What Is a Paraphrase?

Discussion in 'Bible Versions/Translations' started by John of Japan, Oct 27, 2008.

  1. John of Japan

    John of Japan
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    On the "What constitutes a valid translation?" thread, I gave the following definition of a paraphrase:

    I disagreed strongly with what Rippon then said:
    My goal on this thread is not to chastise Rippon. I have to say he does quite well for an admitted amateur. He appears to have read much on the subject of Bible translation, and I commend him for that.

    My goal is to clarify what Pei and Gaynor meant, and to further define what paraphrase is, giving quotes from other linguists, including Dynamic Equivalence (DE) advocates.

    First of all, where I think Rippon misunderstood Pei/Gaynor is in the term "context." Here is how Pei/Gaynor define context:
    In other words, paraphrasing looks at the text as primarily a unit of sentences, not single words and structures. The translator then rewords the source text in his own words and syntax without much regard to the grammar of the original document. This makes paraphrasing more subjective (often much more) than literal methods, since it makes the translator the authority rather than the text.

    DE (or functional equivalence if you must, though the DE term is embedded even in the scholarly discussion), whatever else its drawbacks may be, at least aims at basing the translation on exegesis. For this reason, some translation theorists make paraphrase a third method after word-for-word and sense-for-sense. (For an example see Complete Equivalence in Bible Translation, James Price, pp. 16-17.)

    More to come.
     
    #1 John of Japan, Oct 27, 2008
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  2. Rippon

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    I look forward to that.




    Thanks for the elaboration from P&G.I agree with the substance of the first two sentences;not the last.


    Was this a quote of James Price or a paraphrase?I am interested in whatever James Price has to say on the subject.
     
  3. John of Japan

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    I hope to clarify some things with my next post.
    It was just a reference. I'll see if I can scan his treatment for you sometime soon.
     
  4. John of Japan

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    Unfortunately, there has been little research done on paraphrasing as a translation method. The thing is, pros in the secular world rarely do paraphrase as a methodology. Projects where they do include: poetry and music (almost inevitable) and other literature.

    In the huge book (544 pages), The Translation Studies Reader, ed. by Lawrence Venuti, the only one who comments extensively on paraphrase is Russian author Nabokov. In his treatment he says: “It is when the translator sets out to render the ‘spirit’—not the textual sense—that he begins to traduce his author. The clumsiest literal translation is a thousand times more useful than the prettiest paraphrase.” Vladimir Nabokov, “Problems of Translation: Onegin in English” (2nd ed., p. 115). Venuti himself has a short comment on Nida at one place which I'll give later.

    So, in my own thinking I've developed terminology. I distinguish between micro-paraphrasing and macro-paraphrasing. First of all, I'll talk about micro-paraphrasing. Then hopefully tomorrow I can talk about macro-paraphrasing.

    My college English textbook (still have it, since it was my minor) talks in one place about when you refer to an author in a paper but don't quote him directly: “When you paraphrase another’s work, use your own words and your own sentence structure, and be sure to use a footnote giving the source of the idea.” (Hodges, John C. and Mary E. Whitten. Harbrace College Handbook. Hew York: Harcourt, Brace & World, Inc., 1967, p. 407.)

    This is micro-paraphrasing, or paraphrasing of a word, phrase or sentence. As Rippon and others have pointed out on the BB before, this occurs to some degree in every translation. Even word-for-word translations must occasionally paraphrase, but that does not make such a translation a paraphrase. What makes a Bible translation a paraphrase is if that is the translation method used for the whole work. This is macro-paraphrasing. More on that later.

    Here is an example of micro-paraphrasing from John 3:16 in the Chinese Bible (Union Version): 神愛世人 Shen ai shi ren, literally, "God loves the world people." In Chinese syntax, the word "person" must be put in after "world," or it will not be understood. This is not necessary in Japanese, so the Japanese Bible does not paraphrase here.

    Now, we all do micro-paraphrasing all the time. Even the most zealous KJVO advocate will do this. For example, if you quote John 3:16 in witnessing to someone, you may add: "This means that God loves you, too, since you are part of the world!" Nothing wrong with micro-paraphrasing at all!

    More later.
     
  5. Jim1999

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    First, let me say that I appreciate both you lads and your dediction to understanding the scriptures within the official confines or rules.

    As part of my morning devotions, I read a portion of scripture trying to forget my theology, hermeneutics, syntax and all grammatical rules. I change the wording to suit my mind and what is coming to me at the moment from that portion of scripture. This is my paraphrasing. I ave put the text into my own words and understanding.

    It has been a great blessing to me personally, and I might add that not a few sermons have come from these devotions.

    Cheers, fellows, and keep up the good work,

    Jim
     
  6. John of Japan

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    Thank you sir! Proof of my point that we all do micro-paraphrasing all the time. :thumbs:
     
  7. John of Japan

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    James Price on Paraphrase



    Dr. James Price on paraphrase as a method of translation, from Complete Equivalence in Bible Translation, pp. 15-16:



    Paraphrase

    The dictionary defines paraphrase as “a rewording of the meaning of something spoken or written.”17 Comparing a translation with a paraphrase, the dictionary states, “paraphrase, in this connection, is applied to a free translation of a passage or work from another language.”18 A translator who uses the paraphrase method freely rewords the English to convey the meaning of the Hebrew or Greek. As a consequence, the translation nearly always contains an element of interpretation. For example, the following translations of 2 Timothy 2:15, made by the literal method, exhibit close correspondence to the original Greek.

    Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth. (KJV)

    Be diligent to present yourself approved to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth. (NKJV)

    Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, handling accurately the word of truth. (NASB)

    17 “Webster’s New World Dictionary, David B. Garalnik, ed. (2nd college ed.; New York: World Publishing Co., 1970), p. 1031.
    18 Webster’s, p. 1511.

    p. 16


    In contrast, the following translations, made by the paraphrase method, exhibit considerable rewording and interpretation:

    Work hard so God can say to you, “Well done.” Be a good workman, one who does not need to be ashamed when God examines your work. Know what his Word says and means. (Living Bible)

    Do all you can to present yourself in front of God as a man who has come through his trials, and a man who has no cause to be ashamed of his life’s work and has kept a straight course with the message of truth. (Jerusalem Bible)

    These paraphrases rework the grammar and syntax of the original Greek, interpreting the message in the process. The text exhorts one to present himself to God as “a worker who does not need to be ashamed.” The Living Bible adds words to the text, noting that the time to be unashamed is “when God examines your work.” Certainly, one would not want to be ashamed at that time, but the words have no equivalent in the Greek text. The Jerusalem Bible describes “being approved” as “a man who has come through his trials.” The Greek word carries the idea of “tested and approved” or “approved by a test,” thus one might render “as a man who has been tested by trials and approved.” The Jerusalem Bible paraphrase may not communicate that concept to its readers.

    Occasionally paraphrase is necessary because no corresponding English expression exists. This is true for idioms, figures of speech, and unusual syntax. Though the literal method must use paraphrase in these cases, care is taken to convey the exact meaning without unnecessary interpretation. The Hebrew expression “lifted up his feet and came” is not used in English. The literal translations of NKJV and NASB both render the Hebrew idiom with an English expression of equivalent meaning:

    Jacob lifted up his feet and came to the land… (Hebrew word-for-word translation)
    Jacob went on his journey and came to the land… (NKJV, NASB)
     
    #7 John of Japan, Oct 27, 2008
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  8. Rippon

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    I agree with all the above.But one word of clarification -- all translations are interpretations -- they don't just contain elements of interpretation.


    Here's the New Jerusalem Bible : Make every effort to present yourself before God as a proven worker who has no need to be ashamed,but who keeps the message of truth on a straight path.

    That's a considerable difference.

    Just for fun here are two more translations.How would you characterize the method of translation for that verse in these versions?

    Norlie's Simplified New Testament : Do your best to present yourself before God worthy of His approval,as a workman who does not need to be ashamed of his work,as one who is correct in his analysis of the word of truth.

    NIrV : Do your best to be a person who pleases God.Be a worker who doesn't need to be ashamed.Teach the message of truth correctly.
     
  9. Rippon

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    I don't know about that.Perhaps his preferences are misplaced.I certainly don't think the clumsiest literal translation is even real translation.And what qualifies as "the prettiest paraphrase" anyway?






    Going along with your new phraselogy I think micro-paraphrasing is rather pervasive in the more form-driven versions.

    [This will veer the subject off-course -- however I do not think your interpretation of John 3:16 is on the proverbial mark.]
     
  10. Rippon

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    What do folks think?A faithful pastor will expound the Word of God in paraphrased form.His message will entail explaining the texts in a paraphrased fashion.
     
  11. John of Japan

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    Let me see. James Price = Ph. D. in Hebrew from Dropsie U. Rippon = Opinion. No offense, but I'll stick to Price! :D

    By the way, I'm still waiting for you to find a different linguistic definition of paraphrase.

    This is a definite improvement.

    I can't judge the method of a whole translation by one verse, but neither one is too far off from the Greek. Having said that, the NIrV strays by ignoring the significance of the participles and making the verse three sentences. By the way, what is the NIrV?
     
  12. John of Japan

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    I just threw Nabokov in there for fun. I don't plan to exegete his opinion. He said a lot more. Get the book, though, and read it for yourself. It's literally heavy, and it will take you into the world of secular translation.

    No, not pervasive. Used sometimes, but not pervasive.
    That's because our theology is different. :saint:
     
    #12 John of Japan, Oct 28, 2008
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  13. Jim1999

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    I consider hermeneutics a form of interpretation, as does the Oxford Dictionary: "Biblical interpretation, especially of scriptures or literary texts."

    A very good book, in my opinion, is Grasping God's Word by J. Scott Duvall and J. Daniel Hays, Zondervan

    They write: "A paraphrase is not a translation at all, but merely a restatement or explanation of a particular English translation using different words." (p161) Further they say, "We do not recommend using paraphrases for serious study because they tend to explain rather than translate....in a paraphrase the "translator" makes far too many of the interpretive decisions for you."

