The first known grammar of the (Kahenda-Mbaka) Kimbundu (Lisbon 1697) and Álvares’ Ars Minor (Lisbon 1573)

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Pedro Dias, S.J. (1621/1622‑1700) published the first known grammar book of Kimbundu, entitled Arte da Lingua de Angola, oeferecida (sic) a Virgem Senhora N[ossa] do Rosario, Mãy, e Senhora dos mesmos Pretos (Lisbon 1697) [Grammar of the Language of Angola, offered to our Virgin Mother of the Rosary, and Lady of the Negroes] for use by the Jesuit missionaries, particularly in the north-eastern of Brazil, to instruct and convert the several Angolan and other Bantu western African slaves living there. This paper describes Dias’ grammar book relevance to the Portuguese, Brazilian and Angolan linguistic historiography. Dias’ Arte, although a small book (only 48 pages) with no theoretical explanation, is a pioneering Bantu linguistic work, being the first known systematic grammar of (Kahenda-Mbaka) Kimbundu used as general or common language in Bahia and Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, in the 17th century, and the second printed grammar of any Bantu language, preceded only by Vetralla’s Regulae quaedam pro difficillimi Congensium idiomatis faciliori captu ad grammaticae normam (Rome 1659) [Some rules to better understand the most difficult language of the Congo people, using grammar norms]. This paper also demonstrates that the Arte da Lingua de Angola, in addition to the influence of Pacconio and Couto’s catechism (1642), is based on Manuel Álvares’ ars minor (Lisbon 1573), in spite of his ars maior (Lisbon 1572).
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)213-232
Number of pages19
JournalAfricana Linguistica
Publication statusPublished - 2015


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