Bible Translation and Language Elaboration: The Igbo Experience

Uchenna Oyali, from the Department of English at the University of Abuja, Nigeria recently published a doctoral dissertation with the title “Bible Translation and Language Elaboration : The Igbo Experience”.

Read more here.

This study posits that the translation of the Bible into the Igbo language engendered the elaboration of the language to enable it express the ideas and concepts borne in the Christian religion. Language elaboration, as used in this work, refers to the expansion of the functions of a language, i.e. use of the language in new domains, introduction of new lexical and semantic elements to the repertoire of the language. Four research questions guided the analysis carried out in the work: What lexical processes were adopted in creating new terms in Bible translation into Igbo? What strategies were employed in representing Christian concepts in the Bible translations? How have these lexical and conceptual innovations evolved across the different translations? How have the lexical and conceptual innovations spread among Igbo speakers? To answer these questions, two types of analysis are carried out: a textual analysis of a corpus of terms created and introduced into Igbo through eight Igbo Bible translations, and an analysis of a questionnaire survey on the spread of some of these new terms and concepts in contemporary Igbo usage. Findings show that the Bible translations enriched the Igbo lexicon mainly through the processes of compounding, descriptive phrases and lexical borrowing. Secondly, the translations introduced Christian concepts into Igbo mainly by appropriating existing terms for Igbo concepts and giving them new significations in the Igbo Bible. Thirdly, later translations lexically and semantically differentiated Christian concepts from traditional Igbo concepts. They also differentiated two Christian concepts by representing them with distinct terms where the earlier translations represented the concepts with the same term, thereby facilitating the emergence of an Igbo Christian register. Fourthly, some of the Biblical innovations are restricted to use within Christian religious contexts, thereby suggesting the emergence of an Igbo Christian register. However, many others have spread into Igbo beyond their use in the Bible and some have acquired new meanings in the language and also got entries in Igbo dictionaries.


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