TIC Talk 55, 2003

Newsletter of the United Bible Societies Translation Information Clearinghouse

Article: Iconicity and Metaphor in Sign Languages: Recent Studies, by Sarah Lind
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Iconicity and Metaphor in Sign Languages: Recent Studies

by Sarah Lind

In TT 54, research on sociolinguistic aspects of sign languages was briefly summarized. This second article on SLs looks at studies of some of the linguistics resources of SLs, American Sign Language (ASL) in particular.

While sign languages (SLs) have long been recognized as being highly iconic, with signs bearing some kind of resemblance to the concepts they refer to, it is only within the last 5-10 years that the nature and interplay of iconic and metaphorical signs have been systematically examined. This article reviews some of the recent work, particularly that of Wilcox and Taub.

Up to the middle of the 20th century, SLs of the Deaf were widely believed to be unordered gestures and pantomime, lacking a structure or communicative capability comparable to spoken languages. Signs could only mime concrete objects in the immediate world of the signer, and could not represent abstractions. Unless deaf people learned a real, i.e., spoken, language, they would not develop intellectually nor be able to communicate beyond a very superficial level.

While nobody tried to deny that iconicity played a crucial role in the creation of the signs of SLs, linguistic work on SLs from the 60s to the 80s tended to downplay its significance, not only because of entrenched negative attitudes about signs as pantomime, but also because the structuralist principles of the arbitrariness of the sign and the autonomy of the language system were fundamental in the formal linguistics of the time.

With the advent of functional and cognitive linguistics, sign linguists found a more congenial framework to work in--one that allowed unapologetic exploration of all aspects of the languages they studied and in particular the relationship between form and meaning. Functionalists were beginning to look seriously at the role of iconicity in languages in general (e.g., Haiman, Givón), and cognitive linguistics viewed "form and meaning as integrated on every level of linguistic structure" making it "well suited for treating issues of linguistic motivation" (Taub, 230). At the same time (early 80s), Lakoff and Johnson's work on conceptual metaphor introduced a way of thinking about metaphor that dovetailed with issues of iconicity.

These developments contributed to the intense and productive attention to iconicity and metaphor in SLs in the 90s. The list of references shows work in Japanese Sign Language (Ogawa, Herlofsky, Veale), British Sign Language (Brennan, Woll), Italian Sign Language (Pietrandrea, Pizzuto, et al., Cameracanna, Russo), French Sign Language (Bouvet), and ASL (S. Wilcox, Emmorey, Grushkin, Marschark, Wilbur, Okrent, O'Brien).

The focus of this survey is the work of two authors whose aim is to clarify the relationship of iconicity and metaphor in ASL: Phyllis Wilcox's Metaphor in American Sign Language (2000) and Sarah Taub's Language from the Body: Iconicity and Metaphor in American Sign Language (2001). Both ground their approach in cognitive linguistics and Lakoff & Johnson's ideas about experientially based metaphorical mapping; and most important, both authors demonstrate how gestural languages, through metaphorical use of iconic signs, communicate abstract concepts, a capability that had been disputed for at least the last century.


Taub devotes the first part of her book to describing types of iconicity in both signed and spoken modalities. She sketches a three-step analogue-building model for the creation of linguistic iconic forms: the first step is the selection of a mental image that is associated with the original concept. The mental image is then schematized--essential features are picked out and unnecessary ones dropped. Finally, the schema is encoded, using the appropriate and available resources of the language.

Naturally, a visual modality will be able to encode iconically many more visual and kinesthetic images than an oral modality will sound images. Turning the tables on the traditional view of iconicity in language, Taub, along with quite a few others by now, suggests that "languages are as iconic as possible, given the constraints of their modality" (61).

In other words, when it comes to the reasons that a SL produces so many iconic forms, the first simple answer is, "because it can!" (Fischer, 206). Another reason mentioned by Fischer & Müller (3) is that SLs may not grammaticalize as rapidly as spoken languages--most signers do not have signing parents--so the language must be recreolized in every generation. Thus, it may be that the persistent iconicity of sign languages is due in part to sociolinguistic factors (see TT 54), counteracting the kind of tendencies noted by Frishberg.

The particular instance of structure-preserving mapping of meaning onto form shown in the model above is a shape-for-shape encoding. The shape of the branching leafy part of the tree schema corresponds to the shape of the hand and fingers, the shape of the trunk to the vertical forearm, and the ground to the horizontal forearm. But SLs can encode schemata iconically in a variety of ways. Taub (67-90) identifies nine types of such encoding in ASL:

1. Physical entities can represent themselves (e.g., direct deixis, where the referent is present and indicated in a conventional way).

2. The shape of the articulators represents the shape of the referent (e.g., TREE in ASL).

3. The movement of the articulators represents the movement of the referent, or path-for-path iconicity (e.g., signing the person classifier and moving it upward in a zigzag path represents the movement of a person going up a winding path)

4. The shape of the articulators' path represents the shape of the referent, or path-for-shape (e.g., in Danish SL the shape of the tree is outlined for the sign TREE).

5. Locations in signing space represent locations in mental space, or space-for-space. Although there is much discussion about the uses of signing space-for example, the problem of distinguishing between gesture and linguistic sign--there are clear examples, such as the description of a room, where the use of signing space maps spatial relationships in the mental image.

