The Emergence and Evolution of the West Karaim Bible Translation Tradition Manuscripts, Translators, and Copyists

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Michał Németh
Anna Sulimowicz-Keruth



Karaim is a severely endangered language belonging to the Turkic language family and its only surviving dialect is Northwest Karaim with speakers in Lithuania and Poland. In the past few years numerous Karaim translations of the Bible have been discovered. Some of these are among the oldest texts written in this language. The authors present some of the oldest Karaim texts known today as well as recently discovered Karaim translations of the entire Tanakh. It is shown how these recent research results have broadened our knowledge regarding the Karaim written heritage. Furthermore, some preliminary conclusions are drawn on the relationships among the manuscripts and the biographies of the copyists and translators involved in their creation. Textual similarities between sources created separately in communities located far from one another in the regions of Crimea, Lithuania, Volhynia, and Galicia suggest that a common Karaim tradition of Bible translation must once have existed. Moreover, the textual complexity and the use of sophisticated translation techniques in the oldest known texts support the claim that they were based on older texts or on a well-established oral tradition of translation.

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