unfoldingWord® Literal Text https://www.unfoldingword.org/ult
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drawing # unfoldingWord® Literal Text - English

an unrestricted literal version of the Bible intended for translation into any language as a tool for use by Bible translators


The ULT began as an open-licensed adaptation of The American Standard Version. It has since undergone a careful comparison to the original biblical languages, using the best tools that are available to modern scholarship, and made to reflect the forms of those languages as far as English grammar and understanding will allow. The ULT is thus intended to provide a ‘form-centric’ rendering of the biblical text from the original biblical languages (Biblical Hebrew, Biblical Aramaic, and Koiné Greek) into English. This increases a translator’s understanding of the lexical and grammatical composition of the biblical text by adhering closely to the grammatical (i.e. parts of speech) and syntactic (i.e. word order) stuctures of the original languages. For translators who do not speak English, we intend to translate the ULT into the other major languages of the world.


To read or print the ULT, see the ULT project on Door43.


If you are a contributor to this project please add your name to the contributor field in the manifest.yaml file.

Introducing the ULT

The ULT (unfoldingWord® Literal Text) is a form-centric (and thus “literal”) version of the Bible in English. It is intended to be used alongside the UST (unfoldingWord® Simplified Text) and other translation resources to give English-speaking mother-tongue translators (MTTs) a more complete understanding of the messages communicated in the Bible. The purpose of the ULT text is to allow a Bible translator who does not have reading knowledge of the original biblical languages (Hebrew, Aramaic, Greek) to “see” the grammatical forms of those languages. Therefore, the goal of the ULT text as a translation resource is to copy the Original Language (OrigL) form as much as possible yet still be understandable in English or other Gateway Language (GL). For MTTs who cannot read the OrigL text, the ULT provides a sense of how these messages of the Bible were communicated in the OrigL. It is anticipated that the ULT and other resources will be translated from English into the world’s GLs so that MTTs worldwide can use them as a set of resources for making accurate translations of the Bible into their own languages.

The ULT stands in the range of literalness somewhere between a very literally translated user Bible (such as the New American Standard Bible [NASB]) and an English interlinear text. An English interlinear text is designed to render OrigL words into their individual and basic (“literal”) English meanings without regard to understandability of the overall English text. On the other hand, a very literally translated user Bible tries to adhere as closely as possible to the OrigL but must sometimes compromise in favor of English idiom and expression in order for the text to be both grammatically correct and readily understood. The ULT negotiates a path between these two kinds of texts. For example, the ULT reproduces the OrigL idioms even when they are not English idioms, relying on a translation note to explain the meaning. In that way, the translator can see the original expression, and also the meaning. The ULT does not substitute English idioms or expressions. However, if an OrigL grammatical form would give the wrong meaning or no meaning at all, the ULT will use the English form in that case so that the ULT can also meet the demand of reasonable understandability in English.

Editing or Translating the ULT

The unfoldingWord® Literal Text (ULT) is designed to be used as a tool for Bible translation in conjunction with the unfoldingWord® Simplified Text (UST), the unfoldingWord® Translation Words (UTW), and the unfoldingWord® Translation Notes (UTN). It is not an end-user Bible, which seeks to transform all of the structures of the original biblical languages into those that are natural and idiomatic in the target language. Instead, unlike the UST and unlike an end-user Bible, the ULT is designed to reflect the forms of the source languages, so that the MTT can see what they are. By using the ULT, the MTT can “look through” it to see how the original Bible expressed the biblical ideas.

Retain Original Forms and Structures

Therefore, as you (an editor or translator of the ULT) edit or translate the ULT, you must retain the grammatical and syntactic structures of the original as much as the target language (English or other Gateway Language) will reasonably allow. If the original structure is ungrammatical in the target language, then you will need to change it into a structure that is grammatical in the target language. It does no good to make a translation that a MTT using this tool cannot understand. But as much as the target language will allow, retain the structures of the original while editing or translating the ULT. For English, it is often possible to retain nouns as nouns, verbs as verbs, etc., but their order in the original sentence must be changed.

