Jesuit Historiography Online

The Jesuits’ Contribution to the Study, Documentation, and Teaching of “Exotic” Languages
(13,538 words)

Otto Zwartjes
[email protected]
Last modified: October 2021


This article provides an overview of the most important linguistic works composed by Jesuits during the modern age, associated chiefly with the expansion of European colonization in the sixteenth, seventeenth, and eighteenth centuries, for teaching “exotic” languages to novices and other learners in the context of evangelization. Many of these works have been ignored for a long time but nonetheless deserve a more prominent place in the history of linguistics, not least because many of the languages they describe belonged to previously unknown linguistic families, often with phonological, morphological, syntactical, semantic, and pragmatic features never seen before in Europe, which in turn led the missionaries to develop tools for language instruction that deviated from their European models. With the emergence of modern linguistics in the nineteenth century, most studies took their linguistic data from previous missionary works, making this material a unique and indispensable source for any study of linguistic historiography.

The article is limited in time, starting in the second half of the sixteenth century and ending in 1801, when Lorenzo Hervás y Panduro (1735–1809) synthesized the linguistic knowledge obtained from his informants, mainly Jesuits who had migrated to the Papal States after their expulsion from the Spanish and Portuguese territories in 1767.1 Although Jesuit missionaries have of course continued to work in the field of linguistics since the publication of Hervás y Panduro’s work, missionary linguistics has undergone methodological changes that have often gone hand-in-hand with developments in language sciences in academic circles, as a result of which linguistic documentation and the study of “exotic” languages by religious orders has become less important for the history of language sciences.

Although the Latinate structure of the missionaries’ linguistic works was subject to criticism in the nineteenth century, most scholars today agree that at least some of the premodern missionary grammars remain among the best ever written, with the same also applying to the dictionaries compiled in this period. Even when these works follow a Latinate model, the missionaries adapted it with great flexibility, leading to the production of original works that deserve a prominent place in the manuals of the history of linguistics.

While there are no absolute standards for assessing these texts, few specialists would disagree that the five best grammars ever written in Spanish and Portuguese during the premodern period were all written by Jesuits and produced between 1595 and 1645, which can be seen as a golden age of Jesuit missionary linguistics: João Rodrigues’s (1561–1634) grammars of Japanese (1604–8 and 1620), Diego González Holguín’s (1560–1620) grammar of Quechua (1608), Ludovico Bertonio’s (1557–1625) grammar of Aymara (1603 and 1612), Antonio Ruiz de Montoya’s (1585–1652) grammar of Guaraní (1640), and Horacio Carochi’s (c.1579–c.1662) grammar of Nahuatl (1645) were all produced in this period.2     

In the pages that follow, works describing languages outside Europe will be given priority,3 as the description of the hitherto unknown structural and functional features of the local languages outside Europe provides us with more insights into the missionaries’ pioneering approaches, as opposed to contemporary descriptions of the European vernaculars.

Missionary linguistics is an interdisciplinary field in the history of linguistics. As well as concentrating on primary materials developed for language instruction—mainly grammars and dictionaries—it also uses texts related to historical and linguistic documentation, including religious texts, letters, reports, and historical works containing important information about the newly discovered languages the missionaries were studying.4 

In most cases, the epistles written by these Jesuits and their reports to their superiors are a trove of information on the languages and cultures encountered in the remote territories of the world. All of these scholars were gifted linguists and pioneering compilers of dictionaries and grammars of the languages spoken in the territories where they worked. 

This essay aims to provide an overview of the most important linguistic works composed by Jesuits outside Europe and their role in the history of linguistics. The following section summarizes the works written by Jesuits in different continents, chiefly those written in Spanish, Portuguese, and French. I then focus on the sources used by Jesuit grammarians and lexicographers. This is followed by a section exploring the Jesuits’ approach to the languages and dialects they encountered: Did they generally study, document, and teach prestigious varieties, or did they concentrate on spoken vernaculars? A further section describes the Jesuits’ educational programs and explores how these “exotic” languages were studied and taught. Since many Jesuit grammarians and lexicographers were often also translators, a separate section is devoted to translation. This is followed by a section summarizing the most prominent and hitherto unknown typological features described by Jesuits, starting with phonology and orthography, the creation and development of Romanization systems and adapted alphabets for the sounds they had to describe, morphology, syntax, semantics, and pragmatics. The two final sections highlight the role of the printing press and its contribution to the production of the learning tools themselves and the circulation of linguistic knowledge documented by Jesuits in early modern Europe.

The Missionaries and Their Linguistic Works

The Jesuits were not the only missionaries: in the Spanish, French, and Portuguese territories, missionaries from other religious orders also produced impressive linguistic works, contributing to the history of documentary linguistics and the history of the production of linguistic tools more generally.

The largest and most active orders in the Catholic missions were the Franciscans, Augustinians, Dominicans, and the Jesuits. In some territories, the Jesuits were the only active missionaries, whereas in other regions they shared territory with other orders. In some cases, cross-fertilization occurred, one example of which is the Jesuit contribution to Nahuatl and Otomi (Mesoamerica) studies during the seventeenth century. Although many works circulated at the time, the most important extant sources describing Nahuatl were the linguistic works of two Franciscans, Andrés de Olmos (c.1485–1571)5 and Alonso de Molina (c.1514–85),6 which were later refined by the Jesuits Antonio del Rincón (1556–1601)7 and Carochi.8

In the history of linguistic documentation of Otomi, on the other hand, the situation was markedly different. The Franciscans Pedro de Cáceres’s (fl. 1580)9 and Alonso Urbano’s (c.1522–1608)10 studies of Otomi, for instance, were followed by a long period of silence until the mid-eighteenth century, when the first printed Otomi grammar appeared, composed by the Jesuit Luis de Neve y Molina (fl. 1767–84).11 Although Carochi also produced a grammar of Otomi, this has since been lost, and there is little evidence that either of the two Jesuit missionaries were influenced by the work of their Franciscan predecessors. 

In the central valley of Mexico, an educational infrastructure was created in the colleges and universities, such as the Colegio de Santa Cruz de Tlatelolco of the Franciscans, the Colegio de San Pedro y San Pablo, the Real y Pontificia Universidad, and the Jesuit college in Tepotzotlán. However, the situation was different in other parts of Mexico. Due to the lack of such institutions in the more remote and peripheral regions of Mesoamerica far away from the educational institutions of the capital, relatively independent traditions were born in the history of grammar writing and lexicography. In the northwest of New Spain, only Jesuit missionaries compiled linguistic works, while in other regions they did not produce any linguistic work, as was the case in Yucatán, where works were produced solely by Franciscans, or in the territories around Oaxaca, where only Dominicans produced linguistic studies.

In the northwest, several grammars were written by Jesuits describing Uto-Aztec languages: an anonymous work describing Dohema, Heve, or Eudeve;12 Balthasar de Loaysa’s (1608–72) grammar of the same language (which he called “Hegue”);13 Tomás de Guadalajara’s (1648–1720)14 grammar of Tarahumara; Natal Lombardo’s (1647–1704)15 grammar of Tegüima (or Ópata); the grammar of Cahita attributed to Tomás Basilio (1580–1654);16 and, finally, Benito Rinaldini’s (1695–1764)17 grammar of Tepehuán.18 Although the authors of these works seem to have been familiar with the great achievements from the Central Valley of Mexico City,19 they do not refer to any of these earlier works in their texts.

In North America, several missionary traditions can be distinguished, as there were missionaries who wrote in French as well as English or Latin. On the one hand, we find works written by Protestants as well as works composed in New France that were written by Jesuits, Spiritains, Recollects, and others. Although none of the Jesuits’ works were printed, Victor Egon Hanzeli (1925–91) claims that the Jesuit Sébastien Rasles (Râle, Rasle [1657–1724]) composed “one of the most voluminous dictionaries of seventeenth-century North American linguistics.”20 One of the major works describing Algonquin is the Grammaire algonquine ou des sauvages de l’Amérique septentrionale (Algonquin [Ojibwa] grammar or [grammar of] the “savages” of North America), written by Louis Nicolas (1634–c.1682) around 1674, and Jean-Baptiste de la Brosse’s (1724–82)  grammar of Montagnais.21

In the Portuguese territories, only a very small number of works were not written by Jesuits.22 Indeed, the great majority of printed grammars and dictionaries in Latin America were produced by Jesuits, whereas in other parts of the world they played a less prominent role, as for instance in the Philippines. According to Brigitte Schlieben-Lange’s (1943–2000) account of Jesuit missionary linguistic activities all over the world,23 the Jesuits studied fifty-eight languages in South America, forty-six in North and Mesoamerica, thirty-two in Africa, and thirty-four in Asia, excluding Southeast Asia. Many of these works have not survived.

Whenever several missionaries of different orders worked in the same region, this provides the opportunity to compare any surviving works to one another. In some cases, as in the Central Valley of Mexico and the Philippines, missionaries were influenced by each other, whereas in other cases many works were produced in isolation and have since fallen into complete oblivion. Such works are often more original than those written by authors who were able to benefit from the work of their confrères, but they nevertheless all share the same common canonical linguistic framework, the so-called Greco-Latin tradition. 


Sources of Inspiration

As Raf Van Rooy has demonstrated,24 the first element (Greek) in the compound form Greco-Latin is not always present in missionary grammars. Few missionaries include direct references to Greek grammarians, and Latin grammar was almost always the most important framework for missionaries. If they attempted to identify the parts of speech in these “exotic” languages, they started from a model based on Latin.

There are exceptions, however. Some missionaries included Greek categories or used Greek metalinguistic terms, and some Jesuits also studied non-Western traditions. Heinrich Roth (1620–68), for example,25 was the author of a grammar of Sanskrit in Latin, and Rodrigues authored two grammars of Japanese in Portuguese26 that applied local traditions together with the Latin categories. Similarly, when composing his Manchu–French dictionary, Jean Joseph Marie Amyot (1718–93) used a Manchu–Chinese dictionary as a model rather than a Western dictionary, as indicated in the title.27 

Nonetheless, these authors are more of an exception than the rule. Thomas Stephens (c.1549–1619), describing Konkani in India, for example, was an erudite scholar who could have used the local descriptive model based on the tradition of Sanskrit grammar. Yet although he had sufficient knowledge to do so, he ultimately decided to follow the Latin framework, probably for pedagogical reasons, as it is likely that learners were interested in acquiring the necessary bases corresponding to Latin categories, since this was the framework with which they were familiar.

The main source for grammar writing in the Spanish territories was humanist Antonio de Nebrija (c.1444–1522). Unlike grammars produced in New France or Brazil,28 where sources are generally not mentioned at all, Nebrija’s lexicographical and grammatical works are frequently referred to in the Hispanic world. In French works, no mention is usually made of any European model. This may have been because there was no official decree mandating a specific school grammar for the teaching of Latin in the French colonies, unlike the Spanish territories, and the missionaries may not have considered it necessary to mention their sources.

