The End of the Jesuit Lexicographic Tradition in Nêhirawêwin
Jean-Baptiste de la Brosse and his compilation of the Radicum Montanarum Silva (1766–1772)
Our knowledge of the Cree dialect continuum has benefited from nearly four centuries of lexicography, the earliest of which saw manuscripts produced by Christian missionaries as tools for evangelization. As esteemed as the extant dictionaries may be, very few indepth studies have been undertaken to assess their value relative to one another and to the historical and modern dialects of the continuum. This study represents one such attempt – a thorough examination of Jesuit Jean-Baptiste de la Brosse’s (1724–1782) Radicum Montanarum Silva (1766–1772), a bilingual Latin manuscript dictionary of the dialects termed Nêhirawêwin by their speakers and Montagnais by the lexicographer. By comparing this dictionary with the three sources used by La Brosse, this paper examines the practice of Jesuit lexicography and reminds us of the pitfalls that arise from an uninformed use of such manuscripts.
Published online: 24 October 2011
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