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Monday, August 29, 2005

TNIV revised spelling of names

While turning to a reference during a sermon yesterday, in a church copy of TNIV (the IBS UK church edition), I chanced upon a list of "Revised Spelling of Proper Names", comparing forms of the same name in NIV and TNIV. Most of these changes relate to the Old Testament.

NIV had already changed the traditional forms of quite a few names, especially replacing "ch" by "k" at the start of a name - as these names could clearly be mispronounced according to the regular English pronunciation of "ch". For example, KJV "Chedorlaomer" (Gen 14:1) became NIV "Kedorlaomer". These changes are certainly correct as the correct sound is "k", a plosive, and not the fricative sound sometimes written as "kh".

TNIV has retained these new forms, but with some extensions. It seems that "ch" has been changed to "k" at the end of words where the sound is actually more like "kh", e.g. "Abimelech" > "Abimelek", similarly many other names previously ending in "-melech". Word initial "c" has also been changed to "k", e.g. "Cabul" > "Kabul" (hopefully no one will take this as a reference to the capital of Afghanistan!); also word medial "c", replacing traditional "ch" (with the "kh" sound), e.g. "Achbor" (KJV), "Acbor" (NIV) > "Akbor". I suspect that "c" remains in TNIV only in names which are considered too well known to change, e.g. "Zechariah".

Other changes in TNIV include using historical forms of names rather than Hebrew ones: "Evil-Merodach" > "Awel-Marduk", "Erech" > "Uruk"; clarifications of pronunciation e.g. "Zeboiim" > "Zeboyim"; and some which obviously reflect the translational preferences e.g. "Jaakanites" > "Bene Jaakan"; "Kittim" > "Kittites"; "Mizraim" > "Egypt" (Genesis 10:6,13, 1 Chronicles 1:8,11).

It seems to me that in general these changes are for the better. But there are many more similar changes which should really be made for consistency. For example, most "b"'s in Hebrew proper names have in fact always been pronounced "v", but TNIV has only made one such change: "Abib" (the month) > "Aviv" - presumably to match "Tel Aviv" in Ezekiel 3:15 NIV, which was presumably itself so spelled to match the modern city in Israel. However, most existing "v"'s should probably be changed to "w", as representing Hebrew vav ו which was pronounced "w" in biblical times. Similarly it would make a lot more sense to use "f" instead of "ph".

Nevertheless, I congratulate the NIV and TNIV teams on their gradualist approach to reform of the spelling of Hebrew proper names.

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