Translating grammatical forms

Discussion in 'Bible Versions/Translations' started by John of Japan, Mar 13, 2013.

  1. John of Japan

    John of Japan
    Expand Collapse
    Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Sep 22, 2005
    Messages:
    12,212
    Likes Received:
    192
    Today Uncle Miya and I were working on Luke 8 when we had a difference as to how to translate the aorist passive infinitive qerapeuqhnai (to be healed) in v. 43. I felt we should preserve the passive in the Japanese, but Uncle Miya wanted to change it to a normal present tense, "The doctors could not heal her." Note the NIV ("no one could heal her") and NEB (New English Bible, “nobody had been able to cure her”), as opposed to the KJV ("neither could be healed of any"), the ESV ("she could not be healed by anyone") and the HCSB (“could not be healed by any”).

    I argued that there were nuances in preserving the passive that was lost in making the verb active, ergo: (1) Saying no one could heal her makes the doctors the operators seeking to heal, but in reality she was the one doing her best to be healed. (2) Saying that no one could heal her leaves out the possibility that Christ could heal her, whereas saying that "she could not be healed of any" means that the doctors did not heal her, not that no one could. Uncle Miya agreed and we preserved the passive form in our translation. (3) Making her the one trying to be healed leaves open the possibility that she had been deceived by quacks taking her money.

    Translating not only every word, but the grammatical forms as much as possible, means that the nuances of the original are preserved in the translation. However, concentrating on the semantics, that is the meaning of the individual words, and ignoring the grammatical forms, means that much of the nuance of the original is lost in the translation.

    In spite of this, advocates of dynamic equivalence mock and look down on "formal equivalence" translators and translations. Here is one example of that in a definition from a DE book:

    "formal correspondence: quality of a translation in which the features of the form of the source text have been mechanically reproduced in the receptor language. Typically, formal correspondence distorts the grammatical and stylistic patterns of the receptor language, and hence distorts the message, so as to cause the receptor to misunderstand or to labor unduly hard" (The Theory and Practice of Translation, Eugene Nida and Charles Taber, p. 201).

    Regardless of being mocked and looked down on, I will continue to translate the grammatical forms literally, and believe they are very important in preserving the nuances of the original.
     
    #1 John of Japan, Mar 13, 2013
    Last edited by a moderator: Mar 13, 2013
  2. Yeshua1

    Yeshua1
    Expand Collapse
    Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Mar 19, 2012
    Messages:
    17,097
    Likes Received:
    49
    Shouldn't the passage be worded to reflect that she was not able to be healed by anyone up until that point in time?

    That she could not be healed, but not saying that she could never be healed!
     
  3. Revmitchell

    Revmitchell
    Expand Collapse
    Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Feb 18, 2006
    Messages:
    38,361
    Likes Received:
    790
    I want to thank you for your fidelity to the word of God. When "readability" becomes the standard over even the grammatical nuances then we lose the intent of the authors. It makes me sick to my stomach.

    May I use this post?
     
  4. Rippon

    Rippon
    Expand Collapse
    Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Dec 12, 2005
    Messages:
    17,407
    Likes Received:
    328
    You have yourself said that translating every word is impossible.

    I sincerely doubt that you have preserved the nuances...every so-called jot and tittle. But the qualifer "as much as possible" is right. Not one translated verse in the whole of the NT or the Old can possibly preserve every nuance of the original.


    You have, in the past, been quite patronizing of the DE form of translating.


    Apparently the above quote hurt your feelings. However,is the point raised by Nida and Taber true?

    Form does not = meaning.
     
  5. Yeshua1

    Yeshua1
    Expand Collapse
    Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Mar 19, 2012
    Messages:
    17,097
    Likes Received:
    49
    Isn't it better to actually translate over what was said and meant by the Bible authors, to write it as close as to what they said, without resorting to trying to read theeir minds as to what they really meant?

