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    Accuracy, generally speaking, refers to how closely a result obtains the true value. Within the context of Bible translation, accuracy refers to preserving the meaning of the original text. Meaning is the measure.

    The term accuracy is essentially synonymous with the term faithfulness, but some translation theoreticians differentiate between the two terms. A translation which is accurate is faithful to the intended meaning of the original author.

    In this glossary we distinguish between exegetical accuracy and communicative accuracy.

    Meaning occurs at many different levels of language, including the levels of the word (lexicon), phrase, clause, sentence, and discourse. The best translations have thorough accuracy, that is, accuracy at all levels of language. A translation can be accurate, at least in a commonly used sense of the term, at the word level, but not at higher levels of language. For instance, a single word of an idiom (an idiom itself is typically composed of several words) may be “accurately” translated, but if the meaning of the whole idiom is not communicated adequately in the translation, then that translation is not accurate for that idiom.

    A claim for some Bible versions is that they are “literally accurate“. It is not clear exactly what this refers to, especially since a literal translation can often be shown not to be the most accurate translation, so the term would then be an oxymoron. But we suspect the intended meaning of this term is that it refers (usually quite positively) to form-equivalent or word-for-word translation philosophies. Compare Literal translation.


    The person or persons to whom something is spoken or written.


    Alliteration is the repetition of a consonant sound at the beginning of two or more words which appear close together in speech. Alliteration is a rhetorical device typically used to grab the hearer’s attention or add poetic pleasantry to an utterance. Alliteration can sometimes be used wisely in translation, as in the ISV rendering of Hebrews 12.2, where we are asked to focus our attention on “Jesus, the Pioneer and Perfector of faith.” The delightful alliteration of the p-sounds linguistically enhance our spiritual focus.


    Allusion is an indirect reference to something else, often another piece of writing. Speakers use allusions, assuming their audiences will understand what they are referring to. There are some allusions in the Bible. The translator of these allusions must decide how he will supply enough information for their own hearers to understand the original allusion.


    An alphabet is a writing system for a language, using alphabetic characters (letters) which, in general, correspond to individual sounds of the language. See Orthography.


    Anachronism, as used by translators, refers to some wording which is out of place in terms of the historical setting of the source document. Sometimes the redundant term, historical anachronism, is used, with the same meaning. Sometimes when a translator uses a cultural substitute for a concept which does not exist in the target language, an anachronism is introduced.


    Anaphora is a means of referring back to the same individual or entity (referent) within a discourse. Languages use different forms or strategies to indicate anaphora. One of the most common is pronominalization, such as when referring to an earlier introduced character named John by the pronoun “he”. Some languages use definite articles or demonstratives to indicate anaphora. The translator should use the natural forms of the target language to preserve anaphora of the source text.


    Anthropomorphism is when human characteristics are attributed to nonhuman objects. In the Bible, God is frequently described with anthropomorphisms. Anthropomorphisms enable humans to more easily relate to God:

    God was said to have eyes:
    Genesis 6.8 But Noah found grace in the eyes of the Lord (KJV).
    2 Chronicles 16.9 For the eyes of the LORD run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to shew himself strong in the behalf of [them] whose heart [is] perfect toward him (KJV).

    God was said to have a face:
    Exodus 33.11 And the Lord spake unto Moses face to face (KJV).

    God was said to have a face, hand, and “back parts”:
    Exodus 33.23 And I will take away mine hand, and thou shalt see my back parts: but my face shall not be seen (KJV).

    God was said to have hair and a head:
    Daniel 7.9 I beheld till the thrones were cast down, and the Ancient of days did sit, whose garment was white as snow, and the hair of his head like the pure wool: his throne was like the fiery flame, and his wheels as burning fire (KJV).

    See these other webpages on anthropomorphism:

    Antithetical parallelism

    Antithetical parallelism is a kind of rhetorical parallelism in which the repeated terms of a poetic couplet are opposite in meaning.

    Antithetical parallelism contrasts with synonymous parallelism.

    Proverbs 12:5 exemplifies antithetical parallelism:
    The thoughts of the righteous are right,
    But the counsels of the wicked are deceitful. (NKJV)

    In this couplet “thoughts” and “counsels” are synonymously parallel, but “righteous” and “wicked” are antithetically parallel, so the couplet, as a whole, is an example of antithetical parallelism.


    The Apocrypha are some books accepted as part of the Old Testament by some Christians, but not by others. See also Apocrypha.


    Apostrophe is a figure of speech in which the speaker turns away from the actual audience to address an absent or imaginary person or a personified abstraction or thing. Translators will often need to make adjustments to this figure so that the meaning of the original apostrophe will be understood in the target language:

    An inanimate location is addressed as if it were people:
    Matt. 2.6 And you, Bethlehem,…are by no means least. (NRSV)

    Someone is addressed who is not present or not the recipient of the letter:
    Rom. 2.1 You [singular], therefore, have no excuse, you who pass judgment on someone else. (NIV)

    Death is addressed:
    1 Cor. 15.55 O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting? (NASB)


    Aramaic was the common language in Palestine at the time of Jesus and his disciples. Aramaic was a Semitic language related to Hebrew. There are short portions in the Bible which are written in Aramaic.


    A word or phrase which is no longer used in a language. See Obsolescent.

    Artificial construction

    A form which does not occur naturally in a language and which is created for a translation. Artificial constructions should be avoided if a translation is to be understood by ordinary, fluent speakers of a language. Instead of creating artificial constructions, a translator should select equivalent forms already used in the language which have the same meaning as the source language form. See Neologism and Synonymous.


    Audience refers to those who hear or read something. Translators must be well aware of who their audience is, to be most effective in translation. They must translate for their audience, using vocabulary and grammatical patterns which are well understood by that audience.

    Some versions of the Bible are translated with particular audiences in mind, such as certain age groups or educational levels. The NCV was originally designed to be read by children and it is still marketed with names that indicate this, such as International Children’s Version and the Odyssey Bible. The TEV was originally translated for those who speak English as a second language. The Message is written for an audience which can understand its relatively sophisticated North American English idioms.

    Authorial intention

    Same as Intention.


    Original documents, usually written in the author’s own handwriting. None of the autographs of the Bible exists today. Instead, there are thousands of copies of the original documents. Sometimes called original texts.

    Back translation (BT)

    A literal translation of a translation, which can be understood

    by a translation consultant or other speakers of a national language. A back translation is created

    to enable the consultant or other speakers to know what a translation means in a target language

    and how that translation is expressed in the forms of that language. A back translation should be

    as literal as possible so its reader can observe the forms in the target translation, yet restructured

    enough to enable it to make sense to the consultant or other readers of the back translation. A

    back translation helps a translation consultant determine if the original meaning has been

    preserved in the target language. Abbreviated as BT.

    Following is an important saying in the the Cheyenne language, along with English back

    translation. Notice how the back translation sounds awkward in English. This is so because it is a

    literal translation. But this literal translation serves the function which literal translations best

    perform, that is, to allow us to see as closely as possible the forms into which the

    meaning was translated.

    Névé’novôhe’étanóme mâsêhánééstóva, onésetó’ha’éeta netáhoestovevoo’o, onésêhestóxévétáno


    Back translation:

    Don’t race in craziness, try to stop your mounts, try to come in last in terms of craziness!

    An idiomatic translation of the Cheyenne would be:

    Don’t live foolishly. Slow down. Don’t live a rushed life.

    Return to Terminology index

    Base text

    The term “base text” in Bible translation refers to a literal English (or other national language) text

    that would be close to the original in form. Translators use the base text as a standard (or

    plumbline) for their translation. Examples of base texts would be fairly literal versions such as the

    RSV or NIV. Compare Model text and Front


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    Biblia Hebraica Stuttgartensia

    The Biblia Hebraica Stuttgartensia is a

    revision of the Hebrew Bible reconstructed by Kittel. It is

    based on the Masoretic text and is the Hebrew text used by most translators today.

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    Biblical languages

    Biblical languages are those languages in which the Bible was first written. The three main

    Biblical languages were Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek. The Old

    Testament was written in Hebrew and Aramaic, while the New Testament was written in a dialect

    of Greek called Hellenistic or Koine (“common language”) Greek.

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    Biblish is a colloquial term used to refer to the dialect of English found in many English Bible

    versions. This dialect of English is usually only spoken by church people who are familiar with

    the Bible and the “sacred language” which is found in some versions of the Bible and in the

    church environment. Biblish includes vocabulary found in Bible versions which use this “sacred

    language,” rather than ordinary English, as well as non-English syntax which is borrowed from

    the original Hebrew and Greek biblical languages. Biblish contrasts with the use of vocabulary,

    syntax, and discourse patterns which are Natural in the translation


    An example of Biblish is found in Romans 8:1, NASB:

    “Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus”

    Contrast this same verse, worded in natural English, from the CEV:

    “If you belong to Christ Jesus, you won’t be punished.”

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    When speakers of a language take a word from another language. The specific item borrowed is

    called a loan word.

    See also Loan translation.

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    A word which is created through loan translation. The meaning

    parts of the source word are directly translated to meaning parts of a new target word, creating a

    neologism. The English word superman is a calque from

    the German word Übermensch.

    Return to Terminology index


    Canon refers to the

    totality of a literary collection. The Biblical canon refers to

    the total of all the books regarded by the Christian Church as belonging in the Bible.

    See also:

    Return to Terminology index


    Chiasmus (sometimes called

    chiasm) is a rhetorical structure of four parts in which the second and third parts are linked to

    each other and the first and fourth parts are linked to each other.

    In whom should we have faith?

    Many Biblical scholars believe that there is a chiasmus in Philemon 5. Those who find

    chiastic structure here base their conclusion on the frequent occurrence of chiasmus in the

    Bible and the theological implications within this verse. That is, does Philemon have faith in other

    saints as well as the Lord Jesus, or only in the Lord Jesus? Whether or not there is a chiasmus

    determines how the verse will be interpreted (Linguistics for Students of New Testament Greek). The formally equivalent

    NASB retains the form of the original Greek:

    NASB Philemon 5 because I hear of your love, and of the faith which you have toward the Lord

    Jesus, and toward all the saints.

    The four parts of the structure in question are:

    (1) love

    (2) faith

    (3) toward the Lord Jesus

    (4) toward all the saints

    The NASB wording seems to say that Paul has heard of the (2) faith that Philemon has toward

    two different referents (grammatical indirect objects), first (3) the Lord Jesus, and secondly, (4)

    all the saints. The use of the comma after “Lord Jesus,” however, allows for the possibility that

    the NASB translators noticed chiastic structure here. If they did, the comma may have been

    intended to cause the reader to pause, to allow for the chiastic reading that Philemon’s (1) love

    was toward (4) all the saints, while his (2) faith was toward (3) the Lord Jesus. One would doubt

    that translators would put such heavy responsibility upon a single punctuation mark, the comma,

    however. And even if they did, no English readers would know that the comma was intended to

    link parts (1) and (4), unless they had enough guidance or background in chiastic structures to

    be alert to the possibility of a chiasmus here. Normal rules of English structural interpretation call

    for an interpretation of the NASB reading to be linear, rather than chiastic, that is, that

    Philemon’s faith is toward both (3) the Lord Jesus and (4) all saints.

    Other versions which, similarly, do not make a chiastic reading of this verse clear are KJV,


    This list includes all of the most commonly used formally literal versions, that is, those

    which place a higher premium upon preserving the form of the original when possible, except for

    the NRSV, plus a few others which are not (JBP, REB, LB, NJB; the ISV promotes itself as


    The non-chiastic translation in the ISV is unexpected, since one of its

    translators is Dr. David Alan Black who recognizes the chiasmus of Philemon 5, as noted on

    page 134 of his book, Linguistics For Students of New Testament Greek. Dr. Black correctly


    “Failure to recognize chiasmus can sometimes lead to a misunderstanding of a passage (see

    Matt. 7:6 and Philem. 5).”

    The NIV gives a chiastic reading, linking Philemon’s (2) faith to (3) the Lord Jesus, and his (1)

    love for (4) all the saints:

    NIV Philemon 5 because I hear about your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love for all the


    The TNIV retains the chaism in translation but revises the word order to be closer to that of the

    underlying Greek:

    TNIV Philemon 5 because I hear about your love for all his people and your faith in the Lord


    Other versions which indicate the chiastic relationship between the first and fourth parts of the

    Greek of Philemon 5 are Barclay, Wuest, NRSV, TEV, CEV, NCV, GW, NLT, and NET. The NET

    footnote about the chiastic wording is interesting.

    Books describing chiastic structure are:

    The following webpages are devoted to Biblical chiasmus:

    Return to Terminology index


    Same as Disjointed.

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    The quality of being clear, easy to understand, lucid, free from unnatural forms or expressions which hinder understanding. Clarity is one of the three most important qualities required of a good translation, the other two being accuracy and naturalness.

    Same as Perspicuity.


    Easy to understand because something is expressed in ordinary, natural language forms, using vocabulary known to the target audience. English Bible versions which are translated in Plain English will usually be clear to their readers. See Clarity and Perspicuity.

    Closest natural equivalent

    This is a form of idiomatic translation. The translators of the recent

    God’s Word English version state that the

    philosophy they used was that of closest natural equivalent (Preface, page xii):

    The first consideration for the translators of God’s Word was to find equivalent

    English ways of expressing the meaning of the original text. This procedure ensures that the

    translation is faithful to the meaning intended by the original writer. The next consideration was

    readability. The meaning is expressed in natural American English

    by using common English punctuation, capitalization, grammar, and word choice. The third

    consideration was to choose the natural equivalent that most closely reflects the style of the

    Hebrew, Aramaic, or Greek text. This translation theory is designed to avoid the awkwardness

    and inaccuracy associated with form-equivalent translation,

    and it avoids the loss of meaning and oversimplification associated with function-equivalent translation.

    The GW translators seem to be using the terms closest natural equivalent and

    “function-equivalent” (more often called functional equivalent

    translation) in non-standard ways. It is not at all clear to the editor of this glossary how

    closest natural equivalent translation differs from functional equivalence translation. As I

    understand these two terms, they are equivalent. Oversimplification is not necessarily associated

    with functional equivalence translation or any other translation philosophy, for that matter.

    Oversimplification simply reflects lack of adequate discipline to find equivalent ways to express

    the same meaning as the original.

    Return to Terminology index


    Coherence and cohesion are closely related. At the Literary Features website, for a text to be coherent it must make sense. If it does not, it is, by definition, incoherent. One of the qualities that contributes to textual coherence is cohesion.

    For further reading, consult the following:

    Return to Terminology index


    Cohesion is the quality of well-formed discourses (texts) that gives them an internal unity, making them “hang together.”

    Sentences flow smoothly from one to another within that discourse. There are appropriate interpropositional relations marked, either explicitly or implicitly. There is a unity of vocabulary. Pronominalization natural to the language enables the reader to know that he is reading about the same participant (topic) introduced earlier in that discourse. Halliday and Hasan were two linguists who published good studies of cohesion within English discourse.

    Every language has its own cohesion strategies. Those strategies must be followed for that language in order for a translation to be clear and natural, with a high degree of readability. The translator should not simply follow the cohesion strategies of the source text. For instance, if the source language repeats proper names for the same participant within a discourse, the translator should not simply repeat the same proper names in each instance, instead of changing the appropriate ones to pronouns for smooth topicality flow. Otherwise, in some languages, we may be giving the inaccurate message that each reiteration of the proper name introduces a new character with the same name as the previous one. More literal English versions of the Bible often lack appropriate English cohesion signals, and so they sound disjointed, “choppy.”

