Quality Quotes: Nida on Greek & Linguistics I

These are just a few quotes that I read this morning before church by Eugene Nida in Language Structure and Translations: Essays by Eugene Nida. Toward the end, there’s a essay entitled “Implications of Contemporary Linguistics for Biblical Scholarship.”

One of the severe handicaps to objective analysis of grammatical structures has been the mistaken concept that there is something so uniquely individual about the grammatical structure of each language and so intimately connected with the entire thought processes of the speakers of such a language, that one cannot really comprehend the meaning of a message without being immersed in the syntactic formulations. Moreover, the grammar of a language has been regarded by some as being a model of a people’s world view. . . . It would be just as unfounded to claim that people of the English-speaking world have lost interest in sex because the gender distinctions in nouns and adjectives have been largely eliminated. . . .

Such analogies may be ingenious, but they have not been proven. The only way in which correlations between languages and world views could be made would be to distinguish all those languages which have a certain structure from all those languages which do not have it (or which have the converse of it), and then to make similar comparisons between all the different peoples involved. . . . [T]he lack of correlation is so striking as to show quite conclusively that those who have postulated determinative relations between linguistic structures and world views have simply been delude. . . .

Attempts to link grammatical features and national characteristics or world view are doomed to failure, largely because grammatical features are all arbitrary, “fossilized” structures. They may have represented alternative choices some thousands of years ago, but they must be arbitrary and conventional if they are to function satisfactorily in providing a structure which is sufficiently redundant to be usable and sufficiently supple to make it possible for people to say something which they have never heard before. The requirement that language provide for novelty means that conceptual determinism is based on syntactic forms is basically false (Nida, 260-261).

Kind of sounds link the never ending debates about Greek & Hebrew grammatical gender among English bible readers, yes?