In his diary, De Josselin de Jong often mentions his linguistic fieldwork. An example from February 13th 1923:
“’s Middags verscheen Emil Francis, een bejaarde neger van Smiths bay, East End, die door reverend Romyn op ontboden was omdat hij eveneens nog goed Negerhollandsch kent. Hij bleek ook inderdaad de taal nog behoorlijk te kunnen spreken en er veel belang in te stellen, maar hij wist niets te vertellen. Waarschijnlijk zou ik hem na 2 of 3 interviews wel aan den gang te kunnen krijgen, maar daar hij aan East End woont kan daar niet van komen. Het is intusschen wel nuttig van verschillende persoonen informatie te krijgen. Van individueele verschillen in uitspraak is heel weinig merkbaar.”
In the afternoon Emil Francis appeared, an elderly black from Smiths Bay, East End, who had been summoned by reverend Romyn because he too still had a good command of Negerhollands. It turned out that he was still able to speak the language properly and he was interested in it, , but he had nothing to tell. After two or three interviews I would probably be able to get him going, but since he lives in East End, it will not happen. Meanwhile it is quite useful to get information from different persons. Only very little is noticeable of individual differences in pronunciation, (cvr, rvs)
Emil Francis was born in 1854, and, despite his knowledge of Negerhollands, mentioned above, he only contributed just one, short text (no. XVII) to De Josselin de Jong’s Het Huidige Negerhollandsch (1926) which I present below in normalized orthography:
“De domnee wa a doop mi si naam a Mr. Wit, domni fa Hernhut. Mi a lo lo a skool a di jaa 1871. Di skoolhus a kaa fal. So ons a ha fo hou skool a di kérek. And da di ótkweek a fin ons an ons a ha fu kuri abit it fa di kérek. An mi maa a lo draa melek a Kwati an mi di ótkweek am a kri di stibn.
Asta die gale di selef jaa di a ha kálara. Mushi fulek wa mi weet a doot. Ons na kan lo we it fa Kwati. De dómnee na listáá ons lo eenteen pat abiti it fa di plantai.”
The reverend who baptised me, his name is Mr. Wit, reverend of Herrnhut. I went to school in the year 1871. The schoolhouse