Nebrija wrote a grammar of Latin, published in 1481,29 soon followed by another bilingual grammar for females (“contrapuesto al romance”), published around 1488.30 In 1492, he completed his Castilian grammar,31 which fell into disuse almost immediately and was only rediscovered later in the eighteenth century. Although at least some missionaries are likely to have seen this Castilian grammar, they generally did not use it as their model, instead using one of the later editions of his Latin grammar. In the Spanish territories, it was established by royal decree that Nebrija’s Latin grammar should be used as the sole tool in the instruction of Latin, and specifically the so-called Arte regia (Royal grammar) compiled much later by the Jesuit Juan Luis de la Cerda (1558–1643). This version was first published anonymously in 1598 but later as Aelii Antonii Nebrissensis de institutione grammatica libri quinque (On the grammatical arrangement of Aelius Antonius from Nebrija in five books [Madrid, 1601]),32 which was in fact completely different from Nebrija’s original text. Indeed, rather than Nebrija,33 de la Cerda often used definitions from the grammar of the Jesuit Manuel Álvares (1526–82),34 which are copied verbatim from Franciscus Sanctius (also called “El Brocense” [1523–1601]).35

Not much is known about the possible sources of grammars written by the French Jesuits in New France. The Jesuits who were active in French Canada came from different regions, and although it was established in the Ratio studiorum that Álvares’s Latin grammar should be used in Latin-language instruction, the situation turned out to be quite different in France compared with Portugal, for instance, where the grammar was generally used. Indeed, as Hanzeli demonstrates,36 Álvares’s grammar was introduced in many Jesuit schools, but “the French Provinces rejected [it] emphatically,” arguing that the grammar of Ioannes van Pauteren (Jan de Spauter, Despauterius;  Despautère [c.1460–1520]) was too firmly entrenched in the French teaching system. In France, the most widely used work was an adaptation of Jean Behourt (fl. between 1586 and 1620 in Rouen), a version that was later re-worked by the Jesuit Charles Pajot (1609–83). Hanzeli claims that “Pajot’s grammar was authorized and recommended for use in the Jesuit schools in the Province of Paris in the year of its publication in 1650 (Despauterius novus).”37

Nebrija was not only the most important source for missionary grammars but also for their lexicographical production in Latin America and the Philippines. He published two bilingual mono-directional dictionaries, the first, Latin–Spanish, appeared in the same year as his Castilian grammar, followed closely by another volume Spanish–Latin.38 As occurred with the reception of the grammar, missionaries usually used one of the many re-editions that were published in Europe rather than the editio princeps as a template.39

In general, the Portuguese lexicographers did not use Nebrija’s dictionaries as their source but instead used either Portuguese dictionaries or one of the versions of the multilingual dictionary of the Augustinian Ambrogio Calepino (1435–1511).40 As has been demonstrated by Dieter Messner,41 the first Portuguese–Chinese dictionary was composed by the Italian Jesuits Michele Ruggieri (1543–1607) and Matteo Ricci (1552–1610), who took Jerónimo Cardoso’s (c.1508–69)42 dictionary as an example.43 Messner44 also demonstrates that the Portuguese sections of the Dictionarium are direct translations from the Latin examples of the Calepino.45 Emi Kishimoto concludes that the editors “translated the Latin entries of the original Calepino into Portuguese and Japanese.”46 Most of the Japanese was clearly translated from the Portuguese translations written beforehand. For the Brazilian dictionaries, Bento Perreira’s (1605–81)47  Prosodia (1723) is mentioned as a possible source for the Vocabulario na lingua brazilica (Vocabulary of the Brazilian language).

In French Canada, it was common practice for Jesuits to start by compiling dictionaries, followed by grammars and translated religious texts at a later stage. Another difference when compared with Latin America is that Jesuits in New France started with a mono-directional version, translating from the indigenous languages into French and/or Latin. In Latin America, this was less common, as most lexicographers started with a version based on Nebrija’s Spanish–Latin dictionary, replacing the Latin equivalent of the Spanish lemmas with equivalents in the indigenous language, though exceptions can also be listed. This suggests that the Jesuits in New Spain worked more freely and were less influenced by Old World sources, although mention is made of one of the re-editions of the French–Latin dictionary Apparat royal (Royal device; erroneously attributed to the brothers Nicolas Conteray Lallemant [1739–1829] and Richard-Gontran Lallemant [1725–1807]48 and published for the first time in 1680 by the widow [born as Madeleine Thévenon (c.1641–171?)] of Claude-Louis Thiboust [1667–1737], with many eighteenth-century re-editions). John E. Bishop and Kevin Brousseau49 identify this Apparat royal as the direct source for Pierre-Michel Laure’s (1688–1738) Apparat français–montagnais (French–Montagnais device), which was completed in 1726,50 but Laure did not use the original as a “slave” copy; instead, he used a copy with a number of interesting adaptations, omissions, and “sensitivity to Nêhiraw culture.”51

The first, pioneering lexicographers could not make use of any previous works, and all the works that appear later are clearly the result of a collective enterprise.52 Thus later missionaries generally made ample use of works compiled by other Jesuit New World lexicographers as direct or indirect sources for their dictionaries, although, as Bishop and Brousseau demonstrate, “relationships between the dictionaries seem to vary greatly.”53

Languages and Dialects: Prestigious Registers, General Languages, and Colloquial Varieties 

Jesuit missionaries in South America generally attempted to describe the most frequently spoken language of a certain region. The Jesuit José de Acosta (1539–1600) uses the term “lengua general” as a synonym for lingua franca,54 and a comparable status was also given to other Amerindian languages, such as Nahuatl, Chibcha (also called Muisca), and Aymara. So, the language described in an early account of Aymara was the variety that had the highest degree of intelligibility among “almost all” Aymara-speaking tribes.

The Portuguese missionaries had a comparable objective. To reach as many Indians as possible, they chose a koine or “common” language variant that was super-tribal. In the sixteenth century, the Jesuit Joseph de Anchieta (1534–97) entitled his grammar of a language without a specific glottonym Arte de grammatica da lingoa mais usada na costa do Brasil (Art of the grammar of the most commonly used language along the Brazilian coast),55 and from the seventeenth century the term “língua geral” (or “língua [geral] brasílica”) began to be used to denote such a koine in Brazil. Luis de Valdivia (1561–1642)56 does not give a specific glottonym for the language described, today called Mapudungun. Although he distinguishes between linguistic varieties of the tribes north of the Bíobío River and those from the south (Beliches, Huilliches), including Chiloé, the title of his grammar is simply “lengua que corre en el Reyno de Chile” (language that is used in the entire Kingdom of Chile).

Despite the diffusion of Jesuit, Franciscan, and Dominican publications about Japan and China, the linguistic situation in some parts of Asia was still largely unknown in Europe during the first half of the seventeenth century. Based on the supposed universality of the Chinese language and the Chinese script, Muzio Vitelleschi (1563–1645), the superior general of the Society of Jesus (in office 1615–45), asked the Jesuit visitor André Palmeiro (1569–1635) to investigate the possibility of using Chinese as a “general” language for all the Asian missions. Vitelleschi may have been inspired by the missionaries in the Americas,57 where earlier pre-Colombian “imperial” indigenous languages such as Quechua and Nahuatl also served as linguae francae throughout the Inca and Aztec empires and beyond. A similar linguistic policy was also applied in Brazil, where Tupi (nambá), the most commonly spoken language of the coast, was given the status of língua geral for the Jesuit missions.

In the “teaching programs” in China, Jesuit education primarily aimed to enable students to acquire proficiency in classical Chinese, although there was also space for the instruction of informal conversations. Knowledge of classical Chinese was needed, as well as the ability to read, understand, interpret, and translate Confucian works. Such a “teaching program” has been summarized by Liam Matthew Brockey,58 who states that the novices acquired familiarity with spoken Chinese (guānhuà 官話, literally “speech of the officials”) during the initial six months while they started learning to read and write characters using Nicolas Trigault’s (1577–1628) Xīrú ěrmù zī 西儒耳目資 (Aid to the ear and the eye of Western scholars) to build their vocabularies. They had to avoid the acquisition of any form of “inelegant style.” The program’s second stage involved learning to speak guānhuà fluently,59 with the learners being introduced to the “courtesies used, when dealing with and speaking to the Chinese, as well as the accepted forms of table manners, the proper way to drink tea, the way to arrange one’s hair, and other culturally specific practices.” Furthermore, in Brockey’s study we read that “students were also introduced to etiquette during their lessons by using speech books of the type employed by the missionaries since the 1590s.” Brockey cites one such text written by the Jesuit José Monteiro (1649–1720), a dialogue between a priest and a Chinese Christian entitled Vera et unica praxis breviter ediscendi, ac expeditissime loquendi sinicum idioma suapte natura adeo difficile […]: In usum Tyronum missionarium (The true and only brief method for quickly learning to speak the Chinese language, which by its nature is very difficult […]: For use in training missionaries),60 mainly a confession manual but also including “small talk” about travel, food, and the weather. The Dominican Domingo Fernández Navarrete (1618–86) refers to a similar notebook and observes that they were very popular among the Dominicans,61 who made ample use of them. The third part of the basic educational program was learning to write Chinese characters, and once this knowledge was achieved, the pupils started to study the Confucian canon (the four books), history, and law; to further understanding of these texts in classical Chinese, the teaching would focus on acquiring the differences between spoken guānhuà and classical Chinese.

Missionaries also had to make decisions about the language variety they studied, described, and taught in other diglossic societies.62 Antão de Proença’s (1625–c.1666)63 Tamil–Portuguese dictionary, for example, leaves out poetic words on the grounds that “they are useless for practical purposes or for prose, and the Tamil poets have their own vocabularies for them.”64 On the other hand, his dictionary also includes “many Sanskrit words,” since they “occur in the ordinary conversation of the Brahmins, whose language is more elevated.” In New Spain, Nahuatl language instruction was not primarily aimed at translation, as was the case in China. From the earliest period, missionaries were interested in the high-prestige variety of Nahuatl, initiated by pioneering Franciscans such as Andrés de Olmos (c.1480–1568) and Alonso de Molina (c.1514–79). The grammars did not usually include any practical or useful examples for “small talk” or daily conversation, although some examples were given under the label auctoritas (authority). The authors decided to take their examples from the so-called Huehuetlahtolli, the prestigious variety spoken by older people, and called for missionary religious texts to be written in this respectful register, albeit with caution, as any association with pre-Hispanic rites and Aztec idolatry had to be avoided. It was not only Franciscans such as Bernardino de Sahagún (1499–1590) who took their examples from this high register.65 The Jesuit Carochi, for instance, uses examples in his grammar that also represent this high register. Carochi informs his readers that the Indians were originally rather moderate (parco) in using “compound forms,” whereas in poetry and “sacred manners” they often use a more complex style, producing words with more than two roots, for which Carochi gives some examples.66 In Christian religious discourse, the register had to come as close as possible to this prestigious style, but it was not to be exaggerated and had to be free of any associations with the religious belief and accompanying linguistic register that the Aztecs used in pre-Hispanic times.67 These attitudes regarding the style the missionaries should apply are also found in the work of Tomás de Guadalajara (1648–1720) describing Tarahumara, another Uto-Aztec language of northwest Mexico. In songs (“tlahtales,” “cantares”), composition with “imprudent” excessive use of compound forms and derivations, accumulating particles on particles, which are never used in ordinary speech,68 is not recommended.

