Philip Delaporte

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Reverend Philip Adam Delaporte was a German-born American Protestant missionary who translated numerous texts from German into Nauruan. Delaporte was sent to Nauru with his family in November 1899, and returned to America in 1917.

Location of Nauru in the Micronesian South Pacific

Missionary[edit]

Delaporte and his family, including his wife, Salome (also a missionary), arrived in Nauru under the auspices of the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions, sent by Central Union Church of Honolulu. They had travelled from Hawaii via Kusaie.

The mission in Nauru, founded by a Gilbertese pastor named Tabuia approximately 10 years before Delaporte's arrival, contained the only formal educational institute on the island at the time.

During this time, both Delaporte and his wife translated many religious texts including the New Testament, stories from the Old Testament, a catechism, a hymn book, a history of the Christian Church and a book designed for use in the school.

German-Nauruan dictionary[edit]

In 1907, still living in Nauru, Delaporte published his pocket German-Nauruan dictionary (Taschenwörterbuch Deutsch-Nauru), some of which is replicated in the table below.

The dictionary is small, measuring about 4" x 5" (10.5 cm x 14 cm) in size. The book was nearly 100 pages, with 65 devoted to a glossary and a dozen to alphabetically arranged phrases in German and Nauruan. Some 1650 German words appear in the dictionary, along with about 1300 'unique' Nauruan forms (excluding diacritical marks).

Use of the dictionary[edit]

In Delaporte's Taschenwörterbuch Deutsch-Nauru (German-Nauruan Dictionary), an orthography was used, consisting of 32 characters in total:

b p d t g k q j r w m n ñ
c f h l s z

i e a à â o ò ô ö u ù û ü

There is no explanatory section to the dictionary: the phonetic values for the symbols are left to the reader's devices.

The text shows three types of "a", four of "o" and four of "u", along with one "i" and "e". With the exception of "ò" and "ù", the marked vowels account for a relatively small percentage of the vowel inventory, as can be seen in the distribution chart. This suggests that Delaporte's system may actually be representing only two forms each for "a", "o", and "u". This is supported by frequent examples of the same word spelled with different vowel markings in the dictionary and Delaporte's Nauruan translation of the Bible, including Delaporte's New Testament, which shows only two vowel forms, one marked (with a tilde "~"), and one unmarked. It is possible that the missionary's press font set did not include tilded forms, and so umlauted and accented forms were substituted as necessary.

See also[edit]

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