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Thursday, June 30, 2005

Contest: The mistaken is your blogger

Email friend and prayer supporter, Trevor Jenkins, has posted this comment about yesterday's contest on this blog:
Are all these renderings from the HCSB? Like Jeremy I thought that some of these quotes were from the ESV.

Looking the references up in an online copy of the HCSB some of the wordings are different. This is particularly noticable in Pr 18:23 where the online edition has The poor man pleads, but the rich one answers roughly., 28:6 with Better a poor man who lives with integrity than a rich man who distorts right and wrong., 28:11 with A rich man is wise in his own eyes, but a poor man who has discernment sees through him.

Now it maybe that some minor (unpublicised) revision of the HCSB has taken place between the edition Wayne is copying from was printed and the edition that is online.
Trevor, I have checked and you are right. Here's what happened. I made my original long list from verses in the ESV. Then I started a list for the HCSB. I imported the ESV list into the HCSB list. I then converted the imported wordings to HCSB wordings, if the HCSB retained the translation issue. Although I thought I had checked each verse in the list, it is now clear that I didn't. So some of the wordings in the contest verses could be from the ESV.

The main lesson, of course, that we learn from this is about checking. I should have checked even more, but I thought I had checked everything. For Bible translation work, it is often helpful, even necessary, to have someone else, other than the original translator check your work. Eyes other than our own often catch errors which our own eyes (and brain) overlook.

The second lesson is that the HCSB and ESV have similar wordings in many verses. This is not at all surprising since both versions were produced using the same translation approach. The ESV team called its translation approach "essentially literal" while the HCSB team called its "optimal equivalence" but for all practical purposes the two approaches are identical for translation itself. There are other differences between the ESV and HCSB, but these differences have more to do with literary style. For instance, the ESV uses some obsolete syntax (retained from the RSV which retained it from the ASV of which the RSV was a revision) and vocabulary. I have studied both versions a great deal (and did some editorial work for the HCSB team), but I have yet to find any obsolete syntax in the HCSB.

Sorry, folks, for my mistake. But it all worked out well, and Michael did a great job locating versions which had the verse wordings I included in the contest.

BTW, even though Michael and I (and many others) share the same language intuitions about the inappropriateness (for me it would be ungrammaticality within my ideolect) of using an adjectival substantive such as "the rich" to refer to a single individual, there are, apparently, some who visit this blog whose personal English grammars have a rule that allows such adjectival substantives to refer to either singular or plural referents. I have had a blog poll testing this for several weeks. As of today, 90 people have responded to that blog poll (the one in the right margin with the black background), with the results as follows:
As you normally understand them, phrases such as "the wealthy", "the poor", "the sick", and "the wicked"
only refer to a plural (group of people): 57
only refer to a single person: 1
refer to either plurals or singulars: 31
I'm not sure: 1
So 31 of the 90 respondents are indicating that for them the following sentences both sound grammatical:
1. The rich are selfish.
2. The rich is selfish.
Now, the poll asked a categorical question, that is, whether or not a sentence would sound grammatical if it had an adjectival substantive referring to either a plural or singular referent. But many language phenomena are not categorical, but, rather, scalar. A more accurate poll on the question on adjectival substantives should be worded so respondents could indicate degree of appropriateness of each wording, when the substantive refers to a plural referent or a singular referent. Another solution would have been to have the poll ask if sentences with those adjectival substantives would sound equally grammatical.

OK, we learn from our mistakes. And we try to do better the next time. And the same goes for the production of English Bible versions. Each translation team wants to make their translation better. And that is good. And this blog is here to stimulate ideas for helping make the versions better.

And may you have a good day, well, may you even have a better day, better than what I'm not sure, but may it be even better! :-)

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At Fri Jul 01, 11:45:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I suspect if you asked those 32 people directly whether "The rich is selfish" sounded right, they would nearly all say "No". Many of them probably didn't grasp the meaning of the question. For instance, maybe people thought, Well, of course one can speak of "the rich" as one person... since obviously in any situation you could be referring to one or many rich people! In other words, such folks must not have been thinking of "grammatical singular" but rather "real world" singular.

I say this because to me it seems obvious that no one would ever say "The rich is selfish."


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