For many scholars, it is clear that the variety described in missionary texts is often a koine, a variety created by missionaries, “sensibly distanced from the spoken varieties,” although this is ultimately a matter of debate.69 A distinction also has to be made between a koine that was an ideal creation in the eyes of the grammarians and lexicographers, a pure language without any “corrupt” forms, barbarisms, or solecisms, the object of serious study, and the imperfect variety of learners.

Rodrigues vehemently criticized the Japanese style as it was used by European learners of Japanese. He argued that the best Japanese must be acquired from native speakers and sources written by Japanese authors, dismissing the reading of the Feiqe monogatari (Tale of the Heike; an epic medieval novel about the rivalry between two clans), one of the earliest books printed in Japan using movable type and the first non-religious text printed in colloquial Japanese.70

As was the case elsewhere, in South America missionary lexicographers did not have a unified approach to markedness,71 whether diatopic or diastratical. As for the marking of diatopic variation, we see two tendencies. Some lexicographers ignored diatopic variety or recognized the existence of regional differences but decided not to mark them as such in their dictionaries. Throughout the whole region, a super-dialectal variety or koine, which should have been intelligible in most regions, was chosen or created. Yet there are also sources that include—systematically or not—information related to regional varieties. The anonymous Arte y vocabulario (Grammar and dictionary) of 1586, for instance,72 occasionally marks a word with the abbreviation “(Chin.),” which means that it is used particularly in Chinchaysuyo, the northern variety of Quechua. Aymara sources include more details related to local varieties than most others. In the Aymara wordlist in the anonymous Doctrina christiana y catecismo para instruccion de los Indios (Christian doctrine and catechism for the instruction of the Indians) of 1583–84,73 there is an extensive list with abbreviations referring to diatopic varieties: A. stands for “Aymaraes del Cuzco”; C. for “[C]ara[n]gas, y Charcas”; L. for “Lupacas”; P. for “Pacajes”; Po. for “Potosí”; Q. for “Quillacas”; and “alibi” indicates “diuersas naciones” (several nations). Bertonio, by contrast, decided to describe only the variety spoken by the Aymara people of the province of Lupaca. Just as in sources from other orders, diatopic varieties were never studied systematically, such that although some authors were interested in highlighting diatopic differences, others were not. In the linguistic tradition of the Dominicans, Alonso de los Reyes’s (c.1525–1603) prologue to his Mixtec grammar is exceptional,74 since it provides the reader with detailed information on different varieties of Mixtec spoken in the region. However, this cannot be considered a characteristic feature for this religious order, since other Dominicans ignored local varieties and tried to describe one variety they considered as standard to be used in the missions they worked.

In New France, Jesuit missionaries describing varieties that are today labeled as Cree (Algonquian) were aware that the varieties described were generally mutually intelligible. Missionaries often knew more than one variety of an Algonquian language, which in practice means that they first worked with the Nêhiraw before they went to other regions where other varieties were spoken. Missionaries in New France frequently worked with multilingual informants. According to Bishop and Brousseau,75 around a dozen languages can be identified in the linguistic works of Antoine Silvy (1638–1711)76 and Bonaventure Favre (1655–1700).77

Finally, it is notable that Jesuits (as well as other orders in the Americas and the Philippines) tend not to describe Creole or pidgins that had resulted from contact with European languages, as they were more interested in studying, documenting, teaching, and translating their texts into “natural languages.” Creoles were accordingly considered corrupt and were usually ignored in linguistic documentation. It would be reasonable to expect, for instance, contact phenomena in Pedro Dias’s (1622–1700) grammar of the Bantu language Kimbundo, as it was spoken among the slaves in Brazil, but the language described does not have any trace of a contact language and there are no traces of any Portuguese loanwords. As always, however, there are exceptions. Joseph Dahlmann (1861–1930) reports that an ex-Jesuit with the name Ducoerjoin (sic) describes “Negerfranzösisch,” a Creole language spoken in Dominica (in French Dominique), Martinique, and Trinidad.78 Dahlmann was in fact referring to Ducœurjoly’s (fl. 1803) Manuel des habitans de Saint-Domingue (Handbook of the inhabitants of Saint-Domingue), which was published in 1803.79

In the territories of the former Inca Empire, Quechua was used as a lingua franca, from Southern Colombia to North Argentina, and the language has many varieties. In a recent study, Alan Durston answers the question of “How Quechua was Pastoral Quechua?,” concluding in his analysis that:

pastoral Quechua can be considered a new and distinctive “language” at many important levels. It was a written medium whose oral instantiations were closely tied to printed or manuscript books, and it had unique and novel vocabulary, genre models, and stylistic and performance characteristics. Standard Colonial Quechua can be thought of as a new linguistic variety.80

Educational Programs and Didactics

Most Jesuit grammarians and lexicographers did not supply much detail about their learning strategies, with the most detailed sources about language teaching being related to Jesuit education in Macau, such as the second edition of the Japanese grammar of Rodrigues, which contains details on how to learn Japanese. In the Americas, apart from some recommendations on language acquisition and communication with the natives, only a small number of texts include an explicit didactic “guideline” for learners. However, there are some important exceptions, such as Rodrigues, Bertonio, Ruiz de Montoya, González Holguín, and Neve y Molina.

In his Arte grande (The great art), Rodrigues explains to his readers that, for didactical reasons, it is better to explain the use of “certain particles” of Japanese at an early stage (i.e., at the beginning of the grammar). In order to understand the mechanisms of verbal “conjugations,” it would not make any sense to start explaining the “particles” after the eight traditional parts of speech.81 Like Rodrigues, Bertonio also wrote an arte breve (short art) and an arte grande, in his case of the Aymara language. According to the instructions in the prologue of his dictionary, entitled Modo de estudiar esta lengua (Manner of how to study this language), three steps must be taken: (1) carefully studying the arte grande; (2) constructing more complicated phrases, sermons, and examples from Aymara, translated and composed appropriately with the assistance of the Indians; and (3) practicing what has been learned (“venir a la práctica sujetándose al trabajo de la composición”).82 Ruiz de Montoya wrote a grammar and two dictionaries, each of which has a different structure. He explains in the prologue of his Guaraní–Spanish Tesoro (Treasure) how the three works have to be used together, the grammar (Arte), the Spanish–Guaraní dictionary (Vocabulario), and the Guaraní–Spanish dictionary (Tesoro), both for beginners and the more advanced students. Grammatical rules, the acquisition of words, and the illustration of many examples with words in a context formed a complete didactic framework.83 In the third book of his grammar, Holguín explains that learners have different “tastes” (gustos), including those who only need an arte breve for the acquisition of a language to a modest level (“para saber moderadamente”) and others who want to achieve an advanced level, that is, with “copiousness and elegance” (copia y elegancia).84

In a more advanced institution, teaching a foreign language was probably more structured than in the more remote regions, where pioneering missionaries were still struggling to find the best way to describe a hitherto unknown linguistic feature for which no equivalent Latin category from traditional school grammars could be found. In such circumstances, not only do the authors show more flexibility in the selection and presentation of the linguistic material but learners may also have used the grammars of their teachers with more freedom.

Although most printed works could easily be diffused among learners and educational institutions, it is also clear that a great number of the manuscripts produced by Jesuits were not always intended to be used as learning tools on a large scale. As Bishop and Brousseau observe, “some of the Nêhirawêwin dictionaries appear to have been primarily for personal use, while others adopt an explicitly pedagogical tone.”85


The Third Council of Lima (1582–83) prescribed a linguistic policy obliging the clergy to instruct in the native languages.86 In the Hispanic world, one of the most important texts in the colonial period was the “Epístola sobre la traducción” (Epistle on the translation) published in the Doctrina christiana y catecismo para instruccion de los indios y demas personas que han de ser enseñadas en nuestra fe (Christian doctrine and catechism for the instruction of the Indians and other persons to whom our faith must be taught),87 which explains the church’s linguistic and translation policy in the Andes. Since the Catholic religion was so new to the indigenous population, expressing the Christian concepts in the indigenous languages was a major challenge for many priests, even for those who were proficient in Quechua or Aymara. When they tried to do so, they often used words that suggested erroneous and improper concepts.

As well as religious texts, Jesuits also translated the Chinese classics into Latin and famous European works into Chinese. Vernacular texts, such as the Fables of Aesop, were translated to Chinese by Ricci, and a Japanese version was printed in Amakusa,88 with these texts being used in the context of foreign-language instruction.

Missionary grammars from the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries do not usually provide the learner with much practical information about translation strategies and practices. One of the few exceptions are the grammars of Quechua and Pampango, studied by Aarvig Paulsen.89 In bilingual doctrinal texts, the prologues often outline the author’s views on translation. One illustrative example is Bertonio’s Libro de la vida y milagros de Nuestro Señor Jesucristo (Book of the life and miracles of Our Lord Jesus Christ).90 According to Bertonio, three strategies can be used in translation: (1) word-for-word translation, which is considered a bad practice that often leads to mistranslations; (2) sense-for-sense translation, which is in fact the oldest norm for translating but is to be avoided, since learners of a language, particularly beginners, will not benefit from “elegant translations,” or they will fail to learn anything, if they are no longer able to see which element in the source language corresponds with its equivalent in the target language. The best manner is the third: (3) translation between the first and second (“media entre la primera, y segunda manera de traducción”), changing the word order in the target language here and there, translating noun-to-noun, verb-to-verb, so that the user learns Aymara, even when the Spanish text is ungrammatical or less “elegant.”

For reasons of space, it is not possible to summarize all the translations of Christian doctrines and catechisms here. I instead refer the reader to Durston’s Pastoral Quechua: The History of Christian Translation in Colonial Peru, 1550–1650 (2007)91 for more details on translation and colonial religious discourse in Latin America.92

The Contribution of Jesuits as Pioneering Linguists Describing “Exotic” Features

Most of the works discussed in this article are the result of fieldwork, and though they contributed to linguistic documentation generally, much is still unknown about the methodologies applied in carrying out this fieldwork. Moreover, in the learned dictionaries and comprehensive grammars written in Asia, the linguistic data were not only derived from daily speech but also from literary texts, as explained above. These learning tools can be assessed in two different ways: (1) the quality of the documentation seen from the perspective of documentary linguistics—is the description clear, complete, consistent? Is the terminology explained? Is it understandable? And (2) the didactic value seen in the context of the time and the target audience’s expectations. There is no doubt that all the imaginable features of the natural languages of the world were studied by the missionaries of this premodern period. Anything that can be found in the WALS database today,93 for instance, was also present in the corpora of the missionaries’ linguistic fieldwork. Although no one ever tried to study linguistic typologies or comparative linguistics in a satisfactory way, compared with the WALS database of today, some of their descriptions were nevertheless quite successful. Here follows a brief selection of their achievements (not mentioning the many “shortcomings” when viewed from a modern perspective):