In addition to the grammatical forms, the ULT must also retain the idioms and the figures of speech found in the original languages so that the MTT can consider them and use them if they communicate the right thing in his target language (i.e. a minority or Other Language [OL], not Gateway Language). If these aspects of the original language text are changed in the English version (or other Gateway Language translation) of the ULT, then the OL translator will never see them. Furthermore, their accompanying explanations (found in the unfoldingWord® Translation Notes) will not make sense.

The ULT and the UST are designed to be complementary tools for use by an OL translator. These tools should be as useful as possible, which means that the ULT should retain original language structures that would not always be retained in an end-user Bible. Therefore, you must understand that the ULT will often lack naturalness (and sometimes also lack clarity) because it aims to reproduce the original language structures and figures of speech that the GL may not normally use. However, in places where the ULT lacks clarity, there will be BOTH a Translation Note to explain the meaning of the structure for the OL translator AND a clear rendering of the original meaning in the UST. Together, the UTN and the UST will provide the meaning of the text wherever that meaning is in doubt in the ULT. In this way, the various tools work together to provide an OL translator with more complete information about both the form and the meaning of the biblical text as written in the original languages.

One specific way in which the ULT and UST are complementary tools concerns the selection of meaning in the original language texts. There are many instances in the biblical text where the meaning of a word or phrase in the original languages is ambiguous. In those cases, the ULT should retain the ambiguity of meaning, if possible. In contrast, the UST should select the most probable meaning and express that meaning according to its own translation method. NOTE: It is acceptable for the ULT to select meaning in cases where the meaning of the original language is linguistically ambiguous but seems clear from the context.


Grammatical Forms

Luke 2:47 (ULT) reproduces a grammatical form from the Greek source language that is natural in English but might not be natural in other languages. When talking about the boy Jesus at the temple, the ULT reads, “All who heard him were amazed at his understanding and his answers.” The nouns “understanding” and “answers” refer to events, not things, and so must be translated as verbs in many languages. The UST of the same verse gives an example of how these nouns can be translated as verbs. It says, “All the people who heard what he said were amazed at how much he understood and how well he answered the questions that the teachers asked.”

When editing or translating the ULT, however, nouns should be retained as nouns if that will make sense in the target language.


Matthew 2:20 (ULT) reproduces an idiom from the Greek source language. It refers to Herod and his soldiers who were trying to kill the child Jesus as, “those who sought the child’s life.” In some languages this is clear, but in other languages it is not.

The UST of the same verse tries to make the meaning clear by translating this idiom as, “the people who were trying to kill the child.” When editing or translating the ULT, however, this idiom should be retained as it is, so that the Other Language translator can consider it and use it if it makes sense. The UST and the UTN should always provide the meaning.

Figures of Speech

John 1:17 (ULT) reproduces a figure of speech from the Greek source language. It says, “grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.” (This figure of speech is called “personification.”) This figure of speech talks as if grace and truth were like people who can come and go, and it talks as if Jesus Christ were like a doorway that they can come through. In some languages this makes sense, but in other languages it does not. The plain meaning is that Jesus Christ acted toward us with grace and taught us true things about God.

The UST of the same verse tries to make this plain meaning clear by translating it as, “Jesus Christ was kind to us far beyond what we deserved and taught us true things about God.” When translating the ULT, however, this figure of speech should be retained as it is, so that the OL translator can consider it and use it if it makes sense. If it does not, the UST should provide an alternative way to translate it.

The ULT Contrasted with the UST

The unfoldingWord® Literal Text (ULT) seeks to represent the language forms of the original in a way that also makes sense in English (or other Gateway Languages). The unfoldingWord® Simplified Text (UST) seeks to represent the plain meaning of the original Bible text. This means that:

