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On the Translation and Adaptation of The Vocabulario da lingoa de Iapam

Jeroen Lamers, author and translator

September 27, 2023 · 4:30 pm6:00 pm · Zoom

East Asian Studies Program

The current translation project has sprung forth from an enduring fascination with the Vocabulario da lingoa de Iapam, the monumental Japanese-Portuguese dictionary produced by the Jesuit mission in Nagasaki in 1603 and 1604. The Vocabulario is the oldest and first dictionary of the Japanese classical language, written by people who lived there. My hope for this dictionary is to achieve, especially outside Japan and a small circle of linguistic experts, a broader recognition and wider usage as an unparalleled, lexicographical tool for the study of the Japanese language of the late medieval period—known among specialists as Late Middle Japanese—and its social context. As part of the translation, a number of modifications to the original are made, both in structure and its presentation, in order to enhance the usability. The romanization system has been changed to modified Hepburn; Japanese script has been added for all expressions in that language; and all Portuguese has been translated into English.

This translation-cum-adaptation, then, aims to produce the first-ever dictionary of premodern Japanese to English, based on the original Japanese-Portuguese text of the Vocabulario. In addition, its purpose is to study the original dictionary from three different angles: 1) The formative process and origination of the Vocabulario, most prominently the role of Japanese collaborators at the entry level; 2) The mosaic of everyday life in late sixteenth-century Japan that can be analyzed and described, both quantitively as well as qualitatively, on the basis of the Vocabulario’s entries; and 3) The perceptions and biases, or lack thereof, of the Jesuit missionaries regarding their Japanese living and working environment. Of special interest are their attitudes towards local religious practices and the extent to which they adaptated local terms for their own missionary purposes.

Jeroen Lamers is the author of Japonius Tyrannus: The Japanese Warlord Oda Nobunaga Reconsidered (Japonic Neerlandica, 2001), Treatise on Epistolary Style: João Rodriguez on the Noble Art of Writing Japanese Letters (Volume 39) (Michigan Monograph Series in Japanese Studies, 2002), and The Chronicle of Lord Nobunaga (Brill, 2011), translated with Jurgis Elisonas.

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