Olena Zhizhko, Delfina de la Cruz


This article presents the results of the historical-pedagogical study, which goal was to inquire about the previous knowledge and ways of learning of the missionaries who worked in New Spain in the first half of the XVI century (in particular, the Franciscans), in order to understand the process of their appropriation of Nahuatl and creation of religious texts in this language. Author found through the documentary-bibliographic study that the Franciscan friars, who traveled to the American missions, undoubtedly belonged to the educated elite of the moment and were carriers of innovative linguistic ideas and well ahead of their time (perception of the language as the object of the study, creation of the grammar universalis, etc.). Candidates should be intellectually prepared and experienced in missionary practice with infidels that represented to have the openness and ease to learn the languages and customs of the conquered peoples, such as a great courage to face sacrifice and even death. Likewise, the analysis carried out showed that the first Franciscan missionaries, who arrived in the New World, were trained in European religious educational institutions. At the end of their studies, the friars were individuals, who held a broad spectrum of knowledge in rhetoric, philosophy, theology, as well as the mastery of several languages, a formation that helped them acquire Amerindian languages, in particular, their studies of rhetoric and Latin directly served them to learn indigenous languages (particularly, Nahuatl). It´s also important to note that although the structure of Latin is different from the structure of Nahuatl, knowledge of rhetoric was supportive for missionaries in creating Nahuatl grammars.


franciscan frails´ education in the first half of the XVI century; European theological schools; the process of the appropriation of Amerindian languages, in particular, Nahuatl, in New Spain; missionaries´ previous knowledge and ways of learning; the rol

Full Text:



Abbagnano, N., & Visalberghi A. (1992). Historia de la pedagogía [History of pedagogy]. Traducción Jorge Hernández Campos, México: FCE.

Borges, P., & Morales, F. (1993). “Los hermanos menores en las Provincias de América, Su procedencia geográfica [The brothers minor in the provinces of America, their geographical origin]. In F. Morales (Ed.), Franciscanos en América, Quinientos años de presencia evangelizadora [Franciscans in America, Five Hundred Years of evangelizing presence] (pp. 131-133). México, Conferencia franciscana de santa María de Guadalupe.

Breva-Claramonte, M. (2008). El marco doctrinal de la tradición lingüística europea y los primeros misioneros de la Colonia [The doctrinal framework of the European linguistic tradition and the first missionaries of the Colony]. Bulletin hispanique, 110-1, 25-59. 10.4000/bulletinhispanique.431.

Foucault, M. (2002). Las palabras y las cosas [The words and the things]. Buenos Aires: Siglo XXI.

Gadotti, M. (2003). Historia de las Ideas Pedagógicas [History of Pedagogical Ideas] (4th ed.). México: Siglo XXI.

Gemelli, A. (1940). El franciscanismo [Franciscanism] (3rd ed.). Traducción Gil Monzón, OFM, Barcelona: Luis Gili Editor.

Iriarte, L. (1979). Historia franciscana [Franciscan history]. Madrid: Editorial Asís. Retrieved from

Merino J. A. (1993). Historia de la filosofía franciscana [History of Franciscan philosophy]. Madrid: Editorial Cisneros.

Mollat, M., & Rubial, A. (1996). La hermana pobreza, El franciscanismo de la Edad Media a la evangelización novohispana [The Franciscanism of the Middle Ages to the evangelization of New Spain], México: Facultad de Filosofía y Letras, UNAM.

Rivera, C., & Gabriel, J. (2010). “La domesticación de las lenguas. De las gramáticas europeas a las gramáticas amerindias (de 1492 al siglo XVIII)”. Mutatis Mutandis, 3(1), 3-29.

Roest, B. (2000). A history of Franciscan education (c.1210-1517). Leiden; Boston; Koln: Brill.

Sahagún, F. B. de (2003). Historia General de las cosas de la Nueva España [General History of the things of New Spain], Tomo I, Madrid: Dastin.

Copyright (c) 2020 Olana Zhizhko, Delfina de la Cruz

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.