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A Key Into the Language of America

3.65  ·  Rating details ·  49 Ratings  ·  7 Reviews
A discourse on the languages of Native Americans encountered by the early settlers written by Roger Williams, who was forced to leave Massachusetts and established Rhode Island. This early linguistic treatise gives rare insight into the early contact between Europeans and Native Americans.
Paperback, 240 pages
Published August 1st 1997 by Applewood Books (first published 1643)
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Alan Johnson

This is a 2005 reprint by the Baptist Standard Bearer of volume 1 of the 1963 edition (Russell & Russell) of The Complete Writings of Roger Williams. It includes the following works: Williams's A Key into the Language of America (originally published in 1643), A Letter of Mr. John Cottons . . . in New-England to Mr. Williams (originally published in 1643), and Williams's Mr. Cottons Letter Lately Printed, Examined and Answered (originally published in 1644). The writings in this edition deno
...more
Phyllis Harrison
Sep 19, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: history buffs, Algonkian linguists
A great little historical curiosity, this early "dictionary" is sorted by subject matter. There are a few terms (spelling not consistent but that's all right, it helps with the pronunciation) and then a little commentary, such as this one under Chap.V:

Their Virgins are distinguished by a bashful falling downe of their haire over their eyes.

Roger Williams, as the Editors inform us, wrote this, his first published work, in 1643. As an early Anthropologist and Linguist, he mentions different dialec
...more
Alan Johnson
This edition of Roger Williams's famous work on Native Americans is accessible and relatively easy to read. It modernizes Williams's orthography while retaining the wording, italics, and some other features of the original. The Introduction by Howard M. Chapin provides a succinct summary of the publication history of the work. Scholars will wish to study the original 1643 edition (available on Early English Books Online) or a reprint of the original work (with extensive scholarly annotation) in ...more
Jessica
Mar 05, 2010 rated it really liked it
At the beginning of this "key" or phrasebook guide to the Algonquian language Williams writes, "A little Key may open a Box, where lies a bunch of Keys." Truer words have never been written. The columns of English phrases are akin to postmodern poetry. Take this excerpt, from the section titled "Of their Warre"

Afraid.
Are you afraid?
Why feare you?
I feare none.
They feare you.
They fly from us.
Let us pursue.
I feare him.
He flies, they flie.
I flie for succour.
Save me.
I am shot.
Churlish.
Loving.
Why are
...more
Kyle
Feb 07, 2014 rated it really liked it
I give this book a 4 because it has been one of the first early colonial texts I've read that I would consider more than "just interesting." The attempted form was the more engrossing part: a working dictionary with occasional discourse that eventually formed a story and flow of thought just in itself. His general observations at the end of each chapter had some pretty high rhetorical goals; it seemed like he was trying to find the Indians' place in the his anglocentric world, and it revealed gr ...more
Jessica
Jun 04, 2012 rated it liked it
This was an interesting read given the historical context that Williams wrote this during. Apparently, he got kicked out of the Massachusetts Bay colony for his ideas. With all of the early-American literature I've read this year in my attempt to find some more interesting materials for my 11th-graders, this one at least gives some support to the Native Americans. My students may not read the entire thing (especially since a lot of it is dictionary), but it may be mentioned at least.
Colin
Personally, I think every Rhode Islander ought to read what our great founder, Roger Williams, wrote concerning the natives of this land. A fascinating look at the Narragansetts of the 17th century.
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Roger Williams (c. 1603 – between January and March 1683) was an English Puritan theologian who was an early proponent of religious freedom and the separation of church and state. He was expelled by the Puritan Leaders because they thought he was spreading "new and dangerous ideas", so in 1636, he began the colony of Providence Plantation, which provided a refuge for religious minorities. Williams ...more
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