Phonological inventories: Otopamean languages are tonal and have large segmental inventories, ranging from forty consonants (Northern Pame) to fifty-three (Mazahua). Jesuits such as Neve y Molina94 and the anonymous author of the work entitled Luces have described Otomi.95 Many Amerindian languages, such as Guaraní and Otomi, have nasal vowels, which are described by Montoya and Neve y Molina. Nahuatl has phonemic vowel length, which was described in detail by Rincón and Carochi. Aspirated consonants are present in Otomi (Neve y Molina), ejectives in Quechua (Holguín), and the glottal stop in Nahuatl (Rincón and Carochi, who introduced the term “saltillo” [the little jump] for this sound). In Asia, tonal languages were documented and a special Romanization system was developed for Chinese, starting with Ricci and Ruggieri, before being improved by Lazzaro Cattaneo (1560–1640) and Sebastian Fernandes (1562–1621) and finally brought to perfection by Trigault. For Vietnamese, the Portuguese Jesuits, and later Alexandre de Rhodes, who based his work on the Romanization systems of his Jesuit predecessors, developed a system that is still in use in Vietnam today, albeit with some adaptations. Although there are differences in the tonal system between the northern and southern varieties, six tones are generally distinguished for Vietnamese (i.e., tone and glottalization pattern, for instance a voice becomes creaky, ending in a glottal stop ˧˨ˀ, marked by the dot below). As Thị Kiều Ly Phạm96 demonstrates, the Jesuit Gaspar do Amaral (1594–1646) developed a system of eleven graphemes, <a, ă, â, e, ê, i, o, ô, ơ, u, ư> “qui couvrent parfaitement onze voyelles du vietnamien” (which perfectly cover the eleven vowels of Vietnamese). This means that tones and vowel qualities were also documented and defined with astonishing precision. As for vowel qualities, both Otomi and Vietnamese deserve our attention. In Antonio Agreda’s (fl. eighteenth century) expanded alphabet, we find the digraphs (such as <æ, œ uˬe>), the circumflex <ê, î, û>, and the iota subscripts underneath the <e> and <i>; in fact, eight new extra symbols, and together with the five traditional unmarked vowels <a, e, i, o u>, it makes thirteen different vowels. It is unclear exactly which variety of Otomi was described by Agreda, but it is astonishing that in a modern grammar of Otomi, we also find thirteen different vowels.97 It is hard to say if this meticulous description was inspired by Jesuits, but it is not unlikely. Unfortunately, Carochi’s grammar has been lost and many achievements are considered the result of a collective enterprise, starting with Franciscans and later followed by Jesuits and others. We know from later references to Carochi that he developed a Romanization system for Otomi with great precision, as he did earlier in his grammar of Náhuatl.
Inflection, morphology, and morphosyntax: Jesuits described agglutinative languages (Mapuche [Valdivia], Aymara [Bertonio], Quechua [Holguín], Turkish [Jean-Baptiste Holderman (1694–1730)],98 Tamil [Enrique Henriques (1520–1600)], Japanese [Rodrigues]), languages without any derivational or inflectional morphology, such as Vietnamese (Rhodes), but also with a rich case-system (Aymara [Bertonio]). For lexicographers, it was a great challenge to find an adequate solution for the selection of headwords, their derivations, and morphological properties. Languages with large numbers of prefixes posed a particular challenge for lexicographers, since the prefixes may affect the alphabetical sequence. Missionaries also needed to find an adapted or expanded metalanguage for their descriptions (for instance, the concept of “pronombres conjugativos” [inflectional pronouns] used for the pronominal prefixes or argument indexes used in Nahuatl and other Mesoamerican languages). The combined argument affixes in Quechua were described from the earliest period, with missionaries developing a new term, “transiciones” (transitions), to describe them (with examples like “I see you,” “you see me,” “she sees me/you/him,” etc.).99 This was a successful didactic approach that was applied in numerous other missionary grammars throughout South America.
Syntax, alignment, and polysynthesis. The Jesuit Manuel de Larramendi (1690–1766) describes Basque,100  a language that does not have a nominative-accusative alignment, as is the case in Latin, but an ergative-absolutive alignment. Rincón and Carochi have explained Nahuatl in detail, a polysynthetic language. In the Nahuatl and Tupi-Guaraní languages, missionaries were impressed by the phenomenon of incorporated direct objects, which were placed between the argument prefixes and the verbal root. In the Tupi-Guaraní phylum, another hitherto unknown feature was documented for the first time, namely languages that belong to the so-called Active-Stative type (or split-intransitive, or active-inactive type), that is, the distinction between “active” and “non-active” verbs, depending on the semantic nature of the verbs (i.e., controlled and non-controlled activity, for which a different set of pronominal prefixes have to be used) (Anchieta, Ruiz de Montoya).
Semantics. For theological and religious reasons, an appropriate translation of Christian terminology was crucial. When neologisms were created, or terms were used from the local languages, the semantics, connotations, and metaphorical usage had to be studied with care.
Pragmatics. Languages vary in how they express human relations, humility, politeness, forms of address, and so on. Japanese, Vietnamese, and Nahuatl are good examples of such languages, and the Jesuits often documented these idiosyncrasies with great precision (Rodrigues, de Rhodes, Carochi).

It is impossible to go into detail about every feature “discovered” and described for the first time in European history by Jesuit missionaries. The corpus is too great, though it is important to stress that not every description meets the standards of modern linguists.

Apart from grammars, fieldwork and documentary linguistics also resulted in the production of dictionaries on an unprecedented scale. In one of the previous sections, an overview was given of the main sources used by Jesuit lexicographers. The most important works—in terms of copiousness and quality—are without doubt the missionary dictionaries of Quechua (González Holguín), Aymara (Bertonio), and Guaraní (Ruiz de Montoya), all of which were written in the first half of the seventeenth century. The most important missionary works in Asia were produced by missionaries describing the Japanese and Vietnamese languages. In Mesoamerica and the Philippines, on the other hand, the Jesuit contribution to lexicography is less prominent compared with that of South America.

Jesuit lexicography of non-Western languages has no uniform macrostructure. Some dictionaries are trilingual (an anonymous dictionary compiled by Japanese Jesuits, Rhodes’s Vietnamese dictionary), but most are bilingual and bidirectional. In the dictionaries of Asian languages, such as Japanese (anonymous Jesuits), Chinese (Ricci/Ruggieri, Pedro Chirino [1557–1635]), and Vietnamese (Rhodes), the Asian language is given in Romanization. Proença, however, uses Tamil script, arranged alphabetically according to the pronunciation, following the Latin order, as if the Tamil script had been transliterated in Latin. The proportion of each part varies. Ruiz de Montoya’s lexicographical work has to be used together with his grammar. The Spanish–Guaraní Vocabulario is much shorter—having been mainly written for beginners—when compared with the Tesoro, a volume for more advanced students that translates into Spanish. Valdivia decided to first publish a Mapudungun–Spanish vocabulary, and no European models can be traced here; it was probably a creation of his own. It was not based on a model that had to be placed in reverse order. For reasons of space, it is impossible to go into detail, since the variety between the works and their number is too great.101

The Jesuit Press

The diffusion and great success of the Jesuits’ linguistic enterprises favored the introduction of printing houses in remote parts of the world. Jesuit printing houses were introduced in India, Japan, the Philippines, and the Americas. Although the Jesuits did not establish any printing press in New Spain, they did commission works from other publishers, such as Pedro Balli (fl. 1574–1600, d.1611) in Mexico, who also printed linguistic works written by Franciscans, Augustinians, and Dominicans.102 Balli printed the Nahuatl grammar of the Jesuit Rincón, as well as works written by the Franciscan Molina (Nahuatl) and the Dominican de los Reyes (Mixtec). The first printer in South America, Antonio Ricardo (Antonio Ricciardi [1532–1605/6]), who had moved his publishing house from Mexico to Peru, printed works written by Jesuits as well as those by other orders, such as the Constitutions of the Franciscans (Frailes menores) (Constituciones de los F. Menores desta provincia de los doze apostoles del Piru [1601]). In Latin America, one of the most prominent printing houses was the Jesuit press in Juli and Francisco del Canto, who was active between 1605 and 1618 in Ciudad de los Reyes, Peru (Lima).103

The printing of books started in Goa in 1556, where the first printing press was founded at the Colégio de São Paulo (or São Paulo o Velho). As mentioned in one of the previous sections, the Feiqe monogatari is one of the earliest books printed in Japan using movable type, instead of wooden block prints, and the first non-religious text printed in colloquial Japanese,104 one soon followed by a Japanese translation of Aesop. The works of Álvares and Rodrigues were printed in Nagasaki, Amakusa, and after the expulsion of Christian missionaries from Japan, in Macau. Works were also printed at the Jesuit printing press in the Philippines, which was bought from the Augustinians, who in turn bought it from Japan, between 1623 and 1768.105

Missionary works describing non-Western languages were also printed in Europe. In Brazil, for example, no printing house was established during the colonial period, so every printed missionary work describing Brazilian indigenous languages was printed in Europe. One edition of Bertonio’s grammar of Aymara was printed in Rome (Luis Zannetti, 1603), and in the same year the second edition of the anonymous Quechua grammar was printed in Seville (Clemente Hidalgo, 1603);106 the proofs of a Muyscan grammar have also been discovered, published by the same publisher.107 Similarly, Ruiz de Montoya’s work on Guaraní, Tesoro de la lengua guaraní, Arte y bocabulario de la lengua guaraní and his Catecismo were printed in Madrid (Juan Sánchez, 1639 and 1640).

The Propaganda Fide Press in Rome published works written by different religious orders, including works written by Jesuits. Some works were written in the Jesuit missions but were later published in Europe after the suppression of the order, as was the case with the work on Tarahumara (Uto-Aztec) of Matthäus Steffel (1734–1806)108 and Bernhard Havestadt’s (1714–78) work on Mapudungun.

The way these were works were printed could also serve pedagogical aims. Thus we see a great variation in the “mise en page” of grammars, dictionaries, and doctrinal texts, the latter often accompanied by images and illustrations. Apart from the content proper, the typesetter often attempted to enrich and embellish the printed text for pedagogical reasons. As Zanna van Loon observes:

Although the intellectual achievements of missionary authors should not be dismissed altogether, one should bear in mind that the physical characteristics of printed missionary indigenous-language tools are not only the result of the missionaries’ practices in writing, but that the printing house also influenced the visual form and content of the printed book.109

The Contribution of Jesuits and Their Role in the Circulation of Linguistic Knowledge in Europe

The Jesuits made a major contribution to the diffusion of linguistic knowledge in Europe,110 where  interest in languages (and in “language”) began to grow from the beginning of the sixteenth century. After Latin, Hebrew and Greek, other languages were studied, documented, and taught (Arabic, Persian, Syriac).

In the seventeenth century, the scholarly world discovered China and the Chinese language, which, as we saw earlier, served for universal communication, since different nations of Asia, where completely different languages were spoken, used the same signs, representing not phonetics but the concept behind the character.111

The Chinese characters were described and studied and attempts were made to decipher them. The key figures in these writings were Andreas Müller (1630–94), Theophilus Siegfried Bayer (1694–1738),112 Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz (1646–1716), Jacob van Gool (Jacobus Golius [1596–1667]), and Athanasius Kircher (1602–80).113 A description of Chinese tones had already been published in Dutch by the Orientalist Van Gool and was soon translated in Latin. Vietnamese tones were described in 1651 in both Rhodes’s Histoire dv Royavme de Tvnqvin (History of the Kingdom of Tonkin)114 and in his grammar “Lingvae annamiticae sev Tvnchinensis declaratio” (A disclosure of the Annamite or Tonkinese language [1651]) of Vietnamese.

