Revistes Catalanes amb Accés Obert (RACO)

El misionero, las lenguas mayas y la traducción. Nominalismo, tomismo y etnolingüística en Guatemala

Jesús García Ruiz


In the XVlth century, the Inquisition had explicitly prohibited the translation of the gospel into native American languages in the name of 'trilingualism' (Hebrew, Greek and Latin) forbidden all through the Middle Ages, but the Franciscans and Dominicans renounced this, which led them to learn the prehispanic languages, to develop dictionaries and to translate the catechisms. The publication in 1551 of the 'Quiché, Cachiquel and Tzutuhil dictionary' and the 'Catechism' in the three languages, sparked off ideological confrontation between Franciscans (scotists and voluntarists) and Dominicans (tomists and intellectualists) which influenced theological thought during the colonial period in Guatemala for a long time. The Franciscan, Pedro Betanzos, refused to use the term gabovil (which means «idol» in the three languages) to translate the concept 'God'. The Franciscans, close to philosophical nominalism, considered that under no circumstances could one word be substituted for another, it being impossible to separate the concept from the terminological implications. On the other hand, the Dominicans considered that the concept was autonomous and consequently did not depend on the word it was supposed to express. From this philosophico-theological discussion, the author analyses the ethnolinguistic and semantic problems which arose with the evangelization process and the translation of the concepts connected with the divine, with ritual practices, with the conception of person, etc. To this end, the author uses historical sources (chronicles, dictionaries, catechism), as well as information from field work in the Quiché and Cackchiquel communities of Guatemala.

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