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Grammaire algonquine

Nicolas, Louis

DomaineTraditions non-occidentales
SecteurGrammaires amérindiennes [4640]

Nicolas, Louis

Datation: 1634-1682?

Louis Nicolas was born in Aubenas, Ardèche in 1634. He entered the Society (S.J.) in Toulouse, 1654. He taught grammar for four years in Saint-Flour (1656-1660) and later in Le Puy-en-Velay (1661) and studied philosophy in Tournon-sur-Rhône in 1661-1663, where his teachers were not very impressed by his intellectual capacities. They advised him to do labour (Gagnon 2017, p. 6). He seems to have been more interested in nature, being a talented drawer and less gifted as a missionary (he was criticised often because of his bad behaviour). He arrived in 1664 in New France. He was first assigned to the Jesuit residence in Sillery, near Québec, where he started to learn Algonquin, north of Trois-Rivières. He worked and lived in New France until 1675 and during this time he visited a great number of places from the extreme western point of Lake Superior, Sept-îles, Québec, to the territories of the Iroquois south of Lake Ontario. Nicolas was also a cartographer and he composed the so-called Codex canadensis which is an impressive piece of art, with illustrations and paintings of birds and plants composed by the author (Gagnon 2017). His grammar was composed in the years 1672-1674 when he was in Sillery. In 1675 he travelled back to France and we do not know with any certainty what he did in France after his return. Since the Jesuits refused to print his work, a grammar (Grammaire algonquine ou des sauvages de l’Amerique septentrionalle), a dictionary, a cathecism, a history (Histoire naturelle des Indes occidentales, completed in 1680 in France), a work on topography, animals (Historie des animaux à quatre pieds), birds and studies about the indigenous tribes and other works, he decided to abandon the order in 1678. It is likely that he continued working as a secular priest (Gagnon 2017, p. 14). It is not confirmed in any document when and where he died. In some sources the year 1682 is mentioned, but according to others he died ca 1700.

