Father Diego Luis de Sanvitores’ grammar (1668) within the tradition of Philippine grammars
The grammar written in Latin, in 1668, by the Jesuit missionary Father Diego Luis de Sanvitores (1627-1672) is the oldest description we have of Chamorro, a language spoken on the Mariana islands, a group of islands in the Pacific Ocean. In the course of time this grammar has received a number of bad reviews and as a consequence has been neglected and almost forgotten. The main point of criticism is that Sanvitores uses the Latin grammatical framework to explain the structure of a language that in many ways does not fit into this framework. In this thesis, however, the author shows that Sanvitores had a remarkable insight into the linguistic structure of Chamorro. The author also reveals that Sanvitores and his contemporary missionaries working in this ‘Philippine area’ in fact adapted the Latin framework to make it fit for explaining the native languages of this area and that they redefined Latin grammatical terminology in order to create a vocabulary suitable for their newly adopted pragmalinguistic method.
The author shows that Sanvitores and his colleague missionaries working in this area have been criticized unjustly throughout the subsequent ages in not having understood the languages they described. It is argued that, instead, their approach was astonishingly innovative; that in fact they were roughly three hundred years ahead of their time in developing a pragmalinguistic method of analysis; and that even in some linguistic matters which are still subject of debate today among linguists they take clear and convincing stands.