Evaluating standard English in Bible versions: Part 2
Following are the percentages of standard English for the particular wordings studied:
(UPDATE: Feb. 2, the wordings from the NLT are now from its second edition, instead of its first edition. I added one more example, John 5:29b, which jumped out at me and I could not leave it out! The updated files are available through the links given in the first paragraph of this post.)
I must emphasize that these percentages are only for the 81 examples in this study. They do not indicate overall quality of English in the Bible versions studied, although I am fairly certain that the relative positions with reference to standard English among the versions would be close to what they are now if we could find the time to include thousands more examples. That would be a mammoth task and I do not have the time for it (even these 81 examples took many hours of work). The most accurate results for overall quality of English would be obtained when large numbers (hundreds or thousands) of examples are randomly selected. For any who wonder, the particular examples I chose for this study are illustrative of important translation issues, such as difficulties in translating Greek genitives and datives and idioms. I tried to be as fair as possible with the examples I chose, so that no single version or class of versions would have a statistical disadvantage. But statistical studies always have a margin of error, regardless of how well a study is conducted. From my overall experience with all these versions, I would guess that the margin of error in this study is somewhere in the neighborhood of plus or minus 5%.
One of the conclusions I draw from this study is that Bible versions can be differentiated even more by how closely they adhere to one of the several dialects of standard English than they are by the categories usually discussed, which have to do with where a version is located on the continuum from formal equivalence to dynamic equivalence. (Some terms used to describe those categories are: formal equivalence, literal, essentially literal, word-for-word translation, thought-for-thought translation, dynamic equivalence, functional equivalence, idiomatic, and paraphrase.)
I suggest that the time has come where it may often be more useful to focus less on degree of formal equivalence to the biblical language texts and more on whether or not a version is worded in good quality, grammatical, literary English. I say this because it is possible for a version to be relatively literal and yet have grammatical, standard English. And, on the other hand, a version may be, overall, idiomatic (dynamically equivalent) while having a fair amount of non-standard English.
Note that the TEV, overall, is a "freer" (more dynamically equivalent) translation than the NLT. Yet in this particular study of 81 examples, I was startled to discover that the NLT outranks the TEV for degree of standard English.
The ISV is a far more formally equivalent translation than the TEV, yet it has nearly the same percentage of standard English as the TEV.
To my mind, this study confirms what I have been claiming for several years, that a translation can be "essentially literal" while also being worded in high quality English.
In one of my next posts I want to discuss specific examples from this study which demonstrate whether or not a specific passage from a Bible version is worded in standard English or not. Those versions which are worded in standard English create much less "cognitive dissonance" for their readers, and so are able to convey the meaning of the biblical texts more accurately and clearly. For readers like myself, who find it unsettling to read non-standard English, versions written in standard English allow me to understand the Bible better, to pick up the major ideas of larger sections of the text, and, overall, have a better Bible reading and Bible study experience.
Please feel free to comment on any specific examples in this latest update to the study of standard English in Bible versions. I would especially like to know about wordings which my language intuitions consider non-standard but which yours do not.