IT Serves Linguistics
First, What Is Linguistics?
Many people think that linguistics is the ability to speak one or more foreign languages. Instead, linguistics is the science of how human language works. Before we can talk about IT supporting linguistics, we need to talk about the science of linguistics itself.
Languages which need Bible translation do not necessarily have an existing writing system. This means that though the language may have been used orally for thousands of years, it has never had an alphabet created for it and consequently never been written. Moreover, it is very likely that little or no linguistic analysis of the language has ever been done which is needed before translation can begin.
Linguistic analysis makes it possible to:
All of these factors influence the quality of a translation of the Bible. In the first half of Wycliffe's history, almost all of the Bible translation projects undertaken by Wycliffe were done by people who were not native speakers of the languages which needed the Scriptures. These translators had to work for several years to learn the language before they could even think about translation. Linguistic analysis was quite extensive and absolutely necessary before translation could begin, so that the translator had a comprehensive view of the language. Increasingly, though, mother-tongue speakers of these "target" languages are now educated, more interested in, and capable of doing, their own translations. These people are referred to in Wycliffe circles as Mother Tongue Translators (MTTs).
In all domains of Kingdom work today, partnerships between groups and organizations have their own specialties. In many (but not all) parts of the world, it is becoming ever more common now for Wycliffe personnel to provide their specialties in academics, linguistic analysis, coordination, tech support and facilitation, even as MTTs contribute their expertise in their own languages and cultures. Because these two partnering groups can work in parallel, translation can often begin earlier than was previously the case. This type of partnership encourages local people to accept and help with the translation process and allows it to be completed quicker.
Beyond Bible translation, linguistic analysis performs a very necessary service to various levels of government, and paves the way for other people and organizations to document, preserve and develop the language (particularly important to non-speakers of the language). The linguistic analysis, followed by literacy work, enables the language group to connect to all kinds of information that previously was inaccessible (health education, law, financial advice and even on how not to get cheated at the market).
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