Titre de l'ouvrageGrammaire algonquine ou des sauvages de l’Amerique septentrionalle
Titre traduitAlgonquin/Ojibwa grammar or [grammar] of the “Savages” of North America
Titre courtGrammaire algonquine
Remarques sur le titreComplete title: Grammaire algonquine ou des Sauvages de l’Amerique septentrionalle, avec la Description du Pays, journaux de voyages, memoires sur l’histoire naturelle, etc. etc. Composé à ce qu’il paroit en 1672, 1673, 1674 par Louis Nicolas, Prêtre Missionnaire, natif de la ville d’Aubenas de Languedoc.
Période|17e s.|
Type de l'ouvrageManuscript. The manuscript was not written as a notebook for personal use, but was intended for publication, unlike most other manuscripts of this period produced in New France (Hanzeli 1969, p. 69). Nevertheless, Nicolas never obtained permission of the Company of Jesus to have it printed (Daviault 1994, p. 6).
Type indexéGrammaire descriptive | Grammaire didactique | Grammaire élémentaire
Édition originale1672? (on the first folio, three years are mentioned: 1672-1673-1674)
Édition utiliséeDaviault (1994). This edition is based on the Manuscript conserved in the Bibliothèque Nationale, Paris, fonds américain, document n° 18954. According to Hanzeli (1969, p. 126), a microfilm is available at the Library of the University of Washington in Seattle.
Volumétrie135 p. (10 ¼'' x 7 ¼'') (Daviault 1994, p. 3; 1995, p. 228; Hanzeli 1969, p. 126)
Nombre de signes72000
Reproduction moderneDaviault (1994). In Hanzeli (1969) “Excerpts” are published as well (Appendix B, p. 117-124). There, it appears as MS 14, in which Hanzeli selected a part of the prologue, the first declensions of the “noms nobles”, the second of the “noms ignobles”, and four declensions of the pronouns (“pronoms possesifs nobles terminés en voyelles, pronoms possesifs nobles terminés en consonantes, pronom possesif ignoble en voyelle”, and “pronom possesif ignoble en consonante”). No verbal paradigms appear in Hanzeli’s appendix.
DiffusionThe document has been mentioned by Thwaites (1896-1901:48:297) and l'Abbé Verrault in his Report of 1874 (R.C.A. 1874:188-189) and was not published until 1994. Pilling mentioned it in his work (1892, p. 393). It seems that most (if not all) specialists on Algonquian languages have ignored the existence or importance of Nicolas’s grammar, until it was published by Daviault.
Langues ciblesAlgonquin/Ojibwa (Endonym, which is also used as ethnonym: Omàmiwininìmowin) (Algonquian family, Central Algonquian branch, Middle Tier). Algic family (Mithun 1999, p. 333). The language also has been classified as a dialect of Ojibwa (Black 2016), according to Daviault (1994, p. 3), the dialect with -r. The author refers also to the Outaouaks (p. 35), who have a different pronunciation of L and R.
MétalangueFrench, and on occasion Latin (as on p. 114, the supine “cupitium descedimus”). The list of prepositions is trilingual, starting with Latin, followed by French and the Algonquin/Ojibwa equivalents (118-120).
Langue des exemplesAlgonquin/Ojibwa
Sommaire de l'ouvrageThe grammar is divided in 4 parts The first is devoted to declensions and conjugations ‘without any rules’ (“sans aucunes règles”). The second part includes “rules” (“la seconde met au jour toutes les règles d’une parfait grammaire”). The third is devoted to “concordances”, syntax and the “economy” of the entire language (“l’œconomie de toute la langue”), and the fourth includes the adverbs, prepositions, conjunctions and interjections in French and and Algonquian/Ojibwa (“en François et en sauvage”).
Preface (p. 1-7).
Première partie de l’ouvrage (7-30). Première déclinaison. Noms nobles termin.es en voyelles (8); seconde déclinaison des noms ignobles terminés en voyelles et des mêmes noms terminés en consonantes (9); première déclinaison des pronoms possessifs (‘possesifs’) nobles terminés en voyelles (10), seconde déclinaison des pronoms possessifs nobles terminés en consonantes (10); troisième déclinaison du pronom possessif ignoble terminé en voyelle, quatrième déclinaison du pronom possessif ignoble terminé en consonante (11); verbe neutre simple terminé en voyelle (12); verbe neutre terminé en am ou an (14-15); verbe neutre en chin ou in impur (15-16); verbe médium (17); verbes en “je te” (18); verbe en “tu me” (19); verbe ignoble actif (20-21); verbe ignoble passif (22-23); verbe noble actif (24-25); verbe noble passif (tertia conjugatio) (26-27); verbes impersonnels (28-29); quelques remarques particulières des verbes anomaux, des verbaux et verbes ‘de faire saimblant’ et irréguliers (30-33).
Seconde partie de l’ouvrage (34-101). The first pages of this part do not have any section titles. The author starts with the letters, pronunciation (34-35) Du nom (36-43); remarques plus particulières sur les pronoms (43); le genre noble ou ignoble (43); pronoms possessifs (45-51); du verbe (52); du verbe neutre passif (53); du verbe substantif (53-54); du verbe (la figure, l’espèce, le nombre, la personne, le temps, 3 conjugaisons, 54-64); remarques particulières sur quelques verbes (65); du verbe impersonnel (66-69); des verbes primitifs de la première classe (70-74); règles de “la formaison des verbes aliés de la 2de classe” (74-77); remarques sur les participes (77); remarques sur la mutation des voyelles, sur l’augment du temps ou des syllabes (78); négations (81-83); remarques pour former les verbes “fréquentatifs ou qui signifient qu’on faict quelque chose souvant” (84); remarques pour former les verbes affirmatifs, ou quoi signifient qu’on assure (84) remarques pour former les verbes dubitatifs, ou de doute (84); remarques pour former les verbes “subauditifs ou quand on entre-entend quelque chose” (85); remarques pour former les verbes diminutifs (85); diminutifs (noms) (86); verbes anomaux (86-88); règles sur la “marque de reciprocation” (89); exemples (several examples and “constructions”, some adverbs) (90-99).
