Thèse : Native American words, early American texts


  • Pollack, John H.
  • Stallybrass, Peter. Directeur
  • Annenberg, Walter H. Directeur
  • Annenberg, Leonore C. Directeur


This study follows words from the languages of Native American peoples that appeared in printed and manuscript accounts by Europeans in the first years of American colonization. I present a cultural bibliography of Native languages from the late fifteenth through the mid-sixteenth centuries, examining the contexts of publication and circulation of texts that include Native words. When were Native words and phrases first written and printed? Who may have been responsible for their appearance and disappearance, their transcription, their printing, and their circulation? Why did they appear in some texts and documents and not in others? How did such words function in texts? How might our readings of them change our understandings of Native-European contact and colonization? My case studies include the word canoa, one of the first loanwords from the American Native language now called “Taino”; Guanahani, the purported name of the island on which Christopher Columbus and his crew first arrived in 1492; and the controversial word cannibal, the meanings of which were debated in European sources during the 1490s. Alongside Native words, I trace references to “conversation” between Europeans and Natives. Europeans needed to converse in order to gain vital information for trade and settlement and hence were dependent, to an extent, upon Native words. European writers take the willingness of Native peoples to engage in conversation as a marker of civility and take language variations as indicative of political divisions between peoples. Texts I analyze include versions of the letter recounting Columbus’s first transatlantic voyage and reports by Italian merchants, diplomats, chroniclers, and scholars relating to the first and second Spanish expeditions. I study the letters attributed to Amerigo Vespucci alongside the imaginary American alphabet printed in Thomas More’s Utopia. I conclude with a comparison of word lists printed in Peter Martyr d’Anghiera’s De Orbe novo and in narratives of Jacques Cartier’s expeditions to the St. Lawrence River valley in the 1530s.

Informations pratiques

  • [Philadelphia] : University of Pennsylvania, 2014
  • 1 vol. (IX-288 p.)
  • PhD : Philosophy : University of Pennsylvania : 2014


Olivier Jacquot

Responsable de la valorisation et des données de la recherche > Coordination de la recherche > Délégation à la stratégie et à la recherche > Bibliothèque nationale de France

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