HARVARD ORIENTAL SERIES
Cover: The Earliest Missionary Grammar of Tamil in HARDCOVER

Harvard Oriental Series 76

The Earliest Missionary Grammar of Tamil

Fr. Henriques' Arte da Lingua Malabar: Translation, History, and Analysis

Translated with commentary by Jeanne Hein

V. S. Rajam

Arte da Lingua Malabar is a grammar of the Tamil spoken in the sixteenth century by the Parava pearl fisher community on the east coast of South India between Kanyakumari and Rameswaram. Fr. Henrique Henriques, S.J., a Portuguese Jesuit missionary to South India, was the first diligent student of Tamil from Europe. He wrote this grammar in Portuguese around 1549 CE for the benefit of his colleagues engaged in learning the local language for spreading their religious beliefs. Consequently, Arte da Lingua Malabar reflects the first linguistic contact between India and the West.

This grammar is unique in many aspects. It is not based on traditional Indian grammars; rather, it uses Latin grammatical categories to describe sixteenth-century Tamil. The effort to describe a language (Tamil) in terms of an unrelated language (Portuguese) has resulted in several inaccuracies in transliteration and scribing. Yet, Arte da Lingua Malabar is the best evidence for showing how sixteenth-century Tamil was heard and written by a sixteenth-century Portuguese. This English translation by Jeanne Hein and V. S. Rajam also includes analysis of the grammar and a description of the political context in which it was written.

From Our Blog

Jacket: The Privileged Poor: How Elite Colleges Are Failing Disadvantaged Students, by Anthony Abraham Jack, from Harvard University Press

Book Club Spotlight: The Privileged Poor

As students around the world deliberate their options for further education, only made more challenging in a pandemic, we’re reminded that getting in is only half the battle. In The Privileged Poor: How Elite Colleges Are Failing Disadvantaged Students, Anthony Abraham Jack asks how—and why—do disadvantaged students struggle at elite colleges? What can schools can do differently if these students are to thrive? As back to school season begins, we spoke to two university book clubs that read and discussed The Privileged Poor this summer.