'a holy kiss' with 'a hearty handshake' in the translation of 'Romans' in the New Testament" (On Translation, An Expanded Edition, pp. 273-274).
     
  9. John of Japan

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    It is at this point (p. 24) where Nida and De Waard do their best to distance themselves from some practices which purport to be DE. For example, they point out that in Ps. 2:2 the Living Bible renders "the Lord and his Messiah, Christ the King," when all of that is not in the original. Though Nida teaches in other places that ambiguities in the original should not be carried over into the translation, in this case he says that Ps. 2 might be an enthronement Psalm and it might have messianic implications, but the ambiguity should not be interpreted out like the LB does here.

    Again, the authors disagree with the National Council of Churches which has inclusive language in their liturgical materials: "We have Abraham as our father and Sarah and Hagar as our mothers," when the original only has "We have Abraham as our father" (p. 24).

    Once again the authors attack the LB in Matt. 2:9, where they quote the original as having, "The star went before them until it came and stood over where the baby was." The LB has "The star appeared to them again, standing over Bethlehem." The LB translator then "insisted that the astrologers who came to worship Jesus were fully acquainted with the stars and they would never have been deceived by a star seeming to move ahead of them and then stopping over the place where the baby was.... The translator of the Living Bible, in effect, claimed that matthew could not have meant what he wrote" (pp. 24-25).

    So, Nida and De Waard try to deflect charges that their translation method produces paraphrases. However, some scholars in both the secular and Biblical worlds believe that DE does indeed produce paraphrase renderings.
     
  10. Apreacher4Him

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    Literal Translation of the preserved text is always best

    Literal Translation of the preserved text is always best :)
     
  11. John of Japan

    John of Japan
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    Well, since I'm translating the TR into Japanese, I won't argue with this! :smilewinkgrin:
     
  12. John of Japan

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    The second half of Chapter Two discusses various “Communicative Functions of Language,” such as the expressive function, cognitive function, interpersonal function, informative function, imperative function, performative function and emotive function. This part fulfills the “informative function” of the chapter, and is somewhat enlightening. However, knowledge of these “functions” is not necessary if one is translating with a literal method. More helpful would be a discussion of types of literature, which would affect translation much more: poetry, narrative, etc.

    The book continues with a brief discussion of the role of the translator, in which Nida’s view of authorial intention is discussed. When I first learned of this view some time ago, it immediately appealed to me. Should we not translate the message the original divine and human authors intended? However, I now think this concept is a red herring. There are times when the translator will simply not know what the original authors intended. At such times either (1) an exegetical choice must be made, or (2) the ambiguity should be retained if possible in the translation if the language allows it. Retaining the ambiguity is much preferred if possible, because then the reader is allowed to make his or her own exegesis or interpretation.

    Next we read of the role of the “receptors,” a term Nida insists upon. The authors write, “They are not just the passive ‘target’ of communication, as some terminology would suggest, but active participants in the process” (p. 33). This once again highlights the DE dependence on the code theory of communication, in which if you simply “decode” the original message into the “receptor language,” communication will occur. Unfortunately for the authors, no secular translators base their method on code theory, and no secular translators use the term “receptor” (although unfortunately some literal Bible translators have swallowed the term hook, line and sinker). In the secular world, although Nida is honored, his theory has sunk like a lead balloon.

    It is in this section that the authors make what is to me an unbelievable statement: “Some church leaders, however, have felt that translations should not attempt to bridge any language-culture gaps but should stick to more or less literal renderings of the biblical text. Any needed explanations would then be taken care of by an informed clergy, who could then instruct people as to the correct interpretation. In general, however, such an approach has been woefully inadequate” (p. 34). I am dumbfounded by this statement. Wait a minute. Is the not missionary to teach the people what Christ taught (Matt. 28:18-20)? Is not the preacher to teach the word (2 Tim. 4:2)?
     
  13. Rippon

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    As I have pointed out months ago -- and you acknowledged the fact -- you yourself have used the term scores of times in a positive manner.
     
  14. John of Japan

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    Not for a long time. So what's your point?
     
  15. Rippon

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    It's just that for someone who professes to follow a more literal translation style -- you used the term 'receptor' numerous times. I don't understand why you object to the term now. It just means target language. It's not a code for existentialism.

    Gruden,Carson,Comfort and a host of other conservative Bible scholars employ the term.

    You have used the term freely in 57 posts in which you were not quoting anyone and you used it in a positive sense.

    I just wonder why it's such a boogy-man in your estimation.
     
  16. Rippon

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    A literal translation of Bible texts sometimes produce nonsense.

