Tag Archives: translation

Language and Order

Witnessing all the recent hubbub about new English mass translation that’s just been approved by US bishops and the ever-present tensions between rival Bible translators, I thought the following quite from Peter Berger’s The Sacred Canopy: Elements of a Sociological Theory of Religion might provoke interesting discussion.

"The social world constitutes a nomos both objectively and subjectively. The objective nomos is given in the process of objectivation as such. the fact of language, even if taken by itself, can readily be seen as the imposition of order upon experience. Language nomizes by imposing differentiation and structure upon the ongoing flux of experience. As an item of experience is named, it is ipso facto, taken out of this flux and given stability as the entity so named. Language further provides a fundamental order of relationships by the addition of syntax and grammar to vocabulary. It is impossible to use language without participating in its order. Every empirical language may be said to constitute a nomos in the making, or, with equal validity, as the historical consequence of the nomizing activity of generations of men. The original nomizing act is to say that an item is this, and thus not that. As this original incorporation of the item into the order that includes other items is followed by sharper linguistic designations (the item is male and not female, singular and not plural, a noun and not a verb, and so forth), the nomizing act intends a comprehensive order of all items that may be linguistically objectivated, that is, intends a totalizing nomos.

What I primarily take from this is the importance of word choice for the recording and transmission of information, i.e., order. When we translate Scripture or liturgies to modern languages, we must be mindful of a few important questions.

  • What sort of order did the original author(s) intend to impose with the words they chose?
  • What sort of order do we wish to impose with the words we choose?
  • If these orders do not match, why do they not, and how should that affect our translation efforts?

Tongue Tied

William Oddie, in a Spectator
, tells the English-speaking world a little about the new mass translation
in the works.

“The effect of hundreds of such changes
– impossible to convey without more space – has had a massive cumulative effect
not merely on the accuracy of the translations, but on their beauty. They now have
a meditative quality that had been all but destroyed by the fanatical economy of
language – often leading to a sense of indecent haste – of the Seventies paraphrase.
The Latin text is allowed to breathe its full meaning into the new English version.
Ideological interferences have been dealt with: the Creed now begins ‘I believe’.”

Communication Breakdown

The New American Bible raises banality to an art form. The Good As New Bible is
a sin against the Holy Spirit.

in Translation

A reader send me a link to the following story. By now I am sure many people have
seen the story about the “Good as New” Bible translation by a former Baptist
Minister. The Archbishop of Canterbury Dr Rowan Williams is reportedly backing this
version and has said it is a “vehicle for thinking.”

This version is pretty funny and I would have a hard time coming up with a better
parody then was achieved. The St. Paul quotes are strait from Bizarro world.

Accustomed to Error

So people have gotten used to a bad translation. So what? Granted, the draft of the new mass needs some work to overcome some "clunky" wording, but that’s the not the point. The mass needs to be translationally and theologically correct before it is "comfortable".

Priests predict possible backlash against new Mass text

"A forum of priests on a national radio program has suggested the draft text of changes to the Mass creates a distance between the priest and the people, and it could alienate Catholics who have grown up with liturgy in the vernacular."

Mass Discussion

The second article presents a pretty thorough, if biased, chronology of the development of the new mass.

British Bishops comment on new English Mass draft

" The liturgy office of the Bishops of England and Wales has praised the International Committee for English (ICEL) for its preference for the use of inclusive language in the ‘green book’ new English Mass translation draft currently circulating among bishops in English-speaking countries."

A war of words
Austen Ivereigh

"Translation of the new Missal into English from the Latin text is the fruit of a long and bitter struggle – one that mirrors the battle over authority in the Church"