The dynamic equivalence translation theory of Eugene A. Nida and Bible translation, a critique
thesisposted on 2022-03-28, 20:53 authored by Anthony H. Nichols
Translation theory has benefited from advances in many disciplines but it remains essentially the province of Comparative Linguistics and in particular Semantics. Recent developments have externalized processes used intuitively by translators for centuries. The literature is dominated by Eugene A. Nida whose work is informed by a wealth of experience in Bible translation. -- This thesis is a critique of the Dynamic Equivalence theory of translation propounded by Nida and exemplified in the Good News Bible (TEV). Section I surveys the history of translation, its theory and problems, and describes relevant developments in modern linguistics. Section II examines Nida's sociolinguistic model and his methods of grammatical and semantic analysis, transfer and restructuring. Section III studies the TEV New Testament with special attention to the language used and to such problems as cultural adaptation, ambiguity, and the fate of technical terminology. Section IV focuses on the language of the original to see to what extent "Common English" can adequately translate it. -- Nida has provided excellent discussion on almost every translation problem, as well as useful tools for semantic analysis. However, his DE model is found to be defective for Bible translation. Firstly, its "vehicular" theory of meaning does not do justice to the formal features of language. Secondly, while evaluation of a translation must take account of its purpose and intended audience, "equivalence" defined in terms of the receptors' reactions is impossible to measure, and blurs the distinction between "translation" and "communication". Finally, the determinative role given to receptor response makes it virtually impossible to preserve the sense of historical and cultural distance which Nida himself says is essential in Bible translation.