    Literal is best sometimes; on other occasions it would be better to go the functional route as the KJV,NASB,ESV,TNIV and a multitude of other translations have.
     
  17. John of Japan

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    Just trying to point out the meaning Nida himself gives the word. If Nida himself gives an important meaning to the word, then who am I to disagree with Nida?? (Are you actually reading the quotes I give from Nida/De Waard?) :D
    What, I'm not allowed to grow in knowledge? Is the point you are trying to make that I must remain static and never learn and never change in terminology? It is to jest! :laugh:
    None of these men you mentioned are translation scholars, strictly speaking. (I don't say that I am, but I'm doing a whole lot of study on it.) Why would they be expected to specialize in translation terminology? A well-known Greek scholar recently asked for my file summarizing skopos theory. Does that make me smarter than him or something? Of course not. It makes him humble, I think. I'd like to believe that the men you mentioned are humble enough to learn in this area.

    Thanks for the laughs. I enjoyed your rabbit trail. :thumbsup:
     
  18. John of Japan

    John of Japan
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    Chapter Two continues with other "roles" involved in translating. The role of the message is the next one discussed. The authors make the positive point that "the Scriptures essentially unique among religious documents in that God's entrance into history is an integral element. For the Bible, God is the one who not only speaks, but acts" (p. 35). They also correctly point out that the message of the Bible is exclusive and universal. "As one Buddhist abbot in Thailand said when he forewarned his monks about reading the New Testament, 'Do not read this book unless you are prepared to lose sleep!" (p. 36).

    The authors then discuss "Formal Correspondence and Functional Equivalence." First of all they discuss Nida's intention in originally naming his method "dynamic equivalence," meaning that "the receptors of a translation should comprehend the translated text to such an extent that they can understand how the original receptors must have understood the original text," not dynamic "merely in terms of something which has impact and appeal" (p. 36). Unfortunately, this second, mistaken meaning is how DE is often understood by those who have not actually read and studied Nida's work. Therefore, we get such ideas as the Living Bible being DE (which Nida stoutly denies), or that the KJV has DE in it (though Nida never once in all of his writings uses a KJV rendering to illustrate DE, as far as I can tell).

    Next in this section the authors deal with idioms and how to translate them. It is becoming a pet peeve of mine that Nida's works do not clearly distinguish the difference between an idiom and normal communication. In fact, in the glossary of The Theory and Practice of Translation, Nida and Taber even mistakenly define an idiom as "an expression consisting of several words..." (p. 202). A quick look at a scholarly resource such as Handbook of American Idioms and Idiomatic Usage, by Harold Whitford and Robert Dixson, will give multiple examples of one word idioms.

    Nida and De Waard set up a straw man by discussing idioms and intimating that only DE translators will get them right. The truth is, translators of all stripes know how to translate idioms, and that sometimes you can translate them literally and sometimes you must not, just as Nida and De Waard say: "It is a mistake to assume that all figurative meanings must be automatically changed to nonfigurative expressions. Sometimes a literal translation is perfectly acceptable" (p. 39). Advocates of literal methods such as the "essentially literal" method of the ESV or the "optimal equivalence" method of the NKJV and the HCSV would completely agree.

    In the section, "Different Types of Translation," the authors make a legitimate point that is not often discussed: "All of these varieties of translating and adapting have a certain legitimacy for particular audiences and special circumstances" (p. 42).

    The last section in this chapter, "The Possibility of Translating," is one I agree with. The authors point out that some down through the years, beginning with Wilhelm Von Humboldt in 1796, have stated that true translation is impossible. The authors disagree with that and point out that "people are amazingly alike. Because of this, translating can be undertaken with the expectation of communicative effectiveness" (p. 44).
     
  19. Rippon

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    Yes, but that doesn't mean that conservative scholars should avoid the use of the term.


    Then you are unaware of the credentials of D.A.Carson and Philip Comfort. They are,strictly speaking, translation scholars.

    Others who have used the term are Doug Moo,Mark Strauss, Bill and Bob Mounce, Hall Harris, Daniel Block and Harold Hoehner to name justa' few.

    So you think they "swallowed the term hook,line and sinker" as you did yourself?

    You have allowed your prejudice to overtake you. The term receptor or receptor language is perfectly legitimate.

    I have a good sense of humor;but I fail to see how I am making you laugh on this issue.
     
  20. Rippon

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    The KJV has DE renderings aplenty as it has been pointed out countless times.

    You can add the NLTse,TNIV,ISV,NRSV and others.
     

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