    Trying to read into it from perspective of Middle eastern culture of the times, not what currernt culture holds to?

    For when you try to read their minds, and put in thru modern culturel lens too much, end up with stuff like Queen james version!
     
  6. John of Japan

    John of Japan
    Expand Collapse
    Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Sep 22, 2005
    Messages:
    12,212
    Likes Received:
    192
    Only if that nuance is in the original, but I'm not sure it is.
     
  7. John of Japan

    John of Japan
    Expand Collapse
    Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Sep 22, 2005
    Messages:
    12,212
    Likes Received:
    192
    Yes, use it in any way that is profitable. :thumbs:
     
  8. John of Japan

    John of Japan
    Expand Collapse
    Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Sep 22, 2005
    Messages:
    12,212
    Likes Received:
    192
    Yes I have. That doesn't mean I won't try, and even DE agrees with this, though they don't like the term "word-for-word."
    Prove that I haven't preserved the nuances.
    And your point is?
    Hardly likely that I got my feelings hurt by a book, the main author of which is now dead. :p :D
    Nope.
    Grammatical form carries nuances.
     
  9. John of Japan

    John of Japan
    Expand Collapse
    Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Sep 22, 2005
    Messages:
    12,212
    Likes Received:
    192
    Yes, this is all correct. You have brought up the issue of authorial intent. I see the following ways to determine authorial intent:

    (1) By the syntax (sentence structure) and semantics (meaning) of the original.
    (2) By the culture and society and history of the times: grammatical-historical hermeneutics.
    (3) By context: the immediate context of the passage, the context of the book, the context of the author's normal usage (in authors with more than one book, like Luke, John, Peter and Paul) and the context of the entire written revelation (and this point is what separates Bible translation from that of other documents, the theological presuppositions we've developed).
     
  10. John of Japan

    John of Japan
    Expand Collapse
    Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Sep 22, 2005
    Messages:
    12,212
    Likes Received:
    192
    Folks, think about this statement. According to this, when you say "I will go to the store" (future tense), you might as well have said, "I went to the store" (past tense). According to Rippon, they mean the same, since according to him, "Form does not = meaning."
     
  11. John of Japan

    John of Japan
    Expand Collapse
    Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Sep 22, 2005
    Messages:
    12,212
    Likes Received:
    192
    Let's consider how to translate a grammatical form into a language which has no direct equivalent grammatical form. For example, in the example in the OP we have a Greek aorist infinitive. Japanese can handle an aorist okay, but has no infinitive. What then is the translator to do?

    This is where most word-for-word treatments fail, because most translators operate in English or some other language in the Indo-European family. Languages in this family have commonality in their grammatical forms. However, going from an Indo-European language to an Asian or tribal language poses problems, since many of these languages do not have infinitives and the like.

    Dr. James Price has solved this problem with a linguistic tool called transformational grammar (also called generational grammar). (See his magnum opus A Theory for Bible Translation: An Optimal Equivalence Model, but make sure you learn Hebrew first!)

    What we cannot do in such cases is look for a direct equivalent grammatical form, because it does not exist. What we do rather is, by using transformations in the target language, find an optimally equivalent form.

    For example, Japanese has no future tense. An early missionary had a "eureka" moment when he thought he had found the Japanese future tense, but in reality he had found the tentative verb (also called the presumptive). Following this error, the first Japanese colloquial translation was roundly criticized for translating the Greek future with the Japanese tentative, thus translating Acts 1:11 as, "This same Jesus...may come in like manner."

    In Japanese, when speaking of a definite future action (as opposed to a possible action, which is a subjunctive type meaning), we use the present tense. So when I led a woman to the Lord in our prayer meeting once, and she said to me, "I come to church Sunday," I knew she really meant it!

    Surely through this illustration you can see that the grammatical forms of a language have definite nuances to convey, and even semantic content (meaning). After all, each grammatical form is a word. Got it?
     
