dual vs. plural (Matt. 20:22)

Many languages in the world distinguish between plural and dual (and sometimes trial) pronouns (for instance, “you” specifically addressing many, two, or three people).

In Matt. 20:22 (“You do not know what you are asking…” in one English translation) it is left open whether “you” refers to James and John or James and John and their mother (who had asked the questions preceding Jesus’s answers).

While one Fijian translation uses a trial and the Wantoat uses a plural (both indicating that the mother is included), the Bislama translators (in the Nyutesteman long Bislama of 1980) and the Tok Pisin translators use a dual (indicating that the mother is not included).

One of the translators explains: “Here, because of differences between this Matthew passage and the parallel passage which begins at Mark 10:35, the translator must enter into the issues of the so-called ‘Synoptic Problem’ when deciding how many people Jesus is addressing. I suggest the following guidelines for making a decision here and in the passage considered below: a single real historical event is recounted by both Mark and Matthew, both without error, although each with their own selection of material and emphasis. So what do we make of the fact that Matthew has James and John’s mother asking the question, whereas Mark does not mention her at all, having the two men themselves ask it? We conclude that she must have been there, since Matthew says she was; but she was not important in Mark’s eyes, and so he abbreviates her out of his account. Now the answer Jesus gave to the question is identical in the Greek text of the two gospels; and it must have had only one intention, even though as it stands in Greek, it is ambiguous as to dual or trial reference. I suggest that although the mother asked the question, Jesus either perceived that she was merely a ‘front’ for the two men, or else his primary interest was in them anyway, and so he bypasses the mother and makes his answer directly to them. This is certainly the way Mark saw the situation.”

Source: Ross McKerras in Notes on Translation 2/1 1988, p. 53-56.

inclusive vs. exclusive pronoun (John 9:4)

Many languages distinguish between inclusive and exclusive first-person plural pronouns (“we”). The inclusive “we” specifically includes the addressee (“you and I and possibly others”), while the exclusive “we” specifically excludes the addressee (“he/she/they and I, but not you”). This grammatical distinction is called “clusivity.” While Semitic languages such as Hebrew or most Indo-European languages such as Greek or English do not make that distinction, translators of languages with that distinction have to make a choice every time they encounter “we” or a form thereof (in English: “we,” “our,” or “us”).

For this verse (“we must work” in English translations), translators select the exclusive form (excluding the disciples) (source: Velma Pickett and Florence Cowan in Notes on Translation January 1962, p. 1ff.) or the inclusive form, since “Jesus [was] referring primarily to himself….If his disciples were minded to be disciples
indeed, then these were the works which they also must do, in fellowship with their Master” (source: SIL International Translation Department (1999)).

The Yagua and the Tok Pisin translators chose the inclusive form. The Yagua translators justify this by saying “Is this an editorial ‘we’ or a ‘we’ representing the Godhead or does He include his disciples? We chose the inclusive interpretation.” (Source: Paul Powlison in Notes on Translation with Drills, p. 165ff.)

inclusive vs. exclusive pronoun (Matt. 20:33)

Many languages distinguish between inclusive and exclusive first-person plural pronouns (“we”). The inclusive “we” specifically includes the addressee (“you and I and possibly others”), while the exclusive “we” specifically excludes the addressee (“he/she/they and I, but not you”). This grammatical distinction is called “clusivity.” While Semitic languages such as Hebrew or most Indo-European languages such as Greek or English do not make that distinction, translators of languages with that distinction have to make a choice every time they encounter “we” or a form thereof (in English: “we,” “our,” or “us”).

For this verse, translators typically select the exclusive form (excluding Jesus). In Tok Pisin this is further specified by the use of the dual mitupela — the “two of us.

Source: Velma Pickett and Florence Cowan in Notes on Translation January 1962, p. 1ff.

inclusive vs. exclusive pronoun (Luke 24:20)

Many languages distinguish between inclusive and exclusive first-person plural pronouns (“we”). The inclusive “we” specifically includes the addressee (“you and I and possibly others”), while the exclusive “we” specifically excludes the addressee (“he/she/they and I, but not you”). This grammatical distinction is called “clusivity.” While Semitic languages such as Hebrew or most Indo-European languages such as Greek or English do not make that distinction, translators of languages with that distinction have to make a choice every time they encounter “we” or a form thereof (in English: “we,” “our,” or “us”).

According to Pickett / Cowan, this verse, the inclusive form (including Jesus) should be chosen because “undoubtedly they consider him (Jesus) to be a Jew or they would not have invited Him to eat with them (vv. 29-30).” (Source: Velma Pickett and Florence Cowan in Notes on Translation January 1962, p. 1ff. and Velma B. Pickett in The Bible Translator 1964, p. 88f.)