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    Collocational clash

    A collocational clash (see Baker 1992:14-15; Beekman and Callow 1974; Blight 1992:13-14; Larson 1984/1998) occurs when words are placed together which should not

    occur together, according to the rules or usage of a particular language. Languages treat the

    collocation of various words and concepts differently, so words

    which can properly occur together in one language may not properly occur together in

    another. Typically, a collocational

    clash is due to some semantic or pragmatic incompatibility between the words. Translators

    need to be aware of collocational clashes. They often occur when a translator preserves the

    collocation of forms which can properly occur together in the source language, but not in the

    target language.

    In Spanish one can say “Voy a dar un paseo,” literally, “I’m going to give a pass,” which

    translates correctly to English as “I’m going for a walk.” Spanish allows the collocation of “dar”

    (“to give”) and “un paseo” (“a pass”). But in English we create a collocational clash if we

    translate this Spanish literally, since, unlike Spanish, English grammar does not allow the

    collocation of the verb “give” and noun object “pass.”

    In English the following words collocate acceptably in these idioms:

    He’s taking a trip.

    He’s taking a nap.

    He’s taking a chance.

    But some similar words collocationally clash. We note the grammatical unacceptability with the

    standard linguistic symbol for such unacceptability, the asterisk (*):

    He’s taking a *jump.

    He’s taking a *sleep.

    He’s taking an *idea.

    Collocational clashes sometimes occur in English Bible versions:

    RSV Luke 21.15 “for I will give you a mouth and wisdom”: It is appropriate in English to collocate

    “give” and “wisdom”. But in English the verb “give” does not collocate with the noun object

    “mouth”. To properly express the meaning of “give a mouth”, a translator needs to find a

    synonymous wording, which will collocate properly, according to English lexical rules (“give” and

    “words” collocate for some speakers of English, and this happens to be the collocation used in

    the NIV, TEV, GW, and NRSV).

    NIV 2 John 6: “his command is that you walk in love”: “walk” and “love” do not collocate naturally

    in English, but they apparently did in Greek. If someone wishes to translate to English without

    collocational clashes, they would find a substitute for “walk” which will have the same meaning

    and can occur naturally with “love.” Greek “walk” in this verse referred to how one lives, so the

    collocational clash can be easily resolved by substituting the word “live” for “walk”. In addition, “in

    love” is not a very natural English phrase, so it would be better to substitute the equivalent adverb

    “lovingly” which can be used here naturally. A resultant natural rendering would be: “his

    command is that you live lovingly.” (Because the Greek metaphor of “walk” meaning ‘live’ is so

    common in the Bible, many English translators choose not to remove this particular collocational


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    An utterance which is characteristic of informal, typically spoken, language. Colloquialisms are

    often short-lived, fad sayings. It is appropriate that Bible versions avoid colloquialisms if they are

    intended for use by the general public. The reason they should be avoided is that they have a

    shorter lifespan than ordinary language and they often are used by only a limited portion of a

    language population. Some English colloquialisms are: bummer, cool, dude, spiffy, uptight,

    radical, and high on Jesus.

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    A commentary explains the meaning of a text. Those who study the Bible often use commentaries

    to help them understand the meaning of various parts of the Bible.

    Following are some online commentaries on the Bible:

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    Committee translation

    Translation done by a group, rather than a single individual. Some English versions made by a

    single person have been The New Testament In the Language of the People (Charles B.

    Williams), The New Testament in Modern English (J.B. Phillips), The New Testament: An

    Expanded Translation (Kenneth S. Wuest), The New Testament: A New Translation (William

    Barclay), Living Bible (Kenneth Taylor), and The Message (Eugene Peterson). Translations done

    by a single individual often have better style, since their stylistic features of creatigve individuals

    are not “leveled out” by committee work. But committee translation has distinct advantages, also,

    especially in increased accuracy that comes from the checks and balances process of

    committee work. Vernacular translations produced under

    the United Bible Societies are typically committee translations.

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    Common language translation (CLT)

    A common language translation is a version of the Bible which is in the “plain”, ordinary language

    of the average speaker. It follows an idiomatic translation approach.

    The vocabulary and grammatical constructions are chosen carefully to ensure that they are in

    common usage by ordinary speakers of the language. A common language translation for

    English would be in Plain English. The TEV and CEV are common

    language translations. The book Bible Translations for Popular Use, by William L. Wonderly, was

    about common language translation. A common language translation in Spanish is titled Dios

    Llega al Hombre (“God Comes to Man”). A number of other common language translations have

    been produced in the past three decades. The United

    Bible Socities, with national offices in

    many countries, often lead

    the effort to produce common language translations in national languages, such as Korean,

    Polish, Norwegian, and Ilocano. See Vernacular translation.

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    Communicative accuracy

    As used in this glossary, communicative accuracy refers to the degree to which the original meaning in a source text is understood by the users of a translation. It is possible for a translation to be technically or exegetically accurate, and yet be worded in such a way that the original meaning is not communicated to the users of a translation. Communicative accuracy depends on naturalness in translation, but naturalness by no means guarantees communicative accuracy: a translation can be worded naturally yet not be accurate.

    Communicative accuracy is relative to the background that any particular audience or individual brings to a translation. For instance, seminary professors are often well-versed in the metaphors and idioms of the biblical languages. They can understand literal translations of those metaphors and idioms more accurately than can someone who is not familiar with them.

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    Community testing

    Field testing a translation among fluent speakers of a wide range of ages, educational backgrounds, social levels, and knowledge (or lack thereof) of the Bible. The process tests a translation for accuracy to the original, naturalness in the target language, comprehension, and clarity of understanding. All translations should be community tested, including those which are done in majority languages, such as English, French, and Spanish, by theologically trained fluent speakers of those national languages. Every translation should be tested by speakers other than the translators themselves or anyone else on a translation committee. Following initial community testing, a translation is revised and further tested until the desired meaning, clarity, and naturalness levels are reached.

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    Complete equivalence (CE)

    Complete equivalence (CE) translation is a relatively new term and not often used in discussion of Bible translation approaches. The NKJV claims to be a CE translation. In the Preface to the NKJV CE is defined as seeking “to preserve ALL (emphasis theirs) of the information in the text, while presenting it in good literary form”.

    The Bible being produced by the Original Bible Project is also said to be of the CE translation approach, which seems to be regarded as synonymous with “literal translation” at the OBP website.

    The book Complete Equivalence in Bible Translation (Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1987), by James Price, argues for CE translation.

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    Comprehension check

    One of the checks during community testing. A comprehension

    check tests to determine what speakers understand the

    meaning of a translation to be. The understanding desired is the same as the meaning of the

    original text.

    During comprehension testing, the examiner should avoid using yes/no questions, that is,

    questions which can be answered with a “yes” or “no,” such as “Did you understand this?” Such

    yes/no questions often yield little useful information to the translator. Sometimes those being

    questioned will answer “yes” because they feel it is the socially polite response, or because they

    do not want to disappoint the persons who have worked hard on the translation. Instead the tester

    should use content questions. Some useful content questions are:

    Tell me in your own words what this means.

    What are the main points you got from that?

    What do you think Jesus meant when he said that?

    Who was that about?

    What kind of person was he talking about?

    What is the connection between the last part of what I read to you and the first part?

    When would you use that word?

    Who do you think would normally say that word?

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    Concordance is when a translator seeks to translate a word of the original by the same word in

    the target language wherever it occurs. Sometimes concordance reduces accuracy in translation, because it does not take into account the

    differing senses of meaning that a word has in varying contexts. This is one of the difficulties with

    literal word-for-word translations.

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    See the following website:

    Compare Denotation.

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    Construction refers to any language form, or structure, in other words, some particular way that language parts relate to each other. Linguists essentially use the terms construction, form, and structure as synonyms.

    English usually indicates possession with a noun phrase consisting of possession marked by a possessive suffix on the possessor followed by a noun, the object which is possessed, as in:

    John’s book

    In Cheyenne, possession is marked on the object possessed, not on the possessor:

    John he-môxe’ėstoo’o

    John his-book

    This construction means, literally, “John his-book”.

    To indicate possession, Greek uses a genitive construction, in which the genitive case is marked as a suffix on the possessor:

    biblivon Iwavnn-ou

    book John-of.him

    Formally, the Greek would correspond to English “book of John”, which is a literal translation of the Greek construction. This, however, would not be the best translation for English, since English possession would normally be indicated with the possessive noun phrase “John’s book.” Use of the English possessive phrase is the most accurate and natural (therefore, idiomatic) translation of the Greek genitive possessive.

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    Context refers to the environment or setting in which an utterance occurs. There are various contexts which are crucial for a translator to be aware of. The immediate linguistic context consists of words, phrases, and sentences which surround the utterance in question. This is discourse or textual context. The linguistic context also includes the situational context, that is, the social context in which the utterance was made. This includes the identity of speaker and addressee, their relationship, and the purpose of the utterance in the mind of the speaker. This social context is the concern of pragmatics. Ultimately, the pragmatic context also includes the time, place, and culture in which the utterance was made. So a translator must be aware of the historical, anthropological, and sociological environment in which the utterance he is translating was made.

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    Critical apparatus

    A critical apparatus is a section of a text which gives information on variants found in manuscript copies of its own textual history, which are relevant to determining the most likely form of its original text.

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    Critical text

    Text of the Greek New Testament determined through textual criticism.

    There are two main New Testament text traditions today (with various subtypes), the critical text, based on the text types which have the oldest copies available today, and the Majority Text, which gives priority to the text types with the largest number of text copies available today. The critical

    text is also known as the eclectic text.
    The main critical text of the New Testament used today is the Nestle-Aland

    text, which appears in another edition as the UBS text. See Textus


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    Cultural clash

    A cultural clash occurs when something in culture of the source language has a distinctly

    different cultural value from the same thing in the culture of the target language. In such cases,

    the translator should keep the original meaning by adjusting the form of the cultural symbol or

    adding enough background information to indicate to the target language users what the original

    cultural value was. Otherwise, the users of the translation will get the wrong meaning, and
    preservation of original meaning is the highest priority for a translator. Here is an example: a
    Jewish man who had taken a Nazirite vow would cut his hair to indicate the end of that vow. But a
    Cheyenne man (of the North American Indian tribe) cuts his hair to indicate that he is in
    mourning. The same symbol, cutting one’s hair, has different cultural meanings. So when one
    translates that a man cut his hair (to show the end of his Nazarite vow), the meaning of the
    cutting would need to be made clear in Cheyenne translation. If not, Cheyenne readers could
    easily assume that the original man cut his hair in mourning. Such adjustments are NOT adding
    any meaning to Scripture. They are simply making explicit meaning that was implicit to the
    original hearers. In fact, if we do not make such implicit information clear, when it is not
    understood by current readers, we are actually taking away part of the original meaning.

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    Cultural substitute

    Use of a different translation term for an item from the source language text which is unknown to
    the target language hearers. Translators must be prudent in the use of cultural substitutes. They
    should not introduce anachronisms. A cultural substitute should have the same function in context as the original item, be as similar in form as possible, and be compatible with Biblical culture. (Blight 1992:19) In Matt. 26.20 it was legitimate for the KJV translators to use the cultural substitute “sat down” for the original term “reclined” (a prone position, used for eating in Jesus’ day). The two terms are not literally the same, but the two bodily positions have the same function in the context of eating within the original and target cultures.

    Compare Transculturation which is a different phenomenon from cultural substitutation.

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    See the following website:

    Compare Connotation.

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    Descriptive grammar

    Descriptive grammar is the study and description of how people actually speak. As such, it contrasts with prescriptive grammar which attempts to say how people should speak. Modern linguistics is concerned with descriptive, rather than prescriptive, grammar.

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    A dictionary is a book which lists words of a language along with their meanings. Dictionaries can have a variety of formats and purposes.

    See Lexicon.

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    Donor language

    Same as source language.

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    Discourse refers to the entirety of an utterance. When recorded it is called a text. A discourse may be one of several overall types of genre and it can be composed of more than one embedded genres. Sensitivity to discourse factors is crucial for a translator, since any word or sentence takes part of its meaning from its discourse context.

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    Discourse analysis

    The study of discourse, its genres, structures, importance of discourse to understanding the

    meanings of its parts, including words in discourse context.

    See the following books and webpages on discourse analysis, see:

    Click here for the Discourse analysis section on the Bible

    Translation website.

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    Disjointed refers to any utterance or writing in which its words and phrases do not connect smoothly with each other. There is a lack of literary flow. The speaking or writing sounds choppy. Typically, disjointedness occurs because there has been insufficient attention paid to including cohesion
    devices of the language. A translation will often sound disjointed if it is translated literally from the
    source language. In such a process the translator often assumes that meaning is essentially
    found in individual words, and does not understand that crucial meaning is also found above the
    word level, connecting words to each other and sections of discourse to each other. A translator
    must fully understand what the devices are in his own language for connecting words, phrases, and larger portions of discourse, and use those devices to translate the devices which have the same function in the source language.

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    A doublet is the use in some languages of two (or more) terms conjoined to create an expression which typically intensifies the meaning of either term used alone. The two parts of a doublet are either synonymous or have a generic-specific relationship. In literature on Biblical rhetorical structures, doublets are usually referred to as rhetorical parallelism or synonymous parallelism. See the book Doublets In the New Testament, by Bruce R. Moore, for good discussion and a thorough listings of Biblical doublets.

    NASB Eph. 2.19 So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints, and are of God’s household.

    “Strangers” and “aliens” are synonyms, referring to a single status of “outsiderness” which
    the Ephesians Christians previously had, before they became Christians.

    NRSV Psalm 118:24 This is the day that the LORD has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.

    We consider “rejoice” and “be glad” to be synonyms and their conjoined structure to be a
    doublet. For languages, such as English, which do not seem to have doublets as part of their
    grammatical inventory, this verse would accurately and naturally be translated as:

    “This is the day that the LORD has made; let us be very glad about it.”

    Doublets are similar to hendiadys.

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    If a translation is dynamic we mean that the original meaning is communicated naturally in it, as
    well as accurately. Dynamic translation contrasts with literal translation, which often loses some of the original meaning in its attempt to retain the form of the original as much as possible. A dynamic translation pays careful attention to the natural features of the target language. It uses a vernacular
    (commonly used) vocabulary as opposed to a specialist vocabulary of the target language. A dynamic translation attempts to speak in the language of the average fluent speaker of the language. The terms dynamic translation and idiomatic translation are equivalent.

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    Dynamic equivalence (DE)

    Dynamic equivalence is a translation principle which was promoted by the Bible translation scholar Eugene Nida. With this principle a translator seeks to translate the meaning of the original in such a way that the target language wording will trigger the same impact in its hearers that the original wording had upon its hearers. As some have mistakenly concluded, Nida never pitted “meaning” against “impact” (or reader “response”, as he called it). Nida, as do all informed translators, understood that meaning is a totality (“bundle”) which includes meanings of parts of words (morphemes), words themselves, how words connect to each other (syntax, grammar), words in communication contexts (pragmatics), connotation, etc. We always want a hearer to understand the same meaning as did hearers of the source text. That, essentially, is what Nida was saying.

    But dynamic equivalence, as a concept, puts an overly narrow focus upon the response of hearers, perhaps sometimes at the expense of other factors which are also crucial to adequate Bible
    translation, such as accuracy of the message, the uniqueness of the original historical setting, etc. The term dynamic equivalence has often been mischaracterized. Because of this, and also because most translators recognize that translation adequacy calls for attention to a multiplicity of factors, most translators today do not use the term. Instead, as they characterize how it is often necessary to use different FORMS of the target language to encode the same MEANING as the original, they prefer to use terms which are easier to understand such as idiomatic translation, meaning-based translation, closest natural equivalent, and functional equivalence. A lay term used by some people is thought-for-thought translation. None of these terms is exactly the same as dynamic equivalence, although, like dynamic equivalence, all focus upon preservation of meaning, rather than form, when there is tension between the two.

