Jul 15, 2003

Jesuit missionary compiles Japanese-Latin dictionary

Online Edition

– Vol. IX, No. 5: July-August 2003

Jesuit missionary compiles Japanese-Latin dictionary

by Paul Akio Sawada

Father Juan V. Catret, SJ, long-time missionary from Spain in the diocese of Hiroshima, has just published a practical Latin dictionary, Lexicon Latino-Japonicum Ecclesiae (Shinseisha, Nagoya, 2002).

The handsomely bound dictionary (210 pages) consists of two parts: vocabulary (roughly 5000 words, 157 pages) and grammar (51 pages).

The vocabulary part is divided into 23 alphabetically arranged sections, and each divided into four subsections (noun, adjective, prefix-suffix, adverb-verb). Father Catret adds some Latin proverbs, like "festina lente" or "non scholae sed vitae (discimus)", and even the Latin version of the famous Japanese haiku "O vetus stagnum, rana de ripa salit, ac sonant aquae" to make the textbook attractive.

The dictionary is meant for his students at Erizabesu Ongaku Daigaku (Elisabeth University of Music: www.eum.ac.jp) in Hiroshima, a Jesuit institution where he has been teaching Latin as an optional language. To teach Latin outside of seminaries is quite a laudable enterprise in view of the fact that the Tokyo Diocesan Major Seminary no longer requires its seminarians to study Latin, offering only Greek and Hebrew as optional languages. Certainly this volume is a welcome stimulus for Latin study among Japanese Catholics and a great help for non-Catholic Japanese students of music and ancient literature, who are much more eager than our seminarians to learn the language of vetera sapientia.

The Lexicon, however, still leaves some room for improvement. Checking more than 240 items listed in the noun subsection "A", I wished that there were in addition such liturgical terms as: accamatio, acta (sedis), actuositas, aetas, agape, alba, alleluia, allocutio, Amen, amictus, anamnesis, antiphona, anulus, appellatio, appendix, applicatio, approbatio, aptatio, arca foederis, articulus fidei/mortis, artifices musicae, asservatio eucharistiae, auditor. An important item, though an adjective, that I miss is apostolica.

Some of the Japanese translations are not always adequate. Annuntiatio [Annunciation] is rendered as shirase (report) and shinkoku (return, as in tax return), whereas the correct Japanese liturgical equivalent is otsuge. Father Catret should have had, it seems, a Japanese well-grounded in Catholic theology and liturgy to help him with Japanese translation.

The present Lexicon is meant, I was told, mainly for the students of Gregorian chant and Catholic liturgical music. The author did not fail to consult, therefore, Cantus Gregorianus, edited by his academy and Liber usualis, besides the Missale Romanum (1970) and Lectionarium (1971, 1972).

One hopes that there will soon appear a new edition of this concise lexicon, perhaps with a new title, like Lexicon Linguae Latino-Iaponicae Ecclesiasticae. For that revision the new Missale (2002), the new Institutio Generalis Missalis Romani (2000), Catechismus Catholicae Ecclesiae, Enchiridion Documentorum Instaturationis Liturgicae, Codex iuris canonici (1983), and also perhaps Stelten’s Dictionary of Ecclesiastical Latin together with Collins’s A Primer of Ecclesiastical Latin could profitably be consulted.

Dr. Paul Sawada is professor emeritus of history at Tsukuba University, Tokyo.



Paul Akio Sawada