Sabine Dedenbach-Salazar Sáenz: La independencia del Perú y la Biblia. La primera traducción quechua del Nuevo Testamento (1824) (Primera parte)


Among its texts in indigenous languages the British Library owns two manuscript volumes of the New Testament in Quechua, translated in 1824, not long after the Peruvian declaration of independence. It was commissioned by James or Diego Thomson, an influential Scottish Baptist minister who initiated the Protestant mission, together with general education, on the Latin American continent. These texts are part of the very scarce documentation in indigenous languages from the beginning of the 19th century. I will present the context of the origin of these texts (initiator and translators) (first part of this contribution, in this issue). In a linguistic analysis I will compare examples from the two versions in terms of orthography/phonology, vocabulary, morphology, and syntax (second part of this contribution, to be published in Anthropos 118.2023.2). The samples analysed here show, with respect to vocabulary and orthography, that the translators operate mainly within a colonial tradition of the general missionary language. As Cuzco citizens, who probably belonged to the social elite of the city, they were well familiarised with the Quechua language, which can be seen in their knowledge of its morphology and syntax. At the same time the texts show the discussions which they must have had whilst translating them; this is particularly evident in the frequent crossing out of words and passages in order to emend them, especially with respect to sentence and discourse structure. It is in this ‘linguistic laboratory’ that the translators show their close collaboration, their knowledge of the language and of the conventions established in it since colonial times, as well as their innovative spirit.

[Bible translation, Quechua, Peru, James D. Thomson, 19th century, historical context, linguistic analysis]