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Wednesday, May 25, 2005

Literary style -- Part 6

Thank you to each one who has read and evaluated my essay in the Literary style -- Part 4 post, and then voted as to whether or not it sounded like good literary English. If you have not yet evaluated that essay, please take the time to do so. We need more votes so that the poll results move toward statistical significance. But even now, with only a relatively few votes cast evaluating the essay, I am able to hypothesize that those who use Bibles seriously are of at least two minds regarding what literary quality means in an English Bible translation.

First, there are those who respond positively to English which is written in syntactic and lexical forms of previous stages of the English language, including that of Elizabethan English. This English has a "classical" sound which this first group likes and considers having "literary excellence."

The second group is more difficult to characterize, because I only ran a short poll during this field test. But I am guessing that, at minimum, the second group senses that "literary excellence" can be found in good quality literary English which uses contemporary syntactic and lexical forms.

I did not realize that there was such a strong difference in opinions between the two groups, unless I am misreading the small amount of data received so far from comments on the essay and from the poll results. It may be that those who voted that my essay was not good quality English were keying into a number of different aspects of the essay, not simply the fact that it used syntactic and lexical forms from previous stages of the history of English. (By the way, the essay English is not my normal literary style, formal contemporary English, which I am using in this blog post.)

I would welcome further comments on my preliminary conclusions in this blog post, as well as, of course, further comments on the essay itself and more votes in the poll about the essay.

I have found this exercise interesting. I hope you have too. It really does get to the heart of one of the debates going on about English Bible translation today.



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