Supplements to Johannes Gutslaff’s term creation

  • Kristiina Ross

Abstract

After the Reformation, two written languages developed in the Estonian territory: one was based on the South-Estonian dialects, and the other on the North-Estonian dialects. By the 1630s, year-round pericope books had finally been printed in both language versions. The new aim in the mid-seventeenth century was to translate the whole Bible, as well as to homogenise and systematise the already existing work. Term creation became especially important. At that point, Estonian lacked equivalents of many essential abstract notions, the terminology of the Old Testament was hopelessly fragmentary, and the usage of a number of terms was unstable. The first person to undertake the translation of the whole Bible was Pastor Johannes Gutslaff, who worked in Urvaste in South-Estonia. His translation remained in manuscript and later Bible versions show no traces which would indicate that his work was used. Gutslaff’s translation is an interesting and instructive example of a missed opportunity in the history of the Estonian written language. The following characterises Gutslaff’s language creation in general and describes his search for Estonian equivalents of two New Testament terms (βλασφημία ‘blasphemy’ and τελώνης‘publican’). The matches suggested for the first term are quite transparent, whereas those for the second have a vaguer etymology.

Published
2019-06-18