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Translation and Word Frequency--by EA Nida

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Translation and Word Frequency--by EA Nida
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   ranslationand  or requency Eugene   Nida The exegete and thetranslator are always confrontedwith the task of properlyevaluating the significanceofaterm. This problemisespecially acute in treating words which have very high frequenciesofoccurence,foritisabasicprincipleofsemantics that thegreaterthe area ofmeaning and themorefrequent a term occurs the lessit actually signifiesin any givencontext. For example.in Englishthe words thing item and object cover sucha widerange ofmeanings and occur inso many utterances that in anyone context they addvery littleto the significanceof the passage.Inasense they are semantic and grammatical fillers. In translatingthe New Testament the problemofmeaning and frequency becomes important in ourtreatment of the conjunctions.especially kai and de Shouldthe translator attempt to reproduce every conjunction.despite the fact that in English theseconjunctionsdo not occur with anything like the same frequency? Or should he attempt toreflect the same kindof appreciation for the idiomatic style ofEnglishas thewriters of the New Testament did forGreek? Traditionally it has beenthoughtnecessary to translate most,   not all,of the conjunctions. but note the commentsin R. F. Weymouth, The N T in Modern Speech pp.xii-xiii. Of the first two chapters of Mark. which in the Nestle twenty-first edition) contain 62full sen tences thisdoes not includesomeof the paratacticallyrelated short questions). 52sentencesbegin with kei five othersbeginwithpost positive de and one begins alta Thereare only foursentences which have no introductory connective. The highpreponderance of kai may beinsome measure areflectionofSemitic waw  other Gospel writers showgreater diversity and in their useofconnectivesmorecloselyparallel current literary standards). but the abundant useof sentence connectives. though not thepreponderance of kei is not out ofkeeping with the style ofclassical writers. Of the first forty sentencesin Plato s Republic only six are without some type ofconnective,ofwhich de oun and kai are the most frequent.In the first twenty sectionsof Isocrates On thePeace every sentence but the first has some type ofconjunction, either as the first word or aspostpositiveto the intro ductory expression. Of the 55 paragraphs whichmake up thetreatise On thePeace all butthe first beginwith some type ofconnective,ofwhich de occursin22. oun in12, and other connectivesin the remaining20 paragraphs. Of course,no writer of English even closelyapproximatesthisformofstyle.Insomeselected writings ofJohnRuskin  reproduced in Twelve Centuries of EnglishPoetry and Prose published by Scott,Foresman. and Company)out of the first35sentences only fourbegin with connectives. Out ofa total of32 paragraphs, 26begin without connectives, two beginwith and two with now  inaconjunctive, not temporal use), and one each with for and however Furthermore,  t must 107  be remembered that Ruskinemployeda very heavy style, greatly influenced by theclassicaltradition.James Truslow Adams inhis book The dams Family  published by Little, Brown, and Company, 1930 employsconjunctionsto beginonly two sentences out of the first32. Of thefirst66 paragraphs only eight have connectives. Of the first250sentencesof The  obe by LloydC.Douglas only 17begin with connectives: but and and sixtimeseach. then (in conjunctiveuse four times. and now once.Becauseofthis discrepancybetween English and Greek those who have undertaken to translate secular literature have more or lessfollowed the stylisticequivalentofEnglish. That isto say, theyhave eliminated the numerousconnectives.which are perfectlyacceptablein Greek but whichseemtedious,repetitious, and childishinEnglish. However, in thetranslation ofthe New Testament there aretwo distincttraditions. One type oftranslation preserves such conjunctions and the other doesnot.Inthefirst twochapters of Mark the KingJames texttranslates sentence-initial kai by and 49times. Only once (Mark 2:17 does the KingJamesfailto translate aconjunctionin the srcinal. However.the KingJamesdoesemploysomevariation. Kai is rendered now in two verses; de is translated fourtimesas but and onceas and;elle isrendered but The EnglishRevised Version translates kai as and 51times and as now once; de is rendered but three times and now and and onceeach; elle istranslated but Notethat the ASV systematically translates every conjunction. The Revised Standard Version.whichpreservesthetradition oftheKingJames and the Revised Versions,renders sentence-initial kai as and 42times.as now threetimes, and as but once; de is translated as now twice and but once; ella is rendered as but The RSV failsto translate 8ofthesentence-initialconjunctionsof theGreek text. but inreproducing50 out of58occurrencesofconjunctionsina total of66sentences  Le of the RSV text), itisdefinitely not amodern-speechtranslation. nor was it intended tobe.In contrastwith the work oftheBritishcommittee,whichis undertaking acompletely new and modern-speechtranslation, the RSV committee endeavored to preserve asmuchaspossibleof thegeneralstyle and flavor oftheKingJames and the American Standard Version(1901). Acomparison with translations produced by Weymouth. Moffatt, Phillips, and Rieuwillindicateclearly the distinction between the traditionaltranslations and modern-speechones.In the samefirst twochapters of Mark. Weymouth reproduces only 25occurrencesof sen tence-initial kai: 14 are translated as and fouras so two eachas then one day, and but and one as now;de is rendered as now in twooccur rences and as but inone; elle is not translated.Intotal, Weymouth onlyreproduces28ofthe58occurrencesofconjunctions. Moffatt,who isingeneral somewhat closerto theusage of modern English, renders sentence-initial kai as and 12times,as now then and so fourtimeseach. and as but twice; de istranslatedonceas but and another timeas now Moffatt stotal isalso28 translations ofconjunctions.Phillips, whohasundertaken a very freetranslation but one which often comesclosertothesenseof the srcinal than doesamore  faith- 108  ful rendering:' translates sentence-initial kai a total of only 14times: then seven times.  