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Tongues of FireLanguage and Evangelization in Colonial Mexico$
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Nancy Farriss

Print publication date: 2018

Print ISBN-13: 9780190884109

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: October 2018

DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780190884109.001.0001

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Adoptions and Adaptations

Adoptions and Adaptations

(p.227) Chapter 9 Adoptions and Adaptations
Tongues of Fire

Nancy Farriss

Oxford University Press

The double bind between orthodoxy and intelligibility is examined further through the translating tool of semantic extension. Efforts to make the Christian message more accessible by expanding or extending the meaning of an “inherited” word confronted vast cultural differences in the realms of cosmology and morality that lay behind the linguistic gaps. Christian concepts such as heaven and hell were so far removed from the way that the Zapotec and other Mesoamericans conceived of the afterlife that no degree of semantic expansion could bridge the gap. Conversely, attempts to convey a Christian concept of God in such doctrines as the Trinity and the Eucharist by incorporating indigenous terms for the divinity and sacrifice risked contamination from pagan symbols and rituals.

Keywords:   translation, semantic extension, doctrine, Trinity, Eucharist, Mesoamerican cosmology, moral theology, eschatology

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