Lempfrit’s legendary, long-lost linguistic legacy (part 1)
A document of Grand Ronde’s past that I thought was just a rumour, or was lost, has turned up, thanks to Prof. Peter Bakker.
Peter sent me an article by Marie-Laure Prévost, “Babel Heureuse: Vocabulaires d’Afrique et d’Amérique au département des Manuscrits” (Revue de la Bibliothèque Nationale de France 45:24-31, 2013).
One of the archival items described in it is a manuscript Chinuk Wawa dictionary and religious texts by the Oblate Catholic missionary Honoré-Timothée Lempfrit or Lampfrit (1803-1862), dated 1849 by him.
I had earlier read the published “Oregon Trail Journal” of Lempfrit (ed. Patricia White; Fairfield, WA: Ye Galleon, 1985), but had found no solid clues there to the existence of organized notes he might have made on the Jargon.
Prévost’s paper, though, specified the archival record number to look for, and it was then a matter of minutes’ work on the BNF website to find and download Lempfrit’s frontier-era (1849) Oregon Country and BC document.
Coming from that time and place, this is a find that has the potential to bring us new insights into fur-trade era CW, and into the speech that was current when the important Grand Ronde reservation community was founded.
Lempfrit arrived at his initial Pacific Northwest destination near Olympia in late 1848, and in mid-1849 accompanied Sir James Douglas to the new colony of Vancouver Island.
He remained at the latter place just two years, being then posted to California for a year before (it’s rumored) some of his misbehavior on Vancouver Island led to his being dismissed and going home to France.
So we understand that Lempfrit wasn’t in the PNW for terribly long. He was put in charge of ministering to many and varied Indigenous tribes, though, so it seems he must have learned fairly good Chinuk Wawa. In addition, he worked with known superb CW users including Fathers Demers, Blanchet, and Lionnet.
Today I begin a mini-series looking at this newly “discovered” Jargon treasure. Here’s the title page of it:
We’ll be seeing some definite influence from those earlier-arrived Oblate documentors in the following pages.
It’s going to be a fascinating question to figure out how much of Lempfrit’s own new and original observations will emerge…so stay tuned!
Hey Dave, the title and date of this dictionary is identical to the one that Rena Grant published, which she obtained as an undated copy by Alphonse Pinart (made I believe at Victoria). If the contents are identical, this is definitely an earlier version of the Demers dictionary as edited and published by St. Onge and Blanchet in 1871. This is referenced in our Chinuk Wawa dictionary as Anonymous 1849. See pp 370-71 and 378 there for some description of that source (which is in the H H Bancroft Collection, archives of UC Berkeley). A quick way of verifying whether this is the identical source is to check to see if (to quote p 378 in our CW dictionary): “Christian prayers and hymns appearing tin the manuscript are likewise [i.e., in addition to many lexical entries] identical to those published (Demers … 1871:33-46), save for occasional minor differences of wording.” Then the next question would be: is this another copy of the original? Or is this the original? Even if a copy, that would be of interest as providing a check on the Pinart copy (published by Grant minus the prayers/hymns though; I have a complete xerox from the Bancroft).
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I’ve been doing some more work with this ms. today, and it’s definitely different from Lionnet 1853. Its spellings are more like those in Demers – Blanchet – St Onge 1871, but unique. It provides plenty more usage info than either of those (e.g. telling us < lémain > is ‘main, bras, manche d’habit, d’outile’ (‘hand, arm, sleeve of garment, (handle) of tool’).
I hit ‘send’ by accident. I was going to add that there’s more vocabulary, too, in this ms. than in either of the two above-mentioned sources. I need to check around for a copy of Anonymous 1849 in order to do the most thorough possible comparison.
Hope that my foregoing explanation wasn’t too confusing. What I’m saying is that Rena Grant published the dictionary portion of the ms referenced in our Chinuk Wawa dictionary as Anonymous 1849. That original ms (Anonymous 1849) is in the Bancroft Collection. It also contains Christian prayers and hymns that Grant didn’t publish; these happen to be identical (but for slight differences of wording) to those in Demers 1871. Most of the other content of Anonymous 1849 matches that of Demers 1871, only the spelling system shows obvious signs of French influence. The inference that I went with in our dictionary is that Anonymous 1849 is an early version of the Demers dictionary – quite likely, the one that Demers himself made – and that St Onge worked from the original and rationalized the original spellings (he skipped some detail in the original, as can be seen in some of our entries: see e. g. alaxti). The first page of Anonymous 1849 shows the same title and date as your Lempfrit 1849. Wonder if it is the same source? Does it have the prayers/hymns?
Looks like I never answered you, Henry Z. — Yes, the document online in the French archives does contain the prayers & hymns in Jargon. It appears this Lampfrit item is what Pinart was copying down 27 years later.