|previous article in this issue||next article in this issue|
Document Details :
Title: Albert Gallatin's Table of North American Native Languages (1826)
Author(s): GOODMAN, Roy , SWIGGERS, Pierre
Volume: 36 Date: 1991-1993
The document reproduced here is a broadside (21 3/4 x 18 1/4 inches) which was published in 1826. It is the first separately printed map of American Indian languages, and is extremely rare in library collections. Its author, Albert Gallatin (1761-1849) is one of the main figures of the early history of American linguistics (see Andresen 1990: 110-113). A statesman and economist, Gallatin was a truly humanistic scholar who took an active interest in the native languages of America. In line with Jefferson's attempt to collect all relevant information on the lexicon of the Indian languages, he amplified the collection of “Jefferson vocabularies”, and established close contacts with scholars and government officers interested in these languages, in order to obtain as many vocabulary lists as possible. The map published in 1826 is the first “synoptic” attempt to chart the then current state of information concerning the distribution and location of language families and languages. As such it is a synchronic fixation of knowledge accumulated over several decennia. The map marks the beginning of Gallatin's systematic investigations into the language families of the United States. In 1836 Gallatin published a comprehensive classification, containing all the relevant lexical materials (Gallatin 1836). The book lists vocabularies, to which Gallatin adds a synthesis.