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UBC Theses and Dissertations

The arts of empire : re-articulating the coercive consultation event, 1492-1693 Bennett, Matthew David


The following is a transatlantic study of the initial English and Spanish reactions to the problem of language difference in the Americas, focusing on the language related literature of England, Spain, New England, and New Spain, from 1492 to 1693. As part of the arts of empire, which is the use of language technologies for domination, both English and Spanish explorers, historians, and colonists created bilingual word-lists in the primary phase of the language encounter, yet the burgeoning empires’ responses diverged significantly with the deployment of missionary linguistics, resulting in the extremely uneven production of Amerindian grammars. This disparity in descriptive linguistics signals an understudied historical problem that I explain through comparative analysis of the English and Spanish traditions of language policy and language sciences, with particular regard for the effects of the Reformation on monastic communities and the funding of missionary expeditions. Another problem resides in the manner in which linguistic imperialism de-articulates the linguistic data from the language consultant and the historical context. Moving from texts founded on the interview of language slaves to texts requiring more willing collaboration, my response is the creation of an interpretive model, called narrative re-articulation, that combines linguistic data into a virtual syntax in such a way that the moment of language exchange, called the coercive consultation event, is reinserted into the historical narrative. This expands our understanding of the language encounter and linguistic imperialism by identifying language consultants by name, when possible, and by demonstrating the survivance of Amerindian cultures and Amerindian historical figures. Pushing against the early modern de-articulation of the Amerindian consultants from the consultation event, and questioning the reasons for such divergent literary responses to the problem of language difference, I create an interpretive frame for recovering the moment of language exchange and explain the theological and institutional differences between the English and Spanish models for linguistic imperialism in the Americas.

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