Publication details [#5831]

Murray, Laura J. 2001. Joining signs with words: Missionaries, metaphors, and the Massachusett language. 32 pp.


Missionary writings from New England in the early 17th century are examined to investigate the role of metaphors and gestures in cross-cultural discourse between Puritan missionaries and local Native Americans. It is suggested that John Eliot's reported successes with the Massachusett people at Nonantum, based on their reception of sermons liberally laced with gestural metaphors, is due to Eliot's inability to control his audience's interpretation of the metaphors, which is likely to have been very different from the intended message. Reports of native people's use of gesture and metaphor display no awareness of the possibility that their behavior might be an adaptation to the intercultural situation. Excerpts from Josiah Cotton's (1707-1708) vocabulary, which purports to provide Massachusett equivalents for English words in the religious domain and presents dialogues in both languages, are presented with commentary focusing on missionaries' cultural and linguistic misinterpretations. (J. Hitchcock in LLBA 2001, vol. 35, n. 5)