Considerations Of English Style -- By: John H. Skilton

Journal: Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society
Volume: JETS 10:2 (Spring 1967)
Article: Considerations Of English Style
Author: John H. Skilton


Considerations Of English Style

John H. Skilton, Ph.D.

I. Various Influences on the English Style of Translations

The other panelists this morning are actually dealing with subjects that are related to the topic which has been assigned for this paper,” Considerations of English Style.” The questions which which they are primarily concerned can, of course, rightly be treated independently of style; but it should be recognized that every important aspect of the work of translation has a bearing on the style of a version. If a translator were concerned solely about English style, if he were not influenced by other than purely stylistic considerations, he might freely follow his own preferences in questions of language and style. But other matters may significantly influence his style, sometimes subtly and almost imperceptibly, and at other times manifestly. Among them are (1) the nature of the basic text which is chosen, whether it be a full, smooth, conflate type or one of a terser nature; (2) the kind of rendering favored, whether it be, for example, word-for-word, thought-for-thought, or a combination of the two; and (3) the choice of some special objective such as to accommodate readers who are just learning English or who live in a certain geographical region. Other major considerations which influence style, often without the translator’s awareness, are his theological viewpoint, his attitude toward the work which he is translating, and his understanding of it. In the case of the translation of the Bible there can be no substitute for spiritual sensitivity and spiritual understanding.

We must not linger, however, over matters which are appropriately being considered independently of style, however much influence they may exert on style. We must rather concentrate on subjects which are more conventionally dealt with under the topic which has been assigned to this paper.

II. The Stylistic Aims of Translators

We must, in the first place, give attention to certain objectives in the area of language and style which have been expressed by translators. It will be necessary for us to be selective and brief. Any who might be interested in a further treatment of this and other subjects with which we shall deal are referred to a more extensive study made by the writer, 1 some portions of which will be included in this paper.

One point which has been made by a great many translators has been that versions should be clear and intelligible to the common people. The Reformation brought a renewed and vigorous interest in making the Scriptures available in the vernacular languages in a direct and simple style that could speak to the heart and the understanding of the ordin-

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