  • the ULT reflects better than the UST the grammatical structures of the biblical languages.
  • the ULT reflects better than the UST the parts of speech of the biblical languages. The ULT, for example, will seek to use nouns where the original uses nouns, adjectives where the original uses adjectives, and so forth.
  • the ULT should reproduce the form of the logical connections in the biblical languages. For example, the ULT will read, the righteousness of faith, even though the logical relationship between righteousness and faith is not further specified. (Is it the righteousness that comes by faith? Is it the righteousness that vindicates faith?) All that the righteousness of faith explicitly signals is: that there is some close association in the text between righteousness and faith; and that we can probably rule out a number of conceivable logical relationships between the two concepts, but not all possible relationships (as the foregoing example illustrates). In contrast, the UST will choose the one logical relationship that seems most likely.
  • the ULT should reproduce the linear succession of ideas found in the original languages, even when English may prefer a different arrangement of the same ideas.
  • the ULT should not present information that is only implied in the original. For example, in Matt. 26:5 For they were saying, “Not during the feast, so that a riot does not arise among the people.” the implied information is, “Let us not arrest Jesus [during the feast].” The ULT will not overtly represent this implied information, while the UST will include it.
  • the ULT should reflect as much as reasonably possible the written style of the original. It reads, for example, “Paul…to Timothy…” instead of the preferred (in English), “Dear Timothy, [new paragraph] this is Paul.”
  • the ULT should depart from closely representing the structures of the original only when it must do so for the sake of clarity in English.
  • the ULT is not meant to be a refined, polished English version. It is meant to present the structure of the original in a way that is as meaningful as possible, so that it can, in turn, be translated into other languages.
  • even when the ULT is ambiguous or not entirely clear (as is often true of the original), the ULT must never promote to the MTT an incorrect meaning.

Editing the ULT

Here are some guidelines for composing or editing biblical text in the ULT:

  • Only use quotation marks at the beginning and ending of direct speech. Do not put quotation marks at the beginning of each verse, even though the speech may span several verses.
  • Do not use contractions.
  • Punctuation marks go inside the quote marks.
  • Capitalization: in general, follow the practice of the 2011 NIV. Exception: the word “law” will not be capitalized except in the rare title, “the Book of the Law.”
  • All pronouns are lower case (even when referring to God) except when a pronoun begins a sentence. Of course, the first person singular (“I”) is always capitalized.
  • Proper titles should be capitalized (Son of Man, King David, the Messiah).
  • Retain the grammatical parts of the speech and syntactic expressions of the OrigL as much as is understandable in the GL. The ULT should complement the UST rather than be similar to it.
  • Use vocabulary and phrases that differ from the UST as much as possible. The complementary tools fail to help the MTT when they are the same.
  • Where possible, use common vocabulary that is easy to translate into another language.
  • Spell out numbers up to and including ten (e.g., one, two…). For numbers larger than ten, use numerals (e.g., 11, 12…).
  • As a general rule, the English ULT uses far demonstrative pronouns (“that, those”) when referring backward in the text, and near demonstrative pronouns (“this, these”) when referring forward in the text. However, there are occasional exceptions to this rule, usually for the sake of naturalness in the English rendering.

Translating the ULT from the Original Language (OrigL)

Translation of Terms Regarding Gender

Both Biblical Hebrew and Koiné Greek utilize different word forms to indicate grammatical gender, which may or may not correspond either to the actual gender of a person or to the lack of gender in an object. For example, the Hebrew phrase beney yisrael (“sons of Israel”) sometimes literally means “male children of the man named Israel” (Gen 42:5). However, most of the time in the Old Testament this phrase refers figuratively to the entire Israelite nation as a whole, both men and women. In a similar way, the Greek term adelphoi (“brothers”) can sometimes literally mean “a male person who has the same father and/or mother” (Mark 3:22), but most of the time in the New Testament refers figuratively to Christian believers, both men and women. This linguistic feature of “engendered language” poses significant problems for translation. The meaning of the original Hebrew/Aramaic/Greek text is not always clear; also, some languages do not use engendered language, which makes the translation of gender very difficult.

The ULT should retain the engendered language of Hebrew/Aramaic/Greek terms as much as possible. However, a notable exception to this rule concerns the translation of masculine participles (that is, verbal nouns and/or verbal adjectives) which actually refer to both men and women together; those terms can be translated without specifying gender.

