[Historiographia Linguistica 42:2/3] 2015
► pp. 315–333
A Contrastive Study of 18th-Century Word-Lists
Translations into some fifty American and Philippine languages
At the end of the 18th century Russian Empress Catherine II sent a letter to Spanish King Charles III containing two lists. The first was a list of grammars and vocabularies of American and Asian languages, while the second was a lexical compilation to be translated into as many American and Philippine languages as possible by missionaries and Spanish civil servants. The so-called List no. 2, a matrix list of around 445 words, was translated into approximately fifty languages. These translations were sent to Spain but they never left the country. Although the matrix list in Spanish has already been published, a comparative study focusing on its different translations is still to be made. The compilation and translation of these lists – Pallas’ and List no. 2 – constitute one of the first large-scale projects in comparative linguistics. They were pioneers in their selection criteria, structure and methodology. This paper is a general overview of both the original matrix list (in Spanish) and the manuscripts containing the translations in more than fifty languages, which are to the present day preserved without being studied in the Archivo General de Indias in Seville and the Real Biblioteca in Madrid. In this paper, special attention will be paid to the compilation and translation strategies followed by the missionaries.