nd fivetimes, so and but once each: de is renderedas but three times. Phillips reproduces a total of only 17 conjunctions. E. V. Rieu, who has made an excellent translation of  he FourGospels [Penguin Books.1952). reproduces sentence-initial kai as  nd four times and as so but and then once each; de is translated twice as now and once as but-giving a total of only 10 instances in which conjunctions in thesrcinal are reproduced in the English text.Rieu, who ishimselfa well-known classical scholar,reflects themanner in whichthe classics are generally rendered intomodernEnglish. Inorder to understandthe differences between the traditional and the modern-speechtranslations. we must considersomefundamental principles of semanticcorrespondence.  f as in Greek. almost every sentencemustbeginwith a conjunction. it soon becomes evident that such a particle does nothave the significance that it would have if suchconjunctions were rare. In Greekthe conjunctions de oun and kai were reduced almost to sentencemarkers. Le they indicated the beginning ofa new clause. The science of Information Theory (the basis of modern electroniccommunication) hasmade it clear that the greaterthe predictability ofaform the lessit  signals (or signifies)in any given context. In Greek one canpredictwith a highdegree of accuracy that a sentence will beginwith someconnective. and the fact that one can predicttheoccurrence of such connectives means that they signify very little.In the first twochapters of Mark (and toa considerableextentthroughout the rest of the NT) there are about 15 chances to one that a sentence will beginwith a connective. but in English (as computed from the samples which we have listedjust above) there are approximately 15 chances to one that a sentence will nothave a connective. Accordingly. a connective in Englishcarriesseveral times as much signalling power I,e. meaning) as it does in Greek. This means that in reproducing all or most of the conjunc tionsin theGreektext a translator is actuallyovertranslating. for he is using words which have much less frequency in English (and hence much more significance) to translatewords which have much greater frequency in Greek (and hence much less meaning). One who insistson translating all the conjunctions.on thegrounds that heis  faithful to the srcinal. is actually guilty of mistranslating. for heis not employing equivalent constructions. However. in rendering all the conjunctions a translator not only failsto reproducetheequivalent semanticvalues. but he introduces an unnatural stylisticflavor. which can be very tedious and insipidin English (the kind of styleforwhich any modern writer would be severely censured).Such a style givesa wrong impression.for the literary formof the srcinal isplain. straightforward. idiomatic. and certainly natural. In reproducing all the conjunctions. the  literal translator becomesguilty on two charges:(1) of using words which   The writerrecognizes that theapplicationoftheprinciplesofInformation Theory to this type ofproblemisfarmorecomplexthanisimpliedinthesestatements.butinordertoavoidahighlyinvolvedexplanation.thebasicrelationships are statedin this  overly simplified manner. 109  are not equivalentinsemanticvalue and 2) introducingastylisticformwhichis contrary to the valueoftheoriginal. Translating is not atechniqueforproducingstringsofsupposedlycorrespondingwords.Rather consistsinreproducing the closest natural equivalent firstinmeaning and secondly  n style. A New Edition of theHebrew Old Testament It isninety-two years sincetheBritish and Foreign BibleSocietypublisheditsfirst Hebrew Bible.  t isknownas the LetterisBible and   has beenprinted again and again and again. It has had a great vogue and becauseofitsclear and shapelytype.it has beenafavouriteamongJews and Christiansalike. The lateChiefRabbi Hertz preferredittoall other editions and heuseditinhisfive-volumecommentaryon the Pentateuch and theHaftorahs. Meir HaleviLetteris was born inAustriain1800 and diedin Vienna in1871. He was descendedfromanAmsterdamfamilyofprinters. was forsomeyearsa  reader inprintinghousesinBerlin and Presburg librarianinthe Oriental DepartmentoftheImperialLibrary Vienna. andhad a great reputationasa translator and writer of Hebrew songs.In1852he prepared atwo-volume Hebrew Bibleon the basisofthetextof Van der Hoogt. The 1866LetterisBibleis partly arevisionof the 1852text but isinfluencedlargely by MS. Erfurt 3.Inthefirstdecadeofthis century the Societypublishedatextedited by C.D.Ginsburg. This text was arevisionofatextheeditedfor theTrinitarian BibleSocietyin Vienna in1894.Bothtexts werebased onthefirsteditionofJacob ben Chayim stext printed by Bomberg at Venice in1524-5 beingthesecondeditionoftheRabbinicBible. The GinsburgBiblecontainsreadingsof75manuscripts and 19editionsuptothe1524-5BombergBible. Dr. Ginsburgtookno note of the first hand of any manuscript and followedalmostentirelyJacob ben Chayim srecension which was believed by alluntillatterlytorepresentthetrueMasoretictextofBenAsher. The Ginsburg text neverachievedpopularity partly becauseofthesizeofthevolumes which were renderedquitecumbersomebecauseofallthe variants which were listed andpartly becauseGinsburgseemsto have thought that hecoulddecideonthesounderreadingsimplybyamajority irrespectiveof the history and type ofthemanuscript or edition.Masoreticstudies have beentransformedin latteryears by theresearchesofProfessor Paul Kahle theeditorof the textofthethirdeditionoftheKittelBible publishedin1937 by the Wiirttemberg BibleSociety. This thirdeditionoftheKittelBible has itstext based ontheLeningradMS.whichDr.Kahleholdstorepresentthemaster-codexofBen Asher himself.In1933theSocietydecidedtopublisha new texttoreplacethe  
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