Some other general translation guidelines specifically for the English ULT include:

  • The ULT should follow formal American English usage, using “that” without a comma before restrictive relative clauses and “which” after a comma before non-restrictive clauses. British and informal American usage are more flexible about this, often saying “which” without a comma before restrictive relative clauses (which is ambiguous). The ULT should make clear whether a relative clause is restrictive or non-restrictive, using the above principle.
  • In speech introductions that use two verbs instead of one such as, “he answered and said,” retain this formula in the ULT. This will provide a model for languages which also separate the mode of speech from the act of speech, as does Biblical Hebrew and (often) Koiné Greek. In the UST, however, only one verb should be used in these cases.
  • When selecting a translation gloss to render an OrigL verb, mimic the formal verbal concept as much as possible. Any idiomatic or metaphorical use of the verbal concept will be included or explained in either the UST or UTN.

Translation Glossary for the ULT

A list of decisions as to how to translate some senses of the OrigL words and phrases into another language is called a Translation Glossary (TG). Such a device is especially useful when more than one person works on the same project, because it helps keep everyone using the same English terms. However, a TG cannot be foolproof, because the source will often use some words to signal more than one sense, depending on context. A TG is therefore a glossary of word senses, not a glossary of words. Check back often to this page, because this TG is likely to develop for the entire life of the unfoldingWord project.

NOTE: Occasionally, the TG’s specified translation will not be suitable. As always, the text editors must remain in control of the decision-making process. The TG is to guide you as much as is possible. If you must depart from the TG guidelines, do so and insert a Translation Note to explain the meaning.

Preferred English renderings for the ULT appear in bold type.

  • brethren should be updated to brothers. When both genders are indicated by the context, a note from the Notes team should be expected to appear to that effect. Do not replace the ULT text with “brothers and sisters.”
  • Call in the formula of the type, “he shall be called the Son of the Most High” (Luke 1:32): keep this formula in the ULT, but be aware of the metaphor that is operative here: in this verse, Jesus will not only be called the Son of the Most High, but he will be the Son of the Most High.
  • Hand indicating power or possession: keep this metaphor in the ULT.
  • Sentence-initial or preverbal and of the type, “And Joseph said,” “And it came about,” etc.: these should be rendered in English somehow, usually as the conjunction “and.” However, a different word (“but”, “so”, etc.) may be selected in rare cases, where the discourse function of the conjunction is foregrounded and the specific conjunctive meaning is so strong as to be contextually undeniable.
  • Shall vs. will : in English future expressions in general, use “will” instead of “shall,” e.g., “he is a prophet, and he shall will pray for you” (Gen 20:7). Note that some ASV future expressions are better updated into today’s English by using the present tense, e.g., “I shall not drink from…the fruit of the vine, until the kingdom of God shall come” (Luke 22:18) can be updated to “I will not drink…until the kingdom of God comes.” This general preference for “will” probably conforms to the instincts of most English native speakers. However, in genres such as prophecies, blessings, curses, and in other passages focusing on the expression of the speaker’s intentionality, retain the use of “shall” in the ULT. For example: “Yahweh said, ’Shall I hide from Abraham what I am about to do…?’” (Gen 18:17); “A deliverer shall come to Zion;” “every mountain and hill shall be made low.”

