Translating The Righteous Branch: A SFL Analysis of the Translation Technique of LXX Isaiah 11

Cameron Boyd-Taylor has taken the work of Gideon Toury and applied a Descriptive Translation Studies to analyze the translation technique of the Septuagint (Cameron Boyd-Taylor, Reading Between the Lines: The Interlinear Paradigm for Septuagint Studies [Leuven: Peeters, 2011]). He proposes to define the adequacy-acceptability of a translation by analyzing its linguistic well-formedness, textual well-formedness, and literary well-formedness. This paper takes its point of departure at his proposal of textual well-formedness which refers to how well a translation adheres to the discourse features of the target culture. Along these lines, Christopher Fresch has proposed that the analysis of translation technique is one fruitful area for the application of discourse grammar to the Septuagint (“The Septuagint and Discourse Grammar,” in T&T Clark Handbook of Septuagint Research, ed. William A. Ross and W. Edward Glenny [New York: T&T Clark, 2021]).
Furthermore, Aage Hill-Madesn has laid out a framework for utilizing Systemic Functional Linguistics (SFL) to analyze shifts in translation (Aage Hill-Madsen, “SFL and Descriptive Translation Studies: Systemic Functional Grammar as a Framework for Shifts in Translation,” Globe: A Journal of Language, Culture and Communication 10 [2020]: 143–69). He notes that, to analyze translational shifts, a comparative, lexicogrammatical analysis must be performed on both the source and target text so that the “route” taken to arrive at the translation can be analyzed. This analysis must consider shifts in all three metafunctions (interpersonal, textual, and ideational) since a translational change could occur in any three of these metafunctions (or in several at once). Recognizing the SFL began as a description of English, Hill-Madsen does note that a separate model would be required for each specific language pair, therefore the insights and adaptations made to SFL by Stanley Porter (see recently, “Systemic Functional Linguistics and the Greek Language: The Need for Further Modeling,” in Modeling Biblical Language: Selected Papers Form the McMaster Divinity College Linguistics Circle [Leiden; Boston: Brill, 2016]).
This paper, therefore, will utilize SFL to examine the Translation Technique of LXX Isaiah 11 and propose a model for using SFL to analyze LXX Translation Technique. The paper will begin with a methodological explanation of SFL applied to both Greek and Hebrew and propose a model for utilizing SFL to examine shifts from Hebrew to Greek. A metafunctional analysis of Isaiah 11 in Hebrew and Greek respectively will then be provided. Finally the analyses will be compared and shifts in translation will be explained in the SFL model.
As a result of this paper, my readers will: (1) recognize some of the challenges in applying SFL to the study of Hebrew and Greek; (2) Have a more nuanced understanding of translational shifts than a literal-free paradigm provides; and (3) consider a way forward for integrating Systemic Functional Grammar and Descriptive Translation Studies.

8 thoughts on “Translating The Righteous Branch: A SFL Analysis of the Translation Technique of LXX Isaiah 11”

  1. Perhaps too much
    Boyd-Taylor and Toury are out of date and Fresch is definitely not saying the same thing they are! Also, SFL. Finally, I worry that the “explain the method” section would take up most of the paper, rather than the “talk about LXX” section.

  2. Seems to be 3 papers, not 1
    I agree with the problems that Will has already noted about the framing of the discussion from an LXX perspective. Also, having been at McMaster, I’ve had quite a bit of experience with SFL papers. It may be that a solid contribution can be made with it, but I have yet to hear/read an SFL paper that doesn’t spend the vast majority of the discussion trying to explain SFL to the audience. Again, a point that Will has already made, but a concern that I would reiterate and highlight. Thus, my shared concern that he actually is trying to do too much here.

  3. Kitchen sink
    I agree that Graham is trying to throw way too much in this paper. That will probably make each part of it way too thin to be both accurate and helpful. I don’t mind a paper from a self-conscious linguistic perspective (even SFL), but one of my fears that that those doing LXX studies but not modern linguistics will feel like (1) SFL is too difficult to grasp, and (2) the presentation was a waste of time.

    • follow up thought
      Two more thoughts:
      1. I was surprised at the typos/misspellings in the proposal. I would think he’d like to have cleaned those up prior to submitting to a committee. 🙁
      2. Most papers that compare chunks of text (like a chapter of the Hebrew and Greek texts) aren’t easy to follow, especially if the presenter doesn’t have helpful handouts or slides. Most who attend will not have spent time working through the Hebrew text of Isaiah 11, then the Greek text of Isaiah 11. So unless they are able to sight-read these texts, the speed with which the comparisons are drawn will be very difficult to grasp, and so assessing the conclusions will likewise be difficult. I’ve often felt like such presentations become pointless for those in attendance.

  4. Overall agreement with comments; Dissatisfied with the proposal
    I agree with the assessments above.
    The proposal lacks the focus required for a session devoted to the Septuagint. My questions:
    (1) How does Daniel’s approach help us and previous researchers interact with Isaiah 11 afresh?
    (2) Is Daniel building upon, critiquing, evaluating, or reflecting on previous proposals regarding Isaiah 11 and the use of DTS in Greek Isaiah translation technique?
    (3) There doesn’t seem to be a thesis (even an implicit one) driving the project overall.


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