Knowledge of Asian languages was often acquired from Jesuits via the Dutch trading company VOC (both de Rhodes and Martini spent some time in a Dutch prison in Batavia, and their writings reached Europe at an early stage). It was also via Martini and van Gool that important information related to the Chinese language reached Adriaan Reeland (1676–1718), the author of a dissertation on Asian and Middle Eastern languages.115

The French king Louis XIV (1638–1715, r.1643–1715) also played an important role in the diffusion of linguistic knowledge. In 1685, the king sent a scientific mission of five Jesuit “mathematicians” to China in an attempt to end the dominance of the Portuguese: Jean de Fontaney (1643–1710), Joachim Bouvet (1656–1730), Jean-François Gerbillon (1654–1707), Louis Le Comte (1655–1728), and Claude Visdelou (1656–1737). Bouvet acquired forty-five books from Emperor Kangxi (1654–1722, r.1661–1722) that were later housed at the king’s library. The French missions were mainly interested in gathering scientific information on mathematics, astronomy, Confucian literature, history, medicine, geography, military art, and law. However, while the study of foreign languages was never the main objective, Bouvet also sent some monolingual Chinese dictionaries to Europe.

Chinese was not the only language documented and studied by French and Flemish Jesuits, as they also decided to study Manchu as part of their efforts to find a shorter and safer way to China via the mainland, instead of the long and dangerous route via Cape of Good Hope and Goa, or via New Spain and the Philippines. The Jesuit Ferdinand Verbiest (1623–1688), for example, planned to write a grammar of Manchu, also called the “Tartar language,” entitled Elementa lingua tartarica (Principles of the Tartar language), though it is unclear if he ever finished it.116 A work entitled Elementa linguae tartaricae has been attributed to Jean-François Gerbillon (1654–1707) and Philippe Couplet (1623–93),117 which was followed by Amyot’s Dictionnaire Tartare–Mantchou François (Dictionary Tartar/Manchu–French) in 1789,118 a work that also inspired another Manchu grammar entitled Élémens de la grammaire Mandchoue (Principles of Manchu grammar), of the German scholar Hans Conon von der Gabelentz (1807–74).119

Knowledge about Japanese from Rodrigues also reached Europe, first via the linguistic work of the Spanish Dominican Diego Collado (?–1632) and later by Charles Landresse’s (1800–62) translation, or more correctly, adaptation of his grammar in 1825.120

In contrast to the diffusion of knowledge of Asian languages in Europe, most grammars and dictionaries of the Amerindian languages reached Europe at a later date, namely after the suppression of the order and its expulsion from the Spanish and Portuguese territories. Most of the relevant texts were brought to Italy, where scholars such as Filippo Salvatore Gilij (1721–89)121 and Hervás y Panduro made ample use of them, generating scholarly interest in linguistic typologies and languages more generally. It is widely known that Wilhelm von Humboldt (1767–1835) used the Jesuit sources collected by Hervás y Panduro as the main corpus for his theories and writings. Apart from his writings on sign language, Hervás y Panduro is particularly well known for his catalog of the languages of the known nations (Madrid, 1800–5). Wilhelm’s brother, Alexander von Humboldt (1769–1859), prepared his South American expedition of 1799–1804 using another Jesuit source, the Saggio di storia americana (Essay on American history) written by Gilij, a missionary in Caracas and an important Jesuit in the history of American linguistics.


The existence of Jesuit documents like the Constitutions and the Ratio studiorum stipulating how Jesuit education should be organized might suggest that Jesuit education was more formally institutionalized and standardized than the education of other religious orders. However, these documents did not provide a detailed framework for the documentation, acquisition, and teaching of “exotic” languages. Thus, unlike the historiography of Jesuit education in Europe, there is not much information on the history and principles of Jesuit foreign-language education in the remote regions outside Europe.

This essay has attempted to bring together numerous works that have not yet been treated as a whole. The main challenge in writing a survey of linguistic works of “exotic” languages produced by Jesuits is determining which of the works were the most important in such a huge corpus. Some works were influential, whereas others were isolated texts and never reached academic circles in Europe.   

This account of Jesuit linguistic sources has been selective, not comprehensive. It attempts to supply a representative selection of the most important contributions to the historiography of grammars and the history of lexicography. The diversity of these sources can be explained by the typological differences between the languages, whereas others merely reflect the interests of individual authors. In length, the dictionaries can vary from some simple wordlists to the huge encyclopedia-like works compiled by the Jesuits in Japan. Grammars often do not offer anything more than an abbreviated Latin grammar with equivalents of Latin categories in the language under study, while others are still considered to be the best grammars ever written of an indigenous language by a Westerner.

The Jesuits worked worldwide and had quite different backgrounds, educations, and objectives. Their individual interests motivated, and certain typological features sometimes forced, authors to find creative solutions to describe previously unknown phenomena in linguistics.

In the preceding sections, an attempt has been made to provide the reader with some illustrative linguistic sources written by Jesuits and their sources of inspiration, as well as some examples of the Jesuits’ role as pioneering descriptive linguists. The most important features of the Jesuits’ linguistic works have also been described, including the creation and development of premodern ideas and strategies concerning the didactics of foreign-language teaching and learning, the emergence of translation theories and practices, the role of the printing press, and finally the role of the Jesuits in the diffusion of linguistic knowledge.


^ Back to text1. Lorenzo Hervás y Panduro, Catálogo de las lenguas de las naciones conocidas, y numeración, división, y clases de estas según la diversidad de sus idiomas y dialectos, 6 vols. (Madrid: Imprenta de la Administración del Real Arbitrio de Beneficencia, 1800–5). Hervás y Panduro’s linguistic data on “exotic” languages would influence the work of the most important founders of modern linguistics, such as Wilhelm von Humboldt (1767–1835) (Miguel Batllori, “El archivo de Hervás en Roma y su reflejo en Wilhelm von Humboldt,” Archivum historicum Societatis Iesu 20 [1951]: 59–116); and Johann Christoph Adelung (1732–1806) and Johann Severin Vater (1771–1826) (Johann Christoph Adelung and Johann Severin Vater, Mithridates oder allgemeine Sprachenkunde mit dem Vater Unser als Sprachprobe in bey nahe fünf hundert Sprachen und Mundarten, von J. Ch. Adelung. Mit wichtigen Beyträgen zweyer großer Sprachforscher fortgesetzt von J. S., Vater [Berlin: Voss'ische Buchhandlung, 1817]).

^ Back to text2. João Rodrigues, Arte da lingoa Iapam (Nangasaqui [Nagasaki]: No Collegio de Iapão da Companhia de IESV, 1604–8); second abbreviated edition: Arte breve da lingoa Iapoa tirada da Arte grande da mesma lingoa, pera os que começam a aprender os primeiros principios della (Amacao [Macao]: No Collegio da Madre de Deos da Companhia de IESV, 1620); Diego González Holguín, Gramática y arte nueva de la lengua general de todo el Peru, llamada lengua Qquichua, o lengua del Inca (Ciudad de los Reyes [Lima]: Francisco del Canto, 1607); Ludovico Bertonio [Romano], Arte y grammatica mvy copiosa de la lengua Aymara (Rome: Luis Zannetti, 1603) with an abbreviated version: Arte breve de la lengva Aymara, para introdvction del arte grande de la misma lengua (Rome: Luis Zannetti, 1603) and an improved second edition entitled Arte de la lengva aymara, con vna silva de phrases de la misma lengua, y su declaracion en Romance (Juli: En la casa de la Cõpania de Iesus de Iuli en la Prouincia de Chucuyto/Francisco del Canto, 1612); Antonio Ruiz de Montoya, Arte y bocabvlario de la lengva gvarani (Madrid: Juan Sánchez, 1640); Horacio Carochi, Arte de la lengua con la declaracion de los adverbios della (México: Juan Ruiz, 1645). 

^ Back to text3. Although Jesuits also wrote important linguistic texts in Europe, most of these texts were focused on Latin and the teaching of Latin in the vernacular languages. However, the Jesuits also composed grammars and dictionaries of European vernaculars, not only Romance but also other languages, such as the grammar of Croatian by Bartol Kašić (Bartolomaeus Cassius [1575–1650]): Institutionum linguae illyricae libri duo (Rome: Apud Aloysium Zannettum, 1604). The Jesuit Konstantinas Sirvydas (Constantino Szyrwid [1579–1631]) would have composed a grammar of Lithuanian, which has been lost and whose existence is a matter of debate, but his trilingual Dictionarium trium lingvarum in usum studiosae juventutis (Vilnius, Typis Acad. Societatis Jesu, 1713) has been conserved. The Jesuit Julien Maunoir (1606–83) wrote a grammar and dictionary of Breton, entitled Le Sacré college de Iesvs, divisé en cinq classes ov l’on enseigne en langue Armorique les leçons Chrestiennes, auec les 3. clefs pour y entrer, vn Dictiõnaire, vne grammaire & Syntaxe en méme langue  (Quimper-Corentin: Chez Iean Hardovyn, Imprimeur Ordinaire du Diocese, 1659);  A grammar and dictionary of Basque composed by the Basque Jesuit Manuel Larramendi (1690–1766) entitled El imposible vencido o arte de la lengua bascongada (Salamanca: Antonio Joseph Villargordo Alcaráz, 1729) and his trilingual Spanish–Basque–Latin dictionary, Diccionario trilingüe del Castellano, Bascuence y Latín (San Sebastián: Bartolomé Riesgo y Montero, 1745), and finally,  the grammar of Ottoman Turkish written by the Jesuit Jean-Baptiste Holderman (1694–1730), Grammaire Turque ou methode courte & facile pour apprendre la langue turque […] (Constantinople: Ibrahim Müteferrika, 1730). Although this list is not comprehensive, the focus of this paper is on Jesuit descriptions of non-European languages. The few languages in Europe that do not belong to the Indo-European linguistic family also provide insights into the original and pioneering approaches of missionaries, but the study of typologically divergent languages in Europe remains a curiosity, whereas this was the rule elsewhere in the world.

