David Cargill Part 20

REVEREND David Cargill continues with his translation of the Bible and also documentation of the iTaukei language. He is intrigued to see there are similarities and differences in the Fijian and Tongan languages.

Cargill also mourned the death of a convert and also relates the account of a miracle.

This is the account of the late Reverend Cargill from the book The Diaries and Correspondence of David Cargill, 1832-1843 edited by Albert J Schütz and published by the Australian National University.

Sunday, October 9, 1836

Today, I preached in the morning and afternoon. In the morning, I urged the necessity and explained the nature and power of faith in God through Christ. Several persons were asleep most of the time. At the close of the service, I apprised them of the sinfulness of indulging themselves in sleep in the house of God. In the afternoon, every individual in the chapel seemed to feel a lively interest in the subject on which I discoursed to them “Oh, that wait upon the Lord”. It is a pleasing circumstance that instruction or reproof is not lost on these people. When reproved for what is wrong, they generally refrain from it and strive to do what is right.

Thursday, October 20, 1836

This afternoon I buried at Lasea a young man called Leha who died in consumption. He turned from heathenism about two months before his death. In consequence of the great debility of his body, he was unable to attend divine service in the chapel. But his friends were very attentive in instructing and praying with him. I frequently visited him and conversed with him about the nature and necessity of preparing to meet his God and was gratified by his knowledge of divine things and his submission to God’s will. He died while exhorting his eldest brother to embrace Christianity. There is hope in his death. Many heathens were at the funeral. I spoke to them of Christ, the resurrection and the life and informed them that we must all stand before his judgment seat. After the service the heathen relatives of the young man sent a messenger to say that they wished to be informed of those of their customs at funerals which are wrong and that they intended to discontinue them. Accordingly, they did not tabu their hands, shave their heads, cut and tear their flesh, apply burning sticks to various parts of their bodies, nor feast for several days; practices which were formerly scrupulously attended to by the Tonguese at funerals.

The entries for late October and the first half of November are unusual for Cargill was able to devote much of his time to translation and vocabulary work without the interruptions that he sometimes complained about. Because he was still responsible for the Tongan translations, it was necessary for him to work in that language as well as in Fijian. Occasionally, he reflected on the similarities and differences between the two languages. He could not help but notice the many similar words and conclude that the languages were “grafted from one common stock”. As for the differences, he impressionistically praised Tongan for softness and melody and Fijian for “expression and energy”. Earlier, when the more practical Mariner heard a Fijian language “0” for the first time, he said, “The language of these people is very different in sound from the Tonga language, and is much more harsh to pronounce. It is replete with very strong percussions of the tongue, and with a frequent rattling of the letter r31”. Besides the “rattled” r, Fijian also has a voiced “th” (what is now s in Tongan was more like ch then), and combinations of b, d, and g with preceding nasals — probably the source of Mariner’s “harsh” sounds. Having received his training in a period when some of the most important figures in comparative philology, von Humboldt, Grimm and Rask, were forming their theories about the relationships among Indo-European languages, Cargill was no doubt aware of the genetic hypothesis. While at Levuka on Ovalau, he interviewed a Hawaiian “about the pronouns and several other parts of speech in the language of the Sandwich Islands. There is such a resemblance between it and the other languages of the South Seas as to show that they are all of kindred origin”. However, Cargill had access to Mariner’s Tonga (he referred to it earlier), in which the author not only noticed such similarities but also contrasted their degrees: “It is rather a curious fact that, if true, and it appears to be so from all that we can learn, that the language of the Sandwich islanders is more similar to the Tonga language than that of Fiji islanders, though the latter people are not more than about one ninth part of the distance of the Sandwich Islands from Tonga32”. Cargill’s first published work on the Fijian language, A Grammar of the Feejeean Language, grew from a grammatical sketch he wrote for his wife to aid her language learning: Hints to a friend on the Rudiments of the Feejeean Language . The work eventually appeared as part of a mission report and served as a basis for Hazlewood’s grammar and dictionary. In Cargill’s work with the spelling system, it might be more appropriate to call him one of the developers of the system, rather than its originator33. Even in his handling of the Tongan system, which presents fewer complexities, Cargill’s judgment was not always unerring. For instance, he ignored, as did most of his colleagues of that century (and many of the present), the persistently illusive glottal stop, writing Ha’apai as Hapai. As late as the time of the memoir’s publication, he had not realised that Tongan has no contrast between p and b or k and g, and wrote aupito “very” as aubito34. For Fijian, he followed the obvious course rather than the later more ingenious one, and wrote ‘mb’, ‘nd’, and ‘ng’ or ‘ngg’ for what were eventually discovered to be units rather than clusters. His spelling of Feejee presents a curious inconsistency, for he maintained the ‘ee’ spelling for ‘I’ throughout (with one exception) while using ‘I’ for the same sound in other words. It is probable that he reserved the official spelling system for Fijian words in a Fijian context, and used for place and personal names a system that would be more familiar to readers of English. The use of ‘j’ in the same word reflects the Tongan pronunciation (Fiji then; Fisi now). Viti is used in most places throughout the group. Even at the most favourable times, he translation work was not without interruption.

Hunt attributed the design of the alphabet, at least the use of single symbols for consonants, to Cross. In his memoir-biography (Hunt 1846: 88), he wrote: “The advantage of such an alphabet to a native is great, as, in general, in these languages, every consonant is followed by a vowel, which makes the language easy to be read; and, no wonder: the eye and the ear are not at variance as in reading English; but in general you know how a word should be pronounced the moment you see it, though you have never heard it uttered. This is in part due to the excellent alphabet, which owed its chief value to the ingenuity of Mr Cross. It ought to be said in Mr Cargill’s favour, that, though he was much superior to Mr Cross as a man of letters, he adopted his improved alphabet, being convinced of its usefulness.’ For a number of reasons, I find it hard to credit Hunt’s account.”

Even though Cargill’s name was still in disgrace when Hazlewood completed his Fijian grammar in 1850, the compiler chose to include Cargill’s original explanation of the innovative spelling system. Had it been true that Cross was the originator, the brethren in Fiji would have been very likely to say so. Cross’s letters to the WMS Headquarters, at least those that have been preserved, do not mention the subject, and Cross was not modest about his accomplishments, particularly when he felt he had been slighted in some way. On the other hand, it is easy enough to imagine Cargill, the MA with literary attainments, being jealous enough to withhold from Cross the deserved credit for a brilliant insight.

Tuesday November 15 1836

Translated 50 verses of the second epistle to Timothy, while at dinner, we were alarmed by the cry of fire, ongoing out saw the fire33 reeds and grass that surround the chapel, burning with great vehemence and velocity. The flames blazed till within two or three feet of our little sanctuary, but through mercy, neither a reed of the fence, nor a leaf of the thatch was burned. The materials of which it is composed are so dry in consequence of the long drought and excessive heat that if a single spark had fallen on any part of it, the whole fabric would have been reduced to ashes in two or three minutes. Small and rude as our Chapel is, we are thankful for its preservation. May many immortal souls be born again within its precincts!

Saturday, 19 November, 1836

Finished the translation of St. Paul’s epistles to Timothy, into the Tonguese language. The Tonga language is inferior to the Feejeean in copiousness and vigor. In the afternoon, I drew up the outline of a sermon in the Tonguese language.