The Huautla Mazatec, Tok Pisin, or Yagua translators also chose the exclusive form. The Yagua translators justify this by saying “Would Cleopas and his companion in­clude the stranger who had joined them in this ‘we’? We think not in view of his previous estimate of the stranger. [‘Are you the only visitor to Jerusalem who does not know, etc.?’] This implies Cleopas would not consider Him as being sub­ject with himself and companion to the Jerusalem authorities. We would use the exclusive here” (source: Paul Powlison in Notes on Translation with Drills, p. 165ff.) SIL International Translation Department (1999) concurs.

inclusive vs. exclusive pronoun (Matt. 9:27)

Many languages distinguish between inclusive and exclusive first-person plural pronouns (“we”). The inclusive “we” specifically includes the addressee (“you and I and possibly others”), while the exclusive “we” specifically excludes the addressee (“he/she/they and I, but not you”). This grammatical distinction is called “clusivity.” While Semitic languages such as Hebrew or most Indo-European languages such as Greek or English do not make that distinction, translators of languages with that distinction have to make a choice every time they encounter “we” or a form thereof (in English: “we,” “our,” or “us”).

For this verse, translators typically select the exclusive form (excluding Jesus). In Tok Pisin the dual (mitupela) is used since there are two blind men.

Sources: Velma Pickett and Florence Cowan in Notes on Translation January 1962, p. 1ff. and SIL International Translation Department (1999).

inclusive vs. exclusive pronoun (Acts 23:9)

Many languages distinguish between inclusive and exclusive first-person plural pronouns (“we”). The inclusive “we” specifically includes the addressee (“you and I and possibly others”), while the exclusive “we” specifically excludes the addressee (“he/she/they and I, but not you”). This grammatical distinction is called “clusivity.” While Semitic languages such as Hebrew or most Indo-European languages such as Greek or English do not make that distinction, translators of languages with that distinction have to make a choice every time they encounter “we” or a form thereof (in English: “we,” “our,” or “us”).

According to Velma Pickett and Florence Cowan (in Notes on Translation January 1962, p. 1ff.) translators select the exclusive form (including some Pharisaic scribes and excluding the rest of the Council).

The Tok Pisin translations, however, follows the recommendation of SIL International Translation Department (1999) and uses the inclusive pronoun for this (“referring to the speakers and their fellow Judeans in exile”).

inclusive vs. exclusive pronoun (Luke 7:5)

Many languages distinguish between inclusive and exclusive first-person plural pronouns (“we”). The inclusive “we” specifically includes the addressee (“you and I and possibly others”), while the exclusive “we” specifically excludes the addressee (“he/she/they and I, but not you”). This grammatical distinction is called “clusivity.” While Semitic languages such as Hebrew or most Indo-European languages such as Greek or English do not make that distinction, translators of languages with that distinction have to make a choice every time they encounter “we” or a form thereof (in English: “we,” “our,” or “us”).

For this verse (“he loves our nation and it was he who built us our synagogue” in English translations), Yagua translators selected the exclusive forms. The translators justify this by saying “Jesus was also of the Jews’ nation and could have been included in this ‘our.’ However, the ‘us’ and ‘our’ of the second clause are doubtless exclusive and we guess since Jesus was not a native of Capernaum that these Jews probably would have used the exclusive in the first clause.”

Source: Paul Powlison in Notes on Translation with Drills, p. 165ff.

Pickett argues that “the first ‘our’ is inclusive, referring to the Jewish nation of which both the speakers and Jesus were a part, But the second ‘our’ is no doubt exclusive, i.e. the synagogue in their town, of which Jesus was not a part.”

Source: Velma B. Pickett in The Bible Translator 1964, p. 88f.

SIL International Translation Department (1999) notes that he second pronoun could be either inclusive or exclusive. The Tok Pisin translation uses the inclusive for the first occurrence and exclusive for the second.

inclusive vs. exclusive pronoun (John 12:38 - Rom. 10:16 - Isa. 53:1)

Many languages distinguish between inclusive and exclusive first-person plural pronouns (“we”). The inclusive “we” specifically includes the addressee (“you and I and possibly others”), while the exclusive “we” specifically excludes the addressee (“he/she/they and I, but not you”). This grammatical distinction is called “clusivity.” While Semitic languages such as Hebrew or most Indo-European languages such as Greek or English do not make that distinction, translators of languages with that distinction have to make a choice every time they encounter “we” or a form thereof (in English: “we,” “our,” or “us”).

