Summary and Keywords
Missionary grammars are printed books or manuscripts compiled by missionaries in which a particular language is described. These grammars were mainly written as pedagogical tools for language teaching and learning in a missionary-colonial setting, although quite a few grammars have also a more normative character. Missionary grammars contain usually an opening section, a prologue, in which the author exhibits the objectives of his work. The first part is usually a short introduction into phonology and orthography, followed by the largest section, which is devoted to morphology, arranged according to the traditional division of the parts of speech. The final section is sometimes devoted to syntax, but the topics included can vary considerably. Sometimes word lists are appended, containing body parts, measures, counting, manners of speaking, or rhetorical figures. The data presented in the grammar are mainly based on an oral corpus, whereas in other cases high registers from prestigious texts are used in which the eloquence or elegance of the language under study is illustrated. These grammars are modeled according to the traditional Greco-Latin framework and often contain invaluable information regarding language typologies, semantics, and pragmatics. In the New World, Asia, and elsewhere, missionaries had to find an adequate methodology in order to describe typological features they had never seen before. They adapted European models to new linguistic realities and created original works which deserve our attention within the discipline of the history of linguistics alongside contemporary pedagogical works written in Europe. This article concentrates on sources written in Spanish, Portuguese, and Latin during the colonial period, since these sources outnumber the production of missionary grammars in other languages.
1. The Selected Grammars
It is not easy to describe missionary grammars in general terms. Missionary grammars show immense differences and are quite often difficult to compare with each other. The variation within the corpus is great, and works vary not only in length, but also in quality, level, and didactic value. The following description is far from comprehensive, but it represents the state of the art of the topic. Not only is an attempt made to describe the Average Missionary Grammar (AMG)—in other words, the most representative grammars—but a few interesting and unusual cases are also examined. It will be highlighted why these missionary grammars are worth studying within the field of the history of linguistics. There are as many general tendencies as exceptions to the rules, and this highly heterogeneous corpus deserves more attention.
As a matter of fact, it will be impossible to cover in this overview all linguistic features from the different subfields of linguistics, phonology, morphology, and syntax, pragmatics, semantics, and even beyond: translation studies, figures of speech, and all the extra-grammatical material which is often included in missionary grammars related to music, religious texts, dialogues (pláticas), etc. The selection of grammars in this article is mainly based on publications from recent scholarship. It is difficult to avoid a certain degree of anachronism in such an approach. For instance, it might be relevant for 21st-century linguists to discuss and describe patterns of ergativity in languages worldwide. This term did not yet exist during the period under study. Some missionaries may have ignored its existence and decided not to pay attention to these patterns with which they were unfamiliar, whereas others tried to give them a place in their grammars. It is these attempts which may be interesting from the perspective of the modern historian of linguistics, although they may have been neglected in the period when these texts were written, or possibly the authors did not recognize the phenomenon at all. When evaluating these texts, the degree of inclusion of unfamiliar patterns is not the only criterion; although some works contain also normative aspects, it is obvious that these texts are mainly descriptive and had a didactic function; when some scholars of the 21st century would expect more theoretical background supporting the descriptive facts, a novice who wanted to learn an entirely unknown language as fast as he could did not expect large sections devoted to theory. Latin grammar, Latin cases, and parts of speech were seen as linguistic universals. It has been observed (Andrews, 2003, p. 20) that “a foreign-language dictionary does not give the meaning of a lexical item; it gives only prejudiced equivalences that are biased in favor of the compiler’s interests and his culture’s worldview.” The same applies for missionary grammars generally. Missionaries tried first to find the equivalences of the Latinate grammatical model, which they considered as universal. Nevertheless, it will be difficult to distinguish just one “universal” method, since the variety within the corpus is too great. This article will be limited to some general “tendencies” and will include both innovative “theoretical” insights and the pedagogical value of these texts.
When missionaries studied phonology and developed their alphabets, one of the interesting features is, for instance, the description and analysis of suprasegmentals (tone in East Asian languages, such as Chinese or Vietnamese, and Otomanguean languages in Mexico, or vowel length in Nahuatl, another indigenous language of Mexico) and some observations related to vowel quality. Spanish has five vowels, and some missionaries added a sixth in their descriptions of some South American indigenous languages, representing vowels between /ɨ/ /ʊ/, /ɪ/, or /y/, as in Tupinimabá, Guarani, and Mapudungun. When the consonant repertoire is considered, some strategies will be selected; missionaries often created new graphs or new combinations of existing letters (digraphs, trigraphs), or added diacritics to the letters of the Latin alphabet, which was often not equipped to give a separate symbol for each phoneme, which led often to cases of underdifferentiation. When morphology is discussed, the focus will be on the problem of “extensions” of the paradigms (for instance, several subcategories of the “ablative,” the topic of honorifics, etc.) and “reductions” (such as the elimination of the optative mode, or other redundant “accidents” of the noun or verb). Many languages are not inflected. The morpheme as the minimal entity in morphology was not developed yet, and quite a few traditions added other technical terms in order to describe prefixes, infixes, suffixes, and roots. Missionary linguists often included pronominal prefixes with the function of subject or those which agree with the direct object into the verbal paradigms, particularly when they described polysynthetic languages.
2. Defining the Genre
2.1 Grammar in the Greco-Latin Tradition From Antiquity to the Premodern Period
The term “missionary linguistics” seems to have been first introduced as the title of a monograph on the linguistic studies undertaken by missionaries in French Canada (Hanzeli, 1969). It is obvious that we are dealing here with an anachronistic term, since “linguistics” was not used during the period under study. Generally, the works which fall today under “missionary linguistics” are grammars, dictionaries, and any other work written by missionaries, such as catechisms or confessionaries, whenever they contain relevant information about the languages under study. Hovdhaugen made an attempt to define a missionary grammar:
A missionary grammar is a description of a particular language created as part of missionary work by non-native missionaries. It is a pedagogical, synchronic grammar covering phonology, morphology and syntax based on data mainly from an oral corpus (in a few cases from religious—mainly translated—texts).
(Hovdhaugen, 1996, p. 15)
This definition holds for the majority of missionary grammars, although there are also a great number of exceptions. In fact, not all the grammars were written by non-native speakers, although this seems to be the rule. In the grammatical tradition of Meso-America, some native speakers or near-natives wrote grammars, such as the Franciscan Alonso de Molina (ca. 1514–1585) and the Jesuit Antonio Rincón (1556–1601), who was born in New Spain. Not all the grammars surveyed here are strictly “pedagogical.” Often they give irrelevant information (seen from the perspective of didactics; cf. the work of Melchor Oyanguren de Santa Inés [1688–1747]), probably absolutely useless for language instruction. Not all grammars are strictly descriptive grammars. When high registers of the language of the elite are discussed, we can also find prescriptive features in some texts (Nahuatl). Not all grammars are strictly synchronic, either: language change is sometimes dealt with, discussing the speech of the “old” and the “new.” The “old style” often has a status of high prestige, while others reject the languages of the “ancient” grammarians. They often include information related to language change and variation. Furthermore, not all grammars cover all the subfields of phonology, morphology, and syntax. Grammatical information is sometimes given in the prologues of dictionaries, or even in the entries, and some works only cover one topic, such as the collection of alphabets1 published by Propaganda Fide or cartillas (‘spelling books’) in Latin America. These works contain relevant data for missionary linguistics today, but they were not published as missionary grammars, and for this reason they fall outside the scope of this article.
