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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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The Problem of Meaning

The Problem of Meaning

Chapter:
(p.197) Chapter 8 The Problem of Meaning
Source:
Tongues of Fire
Author(s):

Nancy Farriss

Publisher:
Oxford University Press
DOI:10.1093/oso/9780190884109.003.0009

Missionaries and Indian elites cooperated in translating the gospel message into the indigenous languages. They faced an inevitable trade-off between fidelity to Christian orthodoxy and intelligibility within the alien Mesoamerican culture. The result was either a deficit of meaning for the neophytes or a surplus of meaning created by attaching alien indigenous connotations to the Christian discourse. Zapotec and other indigenous doctrinal texts reveal a range of choices: at one extreme, terms deemed untranslatable, like “God” and “soul,” were imported as loan words; at another extreme, difficult terms were given elaborate explanatory glosses (periphrasis) in the target language, which elucidated meaning but at the expense of economy and fluency of expression.

Keywords:   translation, loan words, calques, periphrasis, dialogic, Zapotec, catechisms, Dominicans

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