^ Back to text4. Some illustrative examples include Matteo Ricci (1552–1610), who wrote on Christianity and the Confucian classics: True Meaning of the Lord of Heaven (Tianzhu shiyi 天主實義), trans. Douglas Lancashire and Peter Hu Kuo-chen (St. Louis, MO: Institute of Jesuit Sources, 1985, revised ed. by Thierry Meynard. Chestnut Hill, MA: Institute of Jesuit Sources, 2016; see also Trent Pomplun, “From Missionaries to Zen Masters: The Society of Jesus and Buddhism,” Jesuit Historiography Online, ed. Robert A. Maryks, 2017; doi: [accessed April 7, 2021]); Martino Martini (1614–61), who wrote works on history and participated in Joan Blaeu’s (1596–1673) Atlas as well as authoring theological works in Chinese: Martino Martini, De bello Tartarico historia (Antwerp: Ex Officina Plantiniana Balthasaris Moreti, 1654), and Martini Martinii Sinicae historiae decas prima (Amsterdam: Apud Joannem Blaev, 1659); João Rodrigues (c.1561–c.1634), who wrote a history of the Japanese church as well as works on Buddhism, Taoism, Confucianism, and Shintoism; Antonio Ruiz de Montoya (1585–1652), who wrote his influential Conquista spiritual (Spiritual conquest) about the Jesuit missions in Paraguay, Uruguay, and the territories today in Argentina and Brazil (Antonio Ruiz de Montoya, Conqvista espiritval hecha por los religiosos de la Compañia de Iesus en las prouincias del Paraguay, Parana, Vruguay, y Tape [Madrid: En la imprenta del Reyno, 1639]); and, finally, in New France, Louis Nicolas (1634–c.1682) compiled impressive works on wildlife, the First Nation’s people, and cartography enriched with impressive depictions (Louis Nicolas, Codex canadensis [MS Gilcrease Museum, Tulsa, Oklahoma, c.1700]). All these Jesuits also wrote linguistic works. Michele Ruggieri and Matteo Ricci, Dicionário Português-Chinês = Pu Han ci dian (1583–88), MS ARSI, MS Jap. Sin. 1, fols. 32r–169r, ed. John W. Witek (San Francisco: Ricci Institute for Chinese–Western Cultural History, University of San Francisco, 2001); Nicolas Trigault, Xīrú ěrmù zī (MS Bibliothèque Nationale de France, 1626); Martini wrote a grammar of Chinese: Grammatica linguae sinensis (c.1651) (original lost); João Rodrigues, Arte da lingoa de Iapam (Nagasaki: Collegio de Iapao da Companhia, 1604–8) and Arte breve da lingoa Iapoa (Macao: No Collegio da Madre de Deos da Companhia de Iesv, 1620); Antonio Ruiz de Montoya, Tesoro de la lengva gvarani (Madrid: Juan Sánchez, 1639) and Arte, y bocabvlario de la lengva gvarani (Madrid: Iuan Sanchez, 1640); and Louis Nicolas, Grammaire algonquine ou des sauvages de l'Amérique septentrionale [...] (1672–74), in L’algonquin au XVIIe siècle: Une édition critique, analysée et commentée de la grammaire algonquine du Père Nicolas, ed. Diane Daviault (Quebec: Presse de l’Université du Québec/Fondation de l’Université du Québec à Chicoutimi, 1994).

^ Back to text5. Andrés de Olmos, Arte de la lengua mexicana (six manuscripts have survived), ed. Ascensión Hernández de León-Portilla (Madrid: Fundación Histórica Tavera/Mapfre, 1999).

^ Back to text6. Alonso de Molina, Aquí comiença vn vocabulario en la lengua castellana y mexicana (México: Casa de Juan Pablos, 1555); Vocabulario en lengva castellana y mexicana (México: Antonio de Spinosa, 1571); Arte de la lengua mexicana y castellana (México: Pedro Ocharte, 1571). Second edition (México: Pedro Balli, 1576).

^ Back to text7. Antonio del Rincón, Arte mexicana (México: Pedro Balli, 1595).

^ Back to text8. Horacio Carochi, Arte de la lengua mexicana (México: Juan Ruiz, 1645).

^ Back to text9. Pedro de Cáceres, Arte de la lengua othomi (original manuscript lost), ed. Nicolás León, Boletín del Instituto Bibliográfico Mexicano 6 (1905): 43–155.

^ Back to text10. Alonso Urbano, Arte breve de la lengua compuesta por el p[adr]e fray Alonso Urbano de la Orden de N.P.S. Augustin (MS Paris: Bibliothèque nationale, 1605).

^ Back to text11. Luis de Neve y Molina, Reglas de ortographia, diccionario y arte del idioma othomi (México: Imprenta de la Bibliotheca Mexicana, 1767).

^ Back to text12. Arte y vocabulario de la lengua dohema, heve o eudeve (MS seventeenth century. The manuscript is housed in the Buckingham Smith collection in the New York Historical Society Library), ed. Campbell W. Pennington (México: Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, 1981).

^ Back to text13. Baltasar Loaysa [Balthasar Loaysa], Arte de la lengua hegue (MS Bibliothèque Nationale de Paris, Manuscrit Mexicain, 368, c.1650).

^ Back to text14. Tomás de Guadalajara [Thomas de Guadalaxara], Compendio del arte de la lengua de los tarahumares y guazapares (Puebla de los Ángeles: Diego Fernández de León, 1683).

^ Back to text15. Natal Lombardo, Arte de la lengua teguima vulgarmente llamada Opata (México: Miguel Ribera, y Mercader de libros, 1702).

^ Back to text16. Arte de la lengua cahita (México: Francisco Xavier Sánchez, en el puente de Palacio, 1737) (attributed to Tomás Basilio).

^ Back to text17. Benito Rinaldini, Arte de la lengua tepeguana, con vocabulario, confesionario y catecismo (México: Por la Viuda de D. Joseph Bernardo de Hogal, 1743).

^ Back to text18. Rosío del Carmen Molina Landeros, Gramáticas jesuíticas del noroeste novohispano (siglos XVII–XVIII) (Mexicali: Universidad Autónoma de Baja California, 2016).

^ Back to text19. Some examples include the widely diffused technical terms such as the “saltillo” (glottal stop), compulsive (causative), and applicative verbs (adding another argument to the verb as benefactive/malefactive, indirect object), etc.

^ Back to text20. Victor Egon Hanzeli, Missionary Linguistics in New France (The Hague: Mouton, 1969), 26. For more details, see Konrad Koerner, “Notes on Missionary Linguistics in North America,” in Missionary Linguistics, ed. Otto Zwartjes and Even Hovdhaugen (Amsterdam: John Benjamins, 2004), 55–63,  and Zanna van Loon, “Languages of Evangelization: The Early Modern Circulation of Missionary Knowledge on the Indigenous Languages of New Spain, Peru and New France” (PhD diss., University of Leuven, 2020).

^ Back to text21. Louis Nicolas, Grammaire Algonquine (MS, c.1674). Diane Daviault, ed., L’algonquin au XVIIe siècle: Une édition critique, analysée et commentée de la grammaire algonquine du Père Nicolas (Quebec: Presse de l’Université du Québec/Fondation de l’Université du Québec à Chicoutimi, 1994). Jean-Baptiste de la Brosse, “Radicum Montanarum Silva” (MS Ottawa: Deschâtelets Archive, Scolasticat Saint-Joseph, 1766), and “Montaniae linguae elementa” (MS Ottawa: Deschâtelets Archive, Scolasticat Saint-Joseph, 1768). Jean-François Cottier and Renée Lambert-Brétière, eds., À la recherche d’un signe perdu: Jean Baptiste de La Brosse, S.J.: Éléments de langue montagnaise (1768) (n.p.: Éditions Chemins de [email protected], 2018).

^ Back to text22. Except one grammar of Bengali, written by the Augustinian Manoel de Assumpçam (fl. 1743), entitled Breve compendio da grammatica Bengala (published as the first section of the work entitled Vocabulario em idioma Bengalla e Portuguez [Lisbon: Na Offic. De Francisco da Sylva. Livreiro da Academia Real, e do Senado, 1743], 1–40); most grammars of the Portuguese tradition are described and analyzed in Otto Zwartjes, Portuguese Missionary Grammars in Asia, Africa and Brazil, 1550–1800 (Amsterdam: John Benjamins, 2011).

^ Back to text23. Brigitte Schlieben-Lange, “Missionarslinguistik in Lateinamerika: Zu neueren Veröffentlichungen und einigen offenen Fragen,” in Katechese, Sprache, Schrift, ed. Brigitte Schlieben-Lange (Stuttgart: J. B. Metzler, 1999), 34–62. See also Henrike Foertsch, “Spracharbeit zwischen Theorie und Praxis: Frühneuzeitliche Jesuiten in Südostindien, Nordwestmexiko und Peru,” in Wege durch Babylon: Missionare, Sprachstudien und interkulturelle Kommunikation, ed. Reinhard Wendt (Tübingen: Günter Narr, 1998), 75–129.

^ Back to text24. Raf Van Rooy, “How Greek Is the Graeco-Latin Model?: Some Critical Reflections on a Key Concept in Missionary Historiography through Alexandre de Rhodes’s Early Description of Vietnamese (1651),” in Missionary Linguistics VI: Missionary Linguistics in Asia; Selected Papers from the Tenth International Conference on Missionary Linguistics, Rome, 21–24 March 2018, ed. Otto Zwartjes and Paolo De Troia (Amsterdam: John Benjamins, forthcoming 2021).

^ Back to text25. Heinrich Roth, Grammatica linguae Sanscretanae Bramanum Indiae Orientalis, in The Sanskrit Grammar and Manuscript of Father Heinrich Roth, S.J. (1620–1668), ed. Arnulf Camps and Jean-Claude Muller (Leiden: Brill, 1988).

^ Back to text26. See Otto Zwartjes, “Incorporación de términos metalingüísticos no occidentales en las gramáticas misioneras españolas y portuguesas (siglos XVI–XVIII),” in Lingüística e hispanismo, ed. Joaquín Sueiro Justel et al. (Lugo: Axac, 2010), 67–92. See also Zwartjes, Portuguese Missionary Grammars in Asia, Africa and Brazil, 1550–1800 (Amsterdam: John Benjamins, 2011), 27, 103–11.

^ Back to text27. Dictionnaire Tartare–Mantchou François, composé d’après un Dictionnaire Mantchou–chinois, par M. Amyot, missionnaire à Pékin; Rédigé et publié avec des additions et l’alphabet de cette langue, par L. Langles, officier de NN. SS. Les Maréchaux de France, 3 vols. (Paris: Ambr. Didot l’Aine, 1789).

^ Back to text28. One of the few exceptions is Henrique Henriques (1520–1600), who refers explicitly to the grammar of João de Barros (1496–1570) (Henrique Henriques, Arte da lingua malabar [1549], fol. 7v), entitled Grammatica da lingua Portuguesa (Lisbon: Apud Lodouicum Rotorigui Typographum [Luys Rodriguez], 1540). In the translation of Jeanne Hein and V. S. Rajam, The Earliest Missionary Grammar of Tamil: Fr. Henriques’ Arte da lingua Malabar; Translation, History and Analysis (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University, 2013), 38, the author informs his readers that “to understand this Arte more easily one should have a knowledge of the rudiments of Latin. Those who do not know Latin should read through the Portuguese grammar composed by João de Barros.”

^ Back to text29. Antonio de Nebrija, Introductiones Latinae (Salamanca: n.p., 1481).

^ Back to text30. Antonio de Nebrija, Introducciones latinas contrapuesto el romance al latin: Para que con facilidad puedan aprender todos, y principalmente las religiosas, y otras mugeres dedicadas á Dios (Salamanca: n.p., c.1488).

^ Back to text31. Antonio de Nebrija, Gramática castellana (Salamanca: [Juan de Porras], 1492).

^ Back to text32. Juan Luis de la Cerda, Aelii Antonii Nebrissensis: Institutione grammatica (Antequera: In Aedibus D. Augustini Antonii Nebrissensis, 1601).

^ Back to text33. Juan María Gómez Gómez, El Arte regia: Nebrija reformado por Juan Luis de la Cerda; Morfología y sintaxis (Cáceres: Universidad de Extremadura, 2013). See also Miguel Ángel Esparza Torres, “La obra de Nebrija en el siglo XVIII,” in Las lenguas de México: Diálogos historiográficos, ed. Bárbara Cifuentes and Rodrigo Martínez Baracks (México, DF: Universidad Autónoma de México/Sociedad Mexicana de Historiografía Lingüística, 2018), 27–66.

