This volume, number 11 in the series, written by Dr. Ji-Youn Cho as her Ph.D. dissertation at Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam (2008), addresses an issue of great importance to translators in the Asia Pacific Area: the translation of the Bible into languages with honorifics. As the author states in the Introduction, “The difficulty lies in the fact that honorific languages utilize a special class of words or grammatical morphemes whose function is to indicate social-deixis among the interlocutors in the communicative events. As there is no socially neutral form in honorific languages, the speaker must always choose between deferential or non-deferential forms.”
This study deals with the difficulties of translating the Bible into languages with honorifics—a problem that Bible translators inevitably face in some languages. The difficulty lies in the fact that honorific languages utilize a special class of words or grammatical morphemes whose function is to indicate socialdeixis among the interlocutors in the communicative events. As there is no socially neutral form in honorific languages, the speaker must always choose between deferential or non-deferential forms and will thereby always convey information about the speaker-hearer relationship, the context of communication, and the current cultural expectations. Thus, a translation into inadequate honorific forms not only leads to a misunderstanding of the implicit meaning of the source text, but also distorts the style of the translated texts.
The translating of biblical Greek into languages with honorifics is a particularly complex task for Asian Bible translators. Simply put, while the Greek NT employs a few honorific titles, it does not include addressee honorifics, such as honorific second person pronouns and honorific verb ending forms, which are part of the multi-leveled honorific systems utilized by some languages. Hence, the decision for what degree of honorifics ought to be used in translation cannot be based on the lexical and grammatical meanings of the source language, i.e., biblical Greek, but rather on the analysis of the dialogues in terms of context and interpretation.
Published 2009 Pages 278