See the following webpages:

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Lexicography is the systematic study of the lexicon (words and idioms) of a language. A person who does such study is a lexicographer. Lexicographers often produce dictionaries of languages.

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A lexicon is the collection of words and word parts used by people speaking a particular language. "Lexicon" is essentially a synonym for the words "dictionary" and "vocabulary," but is often used to refer to specialized aspects of language vocabulary. A dictionary is a kind of lexicon. A lexicon exists for a language whether or not it is written. The study of vocabularies is called lexicography.

The following book discusses the translator's interaction with the lexicon:

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Linguistics is the scientific study of language. Linguistics is an important tool for good quality translation. Through careful linguistic study, translators can better understand language forms and their functions, in both the target and source languages. Modern linguistics describes how people speak; it does not attempt to say how people should speak, which is called prescriptive grammar.

For overviews of linguistics, visit these websites:

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The process of teaching people to read something which is written. Literacy follows orthography development for any group which has no written language tradition. See also Orthography and Oral language.

Some websites devoted to literacy are:

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Literal translation

Literal translation is where the forms of the original are retained as much as possible, even if those forms are not the most natural forms to preserve the original meaning. Literal translation is sometimes called word-for-word translation (as opposed to thought-for-thought translation). A more accurate, but less well known, label for this approach is formal equivalence translation. Because literal translation focuses on forms of language, it sometimes misses some of the meaning of those forms, since meaning is found not only in the forms of individual words, but also in relationships among words, phrases, idiomatic uses of words, and influences of speaker-hearer, cultural, and historical contexts. Words often have different meanings in different contexts, but a literal translation often does not account for these differences. So literal translation often is not the most accurate form of translation. Compare Essentially literal, Idiomatic translation, and Accuracy.

The following website promotes the literal translation of the NASB: About the NASB

The following webpages have helpful discussions about literal translation:

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Literal-idiomatic translation

The translation approach followed for the ISV English Bible version. The term reflects a desire to translate as preserve the forms of the source language as closely possible while creating a text which will be understandable and readable to the target audience. This is not a standard term within translation theory and may be a theoretical oxymoron, since it is often not possible to be both literal and accurate, and idiomatic translation focuses upon accuracy of meaning and function.

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Litotes is a rhetorical device in which an antonym (a negative word) is negated to make an emphatic affirmative:

ISV Luke 1.37 For nothing is impossible with God.

Luke 1.37 strongly affirms that everything is possible with God and the ISV rendering nicely translates that original meaning.

NRSV Acts 20.12 and were not a little comforted

Here, the ISV removes the litotes and translates the meaning directly by stating the affirmative emphatically. This is good, clear, accurate translation:

ISV Acts 20.12 and were greatly relieved

Compare Hyperbole, Understatement, and Meiosis.

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Loan word

A word which is borrowed from another language. A word which is created in a target language, to directly correspond to meaning parts of a source word is a special form of a loan word, called a calque. The English word superman is a loan word (calque) from the German word ‹bermensch.

See also Loan translation.

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Loan translation

Borrowing the meaning parts of a souce word and directly translating them to the target language, instead of using a native term from the target language. The meaning parts of the source word are directly translated to equivalent meaning parts of the target language. Sometimes the borrowing is partial, with part of a term borrowed and part of it native in form. A word which is created through loan translation is also called a calque. The newly created word is, by definition, a neologism. Sometimes the word itself, not simply its meaning parts, is borrowed. English has borrowed many words from other languages, such as taco, tortilla, skunk, tipi, wigwam, sputnik, and restaurant. These are also loan words, but they are not loan translations.

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Roman numeral for 70, this abbreviation is used for the Septuagint, a Greek translation of the Hebrew Bible said to have been produced by a group of 70 translators.


Macrostructure is a term used by the linguist van Dijk. It refers to the "global meaning" of a discourse. It appears to be quite similar to the common notion of the gist of something.

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Majority Text (MT)

Text of the Greek New Testament, based on the text types which have the largest number of copies available today. Abbreviated MT. The MT is similar to the Received Text (Textus Receptus), which is the text closest to the textual readings chosen by the KJV translators, but the MT has broader text type support. Compare critical text, which often gives priority to the oldest texts available today.

