Language and Societies

ANT/LIN 5320 at Wayne State University

From sauvage to salvage: a quantitative analysis of European-Algonkian vocabularies from contact to the mid-19th century

From sauvage to salvage: a quantitative analysis of European-Algonkian vocabularies from contact to the mid-19th century

Daniel Harrison

Word lists, or vocabularies, are a staple feature of accounts of encounters with Native Americans from the initial contact period through the mid-19th century. The author posits that the choice of words by the European, and later American compilers of these brief, early vocabularies should reveal their needs, priorities, and agendas. An examination of twelve vocabularies from the Algonkian languages of the Great Lakes region reveals patterns of word choice that point to four archetypal identities: explorer, trader, missionary, and philologist. A quantitative analysis of the vocabularies allows the observation of a shift in the prevalence of these identities over time. The results are then related to the scholarly literature of lingua francas and salvage linguistics. The study concludes with a brief consideration of the possible applications of the survey methodology to the study of indigenous narratives, and the role of present-day dictionary compilers in the revitalization of indigenous languages.

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April 16, 2011 - Posted by | abstract

2 Comments »

  1. Fascinating analysis. I would love to read the finished paper!

    Comment by Michael Antares | April 20, 2011 | Reply

    • Thank you– that is most encouraging. Encouraging enough that I’m going to look into getting it published. Will update this board if anything develops.

      Comment by Dan Harrison | April 21, 2011 | Reply


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