6. The size of articulation represents the size of the referent, whether relative or absolute.

7. The number of articulators represents the number of referents--number-for-number. For example, the sign in #3 for winding one's way up a hill might be signed with the classifier person (fist with index finger extended vertically) for one person, but with the addition of the middle finger to indicate two people. In this case the second finger is both classifier and number.

8. The temporal ordering of signing represents temporal ordering of events. This is a type of iconicity that is shared with spoken languages. In narrative, for example, events are typically recounted in the order that they occurred.

9. Signing represents signing, or "quoted signing." This might occasion a series of mappings as the signer shifts roles from one person in a reported dialogue to another, assuming the relative spatial locations of each, creating a different mapping of the imagined space onto the signing space.

The variety of devices for encoding a schema accounts in part for the fact that iconic items, while motivated, are language-specific. The method of encoding "tree" in DSL is very different from that of ASL, yet both are recognizably iconic.

With this inventory for creating iconic linguistic items and the notion of mapping to build analogues of concepts, Taub has a basis for modeling the creation of metaphor in ASL. Her focus is on conceptual metaphors, which, as described by Lakoff & Johnson, involve a schematic mapping from a source experientially-based domain to a target abstract conceptual domain. She combines the model for mapping iconic items and the cognitive model for mapping metaphors to produce what she describes as a "double-mapping." There is the metaphorical mapping from a concrete to an abstract domain, and the iconic mapping from the concrete source domain to its linguistic form.

Taub's treatment of mapping stands out for its attention to the identification of all its elements. She provides tables of mappings for all the metaphors discussed in detail, and describes a well-constructed table of a mapping as follo

The essential elements of a mapping include a list of entities (people, things, concepts), relationships, and actions or scenarios from the source domain; a similar list from the target domain; a statement of how the elements in each list correspond to each other; and ... metaphorical expressions that exemplify (and thus justify) each correspondence. (95)

Taub gives numerous examples of signs that incorporate one or more conceptual metaphors. For example, the sign SAD draws on the metaphor GOOD IS UP (the sign has a downward movement), while the sign for HAPPY incorporates two metaphors: GOOD IS UP (upward movement), and THE LOCUS OF EMOTION IS THE CHEST (place of articulation is the chest).


In her review of the literature on metaphor in SLs (ch. 2), Wilcox's primary purpose is to show how notions of iconicity and metaphor have been confused. At times metaphorical signs have been identified as metonymic, and at others iconic signs have been labeled metaphorical. For example, as a result of a vague use of terminology, the relation between the fingers and branching in the sign TREE has been called metaphorical. The fingers were described as "symbolically representing" branching, and this symbolic representation was deemed metaphorical. Wilcox emphasizes the importance of defining a source domain and a target domain, as well as unidirectionality from source to target, in order to identify metaphor. In this, she paves the way for Taub's meticulous mappings.

Another, related, way in which Wilcox has laid the groundwork for Taub's analysis is her exploration of the distinctions between other tropes in ASL and metaphor. She devotes a chapter to simile and metonymy, analyzing simple examples of each and also complex examples that incorporate metaphor. One of the latter is the use that is made of the basic sign SPEAK. Wilcox analyzes the sign as follows (94-95): The small circling movements made by the index finger indicate the breath coming from the speaker's mouth. It is a metonym for the speech produced by a person. The same sign can also be glossed as HEARING-PERSON, where the act of speaking has come to represent metonymically the person doing the speaking. Wilcox continues, "in turn, another metonym is derived when the word representing the hearing person is also used to represent the thoughts and culture of such a person." When the sign is moved to the forehead, it takes on a metaphorical value. HEARING-PERSON becomes THINK-HEARING, or "think and act like a hearing person" (a derogatory expression). The sign does not refer to speech, or a hearing person, or the culture and values of a hearing person. It refers to the behavior and values of a deaf individual.

Examining the basic conceptual metaphor ideas are objects, Wilcox demonstrates how ASL fleshes out the metaphor in specific metaphorical expressions. "When ASL informants articulate expressions from the same general class of metaphor, they use different classifier handshape morphemes, depending on the similarities between the source and target domains that a particular instantiation is highlighting or hiding" (110). Previous research had identified 18 distinct "handle" classifiers (handshapes that relate to the way objects are moved and handled). Three such classifiers play an important part in the nuanced conceptualizations of the ideas are objects metaphor:


1. IDEAS ARE OBJECTS TO MANIPULATED OR PLACED: The flat O handle classifier suggests the manipulation of a flat, thin object. While the size and shape of the object handled is an important feature, with this basic metaphor, "the key semantic referent in the function--manipulation--rather than the shape..." (112) This handshape is used in the sign TEACH: take objects from the head and pass them to a recipient.

2. IDEAS ARE OBJECTS TO BE GRASPED: The A classifier (fist) is an iconic sign, mapping the concept of holding on to a material substance. Metaphorically, it is used for holding onto abstract ideas or memories, as in the sign MEMORIZE.

3. IDEAS ARE OBJECTS TO BE CAREFULLY DISCRIMINATED/SELECTED: The F classifier is used metaphorically in the sign SELECT, and other similar signs. The concept of the exertion of fine motor control maps onto the concept of careful selection of thoughts.