^ Back to text34. Manuel Álvares, De institvtione grammatica libri tres (Lisbon: Excudebat Ioannes Barrerius, Typographus Regius, 1572).

^ Back to text35. Franciscus Sanctius [Francisco Sánchez de las Brozas, El Brocense], Minerua: Seu de causis lingua Latina (Salamanca: Apud Ioannem, & Andręam Renaut, fratres, 1587).

^ Back to text36. Victor Egon Hanzeli, Missionary Linguistics in New France: A Study of Seventeenth- and Eighteenth-Century Descriptions of American Indian Languages (The Hague: Mouton, 1969), 36–44.

^ Back to text37. Charles Pajot, Despauterius novus, seu Joannis Despauterii […] latinae grammatices epitome […] studio P. Caroli Pajot […] (La Flèche: Apud G. Griveau, 1650).

^ Back to text38. Antonio de Nebrija, Interpretatio dictionum ex sermone latino in hispaniensem [Lexicon hoc est dictionarium ex sermone latino in hispaniensem] (Salamanca: n.p., 1492) and Vocabulario español–latino: Dictionarium ex hispaniensi in latinum sermonem (Salamanca: n.p., c.1495).

^ Back to text39. Byron Ellsworth Hamann, The Translations of Nebrija: Language, Culture, and Circulation in the Early Modern World (Amherst: University of Massachusetts Press, 2015).

^ Back to text40. Ambrogio Calepino, Ambrosii calepini bergomatis eremitani dictionarvum (Reggio: Dionysius Bertochus, 1502). At least two hundred editions were published before 1779, starting with three languages (Latin, Greek, and Italian) before being expanded to a total of eleven languages (Bernard Colombat, La grammaire latine en France à la Renaissance et à l’âge classique: Théories et pédagogie [Grenoble: ELLUG/ Université Stendhal, 1999], 629).

^ Back to text41. Dieter Messner, “O primeiro dictionário bilíngue português que utiliza uma língua estrangeira moderna,” Revista de cultura 38 (1999): 248–54.

^ Back to text42. Jerónimo Cardoso, Dictionarivm latinolvsitanicum & vice versa lusitanico latinum, 1st ed. (Coimbra: Ioan. Barrerius, 1570).

^ Back to text43. See also Gregory James, “Culture and the Dictionary: Evidence from the First European Lexicographical Work in China,” in Historical Dictionaries and Historical Dictionary Research: Papers from the International Conference on Historical Lexicography and Lexicology at the University of Leicester, 2002; Lexicographica, ed. Julie Coleman and Anne McDermott (Tübingen: Max Niemeyer, 2004), 119–36, here 123.

^ Back to text44. Dieter Messner, “Ist das Dictionarium Latino Lusitanicum, ac Iaponicum ein Wörterbuch der portugiesischen Sprache?: Zur Rezeption Calepinos in Portugal,” Lusorama 38 (1999): 48–52.

^ Back to text45. Dictionarivm latino lvsitanicvm, ac iaponicvm, ex Ambrosii Calepini volumine depromptum [...] (Amakusa: In Collegio Iaponico Societatis Iesv, 1595). The Jesuits also authored the anonymous work Evolabon nippo jisho (Vocabvlario da lingoa de IAPAM com adeclaração em Portugués) (Nangasaqui [Nagasaki]: Collegio de Iapam da Companhia de IESVS, 1603–4), which is one of the most voluminous missionary dictionaries of this period.

^ Back to text46. Emi Kishimoto, “The Process of Translation in Dictionarium Latino Lusitanicum, ac Iaponicum,” Journal of Asian and African Studies 27 (2006): 17–26, here 25.

^ Back to text47. Bento Pereira, Prosodia in vocabularium bilingue latinum, et lusitanum digesta (Eborae [Évora]: Typ. Academiae, nona editio, 1723).

^ Back to text48. Le petit apparat royal, ou nouveau dictionnaire français et latin (Paris: Veuve de C. Thiboust et P. Esclassan, 1698). Partly anonymous, the second part was compiled by Jean-Nicolas Tralage (c.1640–c.1720), pseudonym “le sieur de Tillemon,” (Colombat, La grammaire latine en France, 651).

^ Back to text49. John E. Bishop and Kevin Brousseau, “The End of the Jesuit Lexicographic […],” Historiographia linguistica 38, no. 3 (2011): 293–324, here 301.

^ Back to text50. Pierre Laure, Apparat français-montagnais, ed. David E. Cooter (Sillery, Quebec: Presses de l’Université du Québec, 1988) (1823 copy of 1726 manuscript). Modern edition: Pierre Laure and David Eaton Cooter (Sillery, Quebec: Presses de l’Université du Québec, 1988).

^ Back to text51. Bishop and Brousseau, “End of the Jesuit Lexicographic,” 301.

^ Back to text52. Bishop and Brousseau, “End of the Jesuit Lexicographic,” 317; Hanzeli, Missionary Linguistics in New France, 22.

^ Back to text53. Bishop and Brousseau, “End of the Jesuit Lexicographic,” 309.

^ Back to text54. José de Acosta, De promvlgando Evangelio apvd barbaros: Sive De procvranda Indorum salute (Lyon: Lavrentii Anisson, 1670 [1588]), 47.

^ Back to text55. José [Joseph] Anchieta, Arte de gramática da língua mais usada na costa do Brasil (Coimbra: Antonio Mariz, 1595).

^ Back to text56. Luis de Valdivia, Arte y gramatica general de la lengva qve corre en todo el Reyno de Chile, con vn vocabulario, y confessionario (Lima: Francisco del Canto, 1606).

^ Back to text57. Liam Matthew Brockey, The Visitor: André Palmeiro and the Jesuits in Asia (Cambridge, MA: Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 2014), 356–57.

^ Back to text58. Liam Matthew Brockey, Journey to the East: The Jesuit Mission to China, 1579–1724 (Cambridge, MA: Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 2007), 261.

^ Back to text59. Brockey, Journey to the East, 262.

^ Back to text60. A copy is housed in the Biblioteca da Academia das Ciências, Lisbon (MS Azul 421 [Monteiro Praxis]). I have not yet been able to consult this copy.

^ Back to text61. Domingo Fernández Navarrete, Tratados historicos, politicos, ethicos, y religosos de la monarchia de China […] (Madrid: En La Imprenta Real, por Iuan Garcia Infançon, 1676), 70.

^ Back to text62. In diglossic societies, two different languages or two registers of the same language are used: a high and prestigious variety for formal situations, and a low variety for informal everyday communication. 

^ Back to text63. Antão Proença, Vocabulario Tamulico com a significaçam Portugueza (Ambazhakad or Ambalakkadavu, Kerala: Na imprenssa Tamulica da Prouincia do Malabar, por Ignacio Archamoni impressor della, 1679).

^ Back to text64. Lata Mahesh Deokar and Jean-Luc Chevillard, “India and Tibet, c.500–c.1750,” in The Cambridge World History of Lexicography, ed. John Considine (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2019), 130–58, here 154. See also P. R. Subramanian, “The Metamorphosis of Tamil–English Lexicography: Dictionaries by Foreign Missionaries in the Period 1750–1900,” in Culture, Language, and Identity: English–Tamil in Colonial India, 1750 to 1900, ed. C. T. Indra and R. Rajagopalan, foreword by Susan Bassnett (London: Routledge, 2018), 30–47, here 35.

^ Back to text65. For more details, see Victoria Ríos Castaño, “Translation Purposes and Target Audiences in Sahagún’s Libro de la rethorica (c.1577),” in Missionary Linguistics V/Lingüística misionera V: Translation Theories and Practices, ed. Otto Zwartjes, Klaus Zimmermann, and Martina Schrader-Kniffki (Amsterdam: John Benjamins, 2014), 53–83, here 58.

^ Back to text66. Horacio Carochi, Arte, fols. 76v–77r.

^ Back to text67. An example of this poetic style being used by seventeenth-century missionaries is the translation of the prayers of the Mass (Missale Romanum, Beijing 1670) into classical Chinese by the Jesuit mathematician and theologian Lodovico Buglio (1606–82).

^ Back to text68. Tomás Guadalajara, Compendio, unpaginated.

^ Back to text69. Zwartjes, Portuguese Missionary Grammars, 145.

^ Back to text70. Nifonno cotoba to Historia uo narai xiran to fossvrv fito no tameni xeva ni yava ragvetarv feiqe no monogatari (Amakusa: Collegio S.J., 1592).

^ Back to text71. The concept of “markedness” is used in the context of lexicography for entries in dictionaries for any form of marked language usage (colloquialisms, jargon, slang, polite forms, frequency, stylistic, prescriptive/normative usage, variation in space and time, etc.). These specific usages are normally labeled in the entries, usually by abbreviations.

^ Back to text72. Arte y vocabulario en lengua general del Perú llamada quichua, y en la lengua española (Lima: Antonio Ricardo, 1586).

^ Back to text73. Doctrina christiana y catecismo para instrvccion de los Indios (Lima: Antonio Ricardo, 1584).

^ Back to text74. Alonso de los Reyes, Arte en lengua mixteca (México: Pedro Balli, 1593).

^ Back to text75. Bishop and Brousseau, “End of the Jesuit Lexicographic,” 305.

^ Back to text76. Antoine Silvy, Dictionnaire montagnais-français (c.1678–1684), ed. Lorenzo Angers, David E. Cooter, and Gérard E. McNulty (Quebec: Presses de l’Université du Québec, 1974).

^ Back to text77. Bonaventure Favre, Racines montagnaises (1696), ed. Lorenzo Angers and Gérard E. McNulty (Quebec: Université Laval, 1970).

^ Back to text78. Joseph Dahlmann, Die Sprachkunde und die Missionen: Ein Beitrag zur Charakteristik der ältern katholischen Missionsthätigkeit (1500–1800) (Freiburg im Breisgau: Herder, 1891), 85.

^ Back to text79. S. J. Ducœurjoly, Manuel des habitans de Saint-Domingue [...] suivi d’un traite de medecine domestique appropriée aux iles, d’une pharmacopée américaine; Du premier vocabulaire français-créole, et de conversations françaises-créoles pour donner une idée de ce langage, et se faire entendre des négres […], 2 vols. (Paris: Lenoir, 1803). Other religious orders, such as the Moravians, did describe Creoles, such as Negerhollands. See also Zwartjes, Portuguese Missionary Grammars, 13.

^ Back to text80. Alan Durston, Pastoral Quechua: The History of Christian Translation in Colonial Peru, 1550–1650 (Notre Dame, IN: University of Notre Dame Press, 2007), 181. See also 46–47 for the terms “Standard Colonial Quechua,” lengua generallengua del inca, and lengua del Cuzco.

^ Back to text81. Rodrigues, Arte da lingoa de Iapam (also called Arte grande), fol. 10r.

^ Back to text82. Ludovico Bertonio, Vocabulario, 1612, prologue (unpaginated).

^ Back to text83. For more information on the grammatical training of Jesuits, see also Hanzeli, Missionary Linguistics in New France, chapter 3, 32–44.

^ Back to text84. Diego González Holguín, Gramatica y arte nveva de la lengva general de todo el Peru, llamada lengua Qquichua, o lengua del Inca (Lima: Francisco del Canto, 1607); Vocabulario de la lengva general de todo el Perv llamada lengua Qquichua o del Inca (Lima: Francisco del Canto, 1608).

