Dynamic equivalence

In The Tablet His Excellency Archbishop Roche, chairman of ICEL, has an interesting piece describing the status quaesitionis. It is good to pause occasionaly and make a review of where you are. There are many good bits in the article. I found this to be one of the most intriguing:

The originator of the idea of dynamic equivalence, Eugene Nida, himself ceased to use it in his later writings. In insisting on the importance of linguistic form and its interdependence with content, Liturgiam Authenticam takes account of recent work in linguistics. It must have been a difficult document to write, for it is always difficult – some would say impossible – to write about language prescriptively and well. But something needed to be said, for the current texts we use simply do not hand on the tradition of prayer that we find in the Latin Missal.

Whatever is said about Liturgiam Authenticam by its critics, it has served us well as a key to unlock the treasury of the Missal. We have been surprised and delighted by the riches that a careful attention to forms of prayer has revealed to us.

This reminds of how prestigious liturgists such as Jungmann and Bouyer repediated early claims about Mass being celebrated versus populum. What damage was done in the meantime!

NidaWho is Eugene Nida?

Dr. Nida received a Bachelor’s degree, summa cum laude, in Greek from the University of California Los Angeles in 1936. He received his Master’s degree in Greek New Testament from the University of Southern California and his Ph.D. in Linguistics from the University of Michigan.

In 1943 he married Althea Sprague. The couple remained married until Althea Sprague Nida’s death in 1993. In 1997 Dr. Nida married Dr. Elena Fernadez, a translator and interpreter.

Dr. Nida retired in the early 1980’s and currently lives in Brussels, Belgium.


In 1943 Dr. Nida began his career with the American Bible Society (ABS), working as a linguist. Nida was quickly promoted to Associate Secretary for Versions, he then worked as Executive Secretary for Translations until his retirement.

Dr. Nida was instrumental in engineering the joint effort between the Vatican and the United Bible Societies (UBS) to produce cross-denominational Bibles in translations across the globe. This work was begun in 1968 and carried on in accordance with Dr. Nida’s translation principle of Functional Equivalence.

Translation & Linguistic Theories

Eugene Nida has been a pioneer in the fields of Translation Theory and Linguistics.

His Ph.D. dissertation "A Synopsis of English Syntax" was the first full-scale analysis of a major language according to the "immediate "constituent" theory.

His most notable and most controversial contribution to Translation Theory is Dynamic Equivalence, also known as Functional Equivalence. This approach to translation aims to reproduce the intention of the original text in the translation, rather than reproducing the actual words of the original.

Nida also developed the "componential analysis" technique which split words into their components to help determine equivalence in translation (i.e. bachelor = male + unmarried). This is, perhaps, not the best example of the technique, though it is the most well known.

An online review of a one of Nida’s books states, "While he never served as a translator himself, he was dedicated to understanding the problems of translation as a linguist and anthropologist."

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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