“Troisième partie de la grammaire algonquine, ou l’on trouvera toutes les concordances, la syntaxe et l’œconomie de toute la langue” (102-114). La syntaxe de la convenance (103-106); de la syntaxe du régime (syntax of nouns, cases, and valency of verbs) (106-110); des questions de lieu, d’espace et de temps, ou de distance de chemin ou d’un lieu en un autre, de mesure, de prix (112-113); materiae ex qua, question de “paine”, d’instrument (“j’en uze”), de cause pour laquelle (113); pour exprimer une partie du corps, bien ou mal affectée (114).
Quatrième partie (116-135). Adverbes (“du lieu, temps, de nombre, de qualité, d’affirmation, de négation, d’interrogation, de response, de doute, d’assemblage, d’appeler, d’exhorter, de desir, de demonstration, de similitude, de quantité”) (116-118); de la préposition (118-120); de l’interjection (120); de la conjonction (120-121); des particules (alphabetically arranged list, translated from Algonquin/Ojibwa to French) (122-135).
Objectif de l'auteurNicolas wrote the work as a missionary, which means that the most important target group were other missionaries. Nonetheless, Nicolas also highlights that his learning tool was also of interest for the scholarly world and useful for individuals other than missionaries, such as traders (“aussi bien que je l’estois d’escrire ou de n’escrire pas avecque tant de paine un travail si fâcheux, qui ne laissera pas d’estre admire des curieux et des savans, et d’estre fort utile à ceux qui voudront aller au commerce ou à la conquest des âmes” (éd. Daviault 1994, p. 24). The objective of Nicolas was to have the manuscript published, together with two dictionaries, a catechism, a topographical study of the New World and a natural history (Hanzeli 1969, p. 69). He does not only give the Algonquin/Ojibwa equivalents of Latin and / or French paradigms, but also concentrates on particles, attempting to find French equivalents for them. Often Nicolas Nicolas highlights the hitherto unkown features of this language “et qui diront d’abort que véritablement je donne des regles assés claires mais qu’elles sont d’un style bien estrange, bas et rempant, et avec des façons de parler tout a faict extraordinaires et inconnues dans le pays des Latins, des Graecs et des François” (f. 11, cited in Schmidt-Riese, 2003, p. 178).
Intérêt généralHanzeli (1969, p. 86): “The obviative possessor forms (those in “diceluy” et “diceux”) had been successfully identified, an improvement compared to the anonymous grammatical sketches composed in 1661 and ca 1662. Another improvement is the “separate presentation of nouns unmarked for person and those which constitute possessed themes, which Nicolas refers to as ‘declinaisons des pronoms possesifs’” (Hanzeli 1969, p. 86). Another improvement is “the use of double hyphens to represent visually the particles which constitute, according to his interpretation, the words he lists” (Hanzeli, ibid.). Furthermore, Hanzeli (1989, p. 87) demonstrates that Nicolas “is the first to point out the existence of the class we have called, following Bloomfield, “dependent nouns” and to describe them as what we would call today “bound forms” (Hanzeli 1969, p. 87). Finally, it is significant that Nicolas informs his readers about the polysynthetic characteristics of the language, in his description of compound forms: “Remarqués icy une des plus grandes difficultés de la langue sauvage: c’est qu’il faut savoir que nostre langue compose souvant; et de 3 ou 4, voire 5, mots elle ne fait qu’un”: example (“un seul mot compose de plusieurs: Nit’araouiouichouisin…”). “Il se trouve des mots qui ont plus de cinquente lettres, comptées celles du mot suivant et vous en trouverées 51: Kigakichountchitaouichkicheounkimaouinikaraouabnik. ‘En vérité vous eussiés voulu le faire grand capitaine.’” (124). Missionaries were fascinated by this typological feature, as in Cuoq’s (1891, p. 88) grammar, where we find also such an example, but with even more (68 letter, and 32 syllables).
Parties du discoursThe author uses the traditional classification of eight parts of speech. He decides not to give the particles the status of a part of speech: “quoyque les particules a ne soient pas proprement une partie de l’oraison, elles ne laissent pas de s’yncérer dans le discours pour exprimer plus particulièrement ce qu’on veut signifier; et elles adjoutent et diminuent à la signification des choses qu’on veut exprimer ou faire entendre” (122).