                                 a  f  g

An understanding of how metaphors work in SLs is "vital to the analysis of iconicity in sign languages in that they allow for the scope of iconic signs to be extended beyond the concrete to abstract concepts" (Herlofsky 42), and in turn, SLs provide us with an excellent visualization of conceptual metaphors, many of which are shared with spoken languages. In these two books, Taub and Wilcox bring out the richness and complexity of metaphor in ASL, and at the same time make a valuable contribution to the discussion of iconicity and metaphor generally.

In his TTW presentation on the Auslan Bible translation project, John Harris noted the importance of having found outstanding signers for the work. Just as spoken language projects need translators with an excellent command of the resources of their language, sign language projects need signers who interact creatively with the iconic and metaphorical resources of their language.


Bellugi, Ursula, and Edward Klima. 1976. "Two Faces of Sign: Iconic and Abstract." In Origins and Evolution of Language and Speech, edited by S. Harnad, H. Steklis, and J. Lancaster, 514-538. New York Academy of Sciences.

Bouvet, Danielle. 1997. Le corps et la métaphore dans les langues gestuelles : à la recherche des modes de production des signes. L'Harmattan.

Brennan, Mary. 1997. "See What I Mean? Exploiting BSL Visual Encoding in Teaching and Learning." Empower '97: International Conference on Deaf Education. http://www.ssc.mhie.ac.uk/docs/maryb.html

Cameracanna, Emanuela, et al. 1994. "How Visual Spatial-Temporal Metaphors of Speech Become Visible in Sign." In Perspectives on Sign Language Structure: Papers from the Fifth International Symposium on Sign Language Research. Vol. 1; Held in Salamanca, Spain, 25-30 May 1992, edited by I. Ahlgren, B. Bergman, and M. Brennan, 55-68. Isla.

Emmorey, Karen. 2002. "Mental Imagery and Embodied Cognition: Insights from Sign Language Research." Journal of Mental Imagery 26: 50-53.

Fischer, Olga, and Wolfgang G. Müller. 2003. "Introduction: From Signing Back to Signs." In From Sign to Signing, 1-20.

Fischer, S.D. 2000. "More Than Just Handwaving: The Mutual Contributions of Sign Language and Linguistics." In The Signs of Language Revisited: An Anthology in Honor of Ursula Bellugi and Edward Klima, edited by K. Emmorey and H. Lane, 195-213. Lawrence Erlbaum.

Frishberg, Nancy. 1975. "Arbitrariness and Iconicity: Historical Change in American Sign Language." Language 51: 696-719.

From Sign to Signing: Iconicity in Language and Literature 3. Symposium on Iconicity in Language and Literature (3rd: 2001: Jena, Germany). 2003. Edited by W.G. Müller and O. Fischer. Benjamins.

Grote, Klaudia, and Erika Linz. 2003. "The Influence of Sign Language Iconicity on Semantic Conceptualization." In From Sign to Signing, 23-40.

Grushkin, Donald A. 1998. "Linguistic Aspects of Metaphorical Expressions of Anger in ASL." Sign Language and Linguistics 1/2: 143-168.

Herlofsky, William J. 2003. "What You See is What You Get: Iconicity and Metaphor in the Visual Language of Written and Signed Poetry: A Cognitive Poetic Approach." In From Sign to Signing, 41-61.

Klima, Edward, and Ursula Bellugi. 1979. The Signs of Language. Harvard University Press.

Liddell, Scott K. 2003. Grammar, Gesture, and Meaning in American Sign Language. Cambridge University Press.

Marschark, Marc. In press. "Metaphor in Sign Language and Sign Language and Sign Language Users: A Window Into Relations of Language and Thought." In Figurative Language Comprehension: Social and Cultural Influences, edited by H. Colston and A.N. Katz. Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.

McNeill, David. 1992. Hand and Mind: What Gestures Reveal about Thought. University of Chicago Press.

Ogawa, Yuko. 1999. "Vertical Scale Metaphors in Japanese and Japanese Sign Language." Ph. D. diss., Gallaudet University.

Okrent, Arika. 1997. "The Productive Use of Conceptual Metaphor in ASL: How Form and Meaning Can Be Connected without the Bond of Convention." In Communication Forum 1997, edited by M. Rose. Gallaudet University School of Communication.

O'Brien, Jennifer. 1999. "Metaphoricity in the Signs of American Sign Language." Metaphor and Symbol 14/3: 159-177.

Pietrandrea, Paola. 2002. "Iconicity and Arbitrariness in Italian Sign Language." Sign Language Studies 2/3: 296-321.

Pizzuto, Elena, et al. 1995. "Terms for Spatio-Temporal Relations in Italian Sign Language." In Iconicity in Language, edited by R. Simone, 237-256. Benjamins.

Russo, T. 2000. "Iconicità e metafora nella LIS." Ph. D. diss., Università degli Studi di Palermo.

Taub, Sarah F. 2001. Language from the Body: Iconicity and Metaphor in American Sign Language. Cambridge University Press.

Veale, Tony. "Conceptual Scaffolding and Spatial Metaphor in Sign Language." http://www.compapp.dcu.ie/~tonyv/papers/sign.html

Wilbur, Ronnie B. 1990. "Metaphors in American Sign Language and English." In SLR´87: Papers from the Fourth International Symposium on Sign Language Research. Lappeenranta, Finland July 15-19, 1987, edited by W.H. Edmondson and F. Karlsson, 163-170. Signum.