Translation Glossary for the Old Testament

  • adam (ASV: man, men) When referring to humanity in general, use “mankind.”
  • ‘af should be rendered “nose when it appears in the singular form and nostrils when it appears in the dual form.
  • ‘al (עַל) When used causatively, this preposition should be rendered “on account of” to differentiate it from the causative use of מִן. When used quatitatively, this preposition should be rendered “in accordance with” to differentiate it from the quantitative use of כְּ. However, these are only general principles. The specific translation gloss used should always be determined by the specific context.
  • Ark of the Covenant –– The ULT will use the word “Box” (“Box of the Testimony” in Exodus, “Box of the Covenant of Yahweh” in Joshua, etc.), and the UST will use the term “sacred chest.”
  • be (בְּ) As a general rule, this preposition should usually be rendered as “in,” “at,” or “by.” However, the specific translation gloss used should always be determined by the specific context.
  • ben, beney as in “son of a night” or “sons of Israel” or “sons of God” should remain as “son” or “sons.”
  • construct phrases –– It is preferable for Hebrew and Aramaic construct phrases to be rendered as “[construct noun] of [abstract noun]” as much as possible to be understandable in English. Some notable exceptions to this rule include phrases that use the construct form of כֹּל or כָּל, construct phrases that include numerals, and phrases where the absolute noun functions adjectivally. If using the standard “of” construction is not understandable in English, often the next best alternative is to render the absolute noun as an attributive adjective. For example, in Lev 2:2 the phrase קֹ֥דֶשׁ קָֽדָשִׁ֖ים is rendered as “holiest holy thing” in the ULT.
  • ‘ebed (עֶבֶד) This term can be rendered as “servant” or “slave” or whichever English term(s) best fits the specific context.
  • Expressions of the type, “he knew his wife” or “he went into his wife” should be reproduced as is. The context makes their meaning clear.
  • herem This concept should be translated according to what it appears to mean locally in its immediate context. This might include either the concept of a “ban” or the concept of “complete destruction”, etc.
  • hesed should be translated as “covenant faithfulness” except in cases where the context is clear that a different meaning is warranted.
  • hinneh This term is normally rendered as “behold” unless the context indicates that a more colloquial meaning is appropriate, such as “look,” “see,” “see here,” or something else to indicate that what immediately follows in the text is prominent.
  • Hiphil stem –– This form of the verb shouls be rendered explicitly as causative (“cause to…” or “made to…” if possible, unless a suitable English verb can be used that implies the causative action. For example, the English verbs “bring” or “take” are acceptable for the Hiphil of בּוֹא (“to cause to come” or “to cause to go”).
  • horns –– The Hebrew terms for the various kinds of horns should be rendered as follows: qeren = “horn;” shofar = “horn” (“long horn” or “large horn” in UST); hatzotzerah = “trumpet.” The term shofar should never be translated as “trumpet.”
  • kal/kol It is more preferable for this term to be rendered as “all” or “every” or “whole” than as “any” or “each”.
  • kapporeth (כַּפֹּרֶת) “atonement lid
  • ke (כְּ) When used quantitatively, this preposition should be rendered “according to” to differentiate it from the quantitative use of עַל. However, this is only a general principle. The specific translation gloss used should always be determined by the specific context.
  • koh ‘amar yhwh (כֹּה אָמַר יהוה) “Thus says Yahweh
  • lifney (לִפְנֵי) This should be rendered as a phrase and not as a single preposition, usually either “to the face of” or “before the face of,” etc.
  • MeshiachMessiah” (almost always, “the Messiah,” since “Messiah” is a title)
  • min (מִן) When used causatively, this preposition should be rendered “because of.” However, this is only a general principle. The specific translation gloss used should always be determined by the specific context.
  • mishpat (מִשְׁפָּט) should be rendered “judgments” wherever possible, because it is the derivative noun of שׁפט (to judge). However, in instances where it clearly does not mean “judgments”, then the English term “ordinance” should be used when referring to a religious rule, and another word such as “regulation” when referring to a more civil or legal rule.
  • na’ This Hebrew particle (נָא) must be translated on a case-by-case basis and always with great sensitivity to the specific context of the speech in which it occurs. The term often means something like, “I know/fear that you don’t want to do what I am about to tell/ask you to do, but I want you to do it anyway.” There is no direct translational equivalent for this term in English, but some general guidelines are as follows. When the particle appears with a verb in the context of a request made by a person of inferior position to a person of superior position, it can be translated as “please.” But the particle also occurs often in situations where a person of superior position gives a command to a person of inferior position, and in these cases the particle must be rendered in accordance with the interpretation of the specific context. Many instances of the particle occur in contexts where translating the particle as a separate word in English may import too much meaning into the English rendering. Because this particle is an emotive word in Hebrew, in cases like these one might use an exclamation point at the end of the specific clause in order to reflect in the English translation the emotion intended by the use of the particle. It is also acceptable to leave the particle untranslated if translating it would change the meaning from the Hebrew too much.
  • ne’um yhwh (נְאֻם יהוה) “the declaration of Yahweh” or “This is the declaration of Yahweh
  • nephesh () It is preferable for this term to be rendered as “spirit” or “life” rather than “soul,” except in cases where the specific context demands it.
  • Niphal stem –– This form of the verb should be rendered according to the sense of each individual context, usually as a passive, reflexive, or stative.
  • numerals –– Retain the Hebrew use of ordinal and cardinal numbers as much as possible, except in cases where it makes the English rendering unable to be understood. In these cases, use standard English convention for ordinal and cardinal numerals.
  • participles –– Hebrew definite participles should be rendered as “the ones who…” if possible, unless it makes the English reading too awkward or unable to be understood. Retain the verbal sense of the participle (“those who live”) rather than making it a noun (“inhabitants”) wherever possible.
  • pleonasms –– There are many instances where Hebrew convention repeats a referent (especially in relative phrases) that has already been stipulated earlier in the sentence. For example, a very literal rendering of the relative phrase in Ruth 2:19 would read, “…the man whom she had worked with him…”. The term “him” is redundant in English and should be omitted in the ULT rendering. Instead, this phrase should read, “…the man with whom she had worked…” in accordance with standard English convention.
  • tebah should remain as “ark
  • tzara’at (צָרַעַת) should be rendered as “skin disease” (not “leprosy”)
  • wayehi[conjunction] it came about,” “[conjunction] it happened…
  • YHWH Yahweh (The ASV uses “Jehovah,” but it should be changed to “Yahweh” in the ULT.)

