Tuesday, September 27, 2011

A master passes

Eugene NidaI'm not sure how I manage to miss this... As Arnold Zwicky puts it:
Eugene Nida, a linguist known especially for his work on translation, died on August 25 at the age of 96. An ordained Baptist minister, he had long associations with the Wycliffe Bible Translators, the Summer Institute of Linguistics, and the American Bible Society. At the same time, he made major contributions to linguistics, via his 1943 Ph.D. dissertation at Michigan (published in 1960 by the Summer Institute of Linguistics), A Synopsis of English Syntax, an extensive phrase-structure grammar (the first such grammar of a major language); his huge textbook Morphology: The Descriptive Analysis of Words (1st ed. 1946, mostly known through the influential 2nd ed. of 1949), with its many exercises; and his work on componential analysis in semantics.
'On Translation' by Nida
But it was Bible translation that occupied most of his life. He traveled the world on translation projects and published widely on translation theory, advocating an approach centered on “dynamic” (or functional) equivalence, rather than formal equivalence.
I'm somewhat of a fan of dynamic equivalence, myself, and I use some of his work in my classes - as well as in my own work. It's hard to draw the line sometimes; nothing exists in a vacuum, and you may end up introducing things that interfere with the cohesion. Reproducing the meaning, though, is the end goal, and that end was stoutly championed by Dr Nida. He was a giant.

(WaPo obit)

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