[MISSIONS; NEW GUINEA] Dictionnaire Roro-Français I. / Dictionnaire Roro-Français II. / Grammaire Roro.
Unpublished manuscript. Undated, but probably between 1910 and 1920. Three notebooks, small quarto, original matching stiff black covers (two with cloth spines now disintegrated); lined paper with manuscript text written in ink in Roro and French; each notebook with title at head of text; unpaginated (but approximately 150; 80; 72 pp); second notebook with table at rear listing French words for body-parts and their Roro translations; third notebook with printed map of Australia inside lower wrapper suggesting a dating after 1900; the three manuscripts are written in one neat, legible hand and appear complete.
Based on the character of the handwriting, these important linguistic manuscripts can be attributed to J. M. Vitale. Father Vitale was among the first group of missionaries to arrive at the Sacred Heart Mission established at Yule Island in 1885. He worked with the native Roro (and Mekeo) speakers both on Yule and the nearby stations from the 1890s until his death in 1947. Father Vitale’s manuscript Dictionnaire de la Langue de Roro-Mekeo (now in the collection of the State Library of New South Wales) presents the French words in the lefthand column, with the Roro and Mekeo equivalents to the right. By contrast, the two-part dictionary offered here lists Roro words alphabetically to the left, and supplies French translations to the right. This suggests a complementarity between the two works, although the present manuscript does appear to be slightly later than the SLNSW manuscript. The two-part dictionary is supplemented by a grammar of Roro written in French, which offers guidance on pronunciation, grammar and syntax.
Father Vitale’s dictionaries (and grammar), which were never published, date to the first generation of contact that the Roro people had with Europeans. They record the Roro dialect as it would have been used prior to any external influence, a fact which unquestionably makes them primary source documents of great significance in the field of Austronesian linguistics.