Distinguished lawyer and essayist from Sabana Grande who was an outstanding linguist. His interest in the speech of the Puerto Rican people led him to study and document the lexicon of the Spanish spoken in Puerto Rico and the Spanish-speaking Americas.
Augusto Nicolás Malaret Yordán was born on July 31, 1878 in Sabana Grande to a family of landowners. His parents were Pedro Malaret and Rosa Yordán. He received his primary education in his hometown. He worked on his family’s coffee farms in his youth, where he developed his interest in the speech of the Puerto Rican rural people. It was there that he began to compile lists of words, phrases and sayings characteristic of that population.
For a short period of time in 1899, he worked as the editor of La Luz de la Sabana, a weekly literary and political newspaper, using the pseudonym of René Pesquera. Later, he was a teacher and school principal in Sabana Grande, Cayey, Lares and Ponce.
While he worked as a teacher, he studied law and completed his studies in 1907. He moved to San Juan, where he established a law firm along with José G. Torres, a member of the Puerto Rico Union Party. In 1915, he accepted the post of property registrar for San Juan, a position he held until he retired in 1944.
As an essayist, he published various articles related to the law in legal journals, including “Condición jurídica de la mujer puertorriqueña” (1908), “Desarrollo del Derecho escrito en Puerto Rico” (1908) and a series of articles titled Matices de la jurisprudencia (1936).
Because of his interest in lexicography, he became self-taught in the field. He studied the research of Spanish and Latin American linguists such as Tomás Navarro Tomás, Pedro Henríquez Ureña and Rafael Menéndez Pidal, among others. In 1917, he published his first work on the topic, the Diccionario de provincialismos de Puerto Rico.
An assiduous critic of his own work, he noticed that many of the words incorporated in his first dictionary were also used in many places in the Americas or were words from Spain that had fallen into disuse there. For that reason, he began working on creating a Diccionario de americanismos, which was published in 1925. It was a pioneering work because it was the first dictionary of its type until then. Further, very few Americanisms had been included in the Royal Academy of the Spanish Language’s dictionary.
The author continued revising the dictionary over the years. In 1931, he published a second edition of the dictionary that was expanded and corrected. He later prepared various editions of the Suplemento al Diccionario de americanismos, published in 1942, 1944 and 1945 in the Bulletin of the Argentina Academy of Letters. In 1945, Un nuevo suplemento was published in the Bulletin of the Chilean Academy of Language. In 1946, the third edition of the Diccionario de americanismos was published in Argentina and incorporated all the revisions and contributions made by other linguists.
His other works related to the Spanish language include Lexicón de fauna y flora (1961), Errores del Diccionario de Madrid (1936), Vocabulario de Puerto Rico (1937), Semántica americana (1943), and Los americanismos en la copla popular y en el lenguaje culto (1947).
He also published works on several other topics, including Libertad de conciencia (1909), Medallas de oro (1927), biographical notes on distinguished Puerto Ricans, Por mi patria y por mi idioma (1932), as well as a large number of articles published in law and linguistics journals.
He was a founding member of the Puerto Rican Academy of Language and of the Puerto Rican Academy of History; a member of the Puerto Rican Athenaeum; an honorary member of the Chilean Academy of Language, the Colombian Academy of Language, the Argentina Academy of Letters, the Cuban Academy of Languages, the Chilean Society of History and Geography, the American International Academy in Washington and the Antioquia Academy of History. The University of Puerto Rico awarded him an honorary degree in 1958. The Institute of Puerto Rico in New York named him honorary president for life in 1956 and Citizen of the Year in 1959.
He died February 23, 1967, in San Juan.
By the PROE Editorial Group
Author: Grupo Editorial EPRL
Published: September 15, 2014.
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