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Journal of Translation 5(1)
Toward a prototypical model of culture for Bible translation
Matthews, Thomas G.
Bible translation is inherently a communication event originating in a historical language and culture. Recipients of translated Scriptures interpret this historical text through their language and cultural grid. They have cultural practices, material culture, beliefs, values, a worldview, image schemas, etc., that can assist or compromise their ability to properly understand the Bible. This work addresses the challenge to translators and translation consultants to more readily identify translation issues that are rooted in the target culture such that they may be further researched and treated as appropriate in the translation and helps. A prototypical model of culture is proposed to support these deliberations, which is comprised of a stratified network of observable cultural systems, beliefs, values, and deep structural components of worldview and image schemas. The cultural model is productively applied to a survey of translation issues rooted in the target cultures of several language teams in eastern Africa, and to three, in-depth analyses from Zinza and Digo Scriptures. The results suggest that Zinza prefer LINK and PATH image schemas over IN/OUT and FULL/EMPTY CONTAINER image schemas in metaphorical extensions such as “in Christ.” In addition, the Digo people’s limited knowledge of biblical construction practices, and the strong impact of the Lake Victoria ecosystem on Zinza culture, present translation challenges to the Digo New Testament and Zinza Genesis, respectively.
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