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John Eliot’s Logick Primer: A bilingual English-Algonquian logic textbook (Sara Uckelman)

The Logic and Metaphysics Workshop will meet on November 15th from 4:15-6:15 (NY time) via Zoom for a talk by Sara Uckelman (Durham).

Title: John Eliot’s Logick Primer: A bilingual English-Algonquian logic textbook

Abstract: In 1672 John Eliot, English Puritan educator and missionary, published The Logick Primer: Some Logical Notions to initiate the INDIANS in the knowledge of the Rule of Reason; and to know how to make use thereof [1]. This roughly 80 page pamphlet focuses on introducing basic syllogistic vocabulary and reasoning so that syllogisms can be created from texts in the Psalms, the gospels, and other New Testament books. The use of logic for proselytizing purposes is not distinctive: What is distinctive about Eliot’s book is that it is bilingual, written in both English and Massachusett, an Algonquian language spoken in eastern coastal and southeastern Massachusetts. It is one of the earliest bilingual logic textbooks, it is the only textbook that I know of in an indigenous American language, and it is one of the earliest printed attestations of the Massachusett language. In this talk, I will: (1) Introduce John Eliot and the linguistic context he was working in; (2) Introduce the contents of the Logick Primer—vocabulary, inference patterns, and applications; (3) Discuss notions of “Puritan” logic that inform this primer; (4) Talk about the importance of his work in documenting and expanding the Massachusett language and the problems that accompany his colonial approach to this work.

[1] J.[ohn] E.[liot]. The Logick Primer: Some Logical Notions to initiate the INDIANS in the knowledge of the Rule of Reason; and to know how to make use thereof. Printed by M. J., 1672.

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