Usually, the data included in the grammars are derived from an oral corpus. Notwithstanding, there are works (particularly in Asia), where examples from a written corpus are given. In some cases, the language described is not spoken any more and only survived as a literary or liturgical language. The Jesuit missionary Heinrich Roth (1620–1668) wrote a grammar of Sanskrit. Another grammar which is based on a written corpus is a Coptic-Arabic-Latin grammar composed by Raphael Tuki (Rūfā'īl al-Tūkhī) (1703–1787), which was published when he was 80 years old. The grammar includes Bohairic and Sahidic examples with Arabic and Latin translation. The Coptic language was no longer spoken at that time. The same applies for several grammars (written in Latin) of Ge’ez, a liturgical language of Ethiopia. Liturgical languages can be the object of study in missionary grammars. There are also grammars which are composed by missionaries but not written for the mission in the strict sense, such as the grammars of Hebrew written in Portuguese by Franciscans. The authors had different motivations in writing them, and unlike other texts they were not intended as learning methods for preaching and hearing confession. The grammar of Basque by Larramendi is not strictly seen as a missionary grammar, since it was written under different circumstances; there were already Christians in those regions, and the work has another motivation: praising the Basque language as a national language and one of the “primitive” languages originating from Biblical times after Babel. Hovdhaugen also mentions some “borderline cases,” such as Aeschillus Petraeus (Finnish, 1649), who was a theologian and a foreigner who “had to cope with problems very similar to what most missionaries faced, having to analyze a language with a structure completely different from Latin and other Indo-European languages. His grammar is also in most cases very similar to contemporary missionary grammars” (Hovdhaugen, 1996, pp. 14–15). In this article, grammars of Oriental languages which were written in academic circles in Northern Europe are excluded (Erpenius, Golius, de Dieu), although these non-missionary sources were often influenced by the work of previous missionary grammars and dictionaries, or by translations published by the Propaganda Fide. The Arabic grammars and dictionaries written by Spanish Franciscans (González, Cañes) were not exclusively developed for teaching Arabic to novices, but in their prologues we read that these texts could be also useful for traders or academics, as occurs also in the French grammar of Turkish of Holderman. Even the terms “university” or “academic circles” are problematic: the Royal University of Mexico clearly has a long tradition of teaching grammars of indigenous languages, and the university professors were often missionaries, most of them Augustinians (Zwartjes & Flores Farfán, 2017). Theology and language teaching went hand in hand with other topics taught at the universities of that time.
Why are missionary grammars and dictionaries so important? They are often the only, or one of the few, existent texts of endangered or extinct languages or varieties; furthermore, the description of hitherto unknown languages and their typologies was a great challenge for missionaries, and their achievements are an important step forwards in the history of linguistics. Missionaries are particularly important, since the major part of all the work done in the period from the 16th until the 18th century was done by missionaries; works written by non-missionaries during the colonial period are almost nonexistent (one of the few examples is the Vocabulario Manual of Arenas (Pedro de Arenas, 1611). Mission and missionary grammars were in this period part of colonialism (“spiritual conquest”). Almost without exception, the illustrative corpus, the collected data, were selected for the specific target group, the novices who were sent to the mission in order to preach and hear confessions. There are examples of grammars and glossaries which were written in the context of “colonialism,” which were not strictly developed as missionary grammars and dictionaries, and for this reason they fall outside the subfield of missionary linguistics. Two examples which can be mentioned here are Jan Joshua Ketelaer’s grammar and dictionary of Hindi and Persian, written for the Netherlands East India Company, and Antônio da Costa Peixoto’s Obra nova da língua geral de mina (Peixoto, 2002), which describes a language of the African slaves (mina-jeje) in Brazil, which was written in order to communicate with African slaves, without missionary goals.
Some missionaries wrote texts of their own native language, as Oyanguren de Santa Inés (Basque; a work considered to be lost), and the same author also composed a grammar of Tagalog, a language he seems to have been quite proficient in. His Tagalismo elucidado (printed in Mexico in 1742) was partially based on the work of his predecessors, and partially checked by his informants. From the same author we have a grammar of Japanese, which seems to be based mainly on written texts, such as the Spanish translation of a Japanese-Portuguese anonymous Jesuit dictionary and other written sources (Collado). Missionaries were not always proficient in all these languages. Some were able to speak them fluently (Rincón, Rodrigues), and some less (Alcalá). It is remarkable that the majority completed their texts after several decades of hard work—collecting data, writing and adjusting drafts—whereas other works were completed in a hurry. These latter texts often give the impression of being preliminary notes or drafts. It was not unusual for missionaries to be proficient in more than one indigenous language. It has often been said that these grammars are deficient because they followed the Greco-Latin model too strictly. On the other hand, one has to be aware that the authors of these grammars often had a great advantage in being familiar with more than one non-Western language. It must be admitted, however, that this increasing knowledge of linguistic typologies did not always lead to a more accurate description of unfamiliar typological features; some authors are interested in comparative linguistics, etymologies, while others are definitely not. Compared to linguists avant la lettre in Europe, we see some exceptions of scholars who were familiar with Finnish, Basque, or Estonian, and some academics learned, apart from Hebrew, Greek, and Latin, also Persian or Turkish, but the majority of authors of grammars of European vernaculars were generally not familiar with more than one non-Indo-European or non-Western language. Many examples can be summed up from the New World and Asia: Olmos, Carochi, Basalenque, Tapia Zenteno, Valdivia, Oyanguren, etc. Priests in Japan had generally also spent some time in Goa or Macao, those who were sent to the Philippines stayed for some years in Mexico, those who studied regional languages were familiar with the “general” or “supraregional” language; authors of Totonac grammars also give translations in Nahuatl, and in the Andes, Quechua is frequently present in the descriptions of other languages.
In Mexico, some grammarians were native or near-native speakers, although most were born in Europe. All these sources which are labeled as “missionary grammars” belong to what has been called missionary linguistics. Other scholars, particularly in the Bremen circle (www.culcc.uni-bremen.de), prefer to use the term “colonial and postcolonial linguistics.” I prefer to use the term “missionary linguistics,” since so many sources were written outside the colonies of the Spanish, Portuguese, French, English, and Dutch empires, as for instance the grammars of the Propaganda Fide of Georgian, Ge’ez, Coptic, and Armenian. Nevertheless, Hovdhaugen’s definition still holds for many grammars, and it provides a very useful theoretical starting point, but it should not be applied too rigidly in practice. If we wish to include all these sources, it is safe to label them as “older linguistic documentation,” and the challenge of those working in this field is to revitalize it in order to make its importance, relevance, and interest for the history of linguistics known.
The term “grammar” is not always used in the title of these linguistic descriptions. The Greek work entitled Τέχνη Γραμματική, attributed to Dionysius Thrax (ca. 170–ca. 90 bce), is considered to be the foundation of western grammar-writing. It includes sections on phonology and orthography (accents, stops, letters, and syllables) and defines parts of speech according to their “accidents” (qualifications, such as cases and moods). It contains some paradigms, and syntax is not treated at all (in that sense, missionary grammars, according to Hovdhaugen’s definition, are an “extension” which departs from Dionysius Thrax. In Greek, τέχνη means ‘art,’ ‘skill,’ ‘craft,’ ‘cunning of the end’ (as in metal working, for instance). Γραμματική is here an adjective derived from γράμμα, which means ‘written character’ (not only letters, but also musical notes), ‘letter.’ The term is also used without τέχνη, and means ‘grammar.’ Neither Priscian (early 6th c. ce) nor Donatus, one of the most important sources for humanistic Europe and beyond, uses the exact translation of Τέχνη Γραμματική, which would be in Latin Ars grammatica. Priscian’s monumental work bears the title Institutiones grammaticae, whereas Donatus entitles his works Ars minor and Ars maior. In other works, in Greek Τέχνη Γραμματική, the first element never stands alone as the title of a grammar, whereas the second word can be used as a substantivized adjective. In Latin the term grammatica can be omitted, as in the case of Donatus. Grammaticus can have a broader meaning than strictly ‘grammarian.’ In rhetoric it covers the meaning of litteratus, a scholar who studied or taught literature. In the following section, an overview will be given of the titles of grammars written in the New World and elsewhere; some are labeled as arte, others as gramática, and different combinations are possible. The term institutiones is not used in the New World as the title of a grammar (only as the title of a section in Zambrano’s grammar of Totonac), but we find it in the Old world (Maggio, Georgian). Neither do we find a title in the New World with Nebrija’s term introducciones in the title, which is surprising in itself, since most authors took Nebrija as their model.