Translation Glossary for the New Testament

  • nomikosexpert in the Jewish law
  • grammateusscribe
  • egeneto de, kai egenetoIt came about” (See: “Sentence-initial or preverbal and” above).
  • idou This term is normally rendered as “behold” unless the context indicates that a more colloquial meaning is appropriate, such as “look,” “see,” “see here,” or something else to indicate that what immediately follows in the text is prominent.
  • anthropos (ASV: man, men) When referring to humanity in general, use “mankind.”
  • Messiah This term sometimes appears in the NT in transliterated Greek. In this case, this term should be translated, “Messiah.”
  • XristosChrist” or “the Christ” (the definite article is appropriate if the term is being clearly used as a title; Paul often seems to use Xristos as a second name for Jesus, but at times he clearly uses it as a title).
  • euangelion gospel will be used in most cases in the ULT, while the UST will use “good news.”
  • hagioi When referring to people, “saints.” When referring to heavenly beings, “holy ones.”

Notes About Making a “Literal” Translation

  1. It is not possible to maintain a strict one-for-one correspondence between words in translation. One word from the source language may require a phrase for its translation in the target language, and vice-versa.
  2. Even though the ULT is a “literal” text, that does not mean that every word from the OrigL will be translated in the same way each time it occurs. The ULT always seeks to use the most correct meaning for a word in its context, using whatever English word or phrase is closest to that meaning.
  3. Both Greek and Hebrew can make a sentence without using a verb, while English cannot. For the ULT to make sense, the verb should always be supplied (usually “is”).
  4. Greek makes abundant use of participial clauses. For the English of the ULT to make sense, often this must be changed to either a relative or adverbial clause.
  5. The general rule is, retain the structures of the OrigL unless English sense does not allow it. If not, make the necessary adjustments.
  6. If the King James Version, the New American Standard Version, or the English Standard Version are more literal than the ULT, then we still have more work to do.

Aligning the ULT

In the tC (translationCore) Word Alignment tool, the English chapters and verses are listed down the left side. When you click on a verse to open it, the words of that verse appear in a vertical list, ordered from top to bottom, just to the right of the list of chapters and verses. Each word is in a separate box.

The words of the OrigL (Hebrew, Aramaic, or Greek) text for that verse are also in separate boxes in a field to the right of the English word list. There is a space under each of the source word boxes outlined with a dotted line.

Alignment Process for the ULT

To align the English text:

  • Click and drag each word box of the English text into the space under the word box of the OrigL text to which the English word corresponds.
  • Drop the English word by releasing the mouse button.

When the English word is over a word box of the OrigL, the dotted outline will turn blue to let you know that the word will drop there. If you make a mistake, or if you decide that the English word belongs somewhere else, simply drag it again to where it belongs. English words can also be dragged back to the list.

