An “oratorical” translation

An oratorical is one type of “literary functional equivalence” (LiFE) translation. It is a manner or style of translating that stresses the importance of linguistic form, or style, in text analysis and transfer, that is, with respect to both the SL and also the TL documents–but with particular emphasis on the dimension of sound. The artistic, rhetorical, and structural forms of the biblical text constitute an important part of the original meaning and therefore must be taken seriously during the process of translation. This approach may be further described by means of the following characteristics which, taken together, serve to distinguish its practical methodology as applied to Bible translation:
• A manifold discourse-centered, genre-based, holistic technique of text-processing.
• A prominent pragmatic-functional component that evaluates a given biblical discourse in terms of its assumed interactive speech and text acts along with its manifest rhetorical strategies.
• A concern for investigating complete communication “frames,” that is, the entire process of message transmission, taking into consideration also the extralinguistic sociocultural setting of the TL text as well as that of the original document.
• A focus on the artistic and rhetorical aspects of discourse—its presumed impact, appeal, beauty, and relevance in relation to its intended audience or readership.
• A special interest also in the oral-aural (“oratorical”) dimension of the source and target texts, as well as its visual display, or typographical format, on the printed page.
• A recognition of the need for a variety of para-textual supplementary devices that seek to highlight significant structural and stylistic features to be found in the biblical text and/or reproduced in the translation.
• An ongoing, monitored sensitivity to translation users (their wishes, needs, limitations, values, expectations, etc.) and also to usage (when, where, and how the version is programmed to be employed).

The fullest type of LiFE application is realized in a complete genre-for-genre transformation on both the MACRO- and also the micro-structural levels of the TL text. This sort of version would tend to demonstrate the widest possible (yet also suitable) use of TL artistic and rhetorical resources in keeping with the genre that has been chosen as a translation model. But this is by no means the only option. There are many potential “LiFE forms” depending on the local circumstances, but one procedural principle is paramount, namely, that every translation, including a “formal correspondence” version, can be made “literary” (“oratorical”), at least to a certain minimal degree. The primary aim (Skopos) is to produce a translated text that both reads easily and sounds natural to the ears of a TL audience in specified, relevant respects, as determined by the project commission (the translation “brief”).


About ewendland

I am currently an instructor at the Lutheran Seminary, Lusaka, ZAMBIA (since 1968). My academic training has been in biblical studies (BA, Northwestern College; MST, Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary), Bible translation (several SIL courses), linguistics (MA, University of Wisconsin, Madison), and African languages (PhD, UWM). I am a “retired” translation consultant for the United Bible Societies (having worked with projects in Malawi, Zambia, and Zimbabwe). I currently still serve as an external examiner in Zambian languages (University of Zambia) and as visiting professor in OT, NT, and Ancient Studies at the University of Stellenbosch, South Africa, with an affiliation to the Centre for Bible Interpretation and Translation in Africa ( My research and writing interests focus on the literary (structural, poetic, rhetorical) analysis of biblical texts and their oratorical translation, especially in southeastern Bantu languages (
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