[b-hebrew] Translation theory and NP$

Rolf Furuli furuli at online.no
Mon Jul 13 11:42:26 EDT 2009

Dear James,

When Martin Luther made his German translation, German was not fully 
developed as a language, so he had to create new words, or chose old 
words as "catchwords" signifying particular concepts. In time, all 
these words were implemented in the religious and secular language, 
and people used them.

When a native Hebrew speaker heard NP$,  his mental concept signalled 
by the word was activated, and on the basis of the context he would 
ascertain which area of the concept that was made visible. The point 
with a literal translation is to find a word close to the core 
meaning of the concept, and let the readers look up its references, 
to the point were the diligent reader will  get a part of the 
original concept in his or her mental lexicon.

If one chooses to make a literal translation, one should have Ogden's 
triangle of signification in mind, with "sign," "concept," and 
"reference" at the corners. In my view, it may be confusing if we 
choose one of the references as the word representing the concept in 
the target language. Therefore, I  do not  think "creature" is a good 
choice, and "life" is even worse. The words "Sele," "soul," and 
"sjel" (German, English, and Norwegian) have long been a part of the 
vocabularies of the mentioned languages, so I find it to be an 
excellent choice. The only disadvantage I can see, is that many 
people combine immortality with it (an immortal soul), a concept that 
is completely foreign to the Tanakh. But  such a choice of one 
English word for one Hebrew word gives  the reader the opportunity to 
have a part in the translation process, and the translation process 
also consists of rejecting wrong ideas connected with a particular 
word-the idea of an immortal soul will rather quickly be rejected of 
the references of "sould" are looked up.

Best regards,

Rolf Furuli
University of Oslo

>Hi Rolf,
>I can see what you are saying in principle. But I think that 'soul' 
>is perhaps the poorest choice of word possible if the aim is to 
>guide a reader to understanding of NP$ via consistent translation. 
>The majority of texts seem to place the semantic domain of NP$ as 
>synonym of life but with occasional more abstract shades (and 
>occasional more concrete shades). A good choice of word, in English, 
>doesn't spring to mind but whatever it is it should be a close 
>synonym of 'life'. English 'soul' doesn't really qualify as it 
>carries with it all kinds of semantic baggage that 'life' doesn't.
>In fact, the more I think about it I don't really think it is 
>possible to choose 1 word in English which is a synonym of life and 
>which works in all contexts of NP$. But, I agree, that we could 
>definitely do better than using 30 different words of completely 
>different meaning.
>James Christian
>>Second, I would like to have a translation like Youngs literal
>>translation  and the New World Translation that are very literal
>>(together with Wuest's Expanded translation). A strictly literal
>>translation is in a way a semi-translation. For example, when the NWT
>>consistently uses the one English word "soul" as a translation of
>>NP$, the readers must on the basis of the context find the references
>>of "soul". Therefore, the readers have a part in the very process of
>>translation.The advantage of a literal translation is that the
>>readers may come as close as possible to the original text through
>>their mother tongue.  But this can of course be a real challenge. One
>>other advantage of such a translation, is that the readers can see
>>where other modern translations for different reasons have broken
>>fundamental translation rules and in effect has lead their readers
>>Third, I would like to have an idiomatic translation that is as
>>literal as possible, but not is a semi-translation. This means that
>>more than one word is used for NP$, but much fewer than the 30 or
>>more words that are used in modern translations, Footnotes with
>>alternative readings and alternative translation possibilities would
>>also be appreciated. When a person who does not know the original
>>languages works to get an understanding of Biblical passages, he or
>>she will learn a lot by comparing different translations. It is
>>impossible to transfer the whole original meaning of the verbs and
>>clauses from the source language to the target language-a part, great
>>or small, is lost in the process, and a part, great or small, is
>>added. Different translations may stress different sides of the
>>original meaning, and therefore it is an advantage to use several
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