    The KJV translators understood that one cannot always translate the forms of a language literally and still retain the original meaning. There are several passages in the KJV which exemplify dynamic equivalence. For instance, KJV Rom. 6.2 God forbid. How shall we, that are dead to sin, live any longer therein?

  • The KJV exclamation “God forbid” of Romans 6.2, and numerous other verses in the KJV, is dynamic equivalence translation. It is not a literal translation of the original Greek, me: genoito “not may it be” (“may it not be” in more natural English word order). Instead, it is a strong English exclamation using God’s name, a translation which the KJV translators felt was more natural in English and which
    has an impact which is, presumably, closer to what the impact of the original had upon its hearers than the literal “May it not be” would have on English hearers. With this dynamic equivalence rendering, the KJV translators place a higher priority upon how the original meaning will come across to the English hearers (that is, “reader response”) than they do holding to the literal form of the original.
    They were translating total meaning of the Greek phrase here instead of simply (literal) meaning at the word level of language.Compare Functional Equivalence.

    <!–Visit the following webpages on dynamic equivalence:

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    Eclectic text

    Same as critical text. Greek text of the New Testament which

    gives priority to the oldest known copies of the original text. Compare Majority Text. See Textual


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    Ellipsis is the deliberate
    omission of some aspect of language form whose meaning can be understood from the context
    of that form. Ellipsis is sometimes called gapping by linguists. Languages vary in whether and
    how much they allow ellipsis. So translators must sometimes supply in a translation what is
    ellipted in the original, so that the meaning of the original will be preserved in the translation.

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    An epistle is a letter, a literary
    composition which serves as correspondence between individuals or groups. The epistles of the
    Bible are largely written in hortatory genre. Additionally, some scholars conclude that the epistles were written

    in a unique genre of Greek called epistolary.

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    Epistolary is a
    distinctive discourse genre claimed by some to characterize Greek

    letters, of which the epistles of the New Testament

    would be examples.

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    Equivalent refers to having the same meaning and function. Theoretically, absolute equivalence between forms in the same

    language or between different languages may never be possible, but equivalence for all practical

    purposes is often possible and is a foundational concept for translation theory.

    Equivalence of translated forms to those of the source language is analogous to synonymy within a single language.

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    Essentially literal translation

    The translators of the ESV promote it as:

    an “essentially literal” translation that seeks as far as possible to capture the precise
    wording of the original text and the personal style of each Bible writer. As such, its emphasis is
    on “word-for-word” correspondence, at the same time taking

    into account differences of grammar, syntax, and idiom between current literary English and the

    original languages. Thus it seeks to be transparent to the original text, letting the reader see as

    directly as possible the structure and meaning of the original.

    It appears that an essentially literal translation may have some more natural wordings than a literal translation, and so is easier to read. The Holman Christian Standard

    Bible (HCSB) is probably another essentially literal translation.

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    substitutes an acceptable, inoffensive expression for one that is
    socially unacceptable, offensive, or which may suggest something
    unpleasant (Beekman
    and Callow, Translating the Word of God
    , page 119):

    KJV I Cor. 11.30 For this cause many [are] weak and sickly
    among you, and many sleep.

    Original Greek “sleep” was used by Paul here as a
    euphemism for being dead. In many cultures, it is inappropriate
    to speak about death directly. English speakers use a number of
    euphemisms for death, in the attempt not to speak too directly
    about this unpleasant topic. Examples are: “expired”,
    “deceased,” “gone to his reward,” “gone
    home”, and “passed away.”

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    Exact equivalence

    As far as we know, the term exact equivalence has not been used in the context of Bible

    translation. The nearest term may be complete equivalence.

    Exact equivalence refers to when a term in the target language is identical in meaning and
    scope to a term in the source language (this usage of the technical term scope may be close to
    another term, semantic range, which refers to all possible meaning senses for a word) . The two
    terms of the source and target languages which are exact equivalents are exact semantic

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    Exclusive language

    Language forms which are perceived to exclude some members of a society. For instance, for
    many English speakers today, the word “man,” when used generically to refer to “humanity,” is
    perceived to exclude females (within its referential meaning).

    The opposite of exclusive language is inclusive

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    Exegesis is the analysis
    of a Biblical text to determine its meaning. Before one can translate a Biblical text, he must
    exegete it to know its meaning. See Hermeneutics.

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    An exegete is someone who studies to determine the meaning of a Biblical text. At least one
    person on a Bible translation team needs to be an exegete, so that the meaning of the original
    text is determined, before that text can be translated to the target language.

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    Exegetical accuracy

    Exegetical accuracy refers to how closely a translated text preserves the meaning of the original

    text. See also Accuracy and Faithfulness. In this glossary we distinguish between
    exegetical accuracy and communicative

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    Explicit information

    Explicit information is overtly stated. It contrasts with implicit

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    Expository discourse explains or describes something.

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    Extended metaphor

    An extended metaphor is a metaphor which is extensively developed. Typically, there is a

    relatively large amount of discourse devoted to this figure and there is theological focus placed

    upon it. Some extended metaphors used in the Bible are:

    body, referring to a local group of believers and/or all Christians

    bread of life, referring to Jesus

    vine, referring to Jesus, who gives life to believers, figuratively, the branches.

    Simple metaphors often cannot be translated literally to another language, because they will not

    be understood with their original intended figurative meaning. But the translator must usually find

    some way to retain extended metaphors because so much of Scripture refers to them in their

    figurative sense. One solution is to translate an extended metaphor as a simile in the target

    language, if this can be done. For instance, one might translate, “A group of believers is like a


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    Extraneous information

    Extraneous information is material which is included in a translation which is not found explicitly in the source text, nor can it legitimately be considered

    to be implicit in the source text to the degree that it is

    necessary for communicating the central message of the source text. Inclusion of extraneous

    information can be one cause for criticism that a particular translation is interpretive. If extraneous information is true and relevant to

    helping one better understand the background or meaning of a passage, it belongs in a commentary, not in the translation itself. Compare Implicit information and Explicit


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    Faithfulness refers to how closely a translation preserves the meaning of the original. It is

    synonymous with fidelity, and essentially synonymous with accuracy, but translation theory

    sometimes differentiates slightly

    between faithfulness and accuracy. Faithfulness can, and should, also refer to how closely a

    translation honors the natural lexical and grammatical patterns of the

    target language. Faithfulness should look both directions, toward the source and toward the


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    Fidelity refers to the quality of being
    accurate. It is the same as faithfulness.

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    Field testing

    Field testing is testing a translation to determine if it communicates the meaning of the source text accurately, clearly, and in natural forms of the target language. Field testing is done among a range of speakers if a translation is targeted to be used by a range of speakers, such as speakers of different age, educational, and social groups. Field testing is the same as Community testing.

    If I’m testing to determine if the English idiom “Are you pulling my leg?” is understood by a group of ESL (English as a Second Language) students, I would read to them a short paragraph, such as this:

    “John went to the mailbox and brought in the mail. He looked at the envelopes. He opened one of them and said to his wife, “Hey, Mary, we just got a leter from the Publisher’s Clearing House Sweepstakes. We’ve won $1 millon.” Mary laughed and said, “Are you pulling my leg?

    Hypothesis: The ESL students may not yet understand the meaning of the English idiom, “Are you pulling my leg?”

    Field test question: “What does it sound like to you that Mary said to John?”

    If test subjects simply repeat Mary’s actual words, we cannot tell if they understand the idiom, so if they just repeat, then we would follow up with the next question:

    “What do you think that means?”

    Field testing works for testing how any subject pool understands the meaning of any utterance in any language, including wordings from translations of the Bible.

    The last chapter of the book “Meaning-Based Translation,” by Mildred Larson, is on field testing and gives good advice for constructing appropriate questions to test a number of different linguistic issues in a text.

    Figure of speech

    A figure of speech is any of several kinds of non-literal usage of words. Figures of speech are
    used to achieve an effect beyond the range of ordinary language. Some figures of speech
    described in this glossary are:

    See also Idiom.

    These websites feature figures of speech in the Bible:

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    Same as Construction.

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    Formal equivalence translation (FE)

    Same as Form-equivalent translation. This refers to a

    translation approach which attempts to retain the language forms of the original as much as
    possible in the translation, regardless of whether or not they are the most natural way to express
    the original meaning. Sometimes when original forms are retained, the original meaning is not
    preserved. Usually, when this happens the translator is not aware of it. Field testing is required to help the translator discover when original

    meaning has not been preserved in the translation. When people speak of some versions of the

    Bible being literal, they are referring to ones which have been

    translated with a formal equivalence translation approach.

    Formal equivalence translation is essentially the same as word-for-word translation. Word-for-word translation is a lay term,

    while formal equivalence translation is a technical term.

    Although formal equivalence translations have weaknesses in terms of readability, overall

    preservation of original meaning, and impact, they are useful for helping one understand HOW

    meaning was expressed in the original text. They can help us see the beauty of original idioms,
    rhetorical patterns, such as Hebrew poetic parallelism, and how individual authors used certain
    vocabulary terms uniquely. It is not so easy to appreciate these factors from reading idiomatic
    translations, because these factors are related to form and idiomatic translations are willing to
    lose original form to maximize preservation and understandability of original meaning.

    Visit the following webpages on formal equivalence:

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    Form-equivalent translation

    Same as the more commonly used label, formal

    equivalence translation.

    Form-equivalent translation is described in the preface to the God’s Word translation (page


    The oldest theory of translation is
    form-equivalent translation (often inaccurately called literal translation.

    this type of translation, the translator chooses one of a
    limited number of meanings assigned to each Hebrew, Aramaic,
    or Greek word. The translator fills in the words that belong
    in the sentence but folows the word arrangement and grammar
    that is characteristic of the original language. Such a
    translation is often viewed as accurate. However, it can
    result in awkward, misleading, incomprehensible, or even
    amusing sentences. For instance, a form-equivalent
    translation of 1 Samuel 9:2 could read: ‘From his shoulders
    upward Saul was taller than any of the people.’ In English
    this implies that Saul had a misshapen head and neck.
    Translations using this theory have made the Bible more
    difficult to read and understand in English than it was in
    the original languages.

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    Free translation

    A free translation is one which preserves the meaning of the original but uses natural forms of

    the target language, including normal word order and syntax, so that the translation can be

    naturally understood. Free translation is a kind of idiomatic

    translation. For examples of free translation see the Cheyenne story in the entry Interlinear translation.

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    Front translation

    A specially designed tool to assist a native translator. It is prepared by an advisor for a specific
    translation project for the mother tongue translators under his supervision. The advisor creates a
    front translation with the goal of making the meaning explicit and as easy as possible for the
    mother tongue translator, whose ability in English (or another national language, such as
    Spanish, French, or Indonesian) is limited, to use. The advisor studies (exegetes) a passage of the Bible, then writes up an accurate front

    translation based on this exegesis. The front translation contains all the meaning of the original,

    including implicit information which may need to be made explicit in the translation. The front

    translation has a structure that takes into consideration the unique vocabulary and grammatical

    patterns such as word order, phrase and clause structure, and idioms of the receptor language.

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    Fullness of meaning

    A term used by some translators to refer to translation which attempts to preserve all aspects of
    original meaning, including denotative meaning, connotative meaning, emotive meaning,
    associative meaning, nuances, and ambiguity.

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    In terms of language study, function refers to the purpose for which a language form or
    phenomenon exists. More broadly, function refers to the purpose for which any utterance is
    made. An utterance can be any length of speech that communicates some meaning. Function
    refers not only to individual words and how they relate to each other, but also to how words are
    used. For instance, in some languages it is possible to repeat something for some effect. A
    translator needs to know what that effect is, that is, what is the function of repetition in the
    language under study. It is the function itself which must be translated, not necessarily the way
    (form) that function is encoded in a language. For example, some languages do not permit
    repetition, as did New Testament Greek with its frequent occurrences of what is translated as
    “Verily, verily,” in English (for example, John 3.3; 3.11; 5.19 . But if we know what the function of
    repetition in the source language is, we can look for an equivalent structure (or process) in the
    target language which has the same function. This approach is referred to as functional equivalence translation.

    The translator should constantly ask, “What is the function of this particular language
    phenomenon in the language from which I am translating?” He then matches the same functions
    between languages, regardless of what forms are used to carry out those functions. Forms
    communicate meaning through various functions required of language. If functions are not the
    same, then meanings will not be the same. And the purpose of translation is to transfer

    Language must perform a wide range of functions. Some of the most important functions that we

    call upon our speech to perform are:

    1. To inform

    2. To question

    3. To command

    4. To deny

    5. To emphasize

    6. To sequence narration of events

    7. To indicate logical relationships, such as causality

    8. To indicate continuity of participants

    9. To indicate continuity of actions

    10. To contrast

    Linguists who regard discovery of language function as a primary task of linguistics are called
    functionalists. Their approach to language study is called functional

    linguistics and functionalism.

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    Functional equivalence

    Functional equivalence translation is a subcategory of what many call idiomatic translation. Bible translation consultants de Waard and Nida

    updated Nida’s previous term, Dynamic
    , to functional Equivalence in their book, From One Language to Another:
    Functional Equivalence in Bible Translating, Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1986.
    The translators of the God’s Word (GW) English version describe this philosophy of translating (which
    they call function-equivalent translation) as follows (their Preface, page xii):

    A newer theory of translation is function-equivalent translation (often inaccurately
    called paraphrasing). In this type of translation, the
    translator tries to make the English function the same way the original language functioned for
    the original readers.

    The preface continues with statements that I am not sure I can agree with, but they do reflect
    opinions about this translation philosophy which are held by an important percentage of those
    who evaluate Bible versions:

    However, in trying to make the translation easy to read, the translator can omit
    concepts from the original text that don’t seem to have corresponding modern English
    equivalents. Such a translation can produce a readable text, but that text can convey the wrong
    meaning or not enough meaning. Furthermore, function-equivalent translations attempt to make
    some books readable on levels at which they were not intended. For instance, Song of Songs
    was not written for children. Paul’s letter to the Ephesians is very sophisticated and not intended
    for novices.

    This preface does not identify which versions its authors regard as function-equivalent
    translation, but by process of elimination with the two other philosophies described in the
    preface, form-equivalent translation and closest natural equivalent translation (used in GW), we can guess that the

    GW translators are referring to versions such as LB, TEV, CEV, and NCV. We also do not know

    which translation approach the GW translators would regard as underlying more literal

    translations such as NIV, ISV, NET, and NLT, which are not precisely form-equivalent
    translations, yet they do not seem to fit into the function-equivalent category, as described in the

    GW preface. The GW translators contrast their approach, closest natural equivalent translation,

    with function-equivalent translation, but we do not know if they view GW as the only closest

    natural equivalent translation. It seems clear that not all who critique Bible versions use the same

    terms to describe translation philosophies, nor do they use all the terms in exactly the same way.

    The editor of this glossary is more comfortable with the terms formal equivalence and idiomatic
    translation, approaches to translation which appear on opposing ends of an idiomaticity scale.
    Some English translations cluster near either end of this scale while others are best described as
    being somewhere in between. Creating new terms such as closest natural equivalent translation
    may be helpful, but those who use them should describe them well enough so that it can be better
    understood how they relate to terms already in use such as idiomatic, dynamic, and
    meaning-based translation.