2.2 The Humanistic Background
In humanistic Europe, more terms were used as the title of Neo-Latin Grammars, such as Rudimenta grammatices (Niccolò Perotti, 1430–1480), Elegentiae linguae latinae (Lorenzo Valla, ca. 1406–1457), Regulae grammaticales (Guarino da Verona, 1374–1460); Regole della Volgar lingua Fiorentina (Leon Battista Alberti, 1404–1472), or Introductiones latinae (Antonio de Nebrija, ca. 1441–1522); dialogues were also used as an innovative genre in the context of language teaching, such as the Familiarium colloquiorum formulae of Desiderius Erasmus (1467–1536). It has to be observed that not all these works belonged to the same genre. The colloquia were composed with the objective of communicating in Latin, while the others were compilations of grammatical rules.
In the New World, the most frequently used title has the structure Arte de la lengua X. Grammars are not always published separately, and sometimes include glossaries or vocabularies (the type Arte y vocabulario, as in Ruiz de Montoya’s combined grammar and dictionary of Guarani). Small variations also exist, such as Arte en lengua X, used by Córdova (Zapotec). Another type has the structure Arte de la gramática de la lengua X (Arte de grammatica da lingua X) (Anchieta, Tupinambá; Mamiani, Kiriri). In other cases, the two words are linked together with the copula “and”: Arte y gramática (Bertonio, Aymara and Valdivia, Mapudungun), which gives the impression that the two words belong to a different genre (when ‘or’ is used, the words seem to be synonyms). Without copula, we also find such titles as Ars grammaticae (Collado, Japanese); the two words can be separated by ‘or,’ as in Gramática o arte (Santo Tomás, Quechua), and the two words can be also placed in different order: Gramática y arte (González Holguín, Quechua).
Arte is not always used. We also find such titles as Gramática de la lengua X / Gramatica en la lengua X (Lugo, Chibcha). Donatus’ title is also used: Arte breve (Bertonio, Aymara; Rodrigues, Japanese) or Compendio del Arte de la lengua X (Guadalajara, Tarahumara). A minority use unique or less common titles, such as Tagalismo elucidado (Oyanguren, Tagalog), The Indian Grammar begun (Eliot, Massachusett), Luces del otomí (anonymous, Otomi), Lo imposible vencido (Larramendi, Basque), Doctrina y enseñanza en la lengua (Nágera y Yanguas, Mazahua), Arte y pronunciacion en lengua (Pareja, Timucua), Noticia de la lengua (Santiago León, Chiriguano; Tapia Zenteno, Huastec), Reglas (Neve y Molina, Otomi); in missionary works written in Latin we find also Regulae (Brusciotto, Kikongo).
Some grammars or Artes are not published as independent works, but are rather embedded in a larger volume, as in the case of the chapter entitled “Advertencias gramaticales” in the work Doctrina y enseñança en la lengvua maçahva (1637) of Diego Nájera y Yanguas, which also includes word lists, dialogues, and religious texts. The Augustinian priest Manoel da Assumpçam wrote a work on Bengali in Portuguese entitled Vocabulario em Idioma Bengala e Portuguez. Dividido em duas partes (1743). It is the first description in Latin script of the Bengali language; it includes a grammar with the title Breve Compendio da Grammatica Bengala (1–40) and two vocabularies, the first Bengala-Portuguez (41–306) and a second Portuguez-Bengala (307–592). De Rhodes’ Dictionarium of Vietnamese (lingua annamitica) puts the grammatical at the end of the dictionary. The work entitled Dictionnaire Galibi (Salle d’Étang) has the subtitle précedé d’un essai de grammaire. Another example is the work Chilidúgu: sive res chilenses… vel descriptio status tum naturalis, tum civilis, cum moralis regni populique chilensis (1777) of the Jesuit priest Bernard Havestadt, in which the grammatical section entitled Chilensis Linguae Grammatica is just one section among many others, such as a catechism, Mapudungun-Latin and Latin-Mapudungun vocabularies, music (Notae musicae ad canendum in Organo), and a Mappa Geographica. Missionary grammars were written in different styles, which is often reflected in the titles they chose, and from a modern perspective their choices are not always straightforward.
It is obvious that the overwhelming majority of grammars of languages from the New World and Asia in the Spanish tradition have Arte or Gramática or a combination of both terms in their titles. In Spain, the term Arte is found as the title of grammars of Spanish as well, such as Gonzalo Correas’s (1571–1631) Arte grande de la lengua castellana (Correas, 1903) and the Arte de la lengua española, reduzida a reglas y preceptos de rigurosa gramática of Juan Villar (1651), but this seems not to be the rule. In addition, we also find the term Instituciones (Jiménez Patón, 1614), which occurs in other parts of Europe (for instance, the Finnish grammar of Petraeus). On the other hand, the terms “method” or “institutiones” are almost never used in the New World.2
In the first decades of evangelization in Mexico, language learning and instruction were deeply influenced by humanistic sources from Europe and were not modeled exclusively on the Latin grammar of Antonio de Nebrija. Maturino Gilberti’s Latin grammar (Grammatica Maturini tractatus, 1559), one of the earliest printed grammars in the New World, follows in the first part Donatus, Perotto, Nebrija, Luis Vives’s Epistola primera (1523), and Desiderius Erasmus’s Libellus de octo orationibus partium constructione (1513); in the second part, when dealing with the “accidents” of person and number, the author again follows Nebrija (in particular the erotymata). The third part, about gender, is also inspired by Nebrija, whereas the fourth part, about regimen and constructio, is inspired by Erasmus’s Libellus de octo orationis partium constructione (1513), with many extensions and more examples. After the fifth part, on prosody, a sixth part follows, including “ornatus,” following Lorenzo Valla’s Elegantiae, Erasmus’s Paraphrasis in Elegantias Laurentii Vallae, and again Nebrija (Diferentiarum epitome ex elegantiis Laurentii Vallae). The seventh part is a reproduction of Erasmus’s Familiarium colloquiorum formulae followed by fragments from his De copia verborum ac rerum and De conscribendis epistolis. Finally, the work closes with a section from Erasmus’s Familiarium colloquiorum formulae. As was demonstrated in Zwartjes (2016), the influence of Erasmus, Vives, Valla, and others was tangible during the first period of evangelization, in particular in the teaching practices of the oldest institution of the New World, the Colegio de Santa Cruz de Tlatelolco in Mexico City. It is surprising that the majority of all grammars published after this pioneering period did not include dialogues, and there are no references to Humanistic authors, probably as a consequence of the Counter-Reformation and anti-Erasmism in the Hispanic world. Sometimes, specific works were developed in order to fill this gap, such as the Vocabulario Manual of Pedro de Arenas (1611), where dialogues are included. This work is not a grammar, and in the grammars of this period we never find references to this work, which was a great success at the time, since it had at least 14 reprints. Grammars (‘gramáticas’ and ‘artes’) were developed for ‘rules,’ and not primarily for conversation.