For this quotation from Isaiah 53:1 (“Lord who has believed our report?” in many English translations) “does Isaiah mean the message of God and himself (hence inclusive) or the message he and others were giving out? The Hebrew form [translated into English as] ‘what we heard,’ together with the Greek form (translated as) ‘what is heard of us,’ gives the clue that it should be exclusive, the message that he and others were giving out.” (Source: Velma B. Pickett in The Bible Translator 1964, p. 88f.)

The Jarai, Adamawa Fulfulde, and Tok Pisin translations, however, use the inclusive pronoun for this (“referring to the speakers and their fellow Judeans in exile”), following the recommendation of Ogden / Sterk and SIL International Translation Department (1999).

inclusive vs. exclusive pronoun (Acts 7:40)

Many languages distinguish between inclusive and exclusive first-person plural pronouns (“we”). The inclusive “we” specifically includes the addressee (“you and I and possibly others”), while the exclusive “we” specifically excludes the addressee (“he/she/they and I, but not you”). This grammatical distinction is called “clusivity.” While Semitic languages such as Hebrew or most Indo-European languages such as Greek or English do not make that distinction, translators of languages with that distinction have to make a choice every time they encounter “we” or a form thereof (in English: “we,” “our,” or “us”).

For this verse, translators typically select the inclusive form (including Aaron).

In Huautla Mazatec, however, the translators selected the exclusive pronoun (excluding Aaron).

In the Karbi and the Tok Pisin translations, for the first part of the verse the inclusive pronoun is used (including Aaaron) but for the last part (“we do not know what has happened to him” in English) the exclusive pronoun is used (excluding Aaron).

Source: Velma Pickett and Florence Cowan in Notes on Translation January 1962, p. 1ff. and W. R. Hutton in The Bible Translator April 1953, p. 86ff. (Karbi).

inclusive vs. exclusive pronoun (Mark 4:38 / Luke 8:24)

Many languages distinguish between inclusive and exclusive first-person plural pronouns (“we”). The inclusive “we” specifically includes the addressee (“you and I and possibly others”), while the exclusive “we” specifically excludes the addressee (“he/she/they and I, but not you”). This grammatical distinction is called “clusivity.” While Semitic languages such as Hebrew or most Indo-European languages such as Greek or English do not make that distinction, translators of languages with that distinction have to make a choice every time they encounter “we” or a form thereof (in English: “we,” “our,” or “us”).

For this verse (“we are perishing” in English translations), Yagua translators selected the inclusive form (as well as the Sierra Totonac and the Tok Pisin translators). The Yagua translators justify this by saying, “Did the disciples think of their Lord as about to perish with them, or were they selfishly only thinking of their own safety, or did they feel He at least would not perish? We translated this one with the inclusive, giving the disciples the benefit of the doubt, Since they had waited so long to waken Him, they couldn’t have been too selfish in their thinking.”

Source: Paul Powlison in Notes on Translation with Drills, p. 165ff.

inclusive vs. exclusive pronoun (John 14:23)

Many languages distinguish between inclusive and exclusive first-person plural pronouns (“we”). The inclusive “we” specifically includes the addressee (“you and I and possibly others”), while the exclusive “we” specifically excludes the addressee (“he/she/they and I, but not you”). This grammatical distinction is called “clusivity.” While Semitic languages such as Hebrew or most Indo-European languages such as Greek or English do not make that distinction, translators of languages with that distinction have to make a choice every time they encounter “we” or a form thereof (in English: “we,” “our,” or “us”).

For this verse, translators typically select the exclusive form (excluding Judas). The Tok Pisin specifies this even more by using the dual (only including two, the Son and the Father).

Source: Velma Pickett and Florence Cowan in Notes on Translation January 1962, p. 1ff.

inclusive vs. exclusive pronoun (Mark 9:38 / Luke 9:49)

Many languages distinguish between inclusive and exclusive first-person plural pronouns (“we”). The inclusive “we” specifically includes the addressee (“you and I and possibly others”), while the exclusive “we” specifically excludes the addressee (“he/she/they and I, but not you”). This grammatical distinction is called “clusivity.” While Semitic languages such as Hebrew or most Indo-European languages such as Greek or English do not make that distinction, translators of languages with that distinction have to make a choice every time they encounter “we” or a form thereof (in English: “we,” “our,” or “us”).

For this verse, translators typically select the exclusive form for the first and the second occurrences of “we” (“we saw” and “we tried”) (excluding Jesus) and either the exclusive or the inclusive pronoun for the third occurrence (“not following us” in English translations) (including or excluding Jesus). (Source: SIL International Translation Department (1999))

Both the Jarai and the Tok Pisin translations use the inclusive pronoun.