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    Functional linguistics

    Functional linguistics (also
    known as functionalism) attempts to find explanations for language phenomena outside of these
    phenomena themselves. The explanations typically have to do with cognitive processes, memory
    limitations, sensory perception, conservation of energy via retention of morphological paradigms,
    the human capacity (and need) for design and patterning, etc. The work of functionalists
    contrasts with those who pursue formal linguistics, which typically (a la Chomsky) defines
    linguistics (especially syntax) as a self-contained field of study, and finds “explanations” in formal
    notations. Functional linguists pursue a variety of theoretical approaches to language but are

    united in viewing language function of primal importance. Linguists who have approached

    language functionally include Wallace

    Chafe, Simon Dik, William Foley, Talmy Givón, John Haiman, Michael

    Halliday, George Lakoff,

    Ronald Langacker, Ellen Prince, Sandra Thompson, Teun van

    Dijk, and Robert Van
    . Functional linguistics and Relevance Theory
    are two areas of linguistics today which have great value for translation theory.

    The following books focus on functional linguistics:

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    Gender is a grammatical means of classifying entities referred to by a language according to a

    variety of factors, typically including biological gender. Gender marking in a language can

    include feminine, maculine, and neuter, as well as other categories not associated with biological

    gender, such as animacy. Gender is often marked on nouns or their modifiers. It can be

    signaled on pronouns and verbs through agreement with the gender of the nouns with which they

    are syntactically associated. Some gender marking in languages is purely arbitrary, such as the

    fact that Spanish la pluma “the pen” is feminine, but the semantically related el lapiz “the pencil”

    is masculine. In New Testament Greek, theos “God” is masculine but “Holy Spirit” is neuter.

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    Gender accuracy (inclusive language)

    Gender accuracy (with related labels of
    inclusive language and gender-neutral language) refers to
    accurately translating the original according to its intended
    meaning with regards to gender, not simply according to its
    literal gender form. There are examples in the KJV where
    its translators translated what they believed to be the gender meaning when it is different from the

    grammatical gender of the Biblical forms. For instance, note the difference between the
    NASB and KJV renderings of this

    NASB Matt. 5.9 Blessed are peacemakers, for
    they shall be called sons of God.

    KJV Matt. 5.9 Blessed are peacemakers, for they
    shall be called the children of God.

    The NASB literally translates the original
    Greek word huioi “sons” here as English
    “sons”, even though the Greek word often was used with
    a secondary, extended sense to refer to any children, whether
    sons or daughters, and many exegetes, including those on the KJV trasnslation team, believe it

    had this secondary gender-neutral meaning in this beatitude. The KJV translates the original

    meaning as
    “children”. The KJV translators were not influenced by any social agenda outside of

    Scripture when they translated the Greek with its broader (secondary) gender-neutral meaning in

    this context. Instead, they simply translated what they believed to be the original meaning to

    English, without theological or social bias. They used
    an English form to match the Greek original form, even
    though the primary meaning (“sons”) of the Greek was
    different from that of the English word used,

    Currently there is an animated, often divisive,
    debate among conservative Christians over how much inclusive
    language should appear in English versions of the Bible. There is
    a growing literature on inclusive
    language in Bible translation

    My own opinion is that for as much as accuracy
    in labeling can help (and it often doesn’t, as we’ve seen with
    other divisive issues), it would be best to refer to this issue
    in translation as one of gender accuracy, rather than inclusive
    language or gender-neutral language. Our aim, with regards to
    translation of gender, must be, as already stated, accuracy to
    the meaning of the original text. Our aim is not to neuter
    Scripture, to feminize it (or masculinize it, for that matter),
    but, rather, to be as accurate to the original meaning as
    possible in translation. Notice that I keep repeating
    “accuracy to the meaning of the original.” I am not
    emphasizing “accuracy” to the form of the original.
    Form is always important. Form conveys meaning. But form is
    always relative to the structure of a particular language,
    including the structures (lexicon, syntax, rhetoric) of the
    original Biblical languages. For languages which have grammatical
    gender (typically masculine, feminine, and sometimes neuter, but
    often other genders such as animate versus inanimate, people
    versus animals), the language itself often REQUIRES assignment of
    gender to various words, and sometimes that assignment is
    relatively arbitrary. For instance, for the two very similar
    writing implements, pen and pencil, Spanish assigns different
    gender. “Pen” is feminine, “la pluma,” while
    “pencil” is masculine, “el lapiz.” There is
    nothing in the nature of pens or pencils that determines their
    Spanish gender.

    And translation of gender must be accurate with
    regards to meaning in the target language, no less than meaning
    in the original. At one point in the history of the English
    language, the word “man” could be understood as an
    inclusive term, when appropriate, to refer to any person,
    regardless of whether they were males or females. But English has
    changed so that that sense of the meaning of “man” has
    obsolesced for many speakers. “Man” no longer has this inclusive sense,
    for many English speakers. If we continue, therefore, to
    use “man” with a meaning that has obsolesced for many speakers, hoping that
    current readers of our Bibles will understand the correct
    inclusive meaning of “man,” we may communicate the wrong meaning. And we are
    mistaken in thinking that an educated clergy (or English
    teachers) can teach an obsolescent meaning to current readers so
    that they will understand it properly each time they encounter
    inclusive “man” in the Bible; people do not respond well to being taught meanings of

    words different from the meanings they already know for those words. To the degree that we
    have not translated for CURRENT understanding and usage of the
    English language, we have not translated to the vernacular, as
    William Tyndale and John Wycliff called for so sacrificially.

    Hence, today, with at least some, if not many, English
    speakers no longer easily understanding “man” as a
    gender-inclusive word, it is no longer accurate to translate the
    original Greek relative pronoun “tis” of 2 Cor. 5.17 as

    KJV 2 Cor. 5.17 Therefor if any man be in
    Christ, he is a new creature …

    Instead, “tis” is accurately
    translated as “anyone”:

    NKJV 2 Cor. 5.17 Therefore, if anyone is in
    Christ, he is a new creation …

    Of course, we then have to wrestle with the
    knotty problem of the masculine pronoun “he”, which
    refers back to “anyone” in this verse. Just as
    “man” no longer has an inclusive meaning sense for a
    majority of speakers, there is an increasing number of speakers
    for whom “he” and “him” are no longer
    inclusive pronouns. The issue over how to translate such
    inclusive pronouns most accurately for current English speakers
    will continue to be debated for some time among conservative
    Christians. There are solutions which are discussed in
    the literature
    today, but there is not
    as yet a consensus among conservative Christians as to which ones
    best address accuracy in English language usage as well as
    accuracy to the original Biblical text. My own opinion, as a
    linguist and Bible translator, is that we need to test our translations
    with a wide range of speakers
    to determine if they have reached the level of accuracy in
    English which we desire to be faithful to the meaning of the
    original texts. If they do not, we must revise our translations
    until they do. We must not give up accuracy to the original, but
    we also must not give up accuracy in the target language. If
    adjustments in the rendering of English pronouns are required by
    current speakers so that they will understand intended gender of
    the original text, then so be it. There may not be a
    “perfect” solution in the near future to how to
    translate inclusive pronouns, so until English usage settles on
    pronouns which most speakers are comfortable with, we many
    continue to experience social and theological tension over this
    issue. In time, I believe, as our language continues to change
    (as all languages do), enough speakers will use some pronoun
    forms that truly SOUND inclusive to their ears, and then it will be clearer for translators
    of English Bible versions which pronouns to use to most accurately convey the
    inclusive meaning of the original texts.

    For many years I have found myself using
    the so-called “singular they” of English as a pronoun with singular inclusive meaning,

    although it is grammatically plural in form. (I also sometimes use the pronoun “he” as an inclusive

    pronoun.) Use of the singular “they” is one inclusive language solution for many speakers of

    English. It has a long history of usage within the English language, and has been used by many

    authors, including the translators of the KJV, Shakespeare, C.S. Lewis, and Dr. James Dobson

    of the Focus On the Family radio program. For instance, I naturally say
    and hear as “grammatically correct”, sentences such as:

    Everyone should bring their own notebook to

    I was strictly taught “schoolbook English
    grammar” (that is, prescriptive grammar) in my early school years. I was taught that the

    “correct” pronoun to use here is “his”, not “their”. This was
    considered to be so since “everyone” was, and still is
    for some speakers, considered a singular noun in this context.
    Since my childhood, however, my pronoun usage here has been
    changing, whether consciously, to avoid using masculine sounding
    prescriptively taught “inclusive” pronouns, or
    unconsciously. Along with a large percentage of the Engish
    speaking population, I have, therefore, shifted to use of
    “their” in this sentence above, instead of my earlier
    use of “his.” Today “his” doesn’t sound right
    to my ears. It doesn’t even sound “grammatical”. For
    many speakers, including myself, the “every” of
    “everyone” causes it to sound like a plural pronoun in
    this context, not a singular, and so, for them, the
    “correct” (possessive) pronoun, for pronoun number
    agreement in this sentence, is “their”. (At this point
    in my life, partly because my childhood was so long ago, I cannot
    actually recall if “his” in this sentence ever sounded
    right to my own ears. It may have simply been something I was
    taught is “correct.”) As an important aside, my own
    pronoun usage here is mixed, since I still treat
    “everyone” as a singular with regard to subject-verb
    number agreement, as in:

    Everyone has their own notebook.

    “has” is inflected as a singular
    verb, as oppposed to “have” as in:

    The girls have their own notebooks.

    Let us continue to uphold accuracy in translation as a primary goal, with accuracy referring

    both to
    faithfulness to the original texts as well as the natural
    language structures of target languages into which we
    translation. Let us listen carefully to each other in the debate over inclusive language. And let us

    move forward in translation so that more and more people throughout the world can hear God’s

    written Word accurately, clearly, and naturally. Naturalness, of
    course, directly reflects language usage. Issues concerning gender accuracy in translation

    depend crucially on language usage of current speakers in any language. And let us speak, and

    debate, with as much Christian grace as possible, on this and other issues of Bible


    Three books recently published on the topic of inclusive language in Bible translation are:

    Return to Terminology index


    Greek genitives (one of the cases of the inflectional system) are notorious for giving

    translators difficulties. Some genitives may be translated to English using a corresponding form

    (usually an English prepositional phrase) without loss of meaning, but often the English form must

    be adjusted in order to preserve the original meaning of the genitive most accurately. As always,

    meaning must take priority over form whenever there is

    translational tension
    between the two. Some linguists use the term genitives to include English possessors.

    Click on the following link to read our discussion
    about translation of the genitive in 2 Cor. 5.14:

    2 Cor. 5.14
    Whose love guides us?

    Click on the following link to see how various English versions have translated 2 Cor. 4:6, which

    has a long string of Greek genitives:

    2 Cor. 4:6

    See Genitive case.

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    Genre (sometimes called text genre) refers to a distinctive type of discourse. Some common

    genres in languages of the world are

    One of the most common types of genre in the Bible is narrative, typical of the action sections of

    historical books such as Genesis, Exodus, Joshua, the Gospels, and the Acts of the Apostles.

    The epistles consist of large portions of hortatory


    A translator must be aware of genre, since language features will often vary depending on which

    genre is being translated.

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    Gist (or précis) is an important translation concept. It appears

    to be very similar to what the linguist van Dijk called macrostructure. It is crucial that a translation adequately

    transfer the gist of the source language text to the target language. By gist we refer to the

    essence of a text, its central idea or ideas, the main points. It is far too common that a translation

    will have the smaller pieces (words, phrases, clauses) of a text translated well, but users of the

    translation cannot figure out what the gist of the message in that translation is. Adequate

    translation must transfer the original message in such a way that the central points are clear in

    the translation. One way of approaching this is to try to look at the text to be translated as a

    whole, and then to translate as holistically as possible. A translator should ask, “What is the main

    point of the text I am translating? What is the original author’s overall intention?” From this “big

    picture” view can come a better overall structure within which the details of the translation can fit

    more comfortably.

    During community testing of a translation, some of the

    most important questions to ask are:

    “What is the main thing this is saying?”

    “Tell me the main ideas.”

    “What do you think the author wanted us to do?”

    “What do you think the author wanted us to know?”

    If gist

    is missed,



    Return to Terminology index


    A gloss is a simple word or phrase match for a word or phrase in another language. It is not a

    complete definition of that word or phrase, since a full definition would include all senses of a

    word in various contexts. For example, the English word “man” is a standard gloss for the Greek

    word anthropos, but “man” is not a complete definition of anthropos, since anthropos could

    sometimes refer to “person,” regardless if that person is a male or female. A translator must not

    simply translate with glosses, but must consider the meaning of words within both source and

    target language contexts to determine what is the best word to use to translate the meaning of a

    source word.

    There is another meaning of

    the word gloss which is also relevant for translators. This kind of gloss refers to a short note

    inserted in the margin or between the lines of a text, which explains a difficult or technical

    expression. This meaning of the word used in the word glossary, which is a collection of

    explanations of terms. Many Bible versions today contain a glossary to explain technical terms

    used in the translation, such as sacrifice, synagogue, Sabbath. And, of course, these web pages

    are a glossary, containing explanations of technical terms used by translators.

    Return to Terminology index


    Grammar and syntax are terms which are essentially

    synonymous for the general public–and for many speakers, syntax would not be a term in their

    normal working vocabulary. Standard dictionary definitions for grammar range over a number of

    senses of the term as it is used by speakers of English. Many linguists technically differentiate

    between grammar and syntax, at least some of the time. Linguistically, grammar can refer to the

    overall organization of language or a specific language, and sytax refers, more narrowly, to the

    relationship among elements of a language above the word level, that is, among words, phrases,

    clauses, and sentences. See Syntactic


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    The language in which the New Testament was originally

    written. It is debated whether some portions of the New Testament may have first been written in

    Aramaic and then translated to Greek.

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    The person who reads or listens to something. A translator should work with his hearers in mind,

    sensitive to the vocabulary and language constructions which they understand.

    Return to Terminology index


    Same as Semiticism.

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    Hebrew Bible

    The collection of books regarded as the Jewish Scriptures. The Hebrew Bible became the

    Old Testament of the Christian Bible.

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    Hellenistic Greek

    The dialect of Greek in which the New Testament was originally

    written. It is often called Koine (common) Greek. This dialect evolved

    from Classical


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    Hendiadys is a grammatical

    structure in which two nouns linked by “and” (Greek kai) have a subordinate relationship, rather than a coordinate relationship usually found with “and” (kai). In hendiadys the two

    nouns represent a single modified concept, rather than two separate concepts found in

    coordinate structures. It is important that translators of the Bible recognize hendiadys, so that its

    composite meaning will be properly translated to the target language, not simply its original “and”

    form. Most target languages, including English, usually require that

    some construction other than coordination be used to

    adequately translate the meaning of an original hendiadys. Often the corresponding target

    language construction will be a noun modified by an adjective or relative clause.

    There are several examples of hendiadys in the New Testament, recognized as hendiadys by a

    number of Bible scholars (e.g., for the following verses, variously, Turner, Blass and DeBrunner,

    Arndt and Gingrich, Bullinger, Hendriksen, Vincent, Bruce, Black), and translated as hendiadys in some Bible versions.

    Following are some of these examples:

    Matt. 4.16 “the region and shadow of death” is left as a coordinate structure (non-hendiadys

    meaning in English) in KJV, NKJV, RSV, NRSV, NASB, ISV, and NET. It is translated with the

    meaning of a hendiadys in LB (“the land of death”), TEV (“the dark land of death”), NIV (“the

    land of the shadow of death”), REB (“the land of death’s dark shadow”), NJB (“a country of

    shadow dark as death”), NAB (“a land overshadowed by death”), NCV (“a place covered with the

    shadows of death”), CEV (“the shadow of death”), and GW (“a land overshadowed by


    Luke 2.47 “his understanding and answers” is left as a coordinate structure (non-hendiadys

    meaning in English) in KJV, NKJV, RSV, NRSV, NIV, NAB, NJB, LB, REB, NCV, CEV, GW,

    ISV, and NET. It is translated with the meaning of hendiadys in TEV (“his intelligent


    Luke 21.15 “a mouth and wisdom” (KJV, NKJV, RSV) is also left as a coordinate structure

    (non-hendiadys meaning in English) in NRSV, NASB, NJB, LB, NLT, GW, and ISV. It is not

    translated as simple coordination in NET (“the words along with the wisdom”), but this is not

    clearly hendiadys translation either. It is translated with the meaning of hendiadys as “the wisdom

    to know what to say” (TEV, CEV), NAB (“a wisdom in speaking”), and in NCV (“the wisdom to

    say things”).

