© 2004-2017

Patagonia Bookshelf

Yahgan Dictionary : Language of the Yamana people of Tierra del Fuego
Manuscript of Rev. Thomas Bridges (later annotations by Rev. John Williams), dated 1865
  START =>    Foreword   Yamanas   Missionaries   Dictionary   Credits   Bibliography 

The English–Yahgan Dictionary

Bridges studied principally the vocabulary and grammar of the Yahgan language. In his Preface, he explains how he adapted and used the phonetic system of Alexander Ellis. /*/  A separate Yahgan Grammar was also written. His choice of English vocabulary words is sometimes surprising: understandably, some concepts absent from the Yamana way of life are omitted (for instance, chair, clock), but other archaic terms are included (inclip, incondite) — one wonders whether this was done thinking of his religious work, or whether an existing English language dictionary was used as a master list.

We do not know whether Bridges produced further versions of the English section of this Dictionary. But, we do know that this copy was used, annotated, and sometimes corrected up to the closing of the last mission station at Río Douglas in 1916, mainly by the Rev. John Williams (signing as JW). /1/ Thomas's son Lucas Bridges donated the complete Dictionary to the British Museum in 1930; it is now held in the British Library.


/1/  The entry for "condor" includes this anecdotic annotation: "Measurement of wings when stretched out of Condor killed in Rio Douglas 20/10/1914 - one hundred & ten inches [Ed.: 2,79 metres]. Weight of bird 28 lbs. [Ed.: 12,7 kilos] J.W."