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These definitions are accurate, but are not intended to be complete. They are definitions of how Wycliffe uses these terms.


Word by Word

Every culture and community develops its own language to some degree. Wycliffe is no different in that. While we've committed ourselves to not using "insider talk" on this website, when other terms would be appropriate and would clearly communicate, sometimes we had to rely on technical terms. Rather than define all of our terms within the text (and annoying those who know the definitions with our redundancy and verbosity) we chose to develop this glossary.


Word Definition
Anthropology The study of man. (Culture research and analysis, and applications: studying values, kinship and leadership systems, etc., so as to approach local indigenous people with respect and effectiveness.) For Wycliffe, the focus of anthropology is on providing resources to understand the community and its values and worldview. This is essential for accurate Bible translation, cooperative community participation and ethnographic investigation.
Bible Translation In the narrow sense, Bible translation is the actual process of drafting, checking, polishing and producing a final version of vernacular Scriptures for publication. It is a specialized and staged effort with technical terminology.
Bibleless Without access to God's Word in a language that speaks to their heart.
Bilingualism or Multilingualism The ability of an individual or speech community to use two (or more) languages. (This definition is broad and includes all phenomena related to using two--or more--languages for communication within and outside of a community.)
Capacity Building The process and means by which groups/organizations develop the necessary skills, infrastructure, expertise and resources to undertake a Bible translation and language development program. ("Capacity Building" is one of the themes of Vision 2025.)
Cluster Approach or Cluster Project A team of language workers assigned to a group of languages, usually based on geographic location and linguistic similarities, in order to maximize the use of personnel and other resources. This gives opportunity for mentoring local and/or national language workers. It also maximizes knowledge gained in one language or situation so as to benefit a wider group.
Creative Strategies Innovative ways of working that multiply efforts by experimenting with new ideas and methods in training, partnering, alternative products, and the application of technology. ("Creative Strategies" is one of the themes of Vision 2025.)
Culture The customary beliefs, social forms, values and material traits of a racial, religious or social group.
Dialect(s) Different varieties of the same language. Many dialects are mutually intelligible versions of the same language (e.g. Canadian and British English). Some dialects, however, are significantly different from others of the same language.
Diglossia The coexistence of two forms of the same language in a speech community. Often, one form is the literary or prestige dialect and the other is the common dialect spoken by most of the population.
Discourse The study of how language operates in paragraphs, sentences and large chunks.
Domains of Use In language work, the categories or situations in which a language is used (e.g. home, education, religion, government, business, etc.). In some language communities, the language changes according to the “domain” (e.g. men speak one language at home, another at their business, another at church, etc.).
Endangered Language A language in which the parents are no longer teaching the language to their children and are not using it in activity in everyday matters.
Ethno-Linguistic Community A community studied and defined by both its shared culture and shared language.
Ethnolinguistics The study of language from the principle perspective of the ethnicity and culture of its speakers.
Ethnologue A comprehensive catalogue of the world's more than 6,900 living languages. The Ethnologue is maintained, periodically revised and published by SIL International.
Heart Language The language most clearly understood, and in which ideas are most clearly expressed by an individual or people group. The term often refers to the language that reaches to the inner depths of a person and can best express God's eternal message.
Language The words, their pronunciations and the methods of combining them that are used and understood by a community.
Language Attitudes The way people react towards the use of various languages.
Language Development The task of working with speakers of lesser-known languages, to facilitate them achieving their own goals as a community, through language planning and intercultural development efforts. In many cases, this will involve the development and promotion of written forms of their language and the production of literature, such as the Christian Scriptures. Language Development involves a series of ongoing planned steps taken by people to ensure that their language will continue to serve them throughout any social, cultural, political, economic and spiritual changes. The production of dictionaries, health books, literacy materials, folk stories, mother-tongue Scriptures, etc., is considered part of the broad language development task.