    Acts 23.6 “of the hope and resurrection of the dead” is left as a coordinate structure

    (non-hendiadys meaning in English) in KJV, NKJV, RSV, and NASB. It is translated with the

    meaning of hendiadys as “the hope of the resurrection of the dead” (NRSV, ISV, NET), and in

    NIV (“my hope in the resurrection of the dead”), REB (“our hope of the resurrection of the

    dead”), NJB (“our hope in the resurrection of the dead”), NAB (“for hope in the resurrection of

    the dead”), LB (“I believe in the resurrection of the dead”), NLT (“expect that the dead will come

    back to life”), TEV (“the hope I have that the dead will rise to life”), CEV (“I believe that the dead

    will be raised to life”), NCV (“I believe that people will rise from the dead”), and GW (“expect that

    the dead will come back to life”).

    Col. 2.8 “philosophy and vain deceit” is left as a coordinate structure (non-hendiadys meaning in

    English) in KJV, NKJV, RSV, NRSV, NASB, NLT, and ISV. The following versions recognize the

    hendiadys as referring to a single concept and modify that concept with conjoined adjectives:

    NIV (“hollow and deceptive philosophy”), REB (“hollow and delusive speculations”), NCV (“false

    and empty teaching”), and GW (“shallow and misleading philosophy”). It is also translated with

    the meaning of hendiadys in TEV (“the worthless deceit of human wisdom”), CEV (“senseless

    arguments”), NJB (“the empty lure of a ‘philosophy’), NAB (“an empty, seductive philosophy”),

    and NET (“an empty, deceitful philosophy”).

    2 Tim. 1.10 “life and immortality” is left as a coordinate structure (non-hendiadys meaning in

    English) in KJV, NKJV, RSV, NRSV, NASB, Wms, Bar, Wuest, NIV, NAB, JB, NJB, REB, ISV,

    and NET. It is translated with the meaning of hendiadys as “everlasting life” (LB, NLT), and in Phi

    (“the life that is eternal”), TEV (“immortal life”), CEV (“life that never ends”), NCV (“life that

    cannot be destroyed”), and GW (“eternal life”).

    Another webpage on hendiadys is:

    See Doublet which is closely related to hendiadys.

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    Hermeneutics is the

    science of the interpretation of literature. In this glossary, we

    are particularly interested in Biblical hermeneutics. Biblical hermeneutics is concerned with

    developing reliable rules (or principles) to interpret the Bible. Before the Bible can be accurately

    translated, we must determine what it means. To do so we must use credible principles.

    Some excellent textbooks have been written on hermeneutics, including:

    See these other webpages on hermeneutics:

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    Historical anachronism

    Redundant term with the same meaning as Anachronism.

    Return to Terminology index


    Hortatory discourse attempts to persuade someone to do


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    Hyperbole is exaggeration for emphasis or effect, not meant to be taken

    literallly. The original meaning of
    hyperbole must be maintained in translation, even if a particular hyperbole cannot be expressed

    with a hyperbolic form in the target language. Examples of
    hyperbole are boldfaced in the following verses:

    NKJV John 3.52 And what he has seen and heard,
    that He testifies; and no one receives His testimony.

    NKJV Mark 1.33 And the whole city was
    gathered together at the door.

    Return to Terminology index


    An idiom is an expression which is unique to a language and cannot be

    understood simply from the meaning of its individual words. In other words, the actual meaning of

    an idiom is not the total of the meaning of its individual parts. An idiom is a figure of speech. English has many idioms, such as:

    It’s raining cats and dogs.

    He’s the top dog around here.

    It’s time to hit the sack.

    He spilled his guts.

    She had a cow when I got home late last night.

    I’m just pulling your leg.

    They’re horsing around.

    It’s still up in the air.

    I punched his lights out.

    You hit the nail on the head.

    He’s still wet behind the ears.

    He’s sicker than a dog.

    He bit off more than he can chew.

    His eyes are bigger than his stomach.

    He broke my heart.

    It’s raining cats and dogs.

    He’s down in the dumps.

    You’re skating on thin ice.

    He fell off the wagon.

    He’s beating around the bush.

    He let his hair down.

    He passed the buck.

    He skunked me.

    Can I chew on your ear?

    These websites feature English idioms:

    There are many idioms in the Bible. If they are translated literally, their

    original figurative meaning will not be preserved accurately in many


    New Testament Greek idioms (see also New Testament figures of speech)

    These websites feature Biblical idioms:

    Following are some English idioms with the common verbs “give,” “take,” “have,” “make,” “catch”,

    and “got.” Probably most of these could not be translated literally to any other language. Notice

    that the idioms are acceptable with some object nouns but not others. Nouns which are not

    acceptable with these verbs are marked with the asterisk (*). In some cases we abbreviate a

    total idiom to save space, for instance, “give a hand” would normally be used as “Give me a

    hand!” or “Let’s give him a hand” (which happens to two different meanings in English, one

    meaning to help him and the other to applaud him by clapping your hands).


    give a hand

    give an *ear

    give a break

    give a speech

    give someone the boot

    give someone the *shoe

    give someone the shaft

    give a cold shoulder

    give a *warm shoulder

    give an earful


    take a bath

    take a shower

    take a walk

    take a hike

    take a trip

    take a look

    take a peek

    take a *hear

    take a *smell

    take a picture

    take a bite

    take a nap

    take a *sleep

    take a *snore

    take a chance

    take a seat

    take a chair

    take a *bed


    have a drink

    have an *eat

    have a cow

    have a *horse

    have a meeting

    have a chat

    have a talk

    have a cold

    have a cough

    have the flu

    have gas

    have cancer

    have nits

    have a fit

    have an *anger

    have a *rage

    have a job

    have an idea

    have a *joy


    make sense

    make love

    make *hate

    make do

    make fun (of)

    make trouble

    make a fuss

    make peace

    make war

    make the bed

    make a puzzle

    make time

    make a payment

    make it


    catch a cold

    catch the bus

    catch the train

    catch the *car

    catch someone’s drift

    catch someone’s eye

    catch someone’s *hand

    catch someone’s fancy

    catch a ride

    catch a mistake

    catch an *answer

    catch his breath

    catch a *trip

    catch a *walk

    catch the meaning


    get someone’s goat

    get the show on the road

    get the ball rolling

    Return to Terminology index

    Idiomatic translation

    Idiomatic translation is where the meaning of the original is translated into forms which most

    accurately and naturally preserve the meaning of the original

    forms. Idiomatic refers to being in the common language of average speakers, using the natural

    phrasings and idioms of the language. The terms idiomatic translation, dynamic translation, and free

    translation are essentially equivalent, and the non-technical term thought-for-thought translation probably is, as well. The term functional equivalence is a subcategory of idiomatic

    translation. A newer term, meaning-based

    translation, is also a synonym for idiomatic translation. Compare Literal


    Return to Terminology index

    Illocutionary force

    Illocutionary force is what speakers/authors intend when they say/write something. In many

    languages the typical function assumed to belong to a certain form, such as a question, may be

    quite different from what a speaker intends when he utters a particular question in the speech

    context. For instance, if I ask my child, “Why did you color on the walls of your bedroom?” my

    intention may not really be to learn the reason for his behavior, but, rather, to scold him for

    coloring on his walls. See this Illocutionary force

    webpage. And see Intention in this glossary. When translating, it is

    critical that the original illocutionary force of an author is accurately

    communicated in the translation. This may require changing syntactic form if the same or similar

    target language syntax does not communicate the same illocuationary force as did the source

    language syntax in its context.

    Compare Perlocutionary force.

    Return to Terminology index


    See the following website:

    Return to Terminology index

    Implicit information

    Implicit information is not overtly stated in an utterance but is nevertheless communicated in its

    meaning. It is information which is understood to be part of that utterance by its original hearers.

    Such information may be implied within the passage by the syntax, semantics, pragmatics, logic, or culture

    of the speakers of that

    language. Implicit information must often be explicitly expressed in a translation if its presence is

    not understood by the speakers of the target language. Compare Explicit

    information and Extraneous information.

    Return to Terminology index

    Implied information

    Same as Implicit information.

    Return to Terminology index

    Inadequate meaning

    Any of several categories of meaning transfer from the source language to the target language

    which are not adequate. Inadequate meaning is determined through community testing. Categories of inadequate meaning


    Return to Terminology index

    Inclusive language

    Language forms which are perceived to include various segments of a language community.

    Inclusive language often refers, at least in discussions of English, to including both males and

    females. For instance, the English word “humanity” is perceived by all English speakers to be

    inclusive language, including both men and women, whereas the word “man,” in some contexts,

    has been understood by many speakers to include both males and females, whereas it is

    perceived by others as excluding females.

    Bible translators should not change the gender references of the biblical source texts. They

    should never expand nor limit the gender reference of those texts. Bible translators should

    accurately retain the gender references of the biblical source texts in their translations to any

    language, of course, within the limits of the gender resources of that language.

    The opposite of inclusive language is Exclusive language.

    See Gender accuracy.

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    Inspiration is the belief that God supervised the writing of the Bible to such a degree that it

    faithfully speaks the message he intended. Inspiration does not mean that God directly dictated

    all the words of the Bible. It allows for the individual writing styles and creativity of the different

    human authors. Inspiration does mean that the Bible is special, that it has God’s “stamp of

    approval.” Biblical passages which refer to inspiration are 2 Timothy 3:16 and 1 Peter 1:21.

    See further discussion of inspiration at this website:

    Return to Terminology index


    Intention refers to a speaker’s (or author’s) meaning, including the effect he desires his utterance

    to have upon his hearer. Same as Authorial intention. One

    classification lists three intentions authors have for affecting their audiences: (1) to change their

    ideas, (2) to change their emotions, or (3) to change their behavior. When translating, it is

    important that overall authorial intentions be clear, whether implicitly, as allowed by the target

    language and its rhetorical devices, or explicitly. Sometimes meticulous attention to translation of

    lower-level linguistic units obscures authorial intent for the source text as a whole, and, in doing

    so, part of the meaning of the source text is missing in the translation.

    See Illocutionary force.

    Return to Terminology index

    Interlinear translation

    An interlinear translation presents each line of the source text with a line directly beneath it giving

    a word by word literal translation in a target language. An

    interlinear translation is useful for technical study of the forms of the source text. But the literal

    translation will typically not be very understandable,

    since it only has target language words but often lacks target

    language natural word order and syntax (grammar).

    Following is an interlinear translation of the familiar Indo-European story of the Ant and the

    Grasshopper in the Cheyenne language (with a Cheyenne cultural change at the end). This

    format is condensed from the more detailed format at the

    Cheyenne Language Web Site.

    A line preceded by \tx is the original Cheyenne text line. A line preceded by \wg is the literal

    English word gloss (simple translation) line. We include here a

    third line, preceded by \ft, which is a free translation, that is, an

    idiomatic translation which preserves the meaning of the original but

    is freely rearranged so that the English makes good sense to English readers.

    \tx  Háhkota     naa hátšeške.
    \wg  grasshopper and ant
    \ft  The grasshopper and the ant.
    \tx  Hátšeške éhma'xêhotse'óhesêstse.
    \wg  ant      much worked
    \ft  An ant worked hard.
    \tx  éhnêšema'xeéstovôhtsénôse  héstáme     hemâheóne.
    \wg  She much brought in        her food    at her house
    \ft  She brought a lot of food into her house.
    \tx  Méanëva     hová'éhe   mó'éeho'tsêhéhe tséxhemâheónêse.
    \wg  in summer   something  she had it      where had house she
    \ft  In the summer she had something where she had her house.
    \tx  Naa tsé'tóhe háhkota      é'ôhkenémenèsêstse.
    \wg  and this     grasshopper  regularly sang
    \ft  And this grasshopper sang.
    \tx  E'ôhkevé'hého'sóesêstse  méanëva.
    \wg  he regularly dance       in summer
    \ft  He would just dance during the summer.
    \tx  "Hápó'e   éme'hotse'óhestove.
    \wg   likewise there should be working
    \ft  "Likewise you should work.
    \tx  Hápó'e   hová'éhe  éme'éseotsehe   nemâheóne
    \wg  likewise something should be put   in your house
    \ft  Likewise something should be put in your house
    \tx  nonóhpa mâxho'tonéto         nêstsemèse         hová'éhe,"
    \wg  so that when arrives cold    you will eat it    something
    \ft so that when it's cold you'll have something to eat,"
    \tx  éxhetaesesto      hátšêškeho.
    \wg  hw was told by    ant
    \ft  He was told by the ant.
    \tx  "Hová'âháne,"   éxhesêstse   háhkota.
    \wg   no             he said      grasshopper
    \ft  "No," said the grasshopper.
    \tx  "Náto'seéeho'sòò'e,
    \wg   I going to dance
    \ft  "I'm gonna dance.
    \tx  naa màto náto'senéméne.
    \wg  and also I going to sing
    \ft  and also I'm gonna sing.
    \tx  Násáahotse'óhetanóhe.
    \wg  I not work want
    \ft  I don't want to work.
    \tx  Eheómêhoháaehö'ta."
    \wg  it overly sunny
    \ft  It's too sunny."
    \tx  Nêhe'še tséstatonétotse    éstaosáanemésêhétanòsêstse.
    \wg  then    when it was cold   he eat wanted
    \ft  Then when it was cold, he wanted to eat.
    \tx  "Otsêhámóhe,
    \wg   oh yes
    \ft  "Oh yes,
    \tx  hátšeške éma'xeéstóvóhtse   héstáme      hemâheóne.
    \wg  ant      stored             in her food  at her house
    \ft  The ant stored a lot of food in her house.
    \tx  Náto'sêhémêsêhétáno,"      éxhesêstse.
    \wg  I am going to eat want     he said
    \ft  I want to go eat," he said.
    \tx  Estâhémêsêhétanòsêstse.
    \wg  he went there to eat want
    \ft  He went to eat.
    \tx  E'éšeméhaenêhetaesesto,
    \wg  he had already been told that by her
    \ft  She had already told him,
    \tx  "Nêstsêsáahoxomatséhe  mâxháeanato."
    \wg   you I will not feed   when you are hungry
    \ft  "I'll not feed you when you're hungry."
    \tx  Naa éstanêšêševátamósesto   hátšeške  háhkotaho
    \wg  but she pitied him          ant       grasshopper
    \ft  But the ant had pity on the grasshopper.
    \tx  éxhoxomósesto.
    \wg  she fed him
    \ft  She fed him.

    It is easy to see from the Cheyenne that its literal translation is more difficult to read and

    understand than its idiomatic (“free”) translation.