This situation is different in other parts of the world. One illustrative example is Paul (or Poul) Hansen Egede’s (1708–1789) grammar entitled Grammatica Grönlandica danico-Latina (1760). Egede worked as a Lutheran missionary among the Kalaalit people, and apparently his grammar was not restricted to “rules.” The work opens with phonology, followed by morphology, covering the first 181 pages. Then the “idiotisms” of Greenlandic are explained (pp. 182–213), complemented by a section entitled “Samtale” (Colloquium) with Poekus Grönlandus after his return from Copenhagen (pp. 214–239) and another section entitled “Den Anden Samtale” (Alterum Colloquium) between a person called Angekkok (“holy man”) and missionaries (pp. 241–255). Holderman’s (1730) Turkish grammar, written in French, has a comparable structure, as is already explained in the subtitle: avec un receuil des noms, des verbs & des manières de parler les plus nécessaires à scavoir avec plusieurs dialogues familiers (“with a collection of nouns and verbs and the most necessary manners of speaking, with several familiar dialogues”). The Galibi grammar written in French by Breton includes a conversation, preceding the catechism, between the missionary (Le religieux) and the indigenous (Le Caraibe). These dialogues represent a normal conversation, with such exchanges as “Bonjour mon fils” Bonjour mon Pere. Vous portez bien? Assez bien./ Ou allez vous? Ie vas au bord de la Mer. Y-a-t-il long temps que vous este icy? Ie ne faits que d’arriuer … (Breton, 1667, p. 11). In other cases, such dialogues are included not in grammars but in dictionaries (Sagard). It is remarkable that dialogues are almost nonexistent in the missionary grammars of the Spanish and Portuguese, or those in Latin (published by Propaganda Fide), as has been pointed out by Zwartjes (2016), and it is often questionable if any learner of a missionary grammar had the relevant material at hand in order to have an everyday conversation in the local language. These works were written more as textbooks for preaching and translating, and the only dialogues we find in these works are the confessionaries, sometimes complete dialogues with questions and answers, and often only the questions of the priests are given, without possible answers. In New Mexico, mainly starting in the 17th century with some illustrative examples from the first half of the 18th century, new experimental genres were developed, combining “arte” with religious texts and glossaries, interspersed by grammatical rules and information related to regional varieties, translations with grammatical connotations. The most representative works which belong to this new didactical approach are Nájera y Yanguas (Doctrina y enseñanza v Doctrina y enseñança en la lengva maçahva, 1637), Augustín de Quintana’s three works on Mixe (1729a, 1729b, and 1733), in particular his Instrvccion christiana y guía de ignorantes para el Cielo en lengva mixe (1729b), and Guevara’s Arte doctrinal y modo general para aprender la lengyua matlaltzinga (1638) (cf. Zwartjes, 2017).
3. The Languages and Varieties Described
3.1 Diatopic Variation
Missionaries often described the variety of the language which was spoken in or around the place where they were working. It occurs frequently that other local varieties are also documented, but the amount of data related to diatopical varieties varies from grammar to grammar. Some examples, chosen at random: in central Mexico, Manuel Pérez devotes quite a few sections to the variety which is called the region of “Tierra Caliente.” Bertonio sums up a great amount of varieties of Aymara, and Ildephonso Flores compares in the same grammar three different languages of the Mayan family, Quiché, Tzutuhil and Kaqchikel. Quintana (1733) explains that there are three varieties of Mixe: Mòhtùau, Cotùn and Huhmàh. He explains that his book describes only Mòhtùau. The Coptic-Arabic grammar written by Tuki (1778) describes two varieties, one from the regions around Memphis in Lower Egypt and another which concentrates on Thebes (utrique dialecto Memphiticae scilicet & Thebanensi). Leem describes the Sami dialect of the Porsanger Fjord. Many more examples could be given.
3.2 Diachronic Variation, Linguistic Registers and Styles, Manners of Speaking
Grammars were composed primarily with the objective of “reducing” (i.e., subjecting) the language to “rules.” Often these texts were not composed primarily as tools for learning to communicate (see for more details Zwartjes, 2016). In the sources used by missionaries, there is the strong need to give “authority” (Latin auctoritas) to their examples, and to try to find examples from high-prestige registers. In Latin America, no written texts were available which could be used, which explains why Andrés de Olmos included at the end of his grammar a section from the oral tradition, called huehuetlahtolli, or “old manners of speaking,” with parallels in works describing Mixtec and Tarascan. Around two hundred years later, missionaries wrote grammars of Nahuatl, rejecting the speech of earlier periods, and preferred to teach and learn modern varieties. Many vocables and even entire constructions as described by the early pioneering missionaries became obsolete, and according to some missionaries in language teaching, such archaic elements had to be eliminated and replaced by contemporary data. When a written corpus was available, as in Japan, Jesuit missionaries paid attention to different registers. In Rodrigues’ texts, we find references to Japanese literary works, some written by Christians and others by native Japanese literati. One of the main sources mentioned is the monogatari. An abridgement of the Heike Monogatari (‘tales’), as appended in the 1593 edition of the Esopu no Fabulas or Fables of Aesop, was printed in Amakusa with a preface signed by Fucan Fabian (Boxer, 1967, p. 193). The classical monogatari, written in a high-prestige register, were adapted into colloquial Japanese, and entirely new colloquial monogatari were composed, both kinds of colloquial texts belonging to the language curriculum of the Portuguese missionaries. They survive in quotations of Rodrigues (1604–1608) and in the Japanese-Portuguese Vocabulario. On the other hand, we can see that many other missionaries took their information from common speech and tried to avoid the more prestigious style of the elite. This is apparently the case of Pedro de Alcalá (Arabic) or Varo (Mandarin).
4. Structure of the Grammars: Traditional Models and New Opportunities
4.1 Internal Structure
An Average Missionary Grammar (AMG), which is a theoretical category, since no existing works satisfy all the criteria,3 follows the traditional Greco-Latin structure, starting from the smallest entity, the letter (littera), followed by the syllable (syllaba), the word (dictio), and the phrase (oratio). Sometimes, phonology and orthography comes at the end and the section on the syllable does not appear in the second place. In Antiquity, the study of the syllable was particularly relevant for the study of prosody in Latin and Greek, distinguishing long and short vowels and syllables. When missionaries found this topic relevant enough to include in their grammar, it appears usually at the end (Guadagnoli’s final section is a treatise on the Khalīlian system of versification, called carūḍ). The final sections of the grammars are generally devoted to syntax, often appended with syntaxis figurata, the figures of speech (Oyanguren de Santa Inés), and sometimes versification and rhetorical figures are combined in the same chapter with examples from poetry or songs “coplas que cantan en sus danzas” (“songs they sing when they dance,” Guadalajara, 1683, p. 36r). Missionaries also include poems at the beginning of their work (Lugo, Chibcha).
