The last and most complete of the missionary grammars of Mapudungun is that of the Bavarian Felix José de Augusta. Born in the city of Augsburg in 1860 as August Stephan Kathan, he studied medicine in Würzburg and then in Munich, where he obtained his doctorate. In 1887 he was accepted into the Capuchin order in Laufen, taking the name of Felix Joseph which was followed up by the name of his place of origin: von Augsburg. In 1890 he was ordained, and by late 1895 had joined the first mission of Bavarian Franciscans to the region of Araucanía.
Most of Augusta’s work was done in the Huapi area, near the mouth of the Imperial River. Although the Capuchin mission house was located in Baja Imperial (today Puerto Saavedra, in Croese’s Dialect V area), the missionaries would often spend their time visiting the surrounding communities. Augusta was renowned for his unfailing dedication to the language in its actual usage, and his vast first-hand knowledge of it. Indeed, it appears that his skill with Mapudungun far outstripped his skills with the Spanish language. A strong missionary vocation as well as his medical training were key in obtaining such unique intimacy with the Mapuche, their language and their culture.
Although the grammar, published in 1903 in the city of Valdivia, is Augusta’s most explicit work on the language’s structure, it should be taken as one of three elements – alongside his collection of texts, Lecturas Araucanas (Augusta 1910) and dictionary (1916) – within a broader practical description of the language (Salas 1985).
The result of his first eight years of work in the communities, the Gramatica Araucana is perhaps the most manifestly ‘pedagogical’ of the missionary grammars, structured as a series of brief grammar points followed by examples and exercises, as was the model of the day for learner grammars. Such richness of example makes it a very valuable resource, especially in contrast with earlier ones, which tended to supply rules with scarce exemplification. Moreover, the grammar corresponds to a variety of the language spoken in what remains today as the heartland of the Mapuche territories in Chile’s Eighth Region (‘between the Cautín, Toltén and Maniyu rivers’, Augusta 1903: VIII, Dialects V, III, VI and VII), as opposed to the earlier grammars which focus predominantly on northern dialects that are mostly extinct today.
At the moment, we have only included the full example texts that Augusta provides (without translation) in his grammar. In due course a colection of individual examples used to illustrate grammatical points will be added to the corpus.