    We see the same tension over readability between literal and idiomatic translations when we

    examine interlinear translations of the Bible. Of course, we can also see the advantage,

    mentioned above, of being able to examine the specific forms of the original text from the

    interlinear translation. The following verse, 2 Cor. 4.6, exemplifies

    the advantage and disadvantages of interlinear translations:

     o}ti oJ qeoV" oJ eivpwvn evk skovtou" 
    because the God  who  having spoken   out  of darkness 
    fw'" lavmpsei o}" e{lamyen ejn tai'" kardivai" hJmw'n 
    light will shine   who   shone  in the  hearts  of us 
    proV" fwtismoVn th'" gnwvsew" th'" dovxh" 
    for illumination  of the  knowledge   of the   glory 
    tou' qeou' ejn proswvpw/ ijhsou' cristou'
    of the   God  in face    of Jesus  Christ

    Idiomatic translation:

    For God, who said, “Let there be light instead of darkness,” has gloriously enlightened us through

    Jesus Christ.

    And another possibility, even more idiomatic–many would probably consider this a paraphrase:

    God turned on the lights at creation. And now he’s turned on his very own floodlight–Jesus

    Christ–to shine in our lives.

    Return to Terminology index


    Interpretation is the process of determining the meaning of something. In this glossary

    interpretation refers to determining the meaning of something which has been spoken or written.

    In particular, we are concerned with discovering the meaning of a Biblical passage before we

    translate it. A common misunderstanding about Bible translation is that any version other than a

    literal or word-for-word

    translation is based on the personal opinions or interpretation of the translator. Some

    criticize almost every version of the Bible which is not as literal as they feel translations should

    be, saying that they are “mere paraphrases” or “interpretive translations.” This is an unfortunate and

    inaccurate characterization. The truth is that any true translation first requires interpretation of

    the source text, that is, an answer to the question, “What does this passage mean?” This is

    interpretation which is necessary. But the translation should not be colored by the personal

    theological biases of the translator. It is this kind of “personal interpretation” which is not

    acceptable in the translation process. The science of determining what are reliable rules (or

    principles) for interpreting the Bible is called hermeneutics.

    Return to Terminology index

    Interpretive translation

    A pejorative term used by someone to refer to a translation which he considers to include “interpretation” of the meaning of the

    source text, rather than simply the “translation” of that text. But

    since it is impossible to translate

    anything without determining its meaning (and such determination is, by definition, what

    interpretation is), this term is technically a misnomer, but it does take on some true logical

    meaning if the term itself is interpreted (!) to refer to a degree of interpretation on the part of the

    translator which the critic considers to be greater than necessary. The term interpretive

    translation, for such critics, would essentially be synonymous with their use of the similarly

    problematical term, paraphrase. One logically legitimate

    use of this term would be for instances where a translator inserts information which is extraneous to the particular passage being translated. Such

    information, if relevant to study of the implications of that passage, belongs elsewhere, such as in

    a commentary, rather than in the translation itself.

    Return to Terminology index


    Irony is language usage in which the opposite
    is meant from what is said. Often irony is criticism or ridicule
    appearing in the form of a compliment. The translator must be
    very careful that the original intent of the Biblical author comes through in his translation of irony.

    If the ironic meaning is not grasped by hearers then the translator must revise until they do.

    Often, the irony must be removed and some other form substituted which will preserve the

    author’s intended meaning. Irony and sarcasm are closely


    RSV Mark 7.9 You have a fine way of rejecting
    the commandment of God in order to keep your tradition!

    TM Mark 7.9 Well, good for you. You get rid of
    God’s command so you won’t be inconvenienced in following the
    religious fashions!

    NLT removes the irony so readers will not
    misunderstand how Jesus was speaking to the Pharisee and scribes:

    NLT Mark 7.9 You reject God’s laws in order to
    hold on to your own traditions.

    See also Irony: Saying

    What You Don’t Mean & Meaning What You Didn’t Say!

    Return to Terminology index


    Jargon refers to a specialized vocabulary of a certain segment of a population. Many trades,

    occupations, technologies, medical sciences, and academic disciplines (including those of

    theologians and Bible translators) have their own jargon. If a translation is to be understood by a

    general population, it must avoid using jargon which is understood only by a certain part of that

    population. This would include avoidance of Christian jargon

    in a translation for a wide audience.

    Return to Terminology index


    The belief that the King James Version (KJV), also known as the Authorized Version (AV), is the

    only version of the Bible which English speakers should use. This belief has a number of claims,

    some of which are that the KJV is the only “inspired” version in English, it is the only version

    which God has “preserved” for the English language, it is the only accurate version in English.

    Some KJV-Onlyism adherents deny that the English language has changed enough since the

    publication of the KJV in 1611 A.D. to warrant any other English version.

    Many KJV-Onlyism adherents refer to themselves as “Bible believers”, implying that anyone else

    who uses a version of the Bible other than the KJV do not believe the Bible. Some include “KJV”

    in the term, calling themselves “KJV Bible believers.”

    Some KJV-Onlyism adherents believe in “corrective revelation”, that is, that the KJV translators

    were so guided by the Holy Spirit as they translated that they corrected the original Hebrew,

    Aramaic, and Greek texts. Final written revelation for them resides in the KJV text, rather than in

    the original Biblical documents.

    See the KJV-Onlyism links for further information.

    Return to Terminology index

    Koine Greek

    The dialect of Greek in which the

    New Testament was originally written. Koine means

    “common”; this dialect was the common language of Greek-speaking peoples. It is sometimes

    called Hellenistic Greek. This dialect evolved out of

    Classical Greek. The outreach of the church throughout the world has always benefitted when the

    Bible has been translated into a common dialect, that is, the

    vernacular, rather than an obsolescing or sacred


    Return to Terminology index


    See the following webpages:

    Return to Terminology index


    Lexicography is the systematic study of the lexicon (words

    and idioms) of a language. A person who does such study is a lexicographer. Lexicographers

    often produce dictionaries of languages.

    Return to Terminology index


    A lexicon is the collection of words and word parts used by people speaking a particular

    language. “Lexicon” is essentially a synonym for the words “dictionary” and “vocabulary,” but is

    often used to refer to specialized aspects of language vocabulary. A dictionary is a kind of lexicon. A lexicon exists for a language

    whether or not it is written. The study of vocabularies is called lexicography.

    The following book discusses the translator’s interaction with the lexicon:

    Return to Terminology index


    Linguistics is the scientific study of language. Linguistics is an important tool for good quality

    translation. Through careful linguistic study, translators can better understand language forms and their functions, in

    both the target and source

    languages. Modern linguistics describes how people

    speak; it does not attempt to say how people should speak, which is called prescriptive grammar.

    For overviews of linguistics, visit these websites:

    Return to Terminology index


    The process of teaching people to read something which is written. Literacy follows orthography

    development for any group which has no written language tradition. See also Orthography and Oral


    Some websites devoted to literacy are:

    Return to Terminology index

    Literal translation

    Literal translation is where the forms of the original are retained as much as possible, even if

    those forms are not the most natural forms to preserve the original meaning. Literal translation is

    sometimes called word-for-word translation (as

    opposed to thought-for-thought translation). A more accurate,

    but less well known, label for this approach is formal

    equivalence translation. Because literal translation focuses on forms of language, it

    sometimes misses some of the meaning of those forms, since meaning is found not only in the

    forms of individual words, but also in relationships among words, phrases, idiomatic uses of

    words, and influences of speaker-hearer, cultural, and historical contexts. Words often have

    different meanings in different contexts, but a literal translation often does not account for these

    differences. So literal translation often is not the most accurate form of

    translation. Compare Essentially literal, Idiomatic
    , and Accuracy.

    The following website promotes the literal translation of the NASB:

    About the NASB

    The following webpages have helpful discussions about literal translation:

    Return to Terminology index

    Literal-idiomatic translation

    The translation approach followed for the ISV

    English Bible version. The term reflects a desire to translate as preserve the forms of the

    source language as closely possible while creating a text which will be understandable and readable to

    the target audience. This is not a standard term within translation theory and may be a theoretical

    oxymoron, since it is often not possible to be both literal and

    accurate, and idiomatic translation focuses upon accuracy of meaning

    and function.

    Return to Terminology index


    Litotes is a rhetorical device
    in which an antonym (a negative word) is negated to
    make an emphatic affirmative:

    ISV Luke 1.37 For nothing is impossible
    with God.

    Luke 1.37 strongly affirms that everything is
    possible with God and the ISV rendering nicely translates that
    original meaning.

    NRSV Acts 20.12 and were not a little

    Here, the ISV removes the litotes and
    translates the meaning directly by stating the affirmative
    emphatically. This is good, clear, accurate translation:

    ISV Acts 20.12 and were greatly relieved

    Compare Hyperbole, Understatement, and Meiosis.

    Return to Terminology index

    Loan word

    A word which is borrowed from another language. A word

    which is created in a target language, to directly correspond to meaning parts of a source word

    is a special form of a loan word, called a calque. The English

    word superman is a loan word (calque) from the German word Übermensch.

    See also Loan translation.

    Return to Terminology index

    Loan translation

    Borrowing the meaning parts of a souce word and directly

    translating them to the target language, instead of using a native term from the target language.

    The meaning parts of the source word are directly translated to equivalent meaning parts of the

    target language. Sometimes the borrowing is partial, with part of a term borrowed and part of it

    native in form. A word which is created through loan translation is also called a calque. The newly created word is, by definition, a neologism. Sometimes the word itself, not simply its meaning

    parts, is borrowed. English has borrowed many words from other languages, such as taco,

    tortilla, skunk, tipi, wigwam, sputnik, and restaurant. These are also loan words, but they are not

    loan translations.

    Return to Terminology index


    Roman numeral for 70, this abbreviation is used for the Septuagint, a Greek translation of the Hebrew Bible said to have been

    produced by a group of 70 translators.


    Macrostructure is a term used

    by the linguist van Dijk. It refers to the “global meaning” of a discourse. It appears to be quite similar to the common notion of the

    gist of something.

    Return to Terminology index

    Majority Text (MT)

    Text of the Greek New Testament, based on the text types which have the largest number of

    copies available today. Abbreviated MT. The MT is similar to the Received

    Text (Textus

    Receptus), which is the text closest to the textual readings chosen by the KJV translators,

    but the MT has broader text type support. Compare critical

    text, which often gives priority to the oldest texts available today.

    For further discussion visit the following websites:

    Return to Terminology index


    Meaning refers to something which

    someone wants to communicate. For this glossary, we consider meaning to include propositional

    content, denotation, connotation,

    perlocutionary force, and illocutionary force. Meaning is not simply contained in

    individual words, but also in how the various words of utterances relate to each other. Important

    areas of linguistics dealing with meaning are semantics,

    pragmatics, and lexicography.

    Bible translators have typically focused upon meaning in terms of the original author’s intention. This is a longheld principle of hermeneutics. This principle, however, has been debated

    by some who prefer to locate meaning in receptors, the hearers of the message.

    The following website addresses some of this debate:

    Return to Terminology index

    Meaning-based translation (MB)

    This is equivalent to idiomatic translation. The term comes

    from the excellent textbook, Meaning-Based Translation: A Guide to Cross-Language Equivalence, by

    Mildred L. Larson. This term avoids some of the misunderstandings which have arisen over use

    of more technical labels for various shades of idiomatic translation, such as dynamic equivalence, functional

    equivalence translation, closest natural equivalent translation, and

    even the term idiomatic translation itself. This term properly focuses

    on the critical need for translation to preserve meaning. Adequate translation cannot always

    preserve forms of the original, but it must always preserve the meaning of the original. A

    non-technical term which probably means the same as meaning-based translation is thought-for-thought translation.

    See the following webpage which refers to meaning-based translation in the context of ASL

    (American Sign Language):

    Return to Terminology index


    Meiosis is another form of rhetorical understatement, similar to litotes.

    In 1 Cor. 2:4 Paul says, “My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive

    words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit’s power” (NIV). But he likely had actually preached

    in Corinth quite persuasively, but was being modest here, using the understatement of


    Return to Terminology index


    Metaphor is a figure of speech

    where a word or phrase that ordinarily designates one thing is used to designate another, thus

    making an implicit (figurative) comparison. Metaphors often cannot be translated

    literally. If they are, their figurative meaning can be lost, and that meaning, of course, is the

    original author’s intended meaning. The implicit nature of the figurative comparison of a metaphor

    contrasts with the explicit signal of comparison found in a simile, with

    the explicit signal marked by a word such as “like” or

    “as,” that there is a figurative comparison being made. Following are a few of the many

    metaphors found in the Bible. The metaphors are boldfaced. Remember, because these

    are metaphors, these words are not meant to be understood literally. Instead, we must

    look for their figurative meaning:

    NIV Matt. 7.6 Go not give dogs what is sacred; do not throw your pearls to


    NIV Mark 4.19 I will make you fishers of men.

    ISV John 6.48 I am the bread of life.

    ISV John 8.12 Later on Jesus spoke to them again, saying, “I am the light of the


    See also Metaphor.

    Return to Terminology index


    Metonymy is figurative
    language in which a word or phrase is substituted for another
    with which it is closely associated:

    NASB Acts 15.21 For Moses from ancient
    generations has in every city those who preach him, since he is
    read in the synogogues every Sabbath.

    Moses wrote the laws of the Old Testament. They
    are so closely associated with him, the author, that simply the
    word “Moses” could refer to the laws which were written
    by him. The person of Moses was not literally read every Sabbath,
    rather it was what he wrote that was read.

    See also Metonymy.

    Return to Terminology index

    Model text

    This is a more dynamic text, such as TEV or CEV, that would be used along with the base text, to assist a vernacular translator. Compare Front translation.

    Return to Terminology index


    A morpheme is the smallest unit of meaning in a language. It can be as large

    as a word, if that word has only one meaning part, or it can be a part of a word which has more than one meaning part. For instance, in the

    English word redo, there are two morphemes, the first is the prefix re-, meaning

    ‘again,’ and the second is the morpheme “do”, which can stand alone as a word. In the word

    dogs, the first morpheme is dog, and the second is -s meaning ‘plural.’ The study

    of the morphemes of a language is called morphology.

    Return to Terminology index


    Morphology is the study of the morphemes of


    Return to Terminology index

    Mother tongue translator (MTT)

    A native speaker of a language, who translates into his own language. Translation should almost

    always be done by mother tongue translators. Sometimes a translation project will also require

    the assistance of an Other Tongue Translator (OTT), if mother

    tongue translators are not trained in the the original Biblical languages or the use of Biblical

    reference and translation resources. Also called native translator.

    Return to Terminology index


    Multivalence is the quality of having various meanings or values. This quality is held to be

    important by translators of the NET Bible who use the

    term to refer to their belief that

    certain terms or wordings in their translation need to have multiple meanings in English, based on

    their understanding of the meaning of the corresponding forms of the original biblical source text.

    Synonymous with Polyvalence.

    Return to Terminology index


    Narrative is one of the most common discourse genres. It is composed of sentences that are temporally

    organized, that is, sequenced according to time.

    Return to Terminology index

    Native translator

    Same as Mother tongue translator.

    Return to Terminology index


    A translation is natural if its wordings and grammatical patterns are those which occur in the everyday speech and/or writing of its fluent speakers. Many language criteria should be checked to determine how closely a translation follows natural language patterns, including ordinary vocabulary and grammatical patterns, sentence length, word usage, normal idioms, figures of speech, understandability, complexity of clausal embeddings, and word order. Translators should always be fluent, mother-tongue speakers of the language into which they are translating. They should also be sensitive to what is considered good style within their language group.

    A translation should not sound like a translation, but, rather, should sound like a normal discourse of the target language. Many English versions of the Bible are not in natural English, but, rather, have English words appearing in language forms which are like those of the original Biblical languages, instead of the target language. It is possible to preserve original meaning and express it naturally and clearly in a target language. This is translation in the truest, fullest sense.

    See our Naturalness chart for English Bible versions.


