Chapter published in:A World Atlas of Translation
Edited by Yves Gambier and Ubaldo Stecconi
[Benjamins Translation Library 145] 2019
► pp. 13–38
Translating in the Pacific
Rendering the Christian Bible in the islanders’ tongues
This report covers Oceania, including the Polynesian Triangle but excluding Australia and PNG. Oral tradition still dominates local speech communities. The report reviews how “translation” is expressed by a dozen major languages, then traces early contacts between islanders and western explorers when communication was needed. Translation involving Christian literature started in earnest when the first missionaries arrived at the turn of the 19th century. The Bible was rendered into sixteen languages during the first hundred years and during the second, into ten others. Translators have faced lexical challenges because many biblical terms have no equivalents in Pacific languages. Translation activities slowed down in early 20th century due to the World Wars, and in recent decades, due to little need of proselytism because Pacific islanders have been converted to Christianity and are conversant in English or French. Bible translation still continues because islanders prefer reading the book of their faith in their own language, and is carried out by native speakers according to current policy.
Keywords: Oceania, Pacific islanders, Austronesian languages, Polynesia, Melanesia, Micronesia, oral tradition, history of translation, Christian literature, Bible translation
Published online: 05 February 2019
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