[b-hebrew] VERBS

Rolf Furuli furuli at online.no
Thu Jul 28 18:18:17 EDT 2005

Dear Peter,

We all naturally defend our own viewpoints. But it is fine if we are open 
for the possibility that even fundamental concepts can be interpreted 
differently from our own view.  You have a background in the natural 
sciences, and then you started with Bible translation. You were introduced 
to one model, and you may perhaps today subscribe to a model different, or 
slightly different from the one you were introduced to.

Peter Newmark has worked with different models, and in his book he has a 
lucid discussion of several different models. His general conclusion is that 
the pendulum has svung too far when translators have discarded the word as 
an important translation unit. Newmark does not suggest that a word-for-word 
translation is the best model, but he shows there are methodological 
problems with the models of Nida (and Taber) and models which seem to be 
similar to those you cherish.

Newmark writes p. 68):

"The present excessive emphasis in linguistics on discourse analysis is 
resulting in the corresponding idea in translation theory that the only unit 
of translation is the text, and that almost any deviation from literal 
translation can be justified in any place by appealing to the text as an 
overriding authority. the prevailing orthodoxy is leading to the rejection 
of literal translation as a legitimate translation procedure."

Newmark then translates a French text of 75 words into English, where the 
text has 68 words, and writes: "I do not think the French translation could 
be improved on, although one or two variants in the `taste` area are always 
available. But about 90% of the three sentences are literally translated - 
which perhaps is exceptional, but not so surprising in this type of text. 
My thesis, however, is that literal translation is correct and must not be 
avoided, if it secures referential and pragmatic equivalence of the 

As mentioned, Newmark does not say that a word-for-word translation is the 
best form of translation. But he says that a literal translation is a fine 
translation provided it meets particular criteria. And he says further that 
to abandon the word as the translation unit is a misunderstanding. You may 
disagree with his conclusions, but by saying that this is "nonsense" you 
elevate yourself as the highest translation authority. This does not 
recommend you as a balanced scholar.

Best regards

Rolf Furuli
University of Oslo

----- Original Message ----- 
From: "Peter Kirk" <peterkirk at qaya.org>
To: "Rolf Furuli" <furuli at online.no>
Cc: <b-hebrew at lists.ibiblio.org>
Sent: Thursday, July 28, 2005 8:15 PM
Subject: Re: [b-hebrew] VERBS

> On 28/07/2005 19:35, Rolf Furuli wrote:
>>I have noted that the distinguished authority on Bible translation, Peter 
>>Kirk, has made the judgement that Peter Newmark, who has worked with 
>>theoretical translation principles and practical translation throughout a 
>>long life, and whose book was awarded the prize of being the best book in 
>>a particular year, speaks nonsense.
> I have explained very clearly why one particular sentence, as quoted in a 
> very limited context, is plainly nonsense at least when interpreted in the 
> way you have interpreted it.
> To be more precise, the statement "The SL (source language) texts consist 
> of words, that is all that is there, on the page." is not in itself 
> nonsense. What is nonsense is the argument which you seem to derive from 
> it, and seem to attribute to Newmark although it is by no means clear that 
> Newmark actually supports it. For you seem to take this statement as 
> implying that texts must be analysed and translated word by word, and as 
> support for your previous statement that "words are the units that we must 
> deal with in order to analyse meaning in Hebrew". It is this implication 
> which is nonsense, for the reasons I have already made clear. And it 
> remains nonsense whether supported by Newmark, Chomsky, or an angel from 
> heaven.

My dictum is that the fundamental translation unit is the word, but you 
cannot conclude from this that I argue for a word-for-word translation. My 
view is that for particular target groups to use one TL word for each SL 
word as far as possible is very fine. But I have previously written that 
this may not be possible in more that 10% of the text. For other target 
groups I have written that an idiomatic TL text is the best one. But even in 
this context I would say the the word should be the fundamental translation 

Best regards

Rolf Furuli
University of Oslo
> -- 
> Peter Kirk
> peter at qaya.org (personal)
> peterkirk at qaya.org (work)
> http://www.qaya.org/
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