    Literally, “new word.” A neologism is a word that is

    made up for a language. Some neologisms eventually become used by enough speakers so that

    they become natural words of the languages. Others do not. Translators should avoid making up

    new words for translation, even if it is difficult to find ways to express a concept in the target

    language. It is usually best to be patient and keep looking for ways of expressing the meaning of

    that concept in a natural way in the language. Sometimes the temptation to create neologisms

    occurs because one holds source language words themselves with such prestige that they

    become like linguistic icons, and it then becomes difficult to think of ways that the target

    language might express the total meaning behind such words. Often there will not be a

    word-for-word match for such source language words. One may need to find a periphrastic (not paraphrastic, which

    is a different concept) solution for a

    translation need. For instance, if current speakers of English do not naturally recognize the word

    “repent,” it is translationally appropriate to express the meaning of “repent” periphrastically, such

    as with the phrase “turn from your sins.”

    Return to Terminology index

    Nestle-Aland text

    Greek text which follows the critical text hypothesis. Identical to the UBS

    text, except for some of the critical apparatus. Compare

    Majority Text.

    Return to Terminology index


    Language which is obsolescent consists of words, phrases, or grammatical constructions which

    are passing out of current usage. They are no longer understandable in their earlier usage to a

    majority of speakers. For example, the meaning of ‘alive’ for the English word “quick” (as in KJV

    Heb. 4.12) is no longer known for most speakers. Instead, most speakers only know that the

    word “quick” means ‘fast.’ A word which is no longer used by speakers is called an archaism.

    Return to Terminology index

    Original texts

    Same as Autographs.

    Return to Terminology index

    Oral language

    Utterances which are spoken but not written. There often are some differences between oral and written language, but if a translator wishes his translation to have

    a high degree of clarity, the forms of his written language

    should not deviate too much from ordinary oral language. In many people groups there is no

    written language, only a tradition of oral language. For these groups to utilize written language an

    orthography is developed, then literacy introduced.

    It is often assumed that a people group must be literate before it can benefit from Bible

    translation or other literature. However, this viewpoint on literacy is not shared by the entire non-Western

    world. There are other media besides writing in which literature can be accessible, including

    oral media such as radio, cassette tapes, and memorized recitation, audiovisual media such as

    video tapes, film, and television, and kinesthetic media such as drama.

    Return to Terminology index


    A writing system for a languge. Essentially the same as an alphabet.

    Before a people group can become literate an orthography

    must be developed for their language.

    Return to Terminology index

    Other Tongue Translator (OTT)

    A member of a translation team who does not know the translation language as a mother tongue

    speaker, yet who has an important role in the translation process. This person typically fills a

    team role such as linguist, exegete, consultant, literacy teacher, or program advisor. Sometimes

    an OTT can make valuable translation suggestions, but the actual translation should almost always

    be done by a mother tongue translator (MTT)

    Return to Terminology index


    Parallelism is the use of identical or equivalent syntactic constructions in corresponding clauses,

    such as repeated lines of a poetic couplet.


    Return to Terminology index


    Paraphrase is the

    process of restating the meaning of something in other words. The original wording and its

    paraphrase are intended to be synonymous. The Living Bible

    was properly called a paraphrase by Kenneth Taylor, its author, who used as his source text the

    American Standard Version of the Bible and reworded it so that it could be understood by his

    young children for his family’s devotions. It was so effective in helping his family that he

    published his paraphrase as the Living Bible. Technically, paraphrase is restatement of

    something in the same language, but the term paraphrase is often used non-technically by

    people concerned about Bible translation issues to refer to restatement of meaning using one’s

    own opinions as to what the original meaning of the Biblical text is. Used in this sense, the term

    typically has negative connotations. When so used as a non-technical term, paraphrase is

    essentially synonymous with interpretive translation.

    Compare Periphrasis.

    Following is an example of paraphrase:

    “Eschew obfuscation” is a phrase intended to be humorous because it breaks its own instruction.

    Neither of its words are known to a majority of average, fluent speakers of English. Paraphrases

    of this phrase, which would be understandable to most speakers, would be:

    “Avoid using big words when you speak.”

    “Don’t use big words.”

    Visit the following webpage on paraphrase:

    Return to Terminology index

    Partial meaning

    When a translation communicates only part of the essential meaning of the original to its users.

    The existence of partial meaning is determined through community

    testing. Literal translation of some Biblical idioms produces

    partial meaning. See Inadequate meaning.

    Return to Terminology index


    Periphrasis refers to

    using more words than necessary. Periphrasis can be used for rhetorical effect, often of

    emphasis. Periphrasis is sometimes required when a target language lacks a word to match a

    word in the source language. In this case, the translator uses a phrase or sentence to express

    the same meaning as the source language word. Although the two terms sound nearly identical,

    periphrasis is different from paraphrasis, which is the use of paraphrase.

    Return to Terminology index

    Perlocutionary force

    Perlocutionary force refers to the impact or effect an

    utterance has upon its recipient, for example, whether what is said or written persuades,

    frightens, ridicules, or amuses. A translation should attempt to convey to its audience the same

    impact that the source text had upon its audience. See Perlocutionary act.

    Compare Illocutionary force.

    Return to Terminology index


    In personification an object or concept is referred to as if it were a person:

    Wisdom is personified in Proverbs:

    Prov. 1.20 Wisdom shouts in the streets. She cries out in the public square. (NLT)

    Rivers and hills are personified in Psalm 8.8:

    Let the rivers clap their hands in glee!

    Let the hills sing out their songs of joy before the Lord. (NLT)

    Return to Terminology index


    Perspicuity refers to being clearly expressed and easy to understand. It is an important quality that allows the reader to

    clearly understand details as well as main points of a translation. During community testing, the translator should ask about something

    that may not be clear, “What does this mean to you?” To see if an entire passage is clear, he

    should ask, “What is the main point of this?” If hearers cannot clearly understand something, the

    translation needs to be revised until they do. It is often the case that when a translation is not

    perspicuous certain important forms of the target language are missing, which are functionally equivalent to forms of the source

    language which allowed the source text to be perspicuous (clear) to its hearers. Perspicuity is

    essentially a synonym for clarity. We are not referring here to

    lack of clarity (perspicuity) due to the complexity of some concepts. We are only referring to

    linguistic clarity which can exist in most normal language exchanges.

    Return to Terminology index


    A phrase is a grammatical construction

    consisting of two or more words. These words have a particular

    syntactic relationship to each

    other which is part of their meaning within the discourse in which the phrase is found. This

    phrasal meaning must be translated as well as the meaning of individual words.

    Return to Terminology index

    Plain English

    A form of English which is clear, concise, direct, straightforward, natural, and lively. It is

    promoted by a rising tide of voices as a kind of English which should be imitated by scientists,

    computer technicians, linguists, theologians, Bible translators, and others who produce technical

    speeches, articles, and user manuals. It is closely related to vernacular

    language. Plain English has its own clear

    vocabulary and grammar, both of which are subsets of more complicated, often convoluted and

    esoteric, dialects of English. Plain English contrasts with academese , legalese, and

    translationese. Some English Bible versions, such as the LB, TEV, CEV, NCV, and, to a large

    degree, GW, NLT, and The Message, are written in Plain English.

    Plain English features active verbs. It uses passive and complex gerund (“-ing”) verb phrases

    only when required by the situation, minimizes series of prepositional phrases, and avoids runon


    Research shows that hearers, including those who are technically inclined, understand and enjoy

    Plain English better than other dialects of English.

    Above all, Plain English “eschews obfuscation” (humor alert)!!

    Internet resources on Plain English are:

    Return to Terminology index


    Synonymous with Multivalence.

    Return to Terminology index


    Languages use a variety of forms to indicate possession.

    Some, like English, mark possession by some affix on the possessor. English does this with the

    suffix -‘s on the possessor:

    John‘s book

    Greek marks possession with the genitive case suffix on the possessor:

    biblivon Iwavnn-ou

    book John-of.him

    Other languages, like Cheyenne, mark possession by a prefix on the object possessed:

    John he-môxe’êstoo’o

    John his-book

    In each case, the translator needs to use the form of the target language which usually indicates

    possession. He should not use an uncommon or unnatural form, even if it is a possible

    form, just so he can preserve the form of the source language as closely as possible.

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    Pragmatics is the study of language in context. Utterances do not

    simply “mean” something in isolation. They do not even fully mean something just by the addition

    of all the lexical (semantics) meanings of words and

    structures within utterances. Utterances also mean something within a context. There are a

    variety of contexts in which we speak, including intratextual (discourse) context, speech situation

    context, and cultural context.

    Also see:

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    A concise summary or abstract of some document. For the purposes of this glossary, we

    consider précise to be synonymous with Gist.

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    Prescriptive grammar

    Prescriptive grammar states

    rules for how people should speak a language. It contrasts with descriptive grammar which simply describes the rules (or

    principles) which people actually follow when they speak a language. Prescriptive grammar has

    also been called schoolbook grammar. Some examples of English rules which have been stated

    within prescriptive grammar are:

    1. Never split an infinitive, as in “Remember to never split an infinitive.”

    2. Never end a sentence with a preposition, as in “That is something prescriptive grammarians

    cannot put up with.”

    3. Always use the nominative form of a pronoun after the verb “to be”, as in “It is I,” instead of

    the more common usage today of “It’s me.”

    4. Always use “whom”, the so-called objective form of the relative pronoun “who”, when referring

    to a syntactic object which precedes its subject and verb, as in “I wondered whom you saw,”

    instead of what sounds more natural to many (most?) speakers today, “I wondered who you


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    Readability refers to how naturally and easily a translation can be read. The more natural are the

    vocabulary and forms used in a translation the higher it will rank in readability.

    There is not a direct correlation between accuracy and readability. One translation may be

    accurate but not very readable. Another translation may be very readable but not very accurate.

    Of course it is most desired for a translation to be both accurate and highly readable. For

    conservative Christians, the NLT probably fills that slot at this time. For a wider audience, the

    CEV is highly recommended for this slot.

    Readability is often ranked for the average population of fluent English speakers of approximately

    ninth grade reading level. Readability is related to Reading

    level since it is assumed that older and more educated readers can better understand

    material written in more complicated forms (which, in themselves, can lower readability).

    In the opinion of the editor of this glossary, major recent English Bible versions rank as follows in

    terms of readability. Within each group below versions appear in descending order of


    Most readable:





    Highly readable:





    Stylistically, The Message (TM) is my current favorite version. But its idioms are not always

    easily accessible to the average target population; a few of its idioms do not seem to be used by

    very many speakers at all. On the whole, however, it is a delightful version to read. On a scale for

    impact (which is partly a function of style), I would rank TM the highest. I regard the CEV, NCV,

    TEV, and GW as stylistically flat, although the CEV is definitely stylistically improved over its

    predecessor, the TEV. The NLT has some nice style, much of that retained from its predecessor,

    the LB.

    Moderately high level of readability:


    Average readability:





    It is not easy to rank the ISV and NIV with reference to each other. The ISV is often more

    readable than the NIV but in many other places it is far less readable. There are many runon

    sentences. Adequate discourse cohesion is often missing. Although it does not use too many

    difficult (to read) theological words, or the elevated vocabulary of the NEB, or the sophisticated

    idioms of TM, the vocabulary of the ISV is uneven, with quite a number of words not in the typical

    vocabulary of the average target population.

    Below average level of readability:




    Moderately low level of readability:



    Also see Understandable.

    Click here to visit a webpage with helpful

    information about readability of Bible translations.

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    Reading level

    Reading level refers to an assessment of readability for a

    particular text. The assessment is based on which grade in the school system is considered to be

    the appropriate level of education by which a typical student will have achieved that particular

    level of reading proficiency. Newspapers are typically written for about a 4th grade reading level.

    The Reader’s Digest magazine has a similar reading level.

    Various English Bible versions rank differently in terms of reading level because of differences

    among them with respect to factors such as vocabulary familiarity, sentence length, and difficulty

    of syntactic constructions. In the “Bible Comparison Guide,” distributed by the Zondervan

    Corporation (publishers of the NIV), the grade reading levels are listed as following for these

    English versions. (The numbers refer to grade reading level. Hence, 4.8 would indicate a reading

    level expected to be achieved by a typical student nearing the end of the 4th grade. For the Bible

    abbreviations used below, see English versions.)

    NIV 7.8

    NIrV 2.90

    KJV 12.00

    NKJV 9.0

    NLT 6.30

    LB 8.33

    NASB 11.32

    NCV/ICB 3.90

    NRSV 10.40

    NAB 6.60

    TEV 7.29

    TM 4.8

    CEV 5.4

    GW 5.8

    [Jan. 27, 2001: We have been informed that the HCSB is ranked at a 6 reading level in its gospel

    of John.]

    The following diagram similarly compares reading levels and includes the translation philosophy

    used for each Bible version:

    This chart is used with permission from Tyndale House


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    Received Text

    See Textus Receptus.

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    Receptor language (RL)

    The language into which something is translated. Abbreviated RL. Same as target language.

    Return to Terminology index


    An expression unique to a particular part of a country. If a translation is to be used by a broad

    spectrum of a population, it should avoid regionalisms.

    For description of some regionalisms in the United States and Canada, visit this website:

    Return to Terminology index


    Register is a social level of language. A translator has a choice as to which register of a

    language he translates in. Speakers of languages are sensitive to registers of language and can

    feel solidarity with people who speak in a register with which they are most familiar, or alienation

    from one with which they are not. Two possible registers within some cultures would be those of

    the sophisticated elite and the common working class. Compare Jargon.

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    Relevance Theory

    Relevance Theory (RT) is a relatively new branch of linguistics developed by the British linguists

    Sperber and Wilson. It focuses on coherence in communication which derives from explicit and

    implicit information which pertains to a speech situation. Relevance theory builds upon insights in

    pragmatics. Much of relevance theory promises to be quite

    relevant (!) to issues concerning translation, as shown by Ernst-August Gutt, in his books listed



    See also the following article on application of RT to Bible translation:

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    Rhetorical impact

    Rhetorical impact refers to the effect some utterance has upon its hearer. Rhetorical impact has

    to do with the total bundle of semantics, pragmatics, and speaker intention.

    Rhetorical impact is sometimes rather different from the normal impact expected from use of a

    particular language form. This is always true of rhetorical questions, which have the grammar of

    questions but the meaning of strong statements or rebuke. Rhetoric is the study of the various kinds of

    forms and impact that utterances have.

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    Rhetorical question

    Rhetorical questions arefrequently used in the Bible. Since not all languages use
    rhetorical questions, we cannot always use the forms of questions when translating rhetorical

    questions. Real questions expect an answer; rhetorical questions do not. Here are some real

    questions in the Bible:

    ISV John 6.67 So Jesus said to the twelve,
    “You don’t want to leave, too, do you?”

    ISV John 18.26 … “I saw you in the
    garden with him, didn’t I?”

    And here are some rhetorical questions, for
    which no answer is expected, and the situational context lets us know what answer is assumed by

    the speaker:

    NRSV Mark 2.19 Jesus said to them, “The
    wedding guests cannot fast while the bridegroom is with them, can they?” (The assumed

    answer is no.)

    NRSV Mark 11.17 He was teaching and saying,
    “Is it not written, ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer for all the nations’? But you

    have made it a den ofrobbers.” (The assumed answer is yes.)

    Note that the ISV nicely restructures the rhetorical question to begin in the form of a statement,

    “It is written,” followed by the question tag, “is it
    not”. This makes the rhetorical function of the question
    even clearer in English than does the straight question form in
    the NRSV:

    ISV Mark 11.17 Then he began to teach them,
    saying, “It is written, is it not, ‘My house should be
    called a house of prayer for all nations’? But you have turned it
    into a hideout for revolutionaires?”

