LW/TL 05: The Udi Gospels

Artikel-Nr.: ISBN 9783895862465
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The Udi Gospels

Wolfgang Schulze
University of Munich

More than hundred years ago [108 years ago, to be exact], the Udi pope Semjon Bezhanov (assisted by his brother Mikhail Bezhanov) undertook theSisyphean task to translate the most relevant parts of the New Testament, namely the four Gospels, into Udi.. Udi represents a both typologically and genetically speaking highly divergent autochthonous Southeast Caucasian (Lezgian) language that is characterized by e.g. massive split structures in its (in parts ergative) relational behavior (S-splits, A-splits, O-split), an 'accusative' personal agreement pattern which is co-paradigmatized with focal strategies, floating agreement clitics, complexe verbal incorporation mechanisms, clausal subordination that goes along with integrating techniques such as converbs and participle Till 1989, Udi has been sppoken in three villages [Nidzh and Vartashen] in Northern Azerbaidzhan and (since 1922) in Oktomberi (Eastern Georgia) [by roughly 5000 people]. It is not known why the translators produced the Udi Gospels - we can only speculate that their major objectives were to have at hands a version of the Gospels that Semjon Bezhanov could use during his religious services. The Udi people [Armenian and Georgian Christians by religion] were by that times (in parts) familiar with some kind of local Armenian, but this rudimentary knowledge did not allow the use of the Armenian version of the Gospels in religious ceremonies etc. [the same holds for any Georgian version]. Additionally, the Bezhanovs were perhaps motivated by [by that time] current ethnocentric, not to say nationalistic intellectual paradigms. The long-standing quarrels with the surrounding Islamic cultural traditions and Islamic rulership obviously helped to develop some kind of Udi 'national consciousness' which again was 'supported' by both the Czarist administration and the religious centers in Tbilisi and Erevan.

Another motivation seems to stem from an obvious 'religious-intellectual' tradition especially in Vartashen: Since probably 1800, young Udis had been regularly trained in Tbilisi and Erevan to become (local) teachers or priests [popes]. This tradition was handed over from generation to generation, as can be seen from the Bezhanov family which knew a number of teachers and priests already prior to the authors of the Udi Gospels.

The Bezhanov manuscript of the Udi Gospels - which itself seems to be lost - came to the printhouse in Tbilisi in 1898 and was published as volume XXX of the famous series Sbornik Materialov dlja Opisanija Mestnostej i Plemen Kavkaza (SMOMPK) in 1902. Yet, the existence of the Udi Gospels as a tool for the religious service in Vartashen and Nidzh had never been acknowledged among the Udis. Also, the linguistic treatment of Udi rarely made reference to this book [except for local researchers such as Vladimir Panchvidze and Evgeni Dzheiranishvili]. This may have been due to the fact that the Udi Gospels circulated among scientists in a very small number of copies only. Thanks to photocopying facilities, this aspect can be neglected today.

However, it is rather amazing that those [Western] researchers who have dealt with the linguistics of Udi hardly ever used the Gospels as a source for their analyses.The need for larger text corpora of unwritten languages becomes obvious if we look at the younger linguistic tradition of grammatical 'in-depth-studies'. It has come clear that generalizations on linguistic categories taken from secondary sources are not very reliable. Take as an example the standard claim that Udi is an ergative language (whatever this in fact means): this claim which is exploited in both areal linguistics and language typology, however, becomes more than doubtful if we have a closer look at the language. These doubts emerge not only from more general hypotheses related to Relational and/or Cognitive Typology, but also from the architecture of the Udi grammar together with its functional dimensions. If we have a closer look at the grammar of Udi based on extensive work with texts, the picture of Udi as e.g. an 'ergative language' changes dramatically. But this picture shows up only if we use texts as the starting point of our linguistic analysis, not simply second-hand traded illustrative phrases or paradigms.

The present reediting of the Udi Gospels aims at researchers who want to get into the linguistics of Udi [whatever their aims may be] using a larger [and structurally speaking consistent] text corpus.

Additionally, the text can serve as a tool for those who are interested in the comparative linguistics of the Southeast Caucasian or Lezgian languages especially with respect to the lexicon. The Gospels cover nearly 1800 lexical entries which document a major part of the Udi lexicon (though necessarily defined and confined by the contents of the Gospels). It can likewisse provide typological research with massive data from a typologically salient language.

In order to serve its purposes, the present book is organized in the following way: Chapter 2 is an introduction into both the historical setting that underlies the production of the text and a (rather brief) survey of the structure of the Udi gospels. Section 3 gives the text of the Gospels with grammatical, lexical, and stylistic notes in reference to the textual sources. In section 4, the reader will find a comprehensive (though rather condensed) overview of the grammatical (paradigmatic) architecture of Udi that helps the reader to analyze all grammatical elements in the text. Section 5 offers an index of all lexical forms to be found in the Gospels (names etc. excluded) that can be used both as a simple Udi-English index and as an etymological index of the Udi language. This index is unique in that for the first time the lexicon of an individual East Caucasian language is approached from a diachronic perspective. It can be regarded as a preliminary step towardsan etymological dictionary of Udi (which would - as far as data areavailable - comprise twice the size of the present index).

Section 6 contains a lemmatized concordance which helps the reader to retrieve the lemma of a given form in the Gospels or to check a given word form in terms a 'keyword in context concordance'. Finally, an English-Udi indexis given in section 7. The etymological index can be used without any reference to the text. If the reader starts with the text, (s)he is advised to first look up a given word form in the concordance to see its lemma form and than to check the lemma in the etymological index. The morphological analysis should be done with the help of the paradigms listed in section 4 - which- I have to stress it - do not replace the reference to standard grammatical treatments of Udi such as Schiefner 1863, Dirr 1904, Panchvidze1971, Dzheiranishvili 1974, Gukasjan 1974, Schulze 1982, Schulze(-Fuerhoff)1994, and Schulze 2001a.


1. Introduction
2. Udi and the Udi Gospels
2.1 Introduction
2.2 The Udi language: areal and historical aspects
2.3 The historical background of Udi linguistics
2.4 Some remarks on the linguistics of the Gospels
2.5 Concluding remarks
3. The Udi Gospels
3.1 Introduction
3.2 Mat'feiaxo ive'l daft'ar
3.3 Mark'nuxo ive'l daft'ar
3.4 Luk'inaxo ive'l daft'ar
3.5 Ioannaxo ive'l daft'at
4. The paradigmatic structure of Udi
5. Etymological Index
5.1 Introduction
5.2 Index
6. Lemmatized Concordance
6.1 Introduction
6.2 Concordance
7. English-Udi Index
8. References

ISBN 9783895862465. Languages of the World/ Text Library 05. 350pp. 2001.

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