Innovations term.It seems that the author knew Greek, used terminology from grammars of Greek, or indirectly, from French grammars who possibly were also influenced by Greek grammars: duel (dual, used for first person inclusive), ‘augmant’ (augment, used as near-equivalent for “bound morpheme”), ‘aoriste’ (aorist, used for the “independent preterite ending in -tai), ‘medium’ (neuter passive, used for the animate transitive). Daviault includes an appendix devoted to grammatical terms used by Nicolas (1994, p. 510-514). Here, we give a selection of the most remarkable terms: Noble (animate). Nicolas gives the following definition: “Ce mot de ‘noble’ s’applique pour toutes les choses vivantes ou de grande consideration parmi les Sauvages, quoyque la chose signifie une chose morte ou inanimée. Le mot d’ignoble s’attribue aux choses mortes et inanimées” (43); “verbe noble actif, noble passif; ignoble (inanimate), (verbe) ignoble actif, ignoble passif; verbe de commodité et d’incommodité acquisitif (benefactive)”. The term ‘acquisitif’ is not frequently used in missionary grammars of this period, but its history goes back to Sulpitius and Guarinus (Colombat 1999, p. 269); verbs ‘anomeaux’ (irregular); article (used with the maing of ‘determinant’; cacophonie, configurative (accompanying the figurative); figurative (thematic vowel, characteristic of a specific conjugation); convenance (agreement); (verbe) effectif (causative); esprit (aspiration); futur premier, futur second; habituel (verb with the suffix -gous); “je te verbe” (animate transitive verbe); “tu me verbe” (defective neuter verb) (in the nineteenth century, these categories are called “verbes dialogués”, as in Cuoq 1892: 44); ‘mœf’ (mood); ‘paolo post futur premier’, ‘paolo post futur second’. The history of the the Greek μετ’ ὀλίγον μέλλων tense, in Latin Paulo post futurum as in Priscian, who uses it for the Greek form τετύψομαι (Wouters 1994, p. 107); pro-adjective (replacing an adjective); response f (answering a question); subauditif (quotative); verbes diminutifs (“je ris un peu”, “j’aime cela un peu”); verbe vocatif; post; apposition (118); préposition séparable / inséparable.
Corpus illustratifAlgonquin/Ojibwa. Most examples are word-based, usually not entire phrases are given. We must be aware, that the grammar was a part of a larger didactic framework, including texts, dictionaries and a ‘treatise on particles’, where there was place for more text examples (see for instance Prévost 2013).
Indications compl.
Influence subieIn the prologue, Nicolas mentions the name of his informant, the convert Pierre Chigak. Furthermore, he explicitly tells how he did his fieldwork, constantly checking the linguistic data with the native people and explicitly. Nicolas was a field worker, a learner himself, and later a language instructor (“je me suis fait enfant avec les enfans, j’ay couru les bois avec les Sauvages, j’ay escouté, j’ay bégayé, j’ay beu le poussière des cabanes, j’ay escrit et rescript, bien des fois les mesmes mots et les mesmes périodes que j’entendois dans les discours des Sauvages, je les ay fait dire et redire fort souvant les mesme phrazes, pour les pouvoir aprandre et pour les savoir au vray, j’ay corrigé bien fois mot par mot mes papyers et toutes mes remarques avec un natif du païs, avveugle, qui depuis vint et cinq ans estoit à enseigner ceux qui vouloient aprandre sa langue” (ed. Daviault 1994, p. 19-20). Nevertheless, his data were not only illicited by him alone, but is the result of a collective enterprise. Nicolas even explains in his prologue that he was only a faithful copyist of the work of others (“je fais seulement estat d’estre un fidelle copiste et le moindre de tous les escoliers”) (ed. Daviault 1994, p. 23). He gives a long list of missionaries who preceded him, and whose notebooks he has used (“… les remarques et les escris et toutes les difficultés que plusieurs prestress savans missionaires avoient mis sur le papyer”, Daviault 1994, p. 22). Nicolas mentions them explicitly by name: Quain, Buteux, Gabriel Drouilletes, Albanel, Aloës, Henry Nouvel, Claude d’Ablon, Jacques Frémin, Julien Garnié, Pierre Bailloquet. It is obvious that Nicolas’s grammar shares a considerable number of features and terms with the two anonymous grammars dated 1661 and ca 1662. This means that Nicolas possibly used them as direct sources, or that these three manuscripts were inspired by another common source which has since been lost. In the anonymous work, we also find the terms ‘mœf’ for mood, the dichotomy ‘noble’/‘ignoble’, ‘lettres figuratives’ and the verbs classified as “je te” and “tu me”, also found in Ms. 1662. Other terms, such as “verbe seul” and “verbe de suite” are not found in Nicolas. Furthermore, Nicolas distinguishes five moods: Indicative, imperative, subjunctive, optative and potential, whereas anonymous ca 1662 sums up three: indicative, imperative and subjunctive.
Influence exercéeAlthough the work has been included in Pilling's catalogue (Pilling, 1891, p. 373), it has been largely ignored or neglected in studies of Algonquian languages before Hanzeli (1969) and Daviault (1994).
Renvois bibliographiquesBlack M. J. 2018; Colombat B. 1999; Cuoq A. J. 1891; Cuoq A. J. 1892; Davault D. 1995; Daviault D. (éd.) 1994; Gagnon F.-M. 2017; Hanzeli V. E. 1969; Mithun M. 1999; Pilling J. C. 1891; Prévost M.-L. 2013; Schmidt-Riese R. 2003; Thwaites R. G. (éd.) 1896; Wouters A. 1994

Case, Justin · Zwartjes, Otto

Création ou mise à jour2020-01