Mike at the Helm

Yesterday Prof. Helm blogged a critique of Dynamic Equivalence and Functional Equivalence translation approaches, from the viewpoint of his own background in philosophy.

Mike Aubrey has blogged an important response from the viewpoint of linguistics and Bible translation theory and practice.

The debate is technical and may be difficult for many to follow, but the claims are important. If nothing else, this debate demonstrates that people who write primarily from the viewpoint of their own discipline, without being adequately familiar with the discipline whose theory they are critiquing, are on dangerous grounds factually.

It has become clearer and clearer to me over the years that Bible translators, linguists, translation theoreticians, theologians, seminarians, and English professors who care about Bible translation issues need to be deeply interacting with each other. Each field has much to contribute to the other. One of the best signs of progress for this necessary disciplinary cross-pollination is that SBL and ETS conferences now often include sections for discussion of theological aspects of Bible translation or literary analysis of biblical texts.

4 thoughts on “Mike at the Helm

  1. Dannii says:

    I don’t much like any of these terms, they are both too generic while also not actually very applicable to real translations which are always a mix.

    I prefer to think of “formal equivalence” as a preference (or perhaps a contentedness) for syntactic literalness, and “formal equivalence” as a preference for semantic literalness (with some pragmatics and hopefully discourse transference thrown in too.) Why anyone would prefer syntactic literalness at the expense of semantic opacity is inexplicable to me (though I admit I did just that years ago. Don’t know why.)

  2. Dannii says:

    Yes, yes I did. (Well Functional actually, got my F’s confused somehow, brain said one thing but my fingers typed another.)

    In some ways it’s unfortunate that Greek and English have such a similar grammar that the mistake of formal equivalence can be made. If the Bible had been written in a polysynthetic language I wonder if functional equivalence would be the more natural.

  3. Wayne Leman says:

    If the Bible had been written in a polysynthetic language I wonder if functional equivalence would be the more natural.

    I think it would pretty be required since the order of the meaning parts (morphemes) in a word wouldn’t be anything like word order in English. And many morphemes would not match up well one-to-one with English grammatical categories. For that matter, there is already a fair amount of mismatch between English and Biblical Hebrew and Greek. I have noted actual grammatical errors in English Bible versions due to matching the forms of the morphemes of the biblical language, without matching the meanings of the morphemes. I have posted on this previously here on BBB. We really do need very observant English stylists and/or scholars on ever English Bible translation team. Some of the best (IMO, anyway) Bible versions I have used have been made by people who write well in English, including some poets.

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