Why did Spain make the first American Grammar?
In order to better evangelize, the Spanish learned the language of the Native Americans. A Jesuit wrote a grammar of the language to help other missionaries. This made it easier for his classmates to learn the language.
+ Hispanic Roots
“In the year 1568, the Guale Grammar and Dictionary was written in Georgia”
Spain respected Native American languages
The first missionaries were many Jesuits. An institution that was born in the Basque Country and is widely established. It is an area that has always been very sensitive to differences and languages
Many of the missionaries have their own language, different from the Spanish or Castilian language. United in an army of Navarrese, Galician, Valencian, Catalan, Majorcan missionaries etc.,
“The Spanish respected the indigenous languages of America”
The Jesuits were among the most cultured and relatively open-minded priests on these issues. It was an order founded by Ignacio de Loyola from the Basque Country in the North of Spain. One of its most famous missionaries was Francisco Xavier, both speaking Basque. A multinational order that spread to many countries.
Spain helps to learn American languages
Spain and the languages of each territory
Each Viceroyalty and an official native language
In order to better communicate with the indigenous people, he assigned an official language. Eg.
- In New Spain Nahuatl was named as the official language to communicate with the natives, and this already in the year 1570 according to a Royal Decree of the King of Spain Felipe II.
- In the Amazon Zone, the Guaraní was official,
- In Peru, Quechua was the official one.
When Spain left America for the independence of the countries, fundamentally it was only spoken in the large populations. It was later when the Spanish language spread as a way to unify the native language Babel that was preserved and was used as the language of the schools.
The first Grammar is written
Father Báez decides to help the learning of a native North American language in the U.S and writes the first grammar. A surprising fact when compared with the behavior of the English in North America.
He wrote the first book published in the U.S.A
Domingo Báez, a Jesuit with determination. He wrote the first book published in the USA
Destined in Georgia (U.S.A) and seeing that the conversions of the natives were not progressing, he decides to learn the language from him. He writes the first Grammar of a North American language.
Mission in Georgia (Current U.S.)
The Jesuits install a mission
Whenever you think of the missions in America, you think of the territories of Central America or South America, but in the territories of the United States today there was a network of Spanish missions and forts.
With the idea of evangelizing the territory, 12 Jesuit missionaries who set up a mission arrived in the area.
Situation of Georgia in the U.S.
Santa Catalina de Guale
Also called (St. Catherine Island). Currently Tybee island
Initially, the missionaries encouraged the Indians to attend masses and catechesis by promising them food. But when this was finished the assists almost disappeared. The great difficulty was not speaking the same language. That is why Father Domingo Báez decided to learn it.
He learned the Guale language
He wanted to be able to communicate with the indigenous people and he learned their language. He also made the first grammar and dictionary
With all that he learned, he not only communicated with the indigenous people, he also taught his companions the language. He translated the prayers and the Spanish catechism into the Guale language. He made verses so that the natives could learn the prayers earlier.
Dictionaries and grammars were made
By learning the language, they could evangelize the indigenous people more easily and with less rejection since they did it in their own language.
Grammars for Quechua and Nahuatl
Soon Spain in its eagerness to evangelize and starring missionaries published grammars of the most important languages. In the year 1560 the first grammar of the Quechua language was published. In the year 1571 the first grammar of the Nahuatl language was published
Spain respects the languages of America
Catechisms, grammars and dictionaries
Alonso de Molina published in 1555 in Mexico “Vocabulary in Spanish and Mexican languages”.
“More than a dozen American Grammars were published before English Grammar in the year 1586”
A fact that is little known and that is surprising. The publications did not stop in the 25 universities that Spain created in its Viceroyalties of America.
In Peru Fray Domingo de Tomás published “Grammar or general art of the language of the Kingdoms of Peru” with Quechua-Spanish Dictionary and vice versa.
- 1612 “Vocabulary of the Aymara Language” is published.
- 1640 Madrid Antonio Ruiz de Montoya “Art and vocabulary of the Guaraní language”.
- 1699 in Madrid a Jesuit published “Vocabulary of the Moxos Indians” of Bolivia.
- 1702 “Art of the moxa language” was published, by Pedro Marban dictionary and catechism.
Books were even written in Native American languages.
Fray Bernardino de Sahagún mastered Nahuatl and wrote the book “General History of the Things of New Spain” in that language.
Spanish the First Grammar of Europe
In the year 1492, Nebrija’s “The Grammar of the Castilian Language” appears. It was born out of the need to unify and facilitate the Spanish language that has already spread throughout Europe. The territories controlled and occupied by Spain already included southern Italy, Sardinia, Sicily (Kingdom of Naples). In the following decades it spread through the Duchy of Milan, Franche-Comté, Flanders (Belgium and Holland), some small German states. Becoming the diplomatic and commercial language of the time. With the discovery of the New World it spread throughout America and the Philippines.
Later the other European grammars appear: France (1530), German (1573), Portugal (1536) etc.
“The last of the important ones was English Grammar in the year 1586”
Missionaries: Basques, Galicians, Valencians
The church preferred that they speak at least 2 languages
He preferably chose missionaries who, in addition to Spanish, spoke another language, his own. For being from any of the regions of Spain such as Galicia, the Basque Country, Valencia, Catalonia or the Balearic Islands.
This gave them an advantage in understanding the Indians, dealing with them, and learning their language. They were not considered wild
Curiosities of grammars
Spain was not only a military and economic power, since the Viceroyalties of her extended by all the continents. She was also a pioneering power in culture. For 300 years he did not stop exploring and analyzing what he found all over the world. And he also took good note of everything. Her universities published all kinds of theories to respond to the problems that were presented to her.
It is curious that although it is true that the First Grammar of a European Language was the Castilian Grammar of the year 1492, these American grammars were ahead of European Grammars. The German Grammar (1573) and let alone the English Grammar that did not arrive until the year 1586, almost 100 years after that of the Grammar of the Spanish Language.