Linguistic self-awareness and Bible versions
Bible versions English qualityWith almost 800 votes so far, I find the responses most interesting. One thing that stands out to me is that many individuals are not very aware of how they actually speak and write. Some people, among them linguists and others who have their "ears to the ground," are tuned in to how others speak (and write). And sometimes these people are also aware of how they themselves speak and write. But most people just speak and write without much self-reflection and analysis of their own language patterns.
Which English Bible version has wordings closest to how you normally speak and write? [799 votes total]
King James Version (63) 8%
New International Version (144) 18%
Today's New International Version (33) 4%
New Living Translation (120) 15%
New American Standard Bible (69) 9%
English Standard Version (52) 7%
Holman Christian Standard Bible (36) 5%
New Revised Standard Version (31) 4%
Good News Translation (10) 1%
Contemporary English Version (40) 5%
New Century Version (11) 1%
New King James Version (29) 4%
New American Bible (10) 1%
New Jerusalem Bible (24) 3%
NET Bible (14) 2%
Revised Standard Version (9) 1%
The Message (72) 9%
God's Word (14) 2%
Revised English Bible (18) 2%
I have been listening to how people speak all my life. My father did the same, and I'm sure I picked up that trait from him. 63 respondents said that the KJV was the Bible version which had "wordings closest to how you normally speak and write." I would like to listen to some of these 63 to see how closely they actually speak and write in the wordings of the KJV. Yes, some preachers and others who are dedicated to the KJV sprinkle their speech with KJVisms, but I suspect that there are not too many KJVisms when they "normally speak and write" such as when they are talking to their children about how their school day went, or talking to their neighbor about what kind of weed killer they use on their lawn.
Now, I don't think the problem here is simply one of lack of linguistic self-awareness. I think a major part of the problem is the poll itself. Even though I worded the poll question carefully, many Bible users do not have much experience with Bible versions which have wordings closest to how they "normally speak and write." So many respondents probably answered the poll as best as they could, thinking about Bible versions they are most familiar with and choosing the one which has "wordings closest to how you normally speak and write." That response does not mean that the version chosen does have wordings close to how they "normally speak and write." It just means that in the mind of the respondent they were answering the poll question, stating which of the versions they are familiar with has "wordings closest to how you normally speak and write."
For me to discover what versions actually do have wordings closest to how the respondents "normally speak and write," I should have had sample wordings from each of the versions and asked people to choose which wordings were closest to how they normall speak and write. And to try to get as objective responses as possible, I should not have labeled the versions that the wordings came from.
In actual fact, a high percentage of the almost 800 respondents probably normally speak and write using the vocabulary and syntax of the more idiomatic versions listed in the poll, such as the CEV, NCV, or GW.
To create an adequate poll to test how closely the normal speech and writing of people is to the English found in various Bible versions would be a large task, probably larger than can be carried out by the simple polls we typically post on our websites. A really accurate and thorough testing of the speech and writing of English Bible users would require a much longer test with a variety of different kinds of sample wordings. If any of you are in a graduate study program in communications, communication theory, or some areas of biblical studies, and if you are keenly interested in how closely Bible versions conform to normal speech and writing, this would be a good topic for an M.A. thesis. It would be a significant contribution to the study of English language usage and naturalness of English Bible versions.
Categories: Bible versions, natural English, language usage