Language Policy and Religious Instruction in Spain and Mexico, c. 1550-1600

Wasserman, Daniel I., Department of History, University of Virginia
Midelfort, H C Erik, Department of History, University of Virginia
Weber, Alison, Department for Spanish, Italian, and Portuguese, University of Virginia

In 1567 the Spanish king, Philip II, prohibited the use of Arabic in Granada. Throughout his reign, however, he urged Catholic priests to study the indigenous languages of America. The apparent contradiction between Philip's support of Amerindian languages and his prohibition of Arabic, serves as a point of departure for this study. This project examines three simultaneous campaigns of Catholic evangelization in the Spanish Empire, largely during the second half of the sixteenth century. Each in turn raises a different linguistic problem: first, the sixteenth - century innovation of Castilian -language prayer books and guides to the spiritual life, produced to enrich the prayer lives of individuals who could not read Latin; second, the debate and practices surrounding the use of Arabic as a tool for the evangelization of the Moriscos; finally, the theory and reality concerning the use of indigenous languages as ways to convey Catholic doctrine in the central valley of Mexico. In taking a comparative approach, this dissertation aims to grasp the layered manner in which churchmen approached matters concerning evangelization. In illuminating distinctions made for opposite sides of the Atlantic, this study complements recent scholarship that has highlighted similarities in evangelization methods across geographical boundaries. While some intellectuals of Spain's Golden Age called for the propagation of Castilian as the empire's lingua franca, the Crown and Church often called for and implemented multi - lingual programs of evangelization. Many of the same individuals who appreciated the place of the vernaculars in religious instruction, however, also iV concluded that the path to successful evangelization did not lie primarily or even fundamentally in clerics' usage of the languages of the people. This dissertation aims to illuminate the multi - faceted nature of language policies and practices utilized by the Church and Crown in evangelization programs, downplaying the common assumption that churchmen fell into pro -and anti - Vernacular camps.

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PHD (Doctor of Philosophy)
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