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    Rhetorical parallelism

    Rhetorical parallelism is the most frequent Hebraic poetic structure found in the Bible. It consists

    of repeated parallel terms in one or more lines of a poetic

    couplet. The repeated terms may be synonymous or antithetical.


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    Rhetorical use of language which is intended to ridicule. Sarcasm is similar to irony, but is more intense and is negative in its impact, whereas irony is not

    always intended to be negative:

    Elijah was sarcastic to the prophets of Baal:

    1 Kings 18.27 About noontime Elijah began mocking them. “You’ll have to shout louder,” he

    scoffed, “for surely he is a god! Perhaps he is deep in thought, or he is relieving himself. Or

    maybe he is away on a trip, or he is asleep and needs to be wakened!” (NLT)

    The intended sarcasm will often not be preserved if the original is translated literally. In such

    cases the translator may need to include some clues, as the NLT translators have done with the

    words “mocking” and “scoffed”, to indicate that something is meant to be sarcastic.

    Return to Terminology index

    Schoolbook grammar

    Same as Prescriptive grammer.

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    Semantics is the study of meaning. Translators strive to preserve as much of the meaning of the

    original text as possible. Total meaning occurs not only in individual words, but also in how those

    words are inter-related through syntax, including interclausal connections, as well as meaning

    that is contributed by the cultural and speech context. See

    also Pragmatics.

    Return to Terminology index


    See the following website:


    A Semiticism is a linguistic form from the Hebrew language used by the writers of Greek in the

    New Testament. A Semiticism is a kind of loan

    translation. Also pronounced Semitism. Also called Hebraism.

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    Translation of the Old Testament into Greek. Abbreviated as LXX (Roman numberal for

    70), which stands for the 70 men said to have translated the Septuagint.

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    Simile is a figure of speech that indicates a

    comparison. The existence of the comparison is explicitly signaled with a word such as “as” or

    “like.” Paul used a simile when he told Timothy:

    NIV 2 Tim. 2.3 Endure hardship with us like a good soldier of Christ Jesus.

    The word “soldier” is boldfaced here to show that it is the simile. This simile, like all figures of

    speech, is not meant to be understood literally. Paul was not saying that Timothy was a literal

    soldier, but that he was to have qualities which were similar to those of a soldier.

    Jesus used the mustard seed as a picture to illustrate the nature of the kingdom of God:

    NIV Mark 4.31 It (the kingdom of God) is like a mustard seed

    Compare Metaphor, in which the figurative comparison is implicitly


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    Source language

    The language from which something is being translated. Abbreviated SL. Sometimes called the

    donor language.

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    Syntactic function

    See Syntactic function.

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    Synecdoche is figurative language in which a part of something is

    substituted for the whole or vice versa:

    In Luke 3.6 “all flesh” is synecdoche whose meaning is accurately and clearly translated as “all

    people” (NLT), “all mankind” (LB, TEV, NIV, REB), “everyone” (CEV, ISV), not literally the flesh

    (skin) of people.

    Similarly, in Matt. 16.17 “flesh and blood” is synecdoche meaning “any human being” (TEV,

    REB, NLT), “any human source” (LB), “no human agency” (NJB), “no person” (NCV), and “no

    human” (GW).

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    A word that means the same as another word. Theoretically,

    it is unlikely that any words in any language are perfect, complete synonyms, that is, having

    exactly the same meaning, at all levels on language including pragmatics, connotation, and register. But there are often words in a language which mean

    the same, for all practical purposes, and these are reasonably called synonyms. See Synonymous.

    The following words are synonyms for “died”, as in the sentence “He died:”




    passed away

    The last two terms, at least, are euphemisms for “died.” Following are even more idiomatic

    phrases for “died:”

    kicked the bucket

    bit the dust

    bought the farm

    cashed in his chips

    checked out

    went to his reward

    Some other examples of synonyms are found at these websites:

    Translators need to be familiar with synonyms of their language. Many times a synonym will be

    more satisfactory in a certain context, due to its having different connotations or being from a more appropriate register of language than another word.

    Return to Terminology index


    Synonymous refers to having the same meaning as another

    word or utterance. See Synonym. Paraphrase is a form of synonymy in

    that it expresses the same meaning in other words.

    Finding synonymous expressions is a perfectly legitimate technique for translators, especially

    when one translation form is unacceptable for one reason or another.

    The following website discusses synonymy in translation:

    Return to Terminology index

    Synonymous parallelism

    Synonymous parallelism is the rhetorical use of synonyms or near synonyms to refer to the

    same entity or action. Synonymous parallelism is one of the most frequent Hebraic poetic


    Some people refers to instances of synonymous parallelism as doublets.

    Psalm 119:105 illustrates synonymous parallelism:

    “Your word is a lamp to my feet

    And a light to my path.” (NASB)

    In this poetic couplet, lamp and light both refer to the same entity, the figurative illumination of the

    word of God.

    Synonymous parallelism is a subtype of rhetorical


    Return to Terminology index

    Syntactic function

    See the Syntactic function webpage.

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    Syntax and grammar are terms which are essentially synonymous

    for the general public–and for many speakers, syntax would not be a term in their normal

    working vocabulary. Many linguists differentiate syntax and grammar, although many linguists,

    including some who differentiate these terms sometimes, also sometimes use the two terms

    nearly synonymously. Linguistically, grammar can refer to the overall organization of language or

    a specific language, and sytax refers, more narrowly, to the relationships among elements of a

    language above the word level, that is, among words, phrases, clauses, and sentences. See Syntactic function.

    Return to Terminology index


    The Tanakh (best transliterated as TaNaKh) is the Jewish title for the

    Hebrew Bible (which became the Old Testament of the Christian Bible).

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    Target language (TL)

    The language into which something is translated. Abbreviated TL. Sometimes called the receptor language.

    Return to Terminology index


    Text is essentially a synonym for discourse.

    For many, however, text refers to a written composition, whereas discourse refers to either oral

    or written speech.

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    Textual criticism

    The process of trying to determine which copies are closest to the original texts. Biblical textual

    criticism attempts to determine which variants within the various copies available are mostly likely

    to be part of the original texts in which the Bible was written. Also called lower criticism. See Critical text and Majority


    The following websites feature textual criticism:

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    Textus Receptus

    Latin name for a Greek New Testament text which is very close to the text selections which the

    translators of the KJV used. Abbreviated as TR. Also known as the Received Text, which is the English translation of this Latin

    name. The TR favored a text tradition known as the Byzantine text type. Compare Majority Text and Critical


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    Theological terms

    These are words for important religious concepts found in the Bible. These words are usually

    semantically complex, that is, they contain several meaning elements bundled in a single word. In

    their unitary form, they are usually not understood well, if at all, by the average language speaker

    who does not have specialized religious (church or school) training. These words are part of church jargon. Examples of theological terms found in some

    English Bible versions are: covenant, grace, justify, propitiation, repent, righteousness, and

    sanctify. Those concerned about Bible translation issues debate whether such theological terms

    should be left in translation as single complex terms, or further translated to vernacular English

    with their complex meaning elements unbundled to phrases containing words found in the

    average speakers’ vocabularies. For instance, instead of using the single word “Repent!”, the

    translator can unbundle it to the equivalent phrase, “Turn from your sins!” The debate over

    inclusion of theological words largely hinges on who is the intended audience for a translation,

    and whether or not we want that audience to be able to understand the words in the translation by

    themselves or with the assistance of religiously trained clergy, commentaries, or other Bible

    helps. At this website we believe it is usually best to translate all words into the vernacular,

    including theological terms.

    Visit these other websites which define various theological terms:

    Return to Terminology index

    Thought-for-thought translation

    One way of referring to idiomatic translation. The New Living

    Translation is often described as a thought-for-thought translation. In such a translation the

    meaning of the original Biblical text is expressed in equivalent thoughts, that is, meanings.

    Thought-for-thought translation is typically contrasted with word-for-word translation.

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    Transculturation is adaptation of the message of the Bible so that that message can more easily

    communicate to people whose culture is different from the cultures of Bible times. Bible

    translators should not adapt the original message of the Bible to any culture. To be true to the

    biblical source text, Bible translators need to retain references to historical, cultural, and other

    aspects of the original contexts in which the Bible was written.

    Some books on transculturation as it relates to missionization are:

    Kraft, Charles H. 1979. Christianity in culture. A study in dynamic biblical theologizing in

    cross-cultural perspective. Maryknoll, N.Y.: Orbis.

    Shaw, R. Daniel. 1988. Transculturation: The Cultural Factor in Translation and Other

    Communication Tasks. Pasadena: William Carey Library.

    Wendland, Ernst R. 1987. The Cultural Factor in Bible Translation. UBS Monograph Series, No.

    2. New York: United Bible Societies.

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    Translation is the process of transferring the meaning of utterances in one language to


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    Translation theory

    The study of proper principles of translation. Translation theory is based on a solid foundation of

    understanding of how languages work. It recognizes that different languages encode meaning in

    differing forms, yet guides translators to find appropriate ways of preserving meaning while using

    the most appropriate forms of each language. Translators of the Bible, including those of English

    versions, should become well informed in translation theory.

    Translation theory includes principles for translating figurative language, dealing with lexical

    mismatches, rhetorical questions, inclusion of cohesion markers, and many other topics crucial

    to good translation.

    Some good introductions to translation theory and practice are:

    Return to Terminology index


    Translationese is odd,

    unnatural language which only appears in translations. Many translations of the Bible have a great deal of

    translationese in them, including non-English syntactic patterns borrowed from the original

    biblical languages and semantic oddities, such as lexical combinations (collocational clashes) which are not permitted in English, but were part of

    the lexicon of the biblical language being translated.

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    Transliteration is the

    simple matching of symbols between the alphabets of different languages. For instance, we can

    transliterate from Greek to English



    to show how to pronounce the Greek word for “word.”

    <!–In this glossary, we also regard simple word matching, such as found in an interlinear translation, as a form of transliteration, since it

    does not take into account any other elements of the two languages, such as the grammatical

    relationships among the words.


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    See Trope.

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    UBS text

    Critical text of the Greek New Testament. Identical to the Nestle-Aland text, except for some of the critical apparatus. Compare Majority


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    Understandable refers to something being worded in such a way that hearers can correctly comprehend the intended meaning. Understandability is

    an important characteristic of good quality translation. Community

    testing should be done to determine whether or

    not a translation is understandable to the target audience. See Readability.

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    Intentionally stating something as less than it actually is, usually for rhetorical effect or politeness.

    See Understatement. Compare Litotes and Hyperbole.

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    An utterance is anything which is spoken. It is usually intended to have some meaning. Some

    people broaden the definition so that an utterance is any meaningful portion of speech, whether

    spoken or written.

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    Vernacular translation

    Translation into the everyday (erstwhile vulgar) language of

    people, as distinguised from a literary dialect of their language or some other dialect or language

    of education or social prestige. Although they were opposed by church authorities, William

    Tyndale and John Wycliff believed that the Bible should be translated into the English vernacular,

    rather than remaining in Latin, the church language of their time. Today Bible translators

    continue the work of translating the Bible into vernacular

    languages around the world, whether for Bibleless tribes or for languages in which the Bible

    is currently in a non-vernacular form, such as an obsolescent church language in a earlier

    dialect. See Plain English and Common

    language translation. See also Commentary on The use of everyday

    language in prayer, in church, and in literature.

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    Vulgar refers to a term which is considered culturally crude or “nasty,” in the culture of a

    particular language. Typically, vulgar terms often have to do with bodily excretion and sex


    An obsolescing usage of the term vulgar refers to something that is used by the great masses of

    people. A typical usage of vulgar with this meaning had to do with language spoken by the

    common people, the majority of a population, such as “Vulgar Latin.” The current usage of the

    word “vulgar” for something crude is, of course, a pejorated sense of the earlier meaning. In this

    glossary we now use the term vernacular or common to refer to vulgar in the earlier sense of ‘common.’

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    The translation of the Bible made by St. Jerome into the Latin language at the end of the 4th

    century A.D. This common (vulgar) dialect of Latin was

    spoken by the people of the Roman Empire. The Vulgate became the authorized

    version of the Roman Catholic Church.

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    A word is the smallest unit of language which can be pronounced alone and

    have meaning. Words can be composed of even smaller units of meaning called morphemes, but many morphemes cannot stand alone as

    words. Translators must be aware of the fact that languages vary considerably in what they treat

    as words and morphemes. A single word in one language can be equivalent to an entire

    sentence in another language. For instance, the single Cheyenne word

    náohkêsáa’oné’seómepêhévetsêhésto’anéhe, translates to the English sentence ‘I truly do not

    regularly pronounce Cheyenne well.’

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    Word-for-word translation

    A form of literal translation which seeks to match the

    individual words of the original as closely as possible to
    individual words of the target language. The translator seeks to
    translate an original word by the same target word as much as
    possible (this is technically called concordance). In addition, the order of words of the original language will be followed as closely as possible. No English translation, except for some interlinear translations, is a true word-for-word translation, but those who prefer this form of translation typically promote formally literal versions such as the NASB. The KJV is a
    relatively literal translation, but it is, in general, more
    dynamic (less literal) than the NASB. The term form-equivalent translation is a technical label for

    referring to word-for-word translation. Word-for-word translation contrasts with thought-for-thought translation.

    For discussion of the history of the philosophy of translation moving from word-for-word toward

    more idiomatic approaches, see the following website:

    Return to Terminology index

    Word order

    In some languages, like English, word order often indicates grammatical relationships. For

    instance, if we say:

    John petted his dog

    We know from the rules of English word order that John is the one who did the petting, not his

    dog. We also know that his dog is the object that got petted. In many other languages words can

    appear in a variety of orders, with each order indicating the same grammatical relationships. For

    instance, in the Cheyenne language

    hetane evoomoho he’oho

    evoomoho hetane he’oho

    he’oho evoomoho hetane

    each of these three word orders mean

    ‘The man saw the woman.’

    (hetane = ‘man’; evoomoho = ‘saw’; he’oho = ‘woman’)

    The order in which words appear in a translation needs to be according to the grammar and

    stylistic patterns of that language. Word order should not follow that of the source language if

    doing so produces an order which is not grammatical or natural in the target language.

    Following is unnatural word order in an English Bible version:

    ISV Luke 21.14 So purpose in your hearts not to prepare ahead of time your defense.

    This sentence is technically grammatical, however, the more natural English word order for Luke

    21.14 places the direct object, “your defense,” immediately following the verb, resulting in

    So purpose in your hearts not to prepare your defense ahead of time.

    And that is exactly how a later revision of the ISV reads.

    Objective community testing will indicate the second

    version to be more natural to fluent speakers of English. A simple test question would be to

    present speakers with both sentences and ask them which sounds better to them. Objective

    testing would not, of course, construct a yes/no question for such testing, such as, “Can you

    understand this sentence?” or “Does this sentence sound OK to you?” One wants the testing to

    determine actual speaker intuitions as carefully as possible, and yes/no questions often are far

    less instructive in this regard than content questions.

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    Written language

    Utterances which are written. Language exists first as

    speech, that is, oral language. Sometimes it is also written. Of

    course, what is written need not have been orally spoken first. After a people develop a

    writing system and a written literature is produced, often there develop some differences

    between oral and written language. Written language is often a little more formal than oral


    For discussion on differences between between oral and written language, see the following


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    Wrong meaning

    When a translation incorrectly communicates the meaning of the original to its users. The
    existence of wrong meaning is determined through community
    . Literal translation of Biblical idioms often produces

    wrong meaning. Compare Zero meaning and Inadequate meaning.

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    Zero meaning

    When a translation communicates no meaning of the original to its users. Zero meaning is
    determined through community testing. Compare Wrong meaning and Inadequate meaning.

    Return to Terminology index