For further discussion visit the following websites:

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Meaning refers to something which someone wants to communicate. For this glossary, we consider meaning to include propositional content, denotation, connotation, perlocutionary force, and illocutionary force. Meaning is not simply contained in individual words, but also in how the various words of utterances relate to each other. Important areas of linguistics dealing with meaning are semantics, pragmatics, and lexicography.

Bible translators have typically focused upon meaning in terms of the original author's intention. This is a longheld principle of hermeneutics. This principle, however, has been debated by some who prefer to locate meaning in receptors, the hearers of the message.

The following website addresses some of this debate:

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Meaning-based translation (MB)

This is equivalent to idiomatic translation. The term comes from the excellent textbook, Meaning-Based Translation: A Guide to Cross-Language Equivalence, by Mildred L. Larson. This term avoids some of the misunderstandings which have arisen over use of more technical labels for various shades of idiomatic translation, such as dynamic equivalence, functional equivalence translation, closest natural equivalent translation, and even the term idiomatic translation itself. This term properly focuses on the critical need for translation to preserve meaning. Adequate translation cannot always preserve forms of the original, but it must always preserve the meaning of the original. A non-technical term which probably means the same as meaning-based translation is thought-for-thought translation.

See the following webpage which refers to meaning-based translation in the context of ASL (American Sign Language):

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Meiosis is another form of rhetorical understatement, similar to litotes. In 1 Cor. 2:4 Paul says, "My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit's power" (NIV). But he likely had actually preached in Corinth quite persuasively, but was being modest here, using the understatement of meiosis.

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Metaphor is a figure of speech where a word or phrase that ordinarily designates one thing is used to designate another, thus making an implicit (figurative) comparison. Metaphors often cannot be translated literally. If they are, their figurative meaning can be lost, and that meaning, of course, is the original author's intended meaning. The implicit nature of the figurative comparison of a metaphor contrasts with the explicit signal of comparison found in a simile, with the explicit signal marked by a word such as "like" or "as," that there is a figurative comparison being made. Following are a few of the many metaphors found in the Bible. The metaphors are boldfaced. Remember, because these are metaphors, these words are not meant to be understood literally. Instead, we must look for their figurative meaning:

NIV Matt. 7.6 Go not give dogs what is sacred; do not throw your pearls to pigs.

NIV Mark 4.19 I will make you fishers of men.

ISV John 6.48 I am the bread of life.

ISV John 8.12 Later on Jesus spoke to them again, saying, "I am the light of the world.

See also Metaphor.

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Metonymy is figurative language in which a word or phrase is substituted for another with which it is closely associated:

NASB Acts 15.21 For Moses from ancient generations has in every city those who preach him, since he is read in the synogogues every Sabbath.

Moses wrote the laws of the Old Testament. They are so closely associated with him, the author, that simply the word "Moses" could refer to the laws which were written by him. The person of Moses was not literally read every Sabbath, rather it was what he wrote that was read.

See also Metonymy.

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Model text

This is a more dynamic text, such as TEV or CEV, that would be used along with the base text, to assist a vernacular translator. Compare Front translation.

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A morpheme is the smallest unit of meaning in a language. It can be as large as a word, if that word has only one meaning part, or it can be a part of a word which has more than one meaning part. For instance, in the English word redo, there are two morphemes, the first is the prefix re-, meaning 'again,' and the second is the morpheme "do", which can stand alone as a word. In the word dogs, the first morpheme is dog, and the second is -s meaning 'plural.' The study of the morphemes of a language is called morphology.

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Morphology is the study of the morphemes of language.

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Mother tongue translator (MTT)

A native speaker of a language, who translates into his own language. Translation should almost always be done by mother tongue translators. Sometimes a translation project will also require the assistance of an Other Tongue Translator (OTT), if mother tongue translators are not trained in the the original Biblical languages or the use of Biblical reference and translation resources. Also called native translator.

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Multivalence is the quality of having various meanings or values. This quality is held to be important by translators of the NET Bible who use the term to refer to their belief that certain terms or wordings in their translation need to have multiple meanings in English, based on their understanding of the meaning of the corresponding forms of the original biblical source text. Synonymous with Polyvalence.

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