The Legacy of the Bible in Translation

The latest edition of The World in Words podcast features the legacy of the Bible in translation. Here’s a direct link to the MP3 of the episode (and here’s the podcast’s RSS feed if you’d like to subscribe).

The first half highlights the lasting impact of the King James Version while the second introduces erstwhile Christian missionary and translator Daniel Everett who walked away not only from Bible translation and missions, but also from Christianity and regrettably, his wife.

Recent technological advances are speeding up the process of Bible translation, not without controversy. Through it all, Bible translation and linguistic research have marched hand in hand, sometimes producing unintended results. In 1977, Christian missionary Daniel Everett went to Brazil with the intention of bringing the Bible to the Pirahã people of the Amazonian basin. He didn’t manage to convert anyone– except himself. He lost his faith, and became an expert in the Pirahã language. He theorized that Pirahã has no recursion, or ability to embed phrases within sentences, as in relative clauses. This was a direct rebuke to Noam Chomsky’s theory that all languages are recursive (which is a cornerstone of the idea that all languages share a “universal grammar”). Some linguists have taken issue with Everett’s findings. Read more.

Give the episode a listen.