  12. Logos1560

    Logos1560
    Expand Collapse
    Active Member

    Joined:
    Oct 22, 2004
    Messages:
    3,127
    Likes Received:
    2
    In my opinion, you seem to be overstating or somewhat misrepresenting the statement "form does not = meaning" that you quoted.

    I thought about the statement, and I did not understand that statement to assert that the future tense form of a statement would have to mean the same as the past tense form of a statement.

    Because you can give an example where changing the form does change the meaning, does that prove that there could be no cases where changing the form does not change the meaning? Would you assert that a word used as one form or part of speech in a sentence cannot have the same meaning used as a different part of speech or in a different form in another sentence?

    In addition, as you yourself point out, there can be a grammatical form in one language which has no direct equivalent grammatical form in another language. If you are saying that form does always equal meaning, that would seem to be saying that forms without any direct equivalent in another language could not be properly translated since the different form would not have the same meaning.
     
  13. Yeshua1

    Yeshua1
    Expand Collapse
    Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Mar 19, 2012
    Messages:
    17,097
    Likes Received:
    49
    Would the translators of the NASB agree with Rippon here though?

    When you read their preface, they state categorical their desire to correctly translate Greek verbage into correct English vocabulary....
     
  14. Yeshua1

    Yeshua1
    Expand Collapse
    Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Mar 19, 2012
    Messages:
    17,097
    Likes Received:
    49
    isn't that method , even with a direct formal equivalence word, be seeking to fit the meaning to what was meant at time of the writting, not what we think they meant based upon our current understanding?
     
  15. John of Japan

    John of Japan
    Expand Collapse
    Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Sep 22, 2005
    Messages:
    12,212
    Likes Received:
    192
    Hi, brother, I hope you are doing well.
    I would be happy to have Rippon clarify his statement. It seemed black and white to me, and Rippon being intelligent can surely see on reflection that as the statement stands it is inaccurate.
    I think the view that all grammatical forms have nuance or even core meaning is easily proven by the fact that we have huge Greek grammars to explain said meaning, such as A. T. Robertson (over 1200 pages) and Daniel Wallace (over 750 pages), and I use a huge Japanese grammar by Samuel E. Martin (1084 pages). So I contend that the burden of proof is on those who say grammatical forms do not necessarily carry meaning. I would like to know of a single Greek form that does not have nuance.

    I could give 100s, even 1000s of Greek forms that carry meaning, but let me point you to one set of forms that every first year student pulls his or hair out over, the prepositions. Various of the prepositions change completely in meaning depending on the case of the words following in the prepositional phrase. (I am simplifying greatly.) For example, dia (dia) means "through" with the genitive, but "because of" with the accusative. The word meta (meta) with the genitive means "with" but with the accusative means "after." Since dia occurs in 580 verses and meta occurs in 445 verses, there with little effort we have a huge number of examples where form inarguably carries meaning.
    Yes, there are many grammatical forms in Greek the nuance of which cannot be translated into certain languages (including English). For example, Japanese and Chinese have no articles, so the Greek definite article usually cannot be translated. Again, the Greek perfect tense has no equivalent in Japanese (and Chinese has no tenses!), so the nuance is often lost.

    So yes, there are Greek and Hebrew grammatical forms which do not have equivalents in various languages. However, this does not mean that there is no meaning or nuance in the original form. In fact, this very fact points up the priority of the original documents over any translation, a point I am sure you will agree with. Scholarly exegesis simply must go to the original languages and their grammatical and semantic forms for the final word on the meaning of a passage.
     
    #15 John of Japan, Mar 14, 2013
    Last edited by a moderator: Mar 14, 2013
  16. John of Japan

    John of Japan
    Expand Collapse
    Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Sep 22, 2005
    Messages:
    12,212
    Likes Received:
    192
    Sorry, but my NASB is at the church and I don't know what statement you are referring to in their preface. But it sounds like they would agree with me, not Rippon. Since there is no such English word as verbage, I assume you mean verbiage here, "the manner in which something is expressed in words" (American Heritage Dictionary, 3rd ed., 1996, accessed through MS Bookshelf 98). Therefore they mean that they try to get the original grammar into the target language.
     
