(This is a revised version.)

“Literary functional equivalence” translation (LiFE for short) is an extension or development of de Waard and Nida’s “functional equivalence” methodology (1986), with special reference to distinctive literary forms and their associated communicative functions. This approach is based upon the assumption (supported by various types of discourse analysis, e.g., Wendland 2004) that the Hebrew and Greek Scriptures, by and large, exemplify literary texts of demonstrably high quality, and therefore any translation should manifest a corresponding level of compositional excellence (to the degree possible under the prevailing circumstances of text production). The term “literary” conveys a twofold emphasis, namely, upon the artistry (forms) and rhetoric (functions) of the original biblical documents as well as their equivalent replication in vernacular, or “target language” (TL), translations (cf. Wendland 2011). Artistic techniques include features such as patterned recursion, imagery and figurative language, distinctive word orders, rhythm and other purposeful sound effects, and the use of emphatic devices (e.g., rhetorical questions, hyperbole, exact repetition, direct speech insertions, etc.).

Basic functional analysis techniques are given more precision through the application of “speech act” and “schema” (or cognitive “frames”) theory (Wendland 2008). Special attention is given to the TL and the systematic search for oral and written (or mixed) genres that may serve as functional equivalents to those found in the Hebrew and Greek Scriptures. Various degrees of LiFE application are possible, depending on considerations of “relevance” (processing “cost” versus conceptual “gain”) in relation to a given translation project’s “job commission” (brief), including the major communicative goals (Skopus) of the present version, the primary setting in which it will be used, the wishes and/or needs of the target audience, and the working competence of the translators. This may range from a complete genre-for-genre (SL>TL) “oratorical” transposition to merely a limited treatment with respect to the phonological (e.g., rhythmic) structures of an otherwise relatively literal “liturgical” version.

Thus the intended situation of use is of major importance when preparing a LiFE translation, and this projected scenario is researched and assessed through the recursive application of a cognitive “frames of reference” investigative methodology—that is, involving an exploration of the integrated and mutually influencing sociocultural, organizational, conversational (situational), and textual (including intertextual) referential contexts (cf. Wilt 2003, Wilt & Wendland 2008). It is recognized at the outset that complete communication via translation is impossible, and therefore the potential use of various supplementary paratextual tools (e.g., explanatory notes, sectional introductions and/or headings, illustrations, glossary, etc.) and features of text formatting (e.g., indentation, spacing, typography) are also researched and promoted during the preparation of a LiFE translation. Two recently published examples of LiFE translations of the Psalms are Boerger (2009) and Wilt (2012).

Boerger, Brenda H. 2009. Psalms (Poetic Oracle English Translation). Dallas: Self-published.
de Waard, Jan and Eugene A. Nida. 1986. From one language to another: Functional equivalence in Bible translating. Nashville: Thomas Nelson.
Wendland, Ernst. 2004. Translating the literature of Scripture: A literary-rhetorical approach to Bible translation. Dallas: SIL International.
Wendland, Ernst. 2008. Contextual frames of reference in translation: A coursebook for Bible translators and teachers. Manchester, UK: St. Jerome.
Wendland, Ernst. 2011. LiFE-style translating: A workbook for Bible translators (2nd ed.). Dallas: SIL International.
Wilt, Timothy. 2003. “Translation and communication,” in T. Wilt (ed.), Bible translation: Frames of reference. Manchester: St. Jerome. 27-80.
Wilt, Timothy. 2012. Praise—The book of Psalms translated from the Hebrew. CreateSpace: Self-published (available from Amazon).
Wilt, T. and E. Wendland. 2008. Scripture frames and framing: A workbook for Bible translators. Stellenbosch: SUN Press.

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Publishing Christian Literature via various Media and in Translation

For PDF copies of some of the main Power Point slides that I used for this workshop in Hong Kong (2012), visit this site:

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The Dynamic Equivalence Caper–A Response

“The Dynamic Equivalence Caper”—A Response
This article overviews and responds to Roland Boer’s recent wide ranging critique of Eugene A Nida’s theory and practice of “dynamic equivalence” in Bible translating. Boer’s narrowly focused, rather insufficiently-researched evaluation of Nida’s work suffers from both a lack of historical perspective and a current awareness of what many, more recent translation scholars and practitioners have been writing for the past several decades. Our rejoinder discusses some of the major mis-perceptions and misleading assertions that appear sequentially in the various sections of Boer’s article with the aim of setting the record straight, or at least of framing the assessment of modern Bible translation endeavors and goals in a more positive and accurate light.

Co-author: Stephen Pattemore
Publication Date: 2013
Publication Name: Old Testament Essays 26: 471-490

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Foreignizing Translation-JNSL.doc

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Review Article: Jeremy Munday, Introducing Translation Studies: Theories and Applications

OTE 25 (2) – p 421-454 Wendland Review Article Introducing Translation Studies

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‘My tongue is the stylus of a skilled scribe’ (Ps 45:2c)

If so in the Scriptures, then why not also in translation?
In this study, I survey seven characteristics of the poetic-rhetorical style of Psalm 45, with
special reference to the ‘sound effects’ (phonological features) of the Hebrew text. This leads to a brief discussion of the translation of this psalm in Chewa, a Bantu language of southeastern Africa. How ‘skilful’ does this version sound in the vernacular, and why is this an important aspect of the translator’s task in order to ensure that the ‘good word’ ( דּ֘בר ט֗וֹב ) of the Bible is faithfully as well as forcefully transmitted? Suggestions will be offered to indicate how the current standard Chewa versions might be improved so as to ‘stir the heart’ ( ר֘חשׁ לִבִּי ) of listeners also today. The results of the present study may be instructive and/or applicable in varying degrees to similar projects that aim to render the biblical text poetically, rhetorically and oratorically in the language of translation.

See the full article at:
or at:

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