Yupik Bible gets modern writing style

BETHEL — The Holy Bible is now available in the modern Yupik writing style.

The translation to Yupik — spoken by an estimated 18,000 Alaska Natives from Norton Sound in the western part of the state to Bristol Bay on the eastern end — was produced after nearly half a century of work by fluent Yupik speakers and the American Bible Society, reported KYUK-AM. Yupik is the second-most spoken language in Alaska, after English.

The first missionaries translated the New Testament into an early form of Yupik writing, said Moravian Pastor Jones Anaver of Kwigllingok. But today, Yupik textbooks and dictionaries in the local schools use a newer and easier to read script developed by linguist Steven Jacobson in the 1980s.

The team rewrote the New Testament Jacobson’s style and translated the Old Testament into Yupik using the Revised Standard Version of the Bible.

“We wanted the youngest of our generation to be able to read and fully appreciate the Holy Bible,” said Anaver.

Bethel elder Elsie Jimmie agreed that the earlier translations took more learning to read. She’s been part of the translation project for the past 6 years.

“My father taught me to read the Bible’s early Yupik translations after I learned English,” she said. “In my experience, the new orthography is much easier to use and learn.”

She says her work on the translation has been fulfilling.

“An elderly man who couldn’t read or write called me some time after the project was completed. He was very happy the Bible was converted into the modern Yupik style because his grandchildren now fluently read and teach the Old Testament to him,” said Jimmie.

According to a letter Rev. Peter Greene wrote to the weekly newspaper Delta Discovery, the project started in 1971 with pastors Teddy Brink and Peter Andrews under the guidance of the American Bible Society. The American Bible Society did not immediately respond to inquiries.

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