Volume 12, Issue 3
  • ISSN 0302-5160
  • E-ISSN: 1569-9781
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SUMMARYAccounts of Christian missionary linguists in the 16th and 17th centuries are usually devoted to their achievements in the Americas and the Far East, and it is seldom remarked that, at the time when English Protestant missionaries were attempting to meet the challenge of unknown languages on the Eastern seaboard of North America, their fellow missionary-linguists were confronted with similar problems much nearer home - in Ireland, where the native language was quite as difficult as the Amerindian speech with which John Eliot and Roger Williams were engaged. Outside Ireland, few historians of linguistics have noted the extraordinarily interesting socio-linguistic situation in this period, when English Protestants and native-born Jesuits and Franciscans, revisiting their homeland covertly from abroad, did battle for the hearts and minds of the Irish-speaking population - nominally Catholic, but often so remote from^contacts with their Mother Church that they seemed, to contemporary missionaries, to be hardly more Christian than the Amerindians. The linguistic problems of 16th-and 17th-century Ireland have often been discussed by historians dealing with attempts by Henry VIII and his successors to incorporate Ireland into a Protestant English state in respect of language, religion and forms of government, and during the 16th century various official initiatives were taken to convert the Irish to the beliefs of an English-speaking church. But it was in the 17th century that consistent and determined efforts were made by individual Englishmen, holding high ecclesiastical office in Ireland, to convert their nominal parishioners, not by forcing them to seek salvation via the English language, but to bring it to them by means of Irish-speaking ministers preaching the Gospel and reciting the Liturgy in their own vernacular. This paper describes the many parallels between the problems confronting Protestant missionaries in North America and these 17th-century Englishmen in Ireland, and — since the work of the American missions is relatively well-known — discusses in greater detail the achievements of missionary linguists in Ireland.RÉSUMÉQuand on traite des linguistes missionaires des XVIe et XVIIe siècles, c'est généralement pout parler de leurs travaux aux Amériques et en Extrême-Orient; et l'on remarque rarement qu'à l'epoque ou les missionaires protestants anglais tentaient de relever le defi des langues inconnues de la cote est de l'Amerique du Nord, leurs confreres en linguistique missionnaire se trouvaient confrontes a des problemes analogues bien plus pres du pays natal: en Irlande, ou la langue locale etait tout aussi difficile que l'idiome ameridien auquel s'attaquaient John Eliot et Roger Williams. En dehors de l'lrlande, il n'y a guere d'historiens de la linguistique qui aient remarque la situation socio-linguistique extremement in-teressante de cette epoque ou des Protestants anglais et des Jesuites et Francis-cains de couche autochtone, qui, de l'etranger, reviennent en secret au pays, menent bataille pour conquerir les coeurs et les ames de la population de langue irlandaise, catholique nominalement, mais souvent si coupée de l'Eglise mere qu'elle semblait aux missionaires de l'epoque a peine plus chretienne que les tribus amerindiennes. Les problemes linguistiques de l'lrlande des XVIe et XVIIe siecles ont ete souvent discutes par les historiens a propos des tentatives d'Henri VIII qui visaient a integrer l'lrlande dans un Etat anglais protestant aux points de vue langue, religion et formes de gouvernement; et le XVIe siècle connut mainte initiative officielle en vue de convertir les Irlandais aux croyances d'une Eglise de langue anglaise. Mais c'est au XVIIIe siecle que des efforts coherents et determines furent entrepris par des Anglais, titulaires de hautes charges eccle-siastiques en Irlande, afin de convertir leurs paroissiens nominaux, non pas en les forçant a chercher le salut via la langue anglaise, mais en le leur apportant par l'intermediaire de ministres parlant irlandais, prechant l'Evangile et celebrant la liturgie dans leur idiome. Le present article decrit les nombreux paralleles existant entre les problemes qui se posaient aux missionnaires protestants en Amerique du Nord et aux Anglais du XVIIe siecle en Irlande; et puisque l'oeuvre des missions americaines est relativement bien connue, on s'attardera ici specialement sur les travaux des linguistes missionnaires en Irlande.


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  • Article Type: Research Article
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