When the same English word occurs more than once in a verse, each instance of the word will have a small superscript number after it. This number will help you to align each repeated English word to the correct original word in the correct order. When aligning, check to ensure that these numbered words are in their proper places, since it is easy to miss the numbers and align repeated words incorrectly.

Process to Merge and Unmerge Original Language Words

translationCore supports one-to-one, one-to-many, many-to-one, and many-to-many alignments. That means that one or more English words can be aligned to one or more OrigL words, as necessary to get the most accurate alignment of the meaning conveyed by the two languages.

  • To align multiple English words to a single OrigL word, simply drag and drop the English words onto the box below the desired OrigL word.
  • When it is desired to align English word(s) to a combination of OrigL words, first drag one of the combination of OrigL words into the same box as the other OrigL word. Multiple OrigL words can be merged together in this fashion.
  • To unmerge previously merged OrigL words, perform the following steps. For Hebrew, drag the leftmost OrigL word slightly to the left. A small new alignment box will appear, and the unmerged word can be dropped into that box. For Greek, drag the rightmost OrigL word slightly to the right. A small new alignment box will appear, and the unmerged word can be dropped into that box. In both cases, any English words that were aligned with that OrigL word return to the word list.
  • The OrigL words should remain in the proper order. If the merge contains 3 or more OrigL words, unmerge either the leftmost or rightmost OrigL word first. Un-merging the center word(s) first may result in the OrigL words becoming out of order. If that happens, unmerge the remaining words in that box to properly return the OrigL words to their original order.

Alignment Philosophy for the ULT

Because English has different requirements for sentence structure and the amount of explicit information that must be provided, there is often not a one-to-one correspondence between an OrigL word and an English word. In these cases, the English words that are provided should be aligned with the OrigL word that implies them.

When aligning an English translation to the OrigL text, the precision of the alignment between the two languages is the highest priority. The most important function of the aligned text is to show the ULT user as specifically as possible from which word in the OrigL text the English meaning is derived. In practice, this means that OrigL words should be merged together ONLY when absolutely necessary for the accuracy of the alignment. Otherwise, OrigL words should not be merged together. In other words, the aligning should be done so that the smallest number of English words are aligned to the smallest number of OrigL words that accurately represent their shared meaning.

For English, we follow these principles, but other GL’s may need a different list to support full alignment.

  • Align indefinite articles to their “head word.” For example, both “a” and “servant” should align to doulos in Titus 1:1.
  • Definite articles that English supplies should also be aligned to their “head word.” For example, both “the” and “faith” should align to pistin in Titus 1:1.
  • Original language definite articles that English does not use should be combined with their original language head word, if possible. For example, ton and logon need to be combined, then “word” aligned with that combination in Titus 1:3. If the article and head word are separated by other words and cannot be combined, and English does not have an article in that place, then leave the OrigL article unaligned.
  • Implicit verbs in the OrigL that are translated explicitly in the target language should be aligned with the predicate. For example, “he should be” that is supplied in English should be aligned to philoxenon along with “hospitable” in Titus 1:8.
  • Words with apostrophes will be split and show up as two words in the word panel. This allows for proper alignment of the two parts of meaning. In most cases in English these are used to represent possession and will be aligned to a single OrigL word in the genitive case. For example, both “God” and “s” will align to theou in Titus 1:1.
  • Often the OrigL and English part of speech won’t match. That is inevitable. Often an original language word will be translated as a English phrase. For example, the three words “does not lie” in English all align with the single word apseudes in Titus 1:2.
  • Sometimes particles in the OrigL are not translated in English. These should be aligned to make the alignment between the OrigL and the English as precise as possible. For example, in most cases the Hebrew direct object marker should be merged with the Hebrew direct object and aligned with that translated word in English. However, in cases where the direct object marker has a conjunction prefix that must be translated in English, then the Hebrew word containing the conjunction and direct object marker should be aligned with the translated conjunction in English.
  • When aligning verbal negations, align any English helping verbs with the OrigL verb. Only align the English term(s) of negation with the negative particle in the OrigL.
  • For relative clauses where English adds a “to be” verb, the verb should be aligned with the predicate if possible, especially if the predicate is a prepositional phrase. Sometimes the predicate is a compound, in which case the added “to be” verb should be aligned with the applicable OrigL relative pronoun/particle.
  • Sometimes English uses a preposition to render the case of a Greek noun or adjective. When Greek has both an adjective and a noun in the same case (such as “good works” in the genitive) the English preposition normally precedes the phrase (“of good works”). However, the English preposition “of” should be aligned to the Greek noun as the head of phase, rather than to the adjective.