Missionaries inherited from grammars of Antiquity and the European Renaissance a structure where morphology comprises the greater part of the grammar and covers inflection (declensions and conjugations) and all its “accidents” (case, number, person, tense, etc.). Within the section on morphology, most attention was devoted to the verb. Phonology and syntax were usually not the most important topics discussed in detail. In most missionary grammars, we find more or less the same proportions. The entire metalinguistic system, with all its technical terms, was developed from Greek, and subsequently adapted to Latin and vernacular languages. This “typical” model, developed specifically for Greek and Latin—two Indo-European languages that are rather unusual from a worldwide typological perspective—will have trouble capturing many of the grammatical properties of languages of other families. Often the system was too narrow, not offering the right number of metalinguistic terms precise enough to cover the linguistic data. Missionaries could invent new technical terms or leave the system untouched. In other cases, there were many redundancies in technical terms. Some priests could leave them out, and in other cases they gave all the translations of the forms from Latin paradigms, even when the languages they described did not follow comparable morphological mechanisms or did not have such Latin categories. Seen from a modern point of view, such an overrepresentation of verbal paradigms with translations into the language under study seem redundant, and they have often been criticized in recent scholarship. However, such redundancies had their pedagogical effect. Students probably expected such paradigms, since they wanted to learn the equivalents (i.e., translations) of the Latin paradigms they were familiar with, and the strategy followed was to “reduce” the language under study into a Latinate structure. They needed translations for the “gerund,” “supine,” “participles,” and so on, and so they could not be left out, according to their view. Often such a dominant model offered the learner “mis-representations,” “over- and under-differentiation,” and such an approach often led to a too narrow view of the linguistic features under study, since the linguistic data had to pass through the “filters” of the Latinate model.
We see for instance, that the “ablative” represents many different functions of this Latin case, and in describing Tamil, authors started to introduce extra terms in order to distinguish between them. In Henriques (1549) we find only five different endings for the traditional cases (James in Zwartjes et al., 2007, p. 185), but in later works, we find an expansion of the paradigms. Da Costa (17th century) differentiated the various functions of the Latin ablative in Tamil and added the stative ablative, sociative, and instrumental. Da Costa was, according to James, the first European to extend the traditional case system. In the verbal paradigms, we find something comparable: not only are nine conjugations described by Henriques, but honorifics are also dealt with separately. These examples demonstrate that missionaries not only followed Latin models, but also took into consideration (some) linguistic facts from the languages themselves, which led them to expand the paradigms.
There were no universal methods of language teaching and learning. Some grammarians stated that the acquisition of the right pronunciation was the most important factor, whereas others had different opinions. According to Eliot (1666, p. 5), “to learn this language, [students] must be attentive to pronounce right, especially to produce that Syllable that is first to be produced, then they must Spell by Art, and accustome their tongues to pronounce their Syllables and Words; then learn to reade such Books as are Printed in their Language. Legendo, Scribendo, Loquendo, are the three means to learn a Language.” Also in other parts of the world, we find similar observations regarding the importance of the teaching of the right pronunciation, as Rodrigues postulates in his grammar of Japanese: “Pouca lingoa com boa pronunciacam monta mais, que muita com o pronunciar improprio” (“a little of the language with a good pronunciation goes further than a great deal with a bad one”: 1620, p. 5v). On the other hand, quite a few missionary grammarians told learners that pronunciation was indeed crucial, but often they did not want to devote too much space to it in their grammars, when native speakers were available in language instruction, as the following citation from grammar of Konkani illustrates: “for the pronunciation, it is not enough to know the orthography. It is necessary to hear the sounds they produce and to attempt to pronounce them as they are pronounced by those who know how to speak well” (Stephens, 1640, p. 4r).
Typological idiosyncrasies sometimes lead to different proportions compared with the European model. In the case of Chinese, the acquisition of tone and intonation was unavoidable, and as Varo writes (1703, prologue): “I ask what effect it must have on a new minister, who, upon inquiring of an old minister the way and manner in which one learns this language, is then informed that there is neither manner nor way. And then, when they have taught him (incorrectly) the pronunciation and intonations, this [new] minister is sent to a Chinese with whom he can study, and from whom he can learn or be taught; and the minister and the Chinese do not understand each other!… One can avoid such things with this brief work.” Varo devotes a relative long section to orthography and phonology (the section occupies five folios of the prologue, and the first 19 folios of the grammar). This does not mean that the author reduced other sections copied from Latin grammar. He follows the model of Antonio de Nebrija, but in many cases he comes to the conclusion that Chinese is different. In the sections devoted to nominal “declensions” and “cases,” he observes that the “nominative [case] does not have any particle which determines it. It is known, rather, by its position within the sentence, which has to be before the verb” (f. 21). Another extreme example is the section which deals with anomalous comparatives and superlatives in Chinese. The author translates the forms which are anomalous in Latin, such as bonus melior optimus, malus peior pessimus, whereas the translated forms in Chinese do not show any anomalies.
Another text, the Grammaire caraibe of Raymond Breton (1667), opens with a short section on orthography, phonology, and pronunciation, followed by a section on the article, although the author says: “Ie n’ay point trouué d’articles particulièrement affectés à la langue Caraibe” (“I have not found articles in particular in the Caribian language,” f. 16). When he opens the chapter on the noun, he states that “Les noms, hors des prepositions, ne se declinent point, à proprement parler, ny mesme dans les propositions ils ne changent point de terminaison en leurs cas” (“Apart from their propositions, nouns are not declined, properly speaking, nor are the endings of their cases changed in their prepositions,” f. 25). The major part of the grammar is devoted to verbal morphology, following the Latin paradigms (fols. 52–116), and finally, it sums up the remaining parts of speech at the end, leaving out the section on syntax. Most grammars follow this structure, with more or less similar proportions, although there are exceptions.
As Monzón demonstrates, Gilberti follows traditional paradigms throughout his grammar, but at the end he discusses the topic of ornatus. According to his view, such a section is needed, since they are “nonexistent in Latin grammars.” Another section of 25 pages is appended devoted exclusively to “particles,” where derivational morphemes are discussed (Monzón, 1999, p. 150). Lagunas’s grammar of Tarascan (Purépecha, or “Lengua de Mechoacan” (“Language of Michoacán”) is also arranged according to the traditional parts of speech, but a new section is appended, devoted to what he calls “interpositions” in alphabetical order. The section occupies the folios 144–171, and here any kind of affixes are discussed which were difficult to classify according to the traditional model. The Zapotec grammar of Córdova closes with the so-called “addictiones o exposiciones.” As verbs have their adverbs, nouns had their “adnouns” (according to Eliot), and in the same way, the “dictio” had their “addictiones,” also called syllabicas adiectiones, a term which had been used in Antiquity (Priscian). According to Córdoba (1578, p. 51r) these “addictiones” were necessary, and he includes a long list of them in alphabetical order, starting on f. 51 and ending on f. 65. Carochi (1645) includes in his subtitle that his grammar will pay extra attention to the adverb, which also occupies a considerable part of his work. It is the only work which mentions “adverbs” in its subtitle.
Blancas de San José (1610) divides his grammar into two unequal sections. The first consists of “lecciones” (‘lessons,’ a term which is not very common in grammars from other parts of the world). In these “lessons,” the basic equivalences are given of the noun, pronoun, verb, and their “accidents,” and this section occupies just 24 folios. The second part has the title “Libro de las reglas.” The first sections are devoted to the formation of the passive (diathesis), which occupies folios 25–79, and the rest of the book is exclusively devoted to roots and particles (fols. 80–291). The book closes on other topics, devoted to the “atadura” (“del modo de atar las palabras,” “about how to join words together”), which is difficult to classify according to the classical model. This explains why the author puts such “foreign” features at the end, together with some other topics related to translation of Spanish prepositions (such as “de,” which has many different meanings and functions) and, again, pronunciation and prosody. This is a clear example where the author chose a completely different structure. Only 25 pages of the grammar of the 311 folios have a clearly distinguishable Latinate structure. There are other comparable examples, although less extreme. This evolution is not only recorded in the Spanish tradition. Another example is Julien Maunoir’s dictionary of the “Langue armorique” (Breton, spoken in Brittany), to which a “Grammaire armorique” is appended. This grammar also has a large section with verbal paradigms, followed by the participle. The adverb (on one page only), prepositions, and finally, “particles, which are most of them adverbs, prepositions, and conjunctions” (“Particules qui sont Aduerbes, Prepositions, ou Conionctions pour la pluspart”), apparently not classifiable in the corresponding paragraphs on adverbs and prepositions. Apparently, they belonged to a different class, and it is significant that this section occupies the final 14 pages (with two columns on each page), as in Carrera’s grammar of Yunga (Muchik), which also “ends up with an unordered sample of grammatical problems not treated earlier” (Hovdhaugen, 1992, p. 115).
