A key into the language of America

by Roger Williams

Paper Book, 1997



Call number



Bedford, MA : Applewood Books, 1997.


A discourse on the languages of Native Americans encountered by the early settlers written by Roger Williams, who was forced to leave Massachusetts and established Rhode Island. This early linguistic treatise gives rare insight into the early contact between Europeans and Native Americans.

User reviews

LibraryThing member PhyllisHarrison
A great little historical curiosity, this early "dictionary" is sorted by subject matter. There are a few terms (spelling not consistent but that's all right, it helps with the pronunciation) and then a little commentary, such as this one under Chap.V:

Their Virgins are distinguished by a bashful falling downe of their haire over their eyes.

Roger Williams, as the Editors inform us, wrote this, his first published work, in 1643. As an early Anthropologist and Linguist, he mentions different dialects but does not distinguish greatly between the Algonkian tribes. Some words are similar to those of the Abenaki, one tribe found further to the west, but others are not.

I could do without his three verses of four lines each that are found at the end of each chapter, generally pontificating on the superiority of the Christian faith over the heathen, although Williams gained fame as much, or more, for his independent views on religious tolerance that landed him in hot water (as well as exile) from his fellow "Pilgrims".
Because there were no cameras or recordings at the time, we owe Roger Williams a great debt of gratitude for the little slice of history that he saved for us.
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LibraryThing member AlanEJohnson
This edition of Roger Williams's famous work on Native Americans is accessible and relatively easy to read. It modernizes the orthography while retaining the wording, italics, and some other features of the original. The Introduction by Howard M. Chapin provides a succinct summary of the publication history of the work. Scholars will wish to study the original 1643 edition (available on Early English Books Online) or a reprint of volume 1 of the 1963 edition of The Complete Writings of Roger Williams.… (more)


Original publication date



1557094640 / 9781557094643


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