Wilcox, Phyllis Perrin. 2000. Metaphor in American Sign Language. Gallaudet University Press.

Wilcox, Sherman, et al. 2001. "Conceptual Metonymies in Three Signed Languages." Presented at the 7th International Cognitive Linguistics Conference, University of California-Santa Barbara.

Woll, Bencie. 1985. "Visual Imagery and Metaphor in British Sign Language." In The Ubiquity of Metaphor: Metaphor in Language and Thought, edited by W. Paprotté and R. Dirven, 601-628. Benjamins.

Credits: Diagram based on Taub; ASL and DSL TREE sketches from Klima & Bellugi; ASL sketch and handshapes photos from Wilcox. Fingerspelling font is Gallaudet.

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Bible Translation


Meira Polliack. 2002. "Karaite Translation Techniques in the Arabic Rendering of Biblical Narrative According to Genesis 2:15-25." In Studies in Bible and Exegesis, Vol VI, 217-234. R. Kasher and M. Zipor, eds. Bar-Ilan University Press. The medieval Karaites developed interpretive methods in their Arabic Bible translations that reflected their understanding of the ways in which biblical narrative unfolds. The major part of the article is devoted to a review of some basic Karaite techniques used in the rendering of specific syntactic, lexical, and textual features of biblical narrative, including the translation methods of the waw consecutive, lexical repetition, and ellipsis. (Hebrew, from pub. abstr.)

Helsinki Perspectives on the Translation Technique of the Septuagint. 2001. R. Sollamo and S. Sipilä, eds. Finnish Exegetical Society; Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht. Proceedings of the 1999 IOSCS Congress in Helsinki. Papers include "Translation techniques and beyond," T. Muraoka; "Two methodological trails in recent studies on the translation technique of the Septuagint," B. Lemmelijn; "Some unusual translation techniques employed by the Greek translator(s) of Proverbs," J. de Waard; "Ideology and translation technique," J. Cook.

Cornelius G. den Hertog. 2002. "The Contribution of the Daughter Translations to the Lexicography of the Septuagint with Special Emphasis on the Sahidic Translation of Deuteronomy 1-10." Journal of Northwest Semitic Languages 28/1:57-67. Daughter translations of the LXX tend to interpret the text they are translating, showing how their authors understood particular Greek words and constructions. Several examples from the Sahidic translation of Deut 1-10 are discussed, with the conclusion that in some, though not all, cases the Sahidic translation may be of help for the lexicographer of the Septuagint. (from pub. abstr.)

Siegfried Kreuzer. 2001 (appeared 2003). "A German Translation of the Septuagint." Bulletin of the International Organization for Septuagint and Cognate Studies 34:40-46. Gives background about the project, and discusses its goals and principles of operation.


Bodil Ejrnæs. 2001. "Den Nye Danske Bibeloversættelse - Dens Modtagelse Og Anvendelse." Svensk Exegetisk Årsbok 66:25-37. E. deals with the reception and use of the 1992 Danish translation, carried out mainly by exegetes from theological faculties. The crucial issues in public reception had to do with the relationship between an ecclesiastical authorized and a scholarly translation, and the relationship between tradition and innovation as to biblical language. (from pub. abstr.)

Chaya M. Burstein. 2002. The Kids Cartoon Bible. Jewish Publication Society. B. presents the Jewish Bible in a 130-page cartoon book for children (in English). A description and review is available at http://www.jhsonline.org (Journal of Hebrew Scriptures, Vol 4).

Stanley Malless and Jeffrey McQuain. 2003. Coined by God: Words and Phrases That First Appear in the English Translations of the Bible. Norton. Provides a list of 130 entries, with meanings and sources, of words and phrases first published in English translations of the Bible that became part of general usage. M. & M. also coauthored The Elements of English and Coined by Shakespeare.

W. Creighton Marlowe. 2002/2003. "'Hell' as a Translation of lw)#$ in the Hebrew Bible: De-Hellenizing the KJV and NKJV Old Testaments." Asbury Theological Journal 57-58/2-1:5-23. M. evaluates the translation of sheol in the KJV and NKJV, concluding that "none of the nineteen contexts... where lw)#$ is translated 'hell' by the NKJV (eighteen of which have 'hell' in the KJV also) is supportive of that translation. In each case... the author uses lw)#$ for the concept of the grave or death."

Leland Ryken. 2002. The Word of God in English: Criteria for Excellence in Bible Translation. Crossway Books. R., known for his work on literary criticism of the Bible and a member of the English Standard Version translation committee, takes as his purpose "to define the translation principles that make for the best English Bible translation." (9) He concludes that "only an essentially literal translation of the Bible can achieve sufficiently high standards in terms of literary criteria and fidelity to the original text. Concomitantly, I have ended with a deep-seated distrust of how dynamic equivalent translations treat the biblical text." (10) Chapters are grouped in five parts: Lessons from overlooked sources (literature, ordinary discourse, history of translation); Common fallacies of translation (about the Bible, translation, and Bible readers); Theological, ethical, and hermeneutical issues; Modern translations: problems and their solution; Criteria for excellence in an English Bible (fidelity to the words of the original, effective diction: clarity, vividness, connotation, ambiguity, respect for the principles of poetry, effective rhythm, exaltation and beauty). C. John Collins contributes an appendix "Without form, you lose meaning."

