XI International Conference on Missionary Linguistics
Santa Rosa | 3-5 March 2020

Continuities and breaks in 19th century missionary linguistics

Universidad Nacional de La Pampa, Santa Rosa, La Pampa, Argentina

The International Conference on Missionary Linguistics focuses on older texts (colonial, postcolonial, mainly from missionaries) with the following objectives: the history of linguistics, linguistic documentation, translation studies and sociocultural analysis. The aim of historical linguistics is to describe older stages of languages as well as (processes of) language change, while the history of linguistics studies early thinking on languages, linguistic typologies and structures. These studies are often interrelated with those of the cultural context in which colonial and postcolonial societies developed. Non-Western languages are our main focus.

The interdisciplinary approach that has enriched so many areas of science is one of the determining marks of Missionary Linguistics. Understood as a branch of linguistic historiography, it presents as a differential characteristic, according to Hernández (2013: 225–226) the fact that it refers to linguistic works produced in non-Indo-European–“exotic”–languages, whose authors are persons representing the religious field, and serving a didactic purpose.

The contributions of typological-descriptive linguistics, history, anthropology, sociolinguistics, ethnolinguistics, and linguistic documentation converge in the transversal disciplinary space set up by Missionary Linguistics.  The result is a varied set of epistemological perspectives that come together for a better understanding of the linguistic descriptions that emerged during the process of evangelization, and which constitute the central object of the discipline, as well as the works of religious instruction that complement them: catechisms, confessionals, doctrines, sermons, etc.

Furthermore, as these works are socially, ideologically and theologically marked, they are anchored in a particular context and respond to a specific communicative need. The possibilities of analytical output based on missionary sources are enhanced through the perspective of pragmatics, religious studies, sociocultural analysis, translation and intercultural studies, among others.

The previous Conferences – Oslo, São Paulo, Macau-Hong Kong, Valladolid (Spain), Mérida (Mexico), Tokyo, Bremen, Lima, Manila – placed an emphasis on phonology, morphology, syntax, lexicography, translation and pragmatics. The tenth conference focused on sources from Asia:

Proposed Topic

This 11th Conference proposes as central topic – but not exclusive – the situation of Missionary Linguistics during the 19th century. In a context in which new colonial expansionist powers (and new missionary enterprises) emerge, the number of “exotic” languages to understand, describe and document increases substantially. This period, marked by linguistic diversity in space and time – languages that come from Africa, Australia and northern and southern America, as well as the romantic interest for dialects as a heritage of the past – favours reflections about the relationship between language, thought and culture. The knowledge of different languages also contributes to the development of comparative linguistics, inspired in turn by advances in the natural sciences.

Some possible lines of research:

  • Missionary linguistics in the 19th century: inheritances and innovations regarding methodology, objectives, recipients and pedagogical strategies;
  • Linguistic works of the missionaries in the context of 19th-century colonialism and decolonization processes;
  • Reception and use of the missionary linguistic documentation for academic purposes;
  • Contributions of missionary linguistics for the development of modern linguistic theory;
  • Technical advances in the (re)edition of missionary sources.

As in the previous Conferences, contributions outside the proposed topics are equally welcome, as long as they conform with the time limit of ca. 1920.

Abstracts Submissions

Abstracts of papers (30 minutes including discussion) should contain the name of the speaker, full contact address (including email address), the title and a summary of the paper (maximally 500 words).

Deadline for abstracts: November 1st, 2019.

Notification of acceptance: December 1st, 2019.



Source: (accessed on 5 October 2019)

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