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Wednesday, July 26, 2006

common language translations

In a comment to my previous post I referred to the technical term "common language" translation. That term deserves a bit of explanation since I do not know how widely it is used among the wider public. Here it how it is described on a website sponsored by the American Bible Society:

Today’s English Version really emerged from the coalescence of several related, yet divergent, developments in the early 1960’s. A group of mid-twentieth century translators, connected with the American Bible Society and United Bible Societies, had been heavily influenced by, and in fact helped shape the direction of, contemporary linguistic theory. They strove to produce versions which remained more sensitive to the need of receptor audiences than many transitional works. Influential methodological contributions, including Eugene A. Nida’s Bible Translating (1947) and William Wonderly’s Bible Translations for Popular Use (1968) stressed a new approach to translations, summarized in the phrase "dynamic equivalence.” Nida, who began his career with the American Bible Society in 1944 and assumed principal responsibility for the Translations Department in 1946, has defined “dynamic equivalence” as a way to “stimulate in the new reader essentially the same reaction to the text as the original author wished to produce in his “first and immediate readers.” Bible translators hoped to produce versions in a “common language,” which Nida defined as “the language common to both the professor and the janitor, the business executive and the gardener, the socialite and the waiter.” They worked toward defining the level of language which constituted an “overlap area” between literary discourse and ordinary, day-to-day usage.

Translators utilizing the principal of “dynamic equivalence” had been at work in Latin America since the 1940’s, attempting to construct a version for new literates, bilingual Indians, people with a limited knowledge of Spanish, and formally educated residents who desired a more “readable” version. Simplified selections from the Gospels appeared in 1947, the Gospel of Luke in preliminary form was published in 1954, and New Testament portions were translated subsequently. The unanticipated popular acclaim accorded these portions, especially in the more cosmopolitan urban centers, testified to the desire for “common language” Scriptures by large segments of the reading public. Work in the region continued, and in May 1966, the Bible Societies of Latin America completed the Version Popular, the first complete New Testament published in a “common” linguistic level in any language.

The TEV (GNT) and CEV are two English Bible versions written in "common language" English. Both were produced by the American Bible Society which is a member of the United Bible Societies which has sponsored translations of several common language translations around the world, including Versión Popular (Dios Llega al Hombre) in Spanish, and translations in Swedish, Korean, and many other languages.

Often, more highly educated speakers of English, especially those well acquainted with English literature from the past several centuries, prefer a Bible translation that is written in a higher register of English than "common language" translations. But both the TEV and CEV have helped millions of English speakers around the world, including native English speakers and ESL (English as a Second Language) speakers, understand the biblical message.

A single kind of Bible translation typically does not appeal to all possible translation audiences. We are, indeed, rich in the English speaking world for having so many difference kinds of English versions to choose from.


At Thu Jul 27, 02:54:00 PM, Blogger anonymous said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

At Thu Jul 27, 03:42:00 PM, Blogger Wayne Leman said...

Indeed, some of the common language versions, including "The Message," are so far from the original that it debatable whether they merit to be called "Bibles."

I think the only common language versions, as that term is defined in Wonderly's book, are the TEV and CEV. The Message is not a common language version. Peterson uses many idiosyncratic idioms which are not known to the common audience that Wonderly refers to.

FWIW, I was raised on the KJV. I memorized large portions of it. It's wordings are what come to my mind when someone mentions a particular passage of the Bible. I'm not sure, though, if Wonderly could include the KJV as a common language translation. There were already some linguistic forms which were passing out of common usage which were included in the KJV. For instance, the older "inverted negatives" was already shifting over to the currently used negative syntax at the time of publication of the KJV ((e.g. "think not" instead of subsequent "do not think"). There were some other linguistic forms retained from the older Bible tradition of Tyndale et al in the KJV. Those forms were well established in church English and kept since many people considered them beautiful and many still do.

At Fri Jul 28, 02:13:00 AM, Blogger Kellie said...

I have been doing a personal study of Bible translations, and came across this site via the CEV site. I just wondered if all of the new translations of the New Testiment Bible have been translated from the Wescott and Hort manuscripts? By all I mean any that have been translated from 1900 on. I can't seem to find that info very easily. I am an amiture researcher and I apoligize if I have intruded on this site.

At Fri Jul 28, 03:26:00 AM, Blogger Wayne Leman said...

Kellie asked:

I just wondered if all of the new translations of the New Testiment Bible have been translated from the Wescott and Hort manuscripts?

No New Testament version, new or not, has been translated from the Westcott and Hort Greek text. All of the most widely used modern New Testaments, except for the NKJV, have been translated from Greek texts which include the oldest known manuscripts. The NKJV was translated from the Textus Receptus, the compiled Greek manuscript which was used to translate the KJV. All other newer translations which sell widely (such as NIV, NASB, ESV, NLT, etc.) are translated from a wider range of Greek manuscripts than were available to the KJV translators. This wider range includes the oldest known Greek manuscripts.


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