It is important that many authors preferred to follow closely the Latin paradigms and many decided not to add new chapters at the end of their grammars where they could put all the material which was according to them difficult to label correctly. Many chose a different strategy: they appended in each paragraph “notes” or “observations” (“notables,” “avisos,” “reglas”) where they discussed any kind of topic, composition, derivation, morpho-phonological rules, exceptions, etc. The structure from outside looks like a Latinate grammar, but the “extensions” in this case are made inside the model.
4.2 Phonology and Orthography
Generally, phonology and orthography do not occupy a great part of the grammar. Learners are often advised to listen carefully to the natives, and in other cases missionaries admit that they were not always successful in their descriptions. Sometimes sounds are compared with other European languages, and other grammars do pay attention to the specific features of certain sounds, and it is not an exception, although not the rule, that missionaries give details in their articulatory descriptions. Some grammarians were hesitant in introducing new diacritics, whereas other developed refined romanization systems.
For example, in China the French Jesuit Trigault developed a system of diacritics for the romanization of Mandarin Chinese which reached its most mature form in his Xīrú ĕrmùzī (西儒耳目資; “Aid to the Eyes and Ears of Western Literati”), completed in 1626. Xīrú ĕrmùzī lists Chinese characters and their readings in the Latin alphabet. This system was used by the Dominican grammarians and lexicographers, such as the anonymous author of the grammatical appendix of Marsh 696 (attributed to Francisco Díaz), Francisco Varo, and the Augustinian Juan Rodríguez. In Marsh 696, we find the diacritics for the so-called “simple tones, for which the following diacritics are used: — ᴧ \ / c ˈ. The second type of “generic” tonadas are combined diacritics. The first “mode” or “difference” (difirençia) (not labeled as such) is the small superscript c (“en la apuntaçion añidimos vna çe sobre las tonadas dichas”). The third distinction is rendered with a dot (puntillo) underneath the vowel, or above it, together with one of the four “generic” tones, indicates the degree of openness of the vowels (i.e., vowel quality). Missionaries tried to describe the articulation of these sounds as well as they could, although many definitions are quite vague, according to modern standards. One example of such a definition is: “the sound must be pronounced closing the teeth and opening the lips, as when we laugh or grin, giving a little stroke with the tongue to the teeth, while a bit of breath or air escapes outside [the mouth]” çū˙, cu\ . çu /c (in the latter, aspiration is marked as well). In this romanization, as many as three diacritics can be used on the same vowel, as in Figure 1.
Çiū˙ \ / çiū˙c ^. c \c /c The final little c does not mark the final vowel <u> but means that the initial consonant <ç> is aspirated. The “puntillo” stands for vowel quality, and the macron, inverted circumflex, and slashes stand for the tones (tonadas) of the first “generic category.” The description of the tonal system had success also outside the Chinese territories; it was adapted for the tones of the lingua annamitica in the anonymous Manuductio and the dictionary of Vietnamese by Alexandre de Rhodes. De Rhodes mentions the names of two other Portuguese priests, Gaspar do Amaral (1594–1646) and Antonio Barbosa (1594–1647), who laid the foundation for his work. In other parts of the world, tonal systems were not described with a similar meticulousness as occurs in Asia. Tonality in Meso-American languages was hardly recognized during the first centuries of colonization, let alone described, and missionaries did not always develop a refined system of diacritics to cover the phonemes unknown to them, as in Urbano’s grammar and dictionary of Otomi, or the Mixe sounds described by Augustín Quintana, whose description is far from complete and almost useless. Although Cáceres developed diacritics for Otomi, he was not able to reach the level of his colleagues working in China and Vietnam. More refined romanization systems for Otomi were developed much later, such as Guadalupe Ramírez’s work (1785). Only some diacritics are used (such as the circumflex), although the author does not explain clearly what they mean; there are some observations concerning the pronunciation of diphthongs, and that is it. If we compare his description with one from a 20th-century phonologist, we can see what he missed. The Mixe sounds are described as follows: “Chuxnabán Mixe shows a phonemic phonation contrast between plain, aspirated or breathy, and glottalized or creaky vowels. Phonation contrasts have been associated with various phonetic properties, such as differences in periodicity, intensity, spectral tilt, fundamental frequency, formant frequencies, duration, and airflow. Non-modal vowels generally correlate with increased duration when compared to their modal counterparts. Furthermore, breathiness and creakiness are often confined to a portion of the vowel” (Gorden & Ladefoged, 2001, cited in Jany, 2016).
Classical Nahuatl distinguishes long and short vowel by duration. The suprasegmental phoneme was not recognized as such by the Franciscan missionaries Olmos and Molina, but the Jesuit Antonio del Rincón (1595) developed a system of diacritics, which was later brought to perfection by another Jesuit, Horacio Carochi (1645). These so-called discoveries are extremely important for the history of linguistics, but were not always seen as successful for the learners. Carochi’s refined diacritic system was soon regarded as less necessary in language instruction, and generally the Nahuatl grammars of the 18th century did not benefit from these studies in advanced Nahuatl phonology. The pedagogical needs apparently did not always go hand in hand with more comprehensive, accurate, or theoretical approaches; the role of the native speaker in language instruction made often a detailed written description of articulatory features less necessary.
When we assess the achievements or the progress made by these pioneering missionary-linguists, we see also attempts to add new symbols to the alphabets. The Franciscan priest Alonso de la Parra developed extra symbols in the 16th century for Mayan languages, among three others, the so-called tresillos and cuatrillos (see Figure 2).
The tresillo (‘little three’) represents the uvular ejective consonant /q’/, and the cuatrillo (‘little four’) represents the velar ejective consonant /k’/. A comma added to the cuatrillo stands for the alveolar ejective affricate /ts’/. These new symbols are used in many missionary grammars of Mayan languages in Yucatán, Chiapas, and Guatemala.
Other examples are:
– The inverted <h>: as in <cɥ> /tʂ/ (Carrera’s symbol, describing Mochica, also called the Yunga language, represents a retroflex affricate, according to Hovdhaugen (in Zwartjes & Altman, 2005); and
– The inverted upsilon (‘ypsilon inversa’) <ɣ> in Chibcha (Mosca/ Muisca), to be pronounced, according to Lugo (1619, p. 1r), “with the teeth opened without closing the lips, and without touching the tongue to the palate.”
– In Francesco Maria da Lecce’s Albanian grammar (1716, p. 1), some letters are added as an extension of the Latin alphabet (see Figure 3).
– Pedro de Alcalá uses a subscript Arabic letter above the vowels for the consonant ع (cayn), which is written as ﻋ when it is joined to the following consonant, which gives romanizations as seen in Figure 4.
