He was not literally my teacher. I never met him, and I certainly never sat in a class that he taught. But I have learned from colleagues who had learned from him. Two of his great books are on my shelf and I still refer to them from time to time: God’s Word in Man’s Language (1952), and Bible Translating (1961). Despite the fact that I have never had a direct interest in Bible translating, these books had a lot to teach me and indeed all social scientists. Nida, together with a few others, was a giant in the social science of linguistics. (Those were the days when linguistics was still a social science and not the speculative game it became later). Now he died, aged 96.
Here is a rare video of Nida as an old man, still teaching:
and here, a bit of comic relief, is an attack on Nida’s scholarly approach to translation by a fundamentalist who thinks that the Bible needs to be translated one word at a time:
Of course the Chomskyans, who do not believe that language should be studied empirically any more than this misguided religious fundamentalist, could no doubt make an equally ludicrous anti-Nida video. Maybe they already have.
Not to be missed: the fine obit in the NYT by Margalit Fox.