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Wednesday, April 19, 2006

The heart of DE is not interpretive translation

A common misunderstanding of Dynamic Equivalence (DE) translation is that it is a form of interpretive translation. That misunderstanding is highlighted in the April 13 post, "Bible translations, "dynamic" and otherwise: the heart of the matter," by Dan Phillips on the Pyromaniacs blog. Dan states:
Here is the real problem with all paraphrases, and all "dynamic equivalent" (DE) "translations": they all remove the work of interpretation out of the hands of the readers, often without notice.
Dan's post is about the "heart of the [Bible translation] matter," but, ironically, in his sincerity, he misses the heart of DE translation. It is not about interpretive translation. He may have seen examples of what he regards as interpretive translation in some DE translations, but that does not mean that DE translation calls for removing "the work of interpretation out of the hands of the readers, often without notice."

It can easily be demonstrated that
literal, and essentially literal, translation is often not the most accurate translation. That is, attempting to maintain the linguistic forms of a source text in a translation often does not accurately communicate in translation the meaning of those linguistic forms.

Dynamic Equivalence translation is flawed whenever it is applied in a flawed manner, just as any translation approach is flawed whenever it does not accurately communicate the meaning of the original linguistic forms But DE translation, per se, is not an interpretive approach to translation. It is an approach to translation which seeks to communicate the meaning of original forms more accurately than a form-oriented approach does. And lest someone respond that form-oriented translation approach are not interpretive, that simply is not the case. They are often highly intepretive, in that they represent a possible interpretation of the original text which is not the actual meaning intended by the original author. This is especially the case with translation of figurative language, including idioms of the biblical languages.

Urban myths, as well as less urban ones, quickly spread across the Internet and from pulpit to pulpit and book to book, until someone seriously interacts with original sources whose ideas are being discussed. Today the term Dynamic Equivalence has become a boogeyman for any kind of Bible translation with which one disagrees. It would do us all well, if we are going to use such technical terms, to study and understand what their originators actually said about them. The books explaining the terms have been in publication for many years, available for all to read. A number of the biblical scholars have seriously interacted with the literature on DE translation. And their writings on the topic benefit from that serious interaction.

FWIW, I am not an advocate of DE translation. I prefer newer translation approaches which improve upon some of the inadequacies of DE translation. But interpretive translation is not one of those inadequacies, since it is not one of the components of DE translation.

Let us dedicate ourselves to serious study of Bible translation issues, and not second-hand caricatures of any claims about Bible translation or versions of the Bible.


At Wed Apr 26, 09:21:00 PM, Blogger Ted Gossard said...

Wayne, Thanks for the heads-up here. Surely syntax dictates that "literal" is often bad translating.


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