^ Back to text85. Bishop and Brousseau, “End of the Jesuit Lexicographic,” 297.

^ Back to text86. Durston, Pastoral Quechua, 87: Hispanicus hispanice, Indus indice.  

^ Back to text87. Doctrina christiana y catecismo para instrvccion de los Indios (Lima: Antonio Ricardo, 1584), fols. 6v–7r.

^ Back to text88. Esopono Fabvlas: Latinuo vaxite Nippon no cuchito nasu mono nari (Amakusa: Colegio S.J., 1593). For more details, see Noël Golvers, “The Jesuits as Translators between Europe and China (17th–18th Century),”  in Zwartjes and De Troia, Missionary Linguistics VI.

^ Back to text89. Kristine Aarvig Paulsen, “Los problemas traductológicos en la lingüística misionera hispánica (siglos XVI–XVIII): Un estudio comparativo entre la gramática quechua de Juan Roxo Mexía y Ocón y la gramática del pampango de Diego Bergaño” (MA thesis, University of Oslo, 2004).

^ Back to text90. The prologue of Bertonio’s work, entitled Libro de la vida y milagros de nuestro señor Iesu Christo en dos lenguas, Aymara, y Romance (Juli: La Casa de la Compañia de Iesus de Iuli, Pueblo en la Provincia de Chucuyto, Francisco del Canto, 1612), 1–3, completes his linguistic program. He was a grammarian who wrote grammars for beginners and advanced learners, as well as a lexicographer and translator of doctrinal texts, and as we have seen one of the few authors who explicitly gives pedagogical guidelines to his learners, and as here, provides an overview of translation strategies.

^ Back to text91. Durston, Pastoral Quechua.

^ Back to text92. For translation in China, see Isabelle Landry-Deron, “Early Translations of Chinese Texts in French Jesuit Publications: Politics in Historiography,” in Encounters and Dialogues: Changing Perspectives on Chinese–Western Exchanges from the Sixteenth to Eighteenth Centuries, ed. Xiaoxin Wu (Sankt Augustin: Monumenta Serica, 2005), 265–76.

^ Back to text93. World Atlas of Language Structures Online (WALS); (accessed June 24, 2020).

^ Back to text94. Luis de Neve y Molina, Reglas de ortographia, diccionario y arte del idioma othomi (México: Imprenta de la Bibliotheca Mexicana, 1767).

^ Back to text95. Luces del otomi o gramatica del idioma que hablan los indios otomies en la Republica Mexicana compuesta por un padre de la Compania de Jesus, ed. Eustaquio Buelna (México: Imprenta del Gobierno Federal, en el ex-Arzobispado, 1893), 1–121.

^ Back to text96. Thị Kiều Ly Phạm, “La grammatisation du vietnamien (1615–1919): Histoire des grammaires et de l’écriture romanisée du vietnamien” (PhD diss., Université Sorbonne Paris Cité—Université Paris III—Sorbonne Nouvelle, 2018), 244–45.

^ Back to text97. Enrique L. Palancar, Gramática y textos del hñöñhö Otomí de San Ildefonso Tultepec, Querétaro (Mexico City: Plaza y Valdés, 2009).

^ Back to text98. Jean-Baptiste Holderman, Grammaire Turque ou methode courte & facile pour apprendre la langue turque […] (Constantinople: Ibrahim Müteferrika, 1730).

^ Back to text99. For more details, see Willem Adelaar, “Las transiciones en la tradición gramatical hispanoamericana: Historia de un modelo descriptivo,” in La descripción de las lenguas amerindias en la época colonial, ed. Klaus Zimmermann (Frankfurt am Main: Vervuert & Iberoamericana, 1997), 259–70. For a more recent study of these “transitions,” see also Andy Peetermans, “The Art of Transforming Traditions: Conceptual Developments in Early Modern American Missionary Grammar Writing” (PhD diss., University of Leuven, 2020).

^ Back to text100. Manuel de Larramendi, El imposible vencido: Arte de la lengua Bascongada; Su autor el padre de la Compañía de Jesús, maestro de teología de su Real Colegio de Salamanca (1729), ed. Los Hijos de I. Ramón Baroja (San Sebastián: Establecimiento tipográfico de los Editores, 1886).

^ Back to text101. For more details, see Otto Zwartjes, “Missionary Dictionaries,” in Oxford Research Encyclopedia of Linguistics, ed. Mark Aronoff (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2018); (accessed June 8, 2021); and Zwartjes, “Missionary Traditions in South America,” “Missionary Traditions in Mesoamerica,” and “Missionary Traditions in East Asia,” in The Cambridge World History of Lexicography, ed. John Considine (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2019), chapters 26, 27, and 29, 555–78, 579–96, 614–33.

^ Back to text102. Marina Garone Gravier, Historia de la tipografía colonial para lenguas indígenas (México: Centro de Investigaciones y Estudios Superiores en Antropología Social/Veracruz, Universidad Veracruzana, 2014), 193–94.

^ Back to text103. See Van Loon, “Languages of Evangelization,” 203–4.

^ Back to text104. Nifonno cotoba […] (Amakusa: Collegio S.J., 1592).

^ Back to text105. W. E. [Wenceslao Emilio] Retana, Tablas cronológica y alfabética de imprentas eé impresores de Filipinas (1593–1898) (Madrid: Librería General de Victoriano Suárez, 1908), 102.

^ Back to text106. First edition (Lima: Antonio Ricardo, 1586), third edition (Lima: Francisco del Canto, 1614).

^ Back to text107. See Diego Gómez, “Los folletos muyscas de la Biblioteca Bodleiana (1603): Los textos más tempranos de la lengua general del Nuevo Reino de Granada,” Revista Internacional de Lingüística Iberoamericana, special issue, “Nuevos enfoques y desafíos metodológicos para el estudio de la lingüística misionera latinoamericana (siglos XVI–XVIII),” ed. Otto Zwartjes, 36 (2020): 195–216.

^ Back to text108. Matthäus Steffel, Grammaticæ Linguæ tarahumaricæ: Americanæ nationis in regno Novæ Viscayæ, concinnata a P. Thoma de Guadalaxara e Societate Jesu olim ibidem missionario, superiorum permissu literis Didaci Fernandez Angelopoli A. 1683. excusa, nunc vero a quodam ejusdem Societatis apud eamdem gentem, olim exposito missionario, precibus cujusdam bonarum artium et linguarum philologi inducto ex hispanico idiomate in latinum translata, notis pluribus et additionibus aucta, atque in meliorem formam redacta (Brunae Moravorum [Brno], 1799). Printed as “Tarahumarisches Wörterbuch, nebst einigen Nachrichten von den Sitten und Gebräuchen der Tarahumaren, in Neu-Biscaya, in der Audiencia Guadalaxara im Vice-Königreiche Alt-Mexico, oder Neu-Spanien von P. Matthäus Steffel,” in Nachrichten von verschiedenen Ländern des Spanischen Amerika, aus eigenhändigen Aufsätzen einiger Missionare der Gesellschaft Jesu, ed. Christoph Gottlieb von Murr (Halle: Johann Christian Hendel, 1809), 1:293–374; Bernard Havestadt, Chilidúģu sive res chilenses vel descriptio status tum naturalis, tum civilis, cum maralis Regni populique Chilensis, inserta suis locis perfectae ad Chilensem linguam Manuductioni, 3 vols. (Münster: Typis Aschendorfianis, 1777). Von Humboldt possessed the works of Steffel and Havestadt and made ample use of them in his study of these languages.

^ Back to text109. Van Loon, “Languages of Evangelization,” 209.

^ Back to text110. See, for instance, Charlotte de Castelnau-l’Estoile et al., eds., Missions d’évangélisation et circulation des savoirs XVIe–XVIIIe siècle (Madrid: Casa de Velázquez, 2011).

^ Back to text111. Rita Widmaier, “Leibniz and the Chinese Characters,” in The Sixth Fu Jen University International Sinological Symposium: Early European (1552–1814) Acquisition and Research on Chinese Languages; Symposium Papers, ed. Zbigniew Wesołowski (Taipei: New Taipei Xinzhuang qu, 2011), 545–602.

^ Back to text112. Theophilus S. Bayer, Mvsevm sinicvm, in quo Sinicae linguae et litteraturae ratio explicatu (St. Petersburg: Ex Typographia Academiae Imperatoriae, 1730).

^ Back to text113. Widmaier, “Leibniz and the Chinese Characters,” 545. Jacob van Gool [Jacobus Goliu], “Byvoeghsel van ’t Koninckryck Catay,” in Martino Martini, Novus atlas sinensis (Amsterdam: Ioan Blaeu, 1655), 1–xviii; Athanasius Kircher, Prodromus Coptus sive Aegyptiacus (Rome: Typis S. Cong. de propag. Fide, 1636). For more details on Leibniz, see Widmeier, “Leibniz and the Chinese Characters.”

^ Back to text114. Lyon: Chez Iean Baptiste Devenet, 1651.

^ Back to text115. Adriaan Reland/Reeland [Hadrianus Relandus], “Tabella vocum cum pronuntiatione earum Japanica, Sinica et Annamitica,” in Dissertationum miscellanearum: Pars tertia et ultima (Utrecht: Ex Officina Gulielmi Broedelet, 1708), 112–16.

^ Back to text116. Noël Golvers, “The Elementa linguae tartaricae by Ferdinand Verbiest, S.J. (1623–1688): Some New Evidence,” in Italia ed Europa nella linguistica del Rinascimento, ed. Mirko Tavoni (Modena: Cosimo Pannini, 1996), 581–93. Davor Antonucci, “Ferdinand Verbiest, Antoine Thomas, and the Idea of Spreading Christianity into Tartary,” in Catholicism’s Encounters with China: 17th to 20th Century, ed. Alexandre Chen Tsung-ming (Leuven: Ferdinand Verbiest Institute, 2018), 77–104. Hervás y Panduro mentions Verbiest’s grammar of Manchu in 1801 (Catálogo de las lenguas, 2:216). For the importance of missionary studies in Manchu, see Hartmut Walravens, “The Manchus and ‘Tartar’ Identity in the Chinese Empire,” Central Asiatic Journal 58, nos. 1–2 (2015): 197–224.

^ Back to text117. Elementa linguae tartaricae (Paris: Thomas Moette, 1682).

^ Back to text118. Dictionnaire Tartare–Mantchou François (Paris: Ambr. Didot l’Aine, 1789).

^ Back to text119. Hans Conon von der Gabelentz, Élémens de la grammaire Mandchoue (Altenburg: Comptoire de la Littérature, 1832).

^ Back to text120. Charles Landresse, Élémens de la grammaire japonaise (Paris: Librairie orientale de Dondey-Dupré, 1825).

^ Back to text121. Filippo Salvadore Gilij [Salvatore], Saggio di storia americana o sia storia naturale, civile, e sacra de regni [...] (Rome: Luigi Perego Salvioni, 1780–84).

Cite this page
Zwartjes, Otto, “The Jesuits’ Contribution to the Study, Documentation, and Teaching of “Exotic” Languages”, in: Jesuit Historiography Online. Consulted online on 08 December 2022 <>
First published online: 2021

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