Other alignment issues pertinent to Biblical Hebrew include the following:

  • When an infinitive absolute is paired with a finite verb, the infinitive absolute should be aligned separately, if possible. Usually, the infinitive absolute will be translated as an adverb, and it should be aligned with the adverb.
  • As a general rule, the ULT should translate the conjunction in Hebrew verbal forms. The translated conjunction should then be aligned with that Hebrew verb.
  • When aligning construct phrases in Hebrew, the English word “of” should be aligned to the Hebrew construct noun, and any English definite articles should be aligned with the English term it modifies. This may not always reflect the most precise alignment of meaning between Hebrew and English in regard to definiteness, but it keeps the alignment simple and more understandable for the English user.
  • When aligning a verbless clause in Hebrew, the supplied “to be” verb should usually be aligned with the predicate instead of the subject. An exception to this rule occurs when the subject is a demonstrative pronoun (or carries some sort of deictic function). In those cases, the supplied “to be” verb should be aligned with the subject of the verbless clause.
  • Sometimes a verb in Hebrew requires an accompanying preposition that is not required in English, or vice versa. In these cases, align with whichever part of speech fits best on a case-by-case basis. For example, take the phrase “...to pay on our fields...” in Nehemiah 14:4 in the UST. The English preposition “on” fits better semantically with the noun (“on our fields”) rather than with the infinitive (“to pay on”). However, the reverse is true in v.15 in the phrase “...even their servants oppressed the people...” (Heb. שׁלטוּ על־העמ). In this case, the Hebrew שׁלט requires an accompanying preposition, and the concept is already incorporated into the English translation of the verb itself, “oppressed.” So in this case, it is best to merge the Hebrew verb and preposition together, then align both with the English “oppressed.”

You should expect that sometimes you must align words/phrases in English with words in the OrigL that differ in the number of words, order of words, and/or parts of speech (as described above). However, you should ALWAYS align the English words to the OrigL words whose meaning they express, in whatever combination is necessary to produce the most accurate alignment of the meaning.

After aligning a verse, there may be words in the English text that are left over and seem to be extra. If those words are truly necessary for the English text to make sense, then find the OrigL word(s) that they help to express and align them there. But if those words do not express a meaning found in the OrigL text, then it may be that those words should be deleted from the English translation.

Sometimes, in the process of aligning a verse, you will find:

  • An OrigL word that is not represented in the English translation.
  • A mistake in the English translation.
  • Words in the English translation that do not represent anything in the OrigL text.
  • A better or more literal way to express something in the English translation.

For the above cases: if you are an authorized editor, you will want to edit the English translation so that it is more accurate to the OrigL. Otherwise, contact the Englishg translation team to let them know about the issue.

If you notice places where the ULT (unfoldingWord Literal Text) is wrong or potentially wrong, create an issue for it at https://git.door43.org/unfoldingWord/en_ult/issues so we can address it in the next release. In the meantime, align the text as well as possible.

Words Not Found in the Original Language

In the process of alignment according to the instructions above, you may find that the English text has words or phrases that do not represent any meaning in the OrigL text and are not there because the English sentence needs them to make sense. If this occurs, follow these recommendations:

  • If possible, consider editing the English text to match the OrigL text.
  • You may consult other Greek or Hebrew manuscripts to see if there is textual support for your translation (see the Biblical Humanities Dashboard <http://biblicalhumanities.org/dashboard/> for other manuscripts).
  • If you find support for your translation, make sure to include a comment or note about where you found it and why the translation should include it.
  • You should consider placing these English words in brackets or in a footnote.