[b-hebrew] Translation theory and NP$

James Read J.Read-2 at sms.ed.ac.uk
Mon Jul 13 11:53:42 EDT 2009


Quoting Rolf Furuli <furuli at online.no>:

> 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.

Yep. This was my basic experience. But not all people apply the same  
level of objectivity. I was thinking more of a translation for the  
masses that avoids that kind of mental effort.

James Christian

> 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
>>> astray.
>>> 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
>>> translations.
>> --
>> The University of Edinburgh is a charitable body, registered in
>> Scotland, with registration number SC005336.
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