Y Beibl Cymraeg: Saviour of the Welsh Language

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    Outsiders generally know little about Wales, beyond the fact that it is part of Great Britain. Indeed, Wales was annexed by the English over 700 years ago, and its history is steeped in invasion, conquest, and assimilation. Today, scholars are beginning to approach the subject of the history of language in Wales through a postcolonial lens. Translation, more specifically the translation of the Bible into Welsh, played a vital role in the survival and development of the Welsh language and culture. While the Tudors had banned the use of Welsh in administration, in 1563 the English Parliament under Elizabeth I ordered the translation of sacred texts into Welsh and permitted the use of the language in Church, in order to impose the Protestant religion. We would argue that, as a result, Elizabeth I’s decision to prioritise imposing Protestantism, rather than imposing the English language on the Welsh people, allowed the language to survive and indeed flourish. In fact, allowing the Welsh this critical venue for the use of their own language was a highly significant concession, as William Morgan’s 1588 Welsh Bible would serve to normalise, codify and enhance the Welsh language. Furthermore, given the importance of religion in Wales, it meant that, while English remained the sole language of administration, the Welsh language continued to play a part in the daily life of the Welsh. Moreover, the Morgan Bible continued to be used for centuries. Focusing on Berman’s translational position and Hans Robert Jauss’s notion of the horizon of expectation, we endeavour to evaluate the lasting impact of this translation on Wales.


    Baumgarten, Stefan and Edith Gruber. 2014. « Phenomenological asymmetries in Welsh translation history. » The Translator 20 (1): 26-43. doi:10.1080/13556509.2014.899092

    Berman, Antoine. 1995. Pour une critique des traductions: John Donne. Paris: Gallimard.

    Jauss, Hans Robert. 1982. Toward an Aesthetic of Reception. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.

    Jones, J. Gwynfor. 1989. Wales and the Tudor State: Government, Religious Change and Social Order 1534-1603. Cardiff: University of Wales Press.

    White, Eryn M. 2007. The Welsh Bible. Stroud, UK: Tempus Publishing Ltd.

    Williams, Glanmor. 1971. « Language, Literacy and Nationality in Wales. » History 56 (186): 1-16. doi:10.1111/j.1468-229X.1971.tb02005.x


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