Making a Glossary in Paratext

Glossaries can be an important source of explanatory information for Bible readers. In her short article about glossaries, Katherine Barnwell gives several bits of helpful advice. Concerning when to begin a glossary she states:

“Translators should not wait until the New Testament is completed before starting to think about a glossary. As you are translating, make note of items that you will want to include in a glossary.

Prepare the glossary in the receptor language in time to allow for testing. The entries should be tested along with the Bible text.

Even a preliminary Scripture publication of a single book should include a glossary (relevant to that book only). This is an opportunity to test the glossary and also to train readers to use it.[1]

I have seen that some translation projects merely translate the glossary from a major language translation.  This approach may include unneeded terms and leave out important terms that should be included.  Again, Barnwell give some important advice:

“Glossary entries will be different for each particular language, depending on the way each idea has been translated in the text and on the culture of that language area. For example, if some local cultural feature has the same function as in the ancient Jewish culture, no glossary entry is needed. Similarly, if some unknown idea has been successfully translated in a fully meaningful way in the text, a glossary entry is not needed.[2]

If you and your team do decide to base your glossary on an existing glossary, I recommend that you consider Barnwell’s advice and delete entries that are not necessary because they are fully understood in the text, and that you add terms that were not in the model glossary but need more explanation in your vernacular translation.

Characteristics of a Well-Formed Glossary

Well-formed glossaries should be:

  • Alphabetized according to the vernacular alphabet and not that of a language of wider communication.
  • Linked to the verses where the terms occur to make it easier for readers to use.

Paratext has ways to accomplish both of these criteria without too much effort!

Although there is no specific glossary tool in Paratext, the functionality for building a glossary is built into the Biblical terms tool.  While it is possible to simply type a glossary into the glossary book (GLO) in your project, building the glossary through the Biblical terms tool will alphabetize your glossary according to the sort order in the language settings of your project:

It can be a lot of work to move glossary entries around manually as terms are added.  How much better to let Paratext do this for you!

Paratext also has a function for marking terms in the vernacular text that have glossary entries.  In the print version of your text, readers will see an “*” next to the word alerting them that there is a glossary entry for that word:

In Scripture apps, the word will have an active link to the glossary entry.  Just click on it, and the glossary entry will open in a pop-up window.  This marking of the words for glossary entries is done in the Biblical terms tool because that is where Paratext stores the information for each of the Biblical terms in your project and the verses where they occur.  (Words that are not a Biblical term for your project most likely do not need a glossary entry.)

To learn more about how Paratext can make creating and formatting your glossary easier, read our How To guide.

Glossary Tutorial

[1] Katharine Barnwell and Richard C. Blight, How To Prepare A Glossary and a Topical Index (SIL International, 1996; 2002; 2010).

[2] Ibid.

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