Translation, Transliteration and Transcription

All versions of the Holy Scriptures use three methods of representing meanings: Translation, Transliteration and Transcription. It is important to understand the differences between these in order to correctly apply these to the TKJV.

 

Translation

Translation is the communication of the meaning of a source-language text by means of an equivalent target-language text. When people think of a Bible, they usually think of a Translation (a Hebrew Bible has the New Testament translated to Hebrew, a Greek Bible has the Old Testament translated to Greek, an English Bible has both the old and New Testaments translated to English, etc.). However, all scriptures, including the original autographs, contain Translations, Transliterations and Transcriptions.

Examples:

Water, essentially “H2O”, is translated as follows:

  • מים – Hebrew
  • νερό – Greek
  • tubig – Filipino
  • aqua – Latin
  • (see additional examples below)

 

Transliteration

Transliteration is the conversion of a text from one script to another.

A transliteration allows a knowledgeable reader to reconstruct the original word.

 

For instance, the Greek phrase “Ελληνική Δημοκρατία” ‘Hellenic Republic’ can be transliterated as “Ellēnikē Dēmokratia” by substituting Latin letters for Greek letters.

Transliteration can form an essential part of transcription (see below). However, transliteration converts text from one writing system into another, whereas transcription converts the sounds. Transliteration is not concerned with representing the phonemics of the original: it only strives to represent the characters accurately. Thus, in the above example, λλ is transliterated as ‘ll’, but pronounced /l/, and η is transliterated as ‘ē’, though it is pronounced /i/ (exactly like ι) and is not long.

From an information-theoretical point of view, systematic transliteration is a mapping from one system of writing into another, word by word, or ideally letter by letter. Most transliteration systems are one-to-one, so a reader who knows the system can reconstruct the original spelling.

Transliteration is opposed to transcription (see below), which specifically maps the sounds of one language to the best matching script of another language. Still, most systems of transliteration map the letters of the source script to letters pronounced similarly in the goal script, for some specific pair of source and goal language. If the relations between letters and sounds are similar in both languages, a transliteration may be (almost) the same as a transcription. In practice, there are also some mixed transliteration/transcription systems that transliterate a part of the original script and transcribe the rest.

Examples:

  • The English Yeshua and the Greek Ἰησοῦς are transliterations of the Hebrew ישוע (with vowel pointing יֵשׁוּעַ – pronounced yēšūă‘ in Hebrew)
  • The Latin Iēsous is a transliteration of the Greek Ἰησοῦς
  • The Old English Iesus is a transliteration of the Latin Iēsous. The 1611 King James Version (KJV) of the Bible used the spelling Iesus for our Savior’s name.

 

Transcription

Transcription in the linguistic sense is the systematic representation of language in written form. The source can either be utterances (speech) or preexisting text in another writing system, although some linguists consider only the former to be transcription.

A transcription specifically maps the sounds of one language to the best matching script of another language.

Transcription should not be confused with translation (see above), which means representing the meaning of a source language text in a target language (e.g. translating the meaning of an English text into Spanish), or with transliteration (see above) which means representing a text from one script in another (e.g. transliterating a Cyrillic text into the Latin script).

Example:

The Middle English Jesus is a transcription of the Old English Iesus.

The Daniel Case New Testament in 1729 was the first work to introduce the Middle English “J” as in Jesus. The Middle English “J” was to break the consonant sound “J” from the vowel sound “I”. “J” was then pronounced as the Germans do in “ja” (yah). This transcription was an attempt to bring the “Y” sound back into the Savior’s name, as in the the Hebrew and Greek.

In Modern English the “Y” is used in Yes or Ya.

The “J” in Jesus (pron.: /ˈdʒiːzəs/) now (Modern English) sounds more like “Gee!”

 

Examples

In Modern Greek usage (and since the Roman Imperial period), the letters <η> <ι> <υ> and the letter combinations <ει> <oι> <υι> may be pronounced [i]. When so pronounced, a modern transcription renders them all as <i>, but a transliteration still distinguishes them, for example by transliterating to <ē> <i> <y> and <ei> <oi> <yi>. (As the original Greek pronunciation of <η> is believed to have been [ɛː], the following example uses the character appropriate for an ancient Greek transliteration or transcription <ē>, an <e> with a macron.) On the other hand, <ευ> is sometimes pronounced [ev] and sometimes [ef], depending on the following sound. A transcription distinguishes them, but this is no requirement for a transliteration.

Note that the letter ‘h’ in both the transcription and transliteration forms should logically be omitted.

Greek Word Transliteration Transcription English Translation
Ελληνική Δημοκρατία Hellēnikē Dēmokratia Eliniki Dhimokratia Hellenic Republic
Ελευθερία Eleutheria Eleftheria Freedom
Ευαγγέλιο Euaggelio Evangelio Gospel
των υιών tōn uiōn ton ion of the sons

 

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