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Taiwanese and Spanish scholars discover world's oldest Spanish-Chinese language dictionary


台灣與西班牙學者發現世界上最古老的西班牙語-漢語詞典


Seventeenth century dictionary will be helpful in understanding Taiwan’s history: Scholars


TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — A Spanish and a Taiwanese scholar have discovered the world’s oldest and largest Spanish-Chinese language dictionary in the archives of the Philippines’ University of Santo Tomas (UST), reports said last Monday (Feb. 8).

Dr. Fabio Yu-Chung Lee (李毓中), from Taiwan’s National Tsing-Hua University (NTHU), and Dr. Jose Luis Cano Ortigosa, from the University of Seville in Spain, discovered the 400-year-old “Dictionario Hispanico Sinicum” (DHS), which was cataloged in the archives as “Spanish-Chinese vocabulary with Chinese characters," according to UST. The dictionary was found labeled “of little value,” the university said.

However, Dr. Henning Kloter, a professor at Germany’s Humboldt University, said that “Nothing could be further from the truth,” adding that the dictionary is “the most comprehensive collection of Hokkien lexical items” of its time. “[H]istorians will [also] find a wealth of information on the early history of the Spanish-Chinese encounter in the Philippines,” the Philippine Daily Inquirer quoted him as saying.

Compiled and edited in the 17th century by Spanish Dominican missionaries in Manila, the DHS is estimated to be at least 70 years older than the Kangxi Dictionary, which was commissioned by the Qing Dynasty Emperor Kangxi and first published in 1716. Not only does it list Mandarin terms and their Spanish equivalent, but it also includes Hokkien translations.

UST archivist and historian Regalado Trota Jose connected the dictionary’s existence to the Spanish occupation of Taiwan, which lasted from 1626-1642. Lee and Ortigosa agreed with Jose, noting that an entry in the DHS included the Spanish sentence: “Tierra de Isla Hermosa ado estan los espanoles,” which translates to “on the island of Hermosa, a land owned by the Spanish.” “Hermosa” is the Spanish word for Formosa, Taiwan’s historic name, which means “beautiful” in Portuguese.

They also pointed out that the DHS used a specific term that indicated the Ming Dynasty was still in existence while it was being edited.

"We were deeply impressed," the two scholars said. Lee and Cano said the dictionary would be helpful in understanding Taiwan’s history.

The DHS has a total of 1,103 pages and 27,000 vocabulary entries.
 
Kelvin Chen, Taiwan News, Staff Writer  
2021-02-18  

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