Titled in reference to the biblical story of how Christ's apostles received the gift of universal fluency, Tongues of Fire is the result of a four-decade research project on early modern evangelization in Oaxaca, Mexico. Intended as a Dominican-dominated complement to the Franciscan-focused works of Louise Burkhart on central Mexico and William Hanks on Yucatan, Farriss's book is constantly in dialogue with those other regions and studies, and often with the Andes as well.

Divided into four parts, plus an introduction and conclusion, the book moves from broad institutional-social contexts to focused linguistic analysis. Part 1, “Language Contact and Language Policy,” reviews early attempts to convey the Gospel without actually learning local languages, via gestures and didactic images (chapter 1), indigenous interpreters (chapter 2), and lingua francas from Latin to Nahuatl (chapter 3). Part 2 then turns to the challenges of “evangelization...

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