Eastern European Karaims, the sole representatives of Karaite Judaism in Europe, are at risk of losing both their language and religious practice. Their native tongue is a severely endangered Turkic vernacular and merely a fraction of its surviving written heritage is currently being studied for preservation purposes. The Karaim religion is based solely on the recognition of the Hebrew Bible as the supreme authority in religious law and theology, but there is currently no suitable edition of the Bible for the Karaims to use. The existing translations are locked in sources written in Hebrew script – which Karaims can no longer read.
Dr Michał Németh and his team will create a comprehensive Karaim Bible based on carefully selected sources from the 15th–20th centuries. They will create the first linguistic and palaeographic descriptions of the oldest, unedited Karaim texts. To better understand the way these translations were created, they will also investigate whether the Biblical manuscripts and the Hebrew script types used by Karaims belong to one or multiple scribal traditions. The resulting on-line edition of the Bible will be equipped with a lexicographical database and English translation and will provide a highly interconnected network of data based on Semantic Web technologies. This will greatly facilitate the linguistic and religious study needed to preserve the Karaim identity and help sustain this endangered culture.
Project: -(Re)constructing a Bible. A new approach to unedited Biblical manuscripts as sources for the early history of the Karaim language (KaraimBible)
Researcher: Michał Nemeth
Host Institution: Jagiellonian University, Poland
ERC Funding: € 1.48 million for 5 years