Eugene A. Nida (November 11, 1914 – August 25, 2011) was a linguist who developed the dynamic-equivalence Bible-translation theory. Nida was born in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma on November 11, 1914. He became a Christian at a young age, when he responded to the altar call at his church “to accept Christ as my Saviour" He graduated from the University of California in 1936. After graduating he attended Camp Wycliffe, where Bible translation theory was taught. Later Nida became a founding charter member of Wycliffe Bible Translators, a sister organization of the Summer Institute of Linguistics. In 1937, Nida undertook studies at the University of Southern California, where he obtained a Master’s Degree in New Testament Greek in 1939. In 1943, Nida received his Ph.D. in Linguistics from the University of Michigan, His Ph.D. dissertation, A Synopsis of English Syntax, was the first full-scale analysis of a major language according to the "immediate-constituent" theory. He began his career as a linguist with the American Bible Society (ABS). He was quickly promoted to Associate Secretary for Versions, then worked as Executive Secretary for Translations until his retirement. Nida retired in the early 1980s, although he continued to give lectures in universities all around the world, and lived in Madrid, Spain and Brussels, Belgium. He died in Madrid on August 25, 2011 aged 96. Nida was instrumental in engineering the joint effort between the Vatican and the United Bible Societies (UBS) to produce cross-denominational Bibles in translations across the globe. This work began in 1968 and was carried on in accordance with Nida's translation principle of Functional Equivalence.
His contributions in general
Nida has been a pioneer in the fields of translation theory and linguistics. His most notable contribution to translation theory is Dynamic Equivalence, also known as Functional Equivalence. Nida also developed the "componential-analysis" technique, which split words into their components to help determine equivalence in translation (e.g. "bachelor" = male + unmarried). This is, perhaps, not the best example of the technique, though it is the most well-known. Nida's dynamic-equivalence theory is often held in opposition to the views of philologists who maintain that an understanding of the source text (ST) can be achieved by assessing the inter-animation of words on the page, and that meaning is self-contained within the text (i.e. much more focused on achieving semantic equivalence). This theory, along with other theories of correspondence in translating, are elaborated in his essay Principles of Correspondence, where Nida begins by asserting that given that “no two languages are identical, either in the meanings given to corresponding symbols or in the ways in which symbols are arranged in phrases and sentences, it stands to reason that there can be no absolute correspondence between languages. Hence, there can be no fully exact translations.” While the impact of a translation may be close to the original, there can be no identity in detail.
Some of his theories in detail
First major contribution:
Nida then sets forth the differences in translation, as he would account for it, within three basic factors: (1) The nature of the message: in some messages the content is of primary consideration, and in others the form must be given a higher priority. (2) The purpose of the author and of the translator: to give information on both form and content; to aim at full intelligibility of the reader so he/she may understand the full implications of the message; for imperative purposes that aim at not just understanding the translation but also at ensuring no misunderstanding of the translation. (3) The type of audience: prospective audiences differ both in decoding ability and in potential interest. Nida brings in the reminder that while there are no such things as “identical equivalents” in translating,...
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