Not only new symbols are developed. Another strategy is the combination of existing letters, giving them new values, as occurs in Europe, as in Spanish <ch>, Portuguese <nh>, etc. Some less common examples are:
– The trigraph <xll> used by Carrera (1644) in his grammar of Mochica probably represents the retroflex fricative /ʂ/.
– In Lagunas’ Tarascan grammar, a clear distinction is made between the trigraphs <thz> (aspirated apico-dental alveolar affricate) and <ths> (aspirated predorsal alveolar affricate) (Monzón, in Zwartjes & Altman, 2005).
– In several parts of the world, missionaries had to recognize the phonological role of the glottal stop. In the Philippines the macron is used, separating syllables for the glottal stop /ʔ/, whereas in other parts of the world existing letters are used for the same glottal stop (for instance, the <h> in grammars of Nahuatl). In other languages it is often not recognized, and for that reason, we do not find any attempt to transcribe this sound. In New Spain, the glottal stop is called saltillo (‘little jump’), and in the Philippines cortadillo (diminutive of the participle cortado from the verb cortar ‘to cut off’).
Missionaries also used other alphabets in their grammars. In Fuentes’ grammar (1775) of colloquial Cypriote Greek, written in Spanish, the Greek alphabet is used. Pedro de Alcalá gives the Arabic alphabet in his Arte but does not use it in his grammar or in his dictionary. He prefers to use his transliteration system, which is the first Western attempt to create an adapted Roman alphabet with special diacritics for Arabic phonemes. The types were developed by the publisher Juan Varela (see Figure 5).
The Propaganda Fide grammars developed types for the printing of other alphabets—Georgian, Armenian, Arabic, Perso-Arabic, Coptic, Ge’ez, etc.—and missionaries used them in their grammars. The local script Baybayin of the Philippines was in use for some time, but other priests were against its use, since according to them it was ambiguous, not properly able to represent the languages it was used to write. In Europe, adapted Roman alphabets were developed as well, as they used special grammars of languages that already had their own alphabets or other writing systems. O’Molloy observes that these Irish letters are not different from Latin (“non nihil à Latinis differentes”). He uses these types in all the Irish examples (see Figure 6).
In other cases, local symbols are used with the sole purpose of giving some local color to the regional language, demonstrating that these people had different identities by using different writing systems, as in Figure 7.
It is also known that during the 18th century, the French missionaries Chrétien Le Clerq (O.M.R., born in 1641) and Pierre Maillard adapted Mi’kmaq hieroglyphs and developed logographic systems for learning and teaching this language, which continued in use until the 19th century. Alexandre de Rhodes developed a system of diacritics, mainly based on the work of his Portuguese predecessors, and this system is still in use (or reintroduced in the 20th century), although in an adapted form (quốc ngữ). Sara Ba Thaw, a preacher from Myanmar, invented an alphabet for Lisu, which was later improved by the British missionary James Fraser. In this alphabet, Roman upper-case characters are used with 15 additional characters that are inverted Roman letters in order to cover 30 consonants and 10 vowels (Tehan, 2000, p. 53; see Figure 8).
Not all missionaries were accurate in their phonological descriptions. Sometimes they used less “scientific” methodologies, according to our modern eyes. Sounds produced by the local people are compared with animals (birds, particularly when tonal languages are described, such as Otomi or in Asia), sheep (Neve Molina, 1767, p. 32): “ ’e-hueca’ ú ovejuna, escríbese así: è; pronunciase abriendo bien la boca y difundiendo la voz hácia fuera” (“the hollow ’e or sheepishly sound is written as è. It is pronounced by opening the mouth well and spreading out the voice towards the outside”). Other “peculiar” descriptions of sounds compared with those people produce when they yawn (ibid. “[‘a- hueca’]: escríbese así: à, y se pronuncia abriendo bien la boca y ahuecando la voz como quien vosteza”), (“the hollow ‘a is pronounced by opening the mouth and hollowing the voice as someone who yawns”), “children who pout” (“niños que hacer pucheros,” Marsh 696). Nevertheless, such descriptions may have been supported by oral production in situ. Missionaries in the Spanish world not only respected and appreciated, but also admired, the indigenous languages, which were in most cases “elegant” and “copious,” -although there are exceptions, whereas in other parts of the world, such as in French Canada, the speakers are labeled “sauvages” (Sagard, 1632) who were not proficient at all in their own languages, which were unstable, and “poor,” “not reduced to grammar.” This is the general rule, but of course there are many exceptions. Manuel Pérez (1713) observes that Indians are proficient in their language “use,” but they have not learned their language though grammar and rules (arte). Missionaries often may not have pronounced the languages correctly, but their expressions and constructions were sometimes seen as more prestigious, since they were acquired by “rules,” i.e. supported by texts written with auctoritas. The expressions of the Indians may appear more “copious,” but they use their language without knowing the rules. Such an attitude is a clear example of colonial arrogance.
4.3 Morphology and Syntax
Languages of all typological varieties were described, although there were no attempts to develop systematic comparative studies of language typologies. Missionaries had to study languages without any derivational or inflectional morphology, such as Vietnamese, and at the other extreme the highly polysynthetic languages of the New World. Each language brought with it its own problems. Egede (1760) describes Greenlandic, and observes that “the language’s small number of words should make it easier to learn. The natives have no religion, no arts and crafts, no scholarship, no politics; so they require no words for these things. But the inflections of the words they do have, and their constructions—which do not consist in long complicated sentences, but long involved words—cause great difficulty. This means that it is not so easy to write a grammar of the language. Anyone who simply leafs through the book, even without understanding the language, will see that it is difficult” (Egede, 1760).
In the long tradition of Nahuatl grammars and dictionaries, starting with the Franciscans Olmos and Molina and enriched by the Jesuits Rincón and Carochi, we see that all these authors were aware that Nahuatl is different from Latin. In the Latin or Spanish verb, the ending of the verb gives information about the subject or agent. In Nahuatl, bound morphemes are used as prefixes, expressing the subject of the verb, often combined with other prefixes, which express the direct object, animate, inanimate, etc. These grammarians came to the insight that acquisition of the verbal endings had to go hand in hand with the verbal prefixes. They called these prefixes pronombres conjugativos (‘inflectional pronouns’), since they considered them as part of the conjugation. Seen from a historical perspective, this is a novelty. As many others have demonstrated, these grammars were expanded by a thorough analysis of the two topics “derivation” and “composition.” Carochi (1645, pp. 76–77) explains that the Indians adore complex polysynthetic structures. The ancient Aztecs, according to Carochi, were parsimonious, using polysynthetic structures, and usually do not exceed the use of two or three roots, as in nictēnnāmiqui in motlaçòteōpixcāmātzin:
Polysynthetic constructions do not have to be exaggerated, according to Carochi. The Nahuatl speakers of his time, as Carochi observes, can even use more than that, particularly in their sacred or poetic languages, as in Tlāuhquéchōllaztalēhualtò tōnatoc “Està relumbrando con color encarnado como el paxaro tlauhquechol,” which can be glossed and translated as:
Another example from Carochi is Ayaucoçamālōtōnamēyòtimani “Y està resplandeciendo à manera del arco Iris” (1645, pp. 76v–77r):
It might seem obvious that many unknown features were studied and described by these missionaries. These example illustrate that some missionaries were interested in such fascinating expressions, which probably were never used in common conversation. Were these examples really useful for the acquisition of Nahuatl? For a modern linguist, such examples are invaluable, and Carochi is praised in modern scholarship for his accurate descriptions and the high level of linguistic thought. However, in colonial times his grammar was too complicated, and particularly in the 18th century learners preferred to learn Nahuatl from shorter and less complicated compendios. The Arte novissima (1753) of Tapia Zenteno is one of the briefest ever written.
