Minority or Minoritized? The Effects of the 1588 Welsh Bible on the Status of the Language
Concordia University, Montreal
Despite having a rich history of literary translation dating back to the Middle Ages—and despite translation having played a crucial part in the language’s survival—Welsh is grossly underrepresented in the field of translation studies. Furthermore, while the Welsh language was the language of the majority of the population until the Industrial Revolution, even historical studies tend to treat the language as a minority language, whereas the term minoritized language is more appropriate.
The focus of this paper is on the reverberations of the 1588 Welsh Bible, the cultural, political, and religious impact of which cannot be underestimated. Queen Elizabeth I took a political gamble in allowing the Welsh the freedom to use their own language in church, and to produce a Bible in Welsh. We will briefly look at Tudor language policy, and the rationale behind it, along with examining more specifically the results of Elizabeth I’s decision to prioritize religious uniformity over linguistic uniformity.
Using the long-term effects of the 1588 Bible as a case study, we will look at how the freedom afforded the Welsh by Queen Elizabeth I allowed a minoritized language to maintain majority status, whilst simultaneously paving the way for a movement to preserve the language once its use began to decline. In doing so, we aim both to shed light on a specific case, and to begin to understand the dynamics behind the Welsh language being relegated to the category of minority language.
Key-words: Wales, Welsh, minoritized language, Great Britain, Bible
Brief bio: Anastasia Llewellyn is in the final stages of writing her thesis on the translation of the Bible into Welsh for the Master’s in Translation Studies at Concordia University, where she has also lectured at the undergraduate level. She is President of the Graduate Student Association in Translation, as well as a member of the organizing committee of the Voyages in Translation graduate student conference. She is particularly interested in minority language policy, as well as the link between language, culture, and identity.