    Cheers,

    Jim
     
  14. John of Japan

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    Thanks, Jim. Good quote, and I agree with it. (The key phrase of course is "serious study.") A case in point is that in paraphrasing The Living Bible, Ken Taylor didn't even go to the Greek and Hebrew, but just used the ASV.
     
  15. Alcott

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    What Is a Paraphrase?

    2 fights?
     
  16. John of Japan

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    Har har! :laugh: :laugh:
     
  17. Jim1999

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    ha, ha, laugh, chuckle, pair of phrases. I think I get it.

    Cheers,

    Jim
     
  18. John of Japan

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    Macro-Paraphrasing


    Now I’d like to discuss macro-paraphrasing. This occurs when paraphrasing becomes a method instead of a tool. That is, instead of paraphrasing a word or phrase here and there, the translator paraphrases a passage, or the context, in Pei and Gaynor’s definition.

    There are some areas of translating in which macro-paraphrasing is not only permissible but sometimes necessary. Song translating is one such area. In translating English songs into Japanese, paraphrasing is vital because of the nature of the language. The typical Japanese sentence has more syllables than the average English sentence, sometimes many more. For just one example, note the following English phrase: “I must go.” It has just three syllables, but the Japanese equivalent has at least five, maybe up to fifteen syllables (depending on how you render it).

    Movie subtitles are also often macro-paraphrased. In fact, when an American movie is translated into Japanese, in many cases the result is not just a paraphrase but a completely different meaning! Some translators have objected to this, but it’s entrenched in the culture. (There is a chapter on this in The Translation Studies Reader, ed. by Lawrence Venuti.)

    However, in my view macro-paraphrasing is not the right method for Bible translation. Here's the lack macro-paraphrasing has when used in Bible translating—exegesis. That is, both literal methods and DE methods aim at basing their rendering of a passage on an exegesis of the passage. However, the paraphraser translates based on his subjective impression of the passage.

    Note what the following DE advocates say about macro-paraphrasing.

    “The translator should not, however, consider that in translating the Bible he is writing a commentary on it. This has frequently been the case. As a result, the substituted words and the paraphrasing have not been careful and faithful renderings of the text. For example, one translator, in an effort to interpret the first chapter of the Gospel of John to his constituency, translated, ‘In the beginning was Christ, and Christ…’ (John 1:1). This is an unjustified rendering of the original text, and though the immediate gain in understandability may seem great, the ultimate loss to the reader of the Bible is much greater.” Eugene Nida, Bible Translating, p. 20. (Note: this book was written in 1947, before Nida completely developed his DE theory. But I’ve seen nothing from his DE days to say he changed his view on macro-paraphrasing. For proof of this, see the next two quotes.)

    “Highly paraphrastic translations result from a theory of interlingual communication which justifies the addition of extraneous material or the need to ‘improve’ on the original by rewriting it.” On Translation, by Jin Di and Eugene Nida, p. 8.

    “Dynamic equivalence would not, for example, produce a version such as the Living Bible. This version aimed at (and succeeded) at readability as well as sounding natural and colloquial, but it frequently distorted the sense of the original text because it had been paraphrased from an English translation and had not been exegetically anchored in the Greek and Hebrew texts. The method presented in Theory and Practice of Translation required both naturalness and exegetical rigor.” Let the Words be Written, by Philip Stine, p. 51. This book by one of Nida’s colleagues is a discussion of the influence of Nida in Bible translation.

    More to come.
     
    #18 John of Japan, Oct 28, 2008
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  19. Rippon

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    I am not allowed to differ with someone who has far greater attainments than I have?You have said some of D.A.Carson's translational positions were "Baloney" (one of your favorite words).You are allowed to take exception with those of more ability;but I am not?Again,all translations involve interpretation.You're just fooling yourself to think otherwise.

    Theologically I'm sure you take exception to Calvin; though his abilities were on a much higher plane than most.I even have the temerity to disagree with him at times.

    So,I disagree with Dr.Price on certain small issues.I still have the upmost respect for him.



    Well wait away.It's not on my list of current priorities.Anyway,did I promise that?

    The New International Reader's Version.It's basically a simplified NIV.Sometimes it doesn't change a given text.However,it simplifies some longer words and breaks up sentences as you noted.It's designed for native English speaking children around the third grade level.

    Most of the time when I give English Bibles away to Koreans the translation which suits them best is the NIrV.It comes in handy for people with English as a second language.The ones I give away have no pictures and all that other stuff -- just plain and unadorned.When their English abilities increase I can give them a NLTse or TNIV.
     
  20. John of Japan

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    Well, I did put a smiley next to it. And "baloney" is a much nicer word than what many people use. :saint: But hey, I don't remember saying "baloney" about D. A. Carson.

    He has walked the walk as well as talked the talk.
    No, you didn't. And chances are unless you have a dictionary of linguistics you won't find a definition. I've checked all my books on translation and linguistics, and the only ones I can find are Pei & Gaynor, and the regular dictionary definition Dr. Price gave.

    Thanks for the information.
     

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