Arte da Lingoa de Iapam

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The Art of the Japanese Language (Portuguese: Arte da Lingoa de Iapam and in modern Portuguese: Arte da Língua do Japão; Japanese: 日本, Nihon Daibunten) is an early 17th-century Portuguese grammar of the Japanese language. It was compiled by João Rodrigues, a Portuguese Jesuit missionary. It is the oldest fully extant Japanese grammar and is a valuable reference for the late middle period of the Japanese language.[1]


Christian missionary work in Japan began in the 1540s, necessitating the learning of its language. Missionaries created dictionaries and grammars. Early grammars seem to have been written in the 1580s, but are no longer extant.[1]

João Rodrigues arrived in Japan as a teenager and became so fluent that he was mostly known to locals as "the Translator" (Tsūji); he served as the translator of visiting Jesuit overseers, as well as for the kampaku Toyotomi Hideyoshi and the shōgun Tokugawa Ieyasu. His Arte da Lingoa de Iapam is the oldest extant complete Japanese grammar. Rodrigues published it in three volumes at Nagasaki over the five years between 1604 and 1608. In addition to vocabulary and grammar, it includes details on the country's dynasties, currency, measures, and other commercial information.[2] There are only two known copies: one at the Bodleian Library at the University of Oxford and the other in the Crawford family collection.[1][3] There is also a manuscript by Leon Pagès.

Following a violent suppression of marauding Japanese sailors in Macao in 1608 and court intrigues the next year, however, Tokugawa resolved to replace Portuguese traders with red seal ships, the Dutch, and the Spanish in early 1610. After a successful assault on a Portuguese ship then in Nagasaki Bay, he permitted most of the missionaries to remain but replaced Rodrigues with the Englishman William Adams.[2]

Rodrigues then joined the China missions, where he published a terser revised grammar called The Short Art of the Japanese Language (Portuguese: Arte Breue da Lingoa Iapoa; Japanese: 日本文典,Nihon Shōbunten) at Macao in 1620.[2][1] It reformulates the treatment of grammar in the earlier "Great Art" (Arte Grande), establishing clear and concise rules regarding the principal features of the Japanese language.[2]


The grammar is three volumes in length.


The Great Art was translated into Japanese by Tadao Doi (土井忠生) in 1955.[2]

The Short Art was translated into French by M.C. Landresse as Elements of Japanese Grammar (Elémens de la Grammaire Japonaise) in 1825, with a supplement added the next year.[2]

See also[edit]



  1. ^ a b c d e f g Nihon Koten Bungaku Daijiten Henshū Iinkai (1986:1417-1418)
  2. ^ a b c d e f Chan (1976), p. 1146.
  3. ^ a b c d Doi (1955)


  • Chan, Albert (1976), "João Rodrígues", Dictionary of Ming Biography, 1368–1644, Vol. II: M–Z, New York: Columbia University Press, pp. 1145–47, ISBN 9780231038331.
  • Doi, Tadao (1955) [1604-1608]. Nihon Daibunten (in Japanese). Sanseidō. ISBN 978-4-8301-0297-4.
  • Hino, Hiroshi (1993). Nihon Shōbunten (in Japanese). Shin-Jinbutsu-Ōrai-Sha.
  • Ikegami, Mineo (1993) [1620]. Nihongo Shōbunten (in Japanese). Iwanami Shoten. ISBN 4-00-336811-8.
  • Nihon Koten Bungaku Daijiten: Kan'yakuban [A Comprehensive Dictionary of Classical Japanese Literature: Concise Edition]. Tōkyō: Iwanami Shoten. 1986. ISBN 4-00-080067-1.