  17. John of Japan

    John of Japan
    Expand Collapse
    Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Sep 22, 2005
    Messages:
    12,212
    Likes Received:
    192
    Yes, correct. To translate you must do exegesis, and I hold to the grammatical-historical method.
     
  18. Yeshua1

    Yeshua1
    Expand Collapse
    Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Mar 19, 2012
    Messages:
    17,097
    Likes Received:
    49
    GREEK TENSES: A careful distinction has been made in the treatment of the Greek aorist tense (usually translated as the English past, "He did") and the Greek imperfect tense (normally rendered either as English past progressive, "He was doing"; or, if inceptive, as "He began to do" or "He started to do"; or else if customary past, as "He used to do"). "Began" is italicized if it renders an imperfect tense, in order to distinguish it from the Greek verb for "begin." In some contexts the difference between the Greek imperfect and the English past is conveyed better by the choice of vocabulary or by other words in the context, and in such cases the Greek imperfect may be rendered as a simple past tense (e.g. "had an illness for many years" would be preferable to "was having an illness for many years" and would be understood in the same way).

    On the other hand, not all aorists have been rendered as English pasts ("He did"), for some of them are clearly to be rendered as English perfects ("He has done"), or even as past perfects ("He had done"), judging from the context in which they occur. Such aorists have been rendered as perfects or past perfects in this translation.

    As for the distinction between aorist and present imperatives, the translators have usually rendered these imperatives in the customary manner, rather than attempting any such fine distinction as "Begin to do!" (for the aorist imperative), or, "Continually do!" (for the present imperative).

    As for sequence of tenses, the translators took care to follow English rules rather than Greek in translating Greek presents, imperfects and aorists. Thus, where English says, "We knew that he was doing," Greek puts it, "We knew that he does"; similarly, "We knew that he had done" is the Greek, "We knew that he did." Likewise, the English, "When he had come, they met him," is represented in Greek by: "When he came, they met him." In all cases a consistent transfer has been made from the Greek tense in the subordinate clause to the appropriate tense in English.

    In the rendering of negative questions introduced by the particle me (which always expects the answer "No") the wording has been altered from a mere, "Will he not do this?" to a more accurate, "He will not do this, will he?"

    THE LOCKMAN FOUNDATION

    they seem to have made a big deal about nuances/forms, eh?
     
  19. John of Japan

    John of Japan
    Expand Collapse
    Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Sep 22, 2005
    Messages:
    12,212
    Likes Received:
    192
    According to this quote, the NASB translators agree with me, not Rippon, since as you say they make a big deal about nuances in the Greek grammatical forms. Therefore, as is well known, the NASB is done with a literal method and is not DE.

    One topic brought up by this extended quote is, at what point do we abandon strict literalism (as with Young's Literal Translation) and choose readability? That is a complicated issue and deserves a thread on its own, but the short answer and the principle we follow with our Japanese translation is: does a strictly literal rendering detract from readability, thus confusing the reader rather than conveying God's truth, or does it produce an understanding of God's truth? This is what the NASB (a notably literal translation) translators are saying in their preface. According to them in this preface, the nuances of the original verb form are often not able to be rendered into English.
     
  20. Yeshua1

    Yeshua1
    Expand Collapse
    Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Mar 19, 2012
    Messages:
    17,097
    Likes Received:
    49
    that is why they at times chose to translate the tense of the Greek verb into what would be considered proper English, not proper Greek, as that would make it mean little to someone reading it!

    Which shows us that NO translation is fully literal, as at times there is simply no direct word to word equivalent, and at times it would read as being unknowable by the reader what was stated!

    Would say though that as close to literal would be the best approch though, and why I prefer the Nasb!
     

Share This Page

Loading...