Berbice Dutch Creole in collection Meertens Institute

In the West Indies only three Dutch related Creole languages existed. In Guyana two languages existed. Of Skepi Dutch, which was spoken on the borders of the Essequibo river, we only know a few sentences and a Swadesh list full of words. The first known sentence of this language, from 1780, was found only a few years ago by Marijke van der Wal in one of the letters which were studied in her Letters as Loot project. Robertson (1989) shows a resemblance in vocabulary of Virgin Islands Dutch Creole and Skepi Dutch, which may point to a similar Dutch/Zeelandic superstrate.

Berbice Dutch is a unique Creole language from which the African influence can be traced to one language which is spoken in Nigeria. There is far more to tell about this language and interested ones should at least consult Silvia Kouwenberg’s dissertation and the work of Ian Robertson on the discovery of the language in the 1970s.

The Dutch Meertens Institute (which is one of the institutes of the Royal Dutch Academy of Sciences) is, among Dutch folklore and onomastics, specialized in Dutch dialectology in the broadest sense. In its last newsletter it presents their conservation of Silvia Kouwenberg’s material of Berbice Dutch, which is safe for the future because of the Data Seal of Approval.

More information, in Dutch, can be found here.



5 responses to “Berbice Dutch Creole in collection Meertens Institute

  1. I read Silvia’s work and was very happy. Most of the words were very well captured. I speak Kalabari (Ijo) very fluently, and can tell that some of the native words are still intact in that language, though the sentence construction are mixed. But clearly, the original ”speakers” are from the Eastern Ijaw clans (Niger Delta) of Nigeria.

  2. They say that they have the audio files. But they don’t say where. I already found a few people who want to learn Berbice Dutch I think they would be glad to listen to them.

    Ross George, would you like to learn Berbice Dutch too? We could talk then.

  3. I would like to learn Berbice Dutch to keep the language going. How do I go about doing this.

    • Dear Leon,
      I am sorry, but I can’t help you with that. The best work on Berbice Dutch is undoubtedly Prof. S. Kouwenberg’s description of the language. Hopefully someone else, for instance Jabnaki, can help you.
      It is not my purpose to revive the spoken language itself, the interest in the language Virgin Islands Dutch Creole.

  4. Everybody who wants to learn Berbice Dutch should contact me. I am always looking for people willing to learn and use it.

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