Adam Nicolson. 2003. Power and Glory: Jacobean England and the Making of the King James Bible. HarperCollins. N. gives an account of the accession and ambition of the first Stuart king, James, and of the scholars who labored for seven years to create his Bible, placing the translation in its historical context. The American title is God's Secretaries: The Making of the King James Bible.

La Bible en français. Guide des traductions courantes. 2002. J. Auwers, et al. Lumen Vitae. In this guide different writers evaluate a range of French translations, including six study Bibles: Pléïade, Jérusalem, Osty, TOB, Nouvelle Segond, and La Bible d'Alexandrie (translation of LXX); Bibles for popular use: Maredsous, La Bible Pastorale, Français Courant, Parole de Vie, La Bible des Peuples, and La Traduction liturgique de la Bible; and others: Bayard, Chouraqui, Beaumont, and La Bible du Rabbinat. Also in the guide are general chapters on Bible translation, and the history of the translation of the Bible into French.

Christiane Nord. 2003. "Function and Loyalty in Bible Translation." In Apropos of Ideology: Translation Studies on Ideology - Ideologies in Translation Studies, 89-112. M. Calzada Pérez, ed. St. Jerome. N., who recently collaborated with K. Berger in a German translation of the NT (1999), analyzes the influence of both translational and theological ideologies, illustrating with examples from her own and other Bible translations in English, Spanish, French, Italian and Portuguese. In the same volume: "Third ways and new centres: Ideological unity or difference?" C. Schäffner; and "Ideology and the position of the translator - In what sense is a translator 'in between?'" Maria Tymoczko.

Bonilla, Plutarco. 2002. "El Nuevo Testamento. La Biblia Textual Reina-Valera. Reseña critica." Revista Bíblica 64/1-2:89-122. B. critiques statements in the introduction to the 2001 Biblia textual Reina-Valera, and looks at the translation and notes, focusing on Matthew. He identifies problems concerning the base text, matters of consistency, dogmatic interpretations, exegesis, and disparities between theory and practice.

Bertil Albrektson. 2001. "Gamla Testamentet på Svenska under det gångna Seklet." Svensk Exegetisk Årsbok 66:13-24. "The OT in Swedish during the past century." The 1703, 1917, and 1999 Swedish translations of the OT are characterized and compared with regard to textual criticism, Hebrew philology, and Swedish style. The first was essentially a Swedish version of Luther's Bible, the second an uncritical translation of the Masoretic text, with the most recent being the first to rely on text-critical material and methods in an attempt to arrive at a Hebrew original which is as genuine as possible. (from the pub. abstr.)

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Biblical Studies


Tübingen Bible Atlas. 2001. S. Mittman and G. Schmitt, eds. Deutsche Bibelgesellschaft. 29 detailed maps, based on the Tübinger Atlas of the Near and Middle East (TAVO), cover every biblical era. Some maps have been revised to be more relevant to biblical scholars and a new map focusing on the archeology and history of Sinai has been added. $120 at discount distributors.

Danker, Frederick W. 2003. Multipurpose Tools for Bible Study. Fortress Press. This is essentially the same as the 1993 edition, but comes with a cd-rom of the contents (Libronix format) that includes updated bibliography and web links to related material. $26 pub

Philip Harland. 2003. Associations, Synagogues, and Congregations: Claiming a Place in Ancient Mediterranean Society. Fortress. H. surveys various forms of guilds and associations in the eastern Roman empire. His reexamination of ancient inscriptions reveals insights about the formation, operation, and functions of congregations and synagogues within the larger framework of voluntary associations in the Roman world.

Edesio Sánchez has published two recent books: a commentary on Deuteronomy, Deuteronomio: Introducción y comentario (Ediciones Kairós, 2002), in the series Comentario Bíblico Iberoamericano, and ¿Qué es la Biblia? Respuestas desde las ciencias bíblicas (Ediciones Kairós, 2003).

James M. Scott. 2002. Geography in Early Judaism and Christianity: The Book of Jubilees. Cambridge University Press. S. traces the appropriation of the Book of Jubilees in early Christian sources, focusing on the reception of Jubilees 8-9, an expansion of the Table of Nations in Genesis 10 (1 Chronicles 1). The book takes an interdisciplinary approach based on analysis of primary sources, and explores the topic of ancient geographical conceptions, relating Jubilees to both Old and New Testament traditions.

Richard G. Walsh. 2001. Mapping Myths of Biblical Interpretation. Sheffield. Walsh explores the role that myth has played in the interpretation of the Bible, examining the word's various meanings, its use in various disciplines, its distinctive uses in biblical interpretation, and the mythic character of interpretation.

Bible and Computer: The Stellenbosch AIBI-6 Conference. 2002. J. Cook, ed. Brill. Proceedings of the Association Internationale Bible et Informatique "From Alpha to Byte," held at the University of Stellenbosch 17-21 July, 2000. Some titles: "Towards a computer-assisted classification of discourse types in the Psalms," L. Vegas Montaner; "Semantic domains for Biblical Hebrew," R. de Blois; "Towards a computer-assisted classification of discourse types in the Proto-Isaiah," G. Seijas de los Ríos-Zarzosa; "Parameters for stylistic analysis of Biblical Hebrew prose texts," F. Polak; "Towards a computer-assisted classification of discourse types in Amos," F. del Barco; "Le jardinier or le gardien? Who did Mary think she met in the garden? (lexical comparison of nouns in modern French translation of John 18.1-20.31)," E. Bladh; "Old Church Slavonic versions of the Gospels. Computer-aided classification and the choice of variants," D. Nikolaenko.