Language Family A group of languages that are similar (e.g. the Mayan languages of Guatemala and Mexico belong to one family).
Language Groups Groups of people classified according to what language they speak. This is the way that Wycliffe looks at the world’s population and the global Bible translation task.
Language of Wider Communication The language people commonly use to communicate across language and cultural boundaries (e.g. Swahili in many parts of Africa, English in India, Bahasa Indonesian in Indonesia, etc.). In popular usage, this has also been called lingua franca or trade language.
Language-related Ministries The activities that enable a given people group to use its own language more effectively for the overall good of its speakers. Such activities may include: Bible Translation, Scripture Use, Translation, Linguistic Research, Dictionaries, Literacy, Orthography Research, Anthropology, and Training.
Linguistic Research Linguistic research and analysis includes the common studies of phonology, morphology and grammar, semantics, and discourse.
Linguistics The science of language. It provides a theoretical framework, guiding principles, and practical methods for learning, analyzing and describing languages. It also produces insights into the principles and problems of communication and translation. In Wycliffe, linguistics focuses on: (1) researching indigenous languages and publishing the findings; (2) training field linguists; (3) providing resources to assist in linguistic data collection and analysis; and (4) informing theories and techniques of Bible translation.
Literacy Facilitating the process of learning as people/communities develop skills in reading and writing.
Marginalized People Groups People groups that are influenced by the habits and values of outside cultures and are not completely assimilated into any of them; they are excluded or exist outside of the mainstream of society. They are often looked down upon, discriminated against, or simply ignored.
Member A worker who has completed the full Wycliffe application process, and who personally raises financial support for their regular ministry expenses through the gifts of interested individuals and churches.
Morphology & Grammar The study of word and phrase structure within a given language.
Mother Tongue The language a person is taught to speak from birth. With disuse, the mother tongue may be replaced by another language, which in turn may become the heart language.
Orthography Research Orthography research, design and testing includes the development of an alphabet for a previously unwritten language, the revision or changing of graphic symbols already used for a written language, and the studying of the need for publishing in more than one alphabetic script for a language community.
Partnership Voluntary cooperation between organizations that share complementary strengths and resources, in order to pursue common interests and concerns. Together the partners accomplish more than they could individually. ("Partnership" is one of the themes of Vision 2025.)
People Group A large sociological group of individuals who see themselves as having a common affinity with one another. From the viewpoint of missions, a people group is the largest possible group within which the gospel can be spread without encountering barriers of understanding or acceptance.
Phonology The study of a language's sound system.
Scripture Use Activities that facilitate the use of mother-tongue Scriptures, thereby reaping the benefit of translation. These activities include Bible study lessons, concordances, and audio/visual presentations of the Scriptures.
Semantics The study of language meaning.
Sociolinguistics The study of language variation according to cultural and communal context, and according to the social roles and class distinction.
Sustainability The presence of local, regional, national or area-level institutions that help meet the continuing needs of language communities for Bible translation, language development, church growth, discipleship, literacy, or other language-related ministries. ("Sustainability" is one of the themes of Vision 2025.)
Ten/Forty Window (Usually written as the 10/40 Window.) The area of the world between latitudes 10 degrees and 40 degrees north of the equator, covering North Africa, the Middle East and Asia. The window has in view most of the world’s greatest physical and spiritual needs, most of the world’s least-reached peoples, and most of the world religions that oppose Christianity. It also includes many groups who need Bible translation.
Unreached Peoples Ethno-linguistic people groups that do not have among them an indigenous community of Christians with adequate numbers and resources to evangelize their own people without outside (cross-cultural) assistance.
Urgency The importance (particularly from an eternal perspective) of Bible translation work as it motivates those involved to accelerate the pace of this work. The emphasis it not purely on speed, but also on diligence, resolution and purposefulness. ("Urgency" is one of the themes of Vision 2025.)
Vernacular The local, indigenous language of a community.
Vision 2025 A goal to see a Bible translation program in progress in every language still needing one by the year 2025.
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