How ‘direct’ can a direct translation be? Some perspectives from the realities of a new type of church Bible
The skopos of this new type of church Bible is: ‘How would the source texts of the Bible have sounded in Afrikaans in the context envisaged for its hypothesised first audience(s)?’ Fully acknowledging the complexities of language as a dynamic and complex system embedded in the culture and conceptual world of its speakers, as well as the wide range of frames that are involved in the process of Bible translation as a difficult form of secondary communication, this article addresses two of the challenges of this ambitious project. In the first section the incongruence between the world of the Old Testament and speakers of Afrikaans is treated. Examples are provided of instances where both the nature of difficult secondary intercultural communication as well as the subjective theories of the host audience constrains the ‘directness’ of the translation. In the second section, some of the challenges of distinguishing between the formal and functional features of Biblical Hebrew are dealt with. The article concludes that, although the notion ‘communicative clue’ provides a useful heuristic device to act as point of departure for negotiations on the construal of the meaning of the text in the source language and host language respectively, the notion has to be supplemented by insights from the fields of cultural anthropology, cognitive linguistics and linguistic typology. A better understanding of how meaning ‘works’ (e.g. how linguistic expressions act as windows into the conceptual worlds of speakers, how the meaning of expressions may shift and develop, as well as processes of grammaticalisation) provides members of a translation team with some criteria to make informed decisions when they negotiate how the meaning of specific Biblical Hebrew constructions are to be construed ‘directly’ in Afrikaans.
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