Biblical Languages


Sue Groom. 2003. Linguistic Analysis of Biblical Hebrew. Paternoster. Considers textual transmission, diachronic and dialectical variation, and the impact these have on the relationship between reader, author, and text. Combines a critical account of long-established approaches to Hebrew meaning with an introduction to more recent methods, such as lexical semantics and textlinguistics.

Jacobus A. Naudé. 2002. "Words in a Cultural Context. The Case of Biblical Hebrew Lexicography." Old Testament Essays 15/2:417-434. N. sees BH lexicography as the vehicle for providing cultural as well as strictly lexical information about the meanings of words. He demonstrates with an analysis of derived forms of the root #$dq.


M. Wilson. 2003. Mastering New Testament Greek Vocabulary Through Semantic Domains. Kregel. with J. Oden. Groups about 4000 NT vocabulary items in semantic domains to facilitate learning, using Louw and Nida's categories. Words are supplied with English glosses and frequency statistics.


The Changing Face of Form Criticism for the Twenty-First Century. 2003. M.A. Sweeney and E. Ben Zvi, eds. Eerdmans. 19 essays that examine patterns and trends currently emerging in the practice of form criticism.

Old Testament Essays (2002) 15/1. F. Klopper, ed. This issue contains papers from a 2001 conference on gender sponsored by the Old Testament Society of South Africa. The theme of the conference was "Suffering bodies in religious discourses" addressing the question of how religious discourses, particularly biblical, have been inscribed upon suffering bodies and whether these discourses have the potential for liberation. The papers cover a wide range of approaches. Some titles: "The female imagery in the book of Hosea. Considering the marriage metaphor in Hosea 1-2 by listening to female voices," W. Boshoff; "Gendering in/by the Hebrew Bible - ten years later," A. Brenner; "Does changing the metaphor liberate? On the 'fatherhood' of God," P. Nel; "The woman metaphor of Ezekiel 16 and 23: A victim of violence, or a symbol of subversion?" J. Stiebert. Other texts include Judges 19-21, Judith, Exo 1.1-2.10, Esther, Gen 3.16, Ruth, 2 Kings 5, Num 12.1-16, and Genesis 34.

Magic and Divination in the Ancient World. 2002. L. Ciraolo and J. Seidel, eds. Brill. Ten papers from a 1994 interdisciplinary conference on Magic and Divination in the Ancient World held at the University of California at Berkeley survey Mesopotamian, Hittite, Egyptian, Greek, Roman divinatory practices. A number of articles include discussion of 1 Samuel 28, the story of the necromancer of Endor.

Ernst Wendland. 2002. Analyzing the Psalms. SIL. 2nd edition (paper, orig. pub. 1998). The new edition includes corrections and revision. Available through SIL International and Eisenbrauns for about $24.

Knut Martin Heim. 2001. Like Grapes of Gold Set in Silver : An Interpretation of Proverbial Clusters in Proverbs 10:1-22:16. Walter de Gruyter. In H.'s analysis, where he devotes more than two hundred pages to the delimitation, exegesis, and analysis of Proverbs 10-22, the primary criteria for the delimitation of proverbial clusters are linking devices--repetition of sound and sense: consonants, word roots, words, synonyms, etc.

Hanna Liss. 2003. "Undisclosed Speech: Patterns of Communication in the Book of Isaiah." Journal of Hebrew Scriptures. L. identifies a lack of communicational equivalence between the prophet and his contemporaries created by the "command not to comprehend" (Isaiah 6). Several modes of language are relevant to the topic of non-comprehension: the use and function of metaphoric language as an instrument of defamiliarization; use of quotations; and creation of an alternate theo-political realm, a kind of Judean counterpropaganda. Available at http://www.jhsonline.org

Kevin L. Spawn. 2002. 'As It Is Written' and Other Citation Formulae in the Old Testament: Their Use, Development, Syntax, and Significance. Walter de Gruyter. (BZAW 311) In this examination of citation formulas, S. focuses on the careful identification of the referents of citation bases as a basis for the study of inner-biblical exegesis. Further insights are offered on the development of such exegetical devices, the hermeneutics of the post-exilic community, and the syntax of comparative statements in Hebrew.

Ernst Wendland. 2002. "Song from the Seabed--How Sweet Does It Sound? Aspects of the Style, Structure, and Transmission of Jonah's 'Psalm.'" Journal for Semitics 11/2:211-244. W. looks at the literary qualities of Jonah 2, locating it within the organization and development of the surrounding discourse, and considers options for conveying the psalm in a functionally equivalent manner for a contemporary audience, illustrating with the ndakatulo genre of Chichewa lyric poetry.

Ernst Wendland. 2002. "'How to Answer a Fool': The Wisdom of Rhetoric and the Rhetoric of Wisdom in Proverbs 26:1-12, with Special Reference to Bible Translation." Old Testament Essays 15/2:504-538. In an analysis of the rhetorical structure and style of this Proverbs passage, W. explores the double challenge of understanding wisdom literature in its sociocultural context, and conveying the import of its discourse to a modern audience in its own sociocultural context, specifically, in a translation into the Chichewa language and poetic tradition.

Carmel McCarthy. 2002. "Masoretic Undertones in the Song of Moses." Proceedings of the Irish Biblical Association 25:29-44. There were very specific rabbinic and later medieval traditions for copying the Song of Moses (Deut 32.1-43) in 84 lines. On the other hand, at an earlier phase of its textual transmission, there were interventions that sought to make the text conform to the norms of orthodoxy and midrashic hermeneutics, both at the consonantal level and later at the level of accentuation.


Handbook of Early Christianity: Social Science Approaches. 2002. A. Blasi, J. Duhaim, and P.-A. Turcotte, eds. AltaMira. A wide-ranging collection of 27 essays providing background on the application of social scientific approaches to the study of the NT and Early Christianity. Includes E. Wendland on rhetorical analysis of NT texts.

New Testament Writers and the Old Testament: An Introduction. 2002. J. Court, ed. SPCK. Supplies a list of OT quotations in the NT, and a reverse list of NT passages containing OT quotations, as well as chapters on the use of quotations by specific NT writers.

Byron R. McCane. 2003. Roll Back the Stone: Death and Burial in the World of Jesus. Trinity Press International. M. uses the results of archeological field work to help describe characteristics of Jewish, Christian, and pagan burial practices between 63 BCE and
135 CE.

R. Timothy McLay. 2003. The Use of the Septuagint in New Testament Research. Eerdmans. In this book-length treatment (cf. article noted in TT 54), M. explores the extent of the LXX's impact on the text and theology of the NT by analyzing NT citations, and offers basic principles for bridging the research gap between the two texts.

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Translation, Linguistics

Crosscultural Transgressions: Research Models in Translation Studies II: Historical and Ideological Issues. 2002. T. Hermans, ed. St. Jerome. A companion volume, Intercultural Faultlines: Research Models in Translation Studies I: Textual and Cognitive Aspects, M. Olohan, ed., was published in 2000. The two volumes present a picture of the discipline of Translation Studies. Contributions assess the strengths and weaknesses of different models, discussing difficulties of and methods for collecting and analyzing data in specific areas such as dialogue interpreting and historical research, and raising the overall question of ethics in investigating cross-cultural communication. A number of individual case studies are also presented in detail, focusing on issues of methodology.

Translation Studies: Perspectives on an Emerging Discipline. 2002. A. Riccardi, ed. Cambridge University Press. 13 essays provide a range of perspectives on the state of the art in TS. Some titles: "Translation as interpretation," A. Bühler; "Translation and interpretation," A. Riccardi; "Universality versus culture specificity in translation," J. House; "Translation and linguistics: what does the future hold?" K. Malmkjær; "Text linguistics and literary translation," L. Merlini Barbaresi; "The difference that translation makes: the translator's unconscious," L. Venuti.

Jeremy Munday. 2001. Introducing Translation Studies: Theories and Applications. Routledge. An introductory textbook providing an overview of the key issues in and contributions to translation theory. A wide variety of text types is analyzed, including a tourist brochure, a children's cookbook, a Harry Potter novel, the Bible, literary reviews, a technical text, and a football report. Some chapter titles: Equivalence and equivalent effect; The translation shift approach; Functional theories of translation; Discourse and register analysis approaches; Systems theories; Varieties of cultural studies; Translating the foreign: the (in)visibility of translation; Philosophical theories of translation.

John Sallis. 2002. On Translation. Indiana University Press. In his philosophical exploration of translation, S. approaches translation from four directions: from an idea of universal translatability; from a scene of translation by Shakespeare, in which the range of senses of translation is played out; from the question of the force of words; and from the representation of untranslatability in painting and music. Drawing on Jakobson, Gadamer, Benjamin, and Derrida, Sallis shows how the classical concept of translation has undergone mutation and deconstruction.

* * * * *

Applied Metacognition. 2002. T.J. Perfect and B.L. Schwartz, eds. Cambridge University Press. Essays give an overview of the relation between theories in metacognition (how we monitor and control our mental processes) and their application in real-world situations. Chapters cover metacognition in three areas of application: education, everyday life memory, and different populations. Some of topics covered are how we judge our own learning, why we create false beliefs about our past, how children learn to monitor and control their memory, how well eyewitnesses can judge the accuracy of their own memories and how memory judgements change across the lifespan.

Keith Stenning. 2002. Seeing Reason: Image and Language in Learning to Think. Oxford University Press. Addresses the question of how the mind responds to different ways of presenting the same information, especially in learning, reasoning, and communicating, in order to develop a theory of the cognitive effects of the modality of information presentation.

Language in the Twenty-First Century. 2003. H. Tonkin and T. Reagan, eds. Benjamins. Essays consider the future of languages in an increasingly globalized world, discussing the rapidly changing role of English, the decline and death of small languages, the international use of constructed languages, and the role of scholarship in influencing the future.

Language Death and Language Maintenance: Theoretical, Practical, and Descriptive Approaches. 2003. M. Janse and S. Tol, eds. Benjamins. Essays include overviews of language endangerment in Africa, Eurasia, and the Greater Pacific Area, as well as descriptive case studies of endangered languages from various language families.

Charles D. Yang. 2002. Knowledge and Learning in Natural Language. Oxford University Press. Y. approaches language acquisition from the inspiration of population and variational thinking in biological evolution. He defends the proposition that "language acquisition be modeled as a population of 'grammars,' competing to match the external linguistic experiences, much in the manner of natural selection." (p.4)

AILA Review (2003) 16. "Africa and Applied Linguistics." S. Makoni and U.H. Meinhof, eds. Benjamins. A collection of articles treating sociolinguistic issues in Africa, beginning with "Introducing applied linguistics in Africa," by the editors. Some other titles: "Language ideology and politics: A critical appraisal of French as second official language in Nigeria." by T. Omoniyi, "The democratisation of indigenous languages: The case of Malawi." by T. Moyo, "Classroom codeswitching in post-colonial contexts: Functions, attitudes and policies." by G. Ferguson.

Vincent Tanda. 2002. "The Role of the Computer in the Development of African Languages." Babel 48/3:235-246. T. reexamines the need for the development and standardization of unwritten African languages given current demands of linguistic theory and science and technology, and discusses areas in which the computer would be useful in such an endeavour, e.g., the grouping of nouns into their proper classes and lexicographic or terminological compilation.

Alexandra Y. Aikhenvald. 2002. Language Contact in Amazonia. Oxford University Press. Demonstrates, through examples from Amazonia with a special focus on the multilingual area of the Vaupés, how contact-induced changes can affect the grammars of genetically unrelated languages.

Susanne Mühleisen. 2002. Creole Discourse: Exploring Prestige Formation and Change Across Caribbean English-Lexicon Creoles. Benjamins. Examines socio-historical and epistemological factors in the prestige formation of these creoles and scrutinizes their classification as a (socio)linguistic type. Demonstrates how the uses, functions and negotiations of Creole within particular social and linguistic practices have shifted.

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Upcoming Conferences

Bible Translation 2003, 19-21 Oct. 2003, Dallas, Texas. Sponsored by SIL and the Graduate Institute of Applied Linguistics. Featured speakers include Richard Brown (SIL) and Tom Meiner (JESUS Film Project). Registration details are available from:

Celebrating the King James Bible: A Roundtable Discussion, 21 Nov. 2003, Atlanta, Georgia. A panel sponsored by SBL and ABS's Nida Institute marking the 400th year since the beginning of the King James translation will convene Friday afternoon 1-5pm before the annual U.S. SBL meeting. Alister McGrath and a panel of other scholars will conduct a roundtable discussion centering on McGrath's recent book In the Beginning: The Story of the King James Bible and How It Changed a Nation, a Language, and Culture (Random House, 2001). Lamin Sanneh will explore the KJV against the backdrop of colonialism, particularly in an African setting; David Daniell will speak to the influence of Tyndale and other early English translators on the KJV; John Kohlenberger will consider the textual resources available to the King James translators; Lynne Long will discuss the position of the King James in the vast polysystem of Anglo-Saxon and medieval English language and literature; Janet Larson will revisit the literary influence and impact of the KJV. More information at

Translation and Interculturality, 2-3 April 2004, Groningen University, The Netherlands. The conference will focus on the role of translation as a mediating activity between African languages and cultures and those of the West, taking account of its potential of promoting sociocultural, ideological, and political conflict. Contributions are invited on such topics as representation of social, cultural or political identity through translation; problems in the transfer of culture-bound issues; ideological and political attitudes underpinning the choice of translation strategies; the role of translation in formerly colonized areas: status-related differences between source and target texts, the relation between the colonizer's language and national languages, and the role of the lingua franca; issues in translating and interpreting from an oral to a written medium and vice-versa; the relation between translation and code switching; the role of institutions and/or individual translators and interpreters as linguistic and cultural mediators. Keynote speakers are Mona Baker and Lourens de Vries. Deadline for submission of abstracts: November 1, 2003. Information at http://www.monabaker.com/tsresources/.

International Conference on Translating with Computer-Assisted Technology: Changes in Research, Teaching, Evaluation, and Practice, 14-16 April 2004, Rome. Hosted by the University of Rome "La Sapienza" and supported by ABS Interactive, SBL, Nida Institute, the European Society of Translation Studies (EST), and the Louvain Research Center for Translation, Communication, and Culture (CETRA). The conference will investigate ways that computer-assisted technology and the digitization of information have changed the theory and practice of translating; Kees de Blois will be a plenary speaker, along with Yves Gambier and Steven deRose. Full conference information can be accessed at http://w3.uniroma1.it/diplingue/intconf.htm.

Translating the Hebrew Bible: The text, the texture, the context, the pretext, 30 May-1 June 2004, McGill University and the University of Montreal, Montreal, Quebec. Sponsored by the Canadian Bible Society, the program features Emanuel Tov, Adrien Schenker, Jan de Waard and Manuel Jinbachian (moderator of the proceedings) and other Bible Society notables Hart Wiens, Phil Noss, and Bill Mitchell, as well as speakers from the universities of Montreal, McGill, Acadia, and Laval. Contact: Canadian Bible Society, Montreal District, 625 St. Catherine St. W., Montreal, QC H3B 1B7. Email: montreal(at)biblesociety.ca
Brochure: http://www.biblesociety.ca/translation/2003symposium_en.pdf

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