Document Type

Book Chapter

Publication Date


Journal / Book Title

On the Translation of Native American Literatures


Though the oldest poetry of the Americas may have been composed before Caedmon's "Hymn" (ca. 680), the earliest known English poem, the languages and literatures of Native American peoples have only recently begun to receive the critical attention they demand.

In this book, twenty-three scholars in linguistics, folklore, English, and anthropology--among them Dennis Tedlock, John Bierhorst, Dell Hymes, Judith Berman, Miguel Leon-Portilla, and Louise M. Burkhart--provide a working introduction to the history, methods, and problems of translating Native American literatures. Reviewing early translations, the contributors discuss the difficulties in working with oral literature and a vast diversity of languages. Other essays analyze translations of North, Central, and South American songs and stories, from Boas's Kwakw'ala texts to Papago legalese and modern Yucatec-Maya oral literature.
Approaching Native American literatures from a perspective both practical and theoretical, this collection seeks to find the meeting point between literature and the social sciences.

Book Publisher

Smithsonian Institution Press

Journal ISSN / Book ISBN


Book Editor(s)

Brian Swann

Published Citation

Gingerich, W. (1992). Ten types of ambiguity in Nahuatl poetry, or William Empson among the Aztecs. On the Translation of Native American Literatures, 356-67.