A chapter on syntax is sometimes missing and, if it is included, it is often not more than a brief section related to the three “concords” or agreement (between subject and verb, adjective and substantive, and the relative pronoun and its antecedent). According to some authors (Carochi), a language like Nahuatl does not have any “syntax,” the reason given being that if there are no cases, there is no agreement, and if there is no agreement, there is no syntax. Other grammarians of Nahuatl from the 18th century did not follow his opinion and rejected his theory. As demonstrated in Zwartjes (2011), the section devoted to syntax gradually increases over time. Word order is not frequently discussed, although there are many exceptions. The difference between an utterance like Petrus puellam videt and Puellam Petrus videt was not seen as a central topic in grammar—both utterances are grammatical—and the differences between them are discussed in another liberal art, namely rhetoric. Nevertheless, some grammarians devoted space to word order, as in Varo’s grammar of Chinese. He does not discuss the traditional three concords, but prefers to devote a special chapter to “the way of forming sentences,” where he observes that an active sentence is commonly rendered by putting first the nominative of the person who does the action, immediately after that the verb, and finally the accusative of the person who suffers the action, which is in fact a description of a SVO language type. Rodrigues describes word order in Japanese, contrasting the language with Chinese (for more details see Zwartjes, 2011, pp. 138–139).
The study of morphology was given an extra dimension when missionaries were obliged to divide the word into lesser entities, different from the sounds or phonemes (or letters) and the entity of the syllable. They benefitted from the European grammars describing Hebrew and made ample use of the terms ‘affix,’ ‘prefix,’ and ‘root’ (radix, raíz). Lagunas even added a ninth part of speech, the ‘interpositions,’ and attempted to divide the word into smaller entities which we today would call morphs.
5. Metalinguistic Terminology
It would seem that that missionary-linguists generally do not invent many neologisms for unknown linguistic features. Although new terms are occasionally introduced, such as saltillo (Nahuatl), guturación (Andean languages), and in the Philippines cortadillo, ligatura/ligazón, protocompuestos and recomposiciones, and facere facere (Philippines), it is usually the case that existing terms were used with a different meaning, adapted to the idiosyncrasies of the language under study. As Winkler (2016, p. 18) demonstrates, Greco-Latin terminology was often used with a different (pragmalinguistic) meaning. In other cases, grammatical terminology was extended, introducing neologisms from local traditions, as occurs in grammars of Arabic. In the 19th century, the strategies changed. One example is from Kleinschmidt’s grammar of Greenlandic, where the “older linguistic terminology” has to be revitalized in order to understand exactly what he meant. Kleinschmidt uses the terms Subjectiv for ‘genitive’ or ‘ergative,’ Objectiv for ‘nominative, absolutive,’ Modalis for ‘accusative,’ Terminalis for ‘dative,’ etc. Even today linguistics uses a nomenclature derived from Latin, and many scholars still struggle with the lack of correspondence between the linguistic terms and the linguistic facts they face. In fact, the missionaries and modern linguists take the same approach: expanding the repertoire of linguistic terms when necessary, or “reducing” the linguistic facts into their models of preference.
6. Final Remarks
As has been seen, there is enormous variety among missionary grammars. An “Average Missionary Grammar” was based on the Greco-Latin model, with information related to the smallest unit, the phoneme, followed by the largest section, morphology, and finally syntax. The article has highlighted interesting achievements of some individuals, demonstrating that their pioneering works often go beyond the traditional model. The selection of topics is far from comprehensive, and the criteria of selection may seem rather random, but it is obvious that it is impossible to cover all the features. Some monographs have been published over the last years, but almost every text deserves further attention. Although progress has been made, the major part of the corpus is still understudied. One of the most important achievements of the last decades is the fact that so many texts are now available in a digitized form. Missionary linguistics is no longer in its “infancy” (Koerner, 1994, p. 19) and is starting to grow into its adolescence. There is much work to be done before it will enter the stage of its maturity.
Selected Corpus of 60 Missionary Grammars
Anonymous [Ricardo? Barzana?, S.J.]. (1586). Arte y Vocabulario en la lengua general del Perú. Lima: Antonio Ricardo.Find this resource:
de Alcalá, P. (O.E.S.H.). (ca. 1505). Arte para ligeramente saber la lengua arauiga. Salamanca: Juan Varela.Find this resource:
de Anchieta, I. (S.J.). (1595). Arte de grammatica da lingoa mais vsada na costa do Brasil. Coimbra: Antonio de Mariz.Find this resource:
de Córdoba, J. (O.P.). (1578). Arte en lengva zapoteca. Mexico City: Pedro Balli.Find this resource:
de Olmos, A. (O.F.M.). (1993 ). Arte de la lengua mexicana. A. de León-Portilla & M. de León-Portilla (Eds.). Madrid: Ediciones de Cultura Hispánica.Find this resource:
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Zwartjes, O., & Flores Farfán, J. A. (2017). Manuel Pérez (O.S.A.): Arte de el idioma mexicano (1713); gramática, didáctica, dialectología y traductología. Frankfurt: Vervuert.Find this resource:
(1.) Alphabetum Ibericum, sive Georgianvm (1629), Alphabetum Graecum (1771), Alphabetum Hebraicum addito Samaritano et Rabbinico (1771), Alphabetum veterum Etruscorum (1771), Alphabetum Grandonico-Malabaricum siue samscredonium (1772), Alphabetum Tangutanum sive Tibetanum (1773), Alphabetum Persicum (1783), Alphabetum Armenum (1784), Alphabetum Aethiopicum sive Geez et Amharicum (1789).
(2.) When we consider the title of grammars of Spanish which appeared elsewhere in Europe, we find Introduction en la lengua espagnolle (“Introduction to the Spanish language”); Saulnier, 1608, Gramática de la lengua española (“Grammar of the Spanish language”); Texeda, 1619, and from the same author, Methode pour entendre facilemente les phrases et difficultez de la langue espagnole (“Method for learning easily the phrases and the difficulty of the Spanish Language”: Texeda, 1629), and Diálogos familiares (“family dialogues”; Texeda, 1619), Advertencias y breve metodo (“Notes and brief method”; Lorenz de Robles, 1615), Un curioso, y utilissimo methodo, y reglas… (“A curious and very useful method and rules…”; Alejandro de Luna, 1620), Espejo general de gramática (“General mirror of grammar”; Ambrosio de Salazar, 1614) and from the same author Secretos de la gramática española (“Secrets of the Spanish grammar; Salazar, 1632). In French grammars of Spanish we have Grammaire espagnole (“Spanish grammar”; Marc Fernández, 1639 and Rozers, 1659), Nouvelle methode… (“New method”; Claude Lancelot, 1644), in Italy Grammatica spagnuola, e italiana (“Spanish and Italian grammar”; Lorenzo Franciosini, 1624), and in England The Key into the Spanish tongue (1605). It is remarkable that the most frequently used term in the new world, Arte, is almost never used except by grammarians who composed grammars outside Spain. Juan de Luna’s Arte breve y compendiosa… (1616) (“Brief and compendious grammar”), which resembles Bertonio’s title (Aymara), is the only exception. For reasons of space, not all the references are included of these works at the end of the bibliography. For more details, see Sánchez Pérez (1992).
(3.) Using modern statistics, the AMG could be defined, calculating the average amount of information in each section (phonology, morphology, etc.), and the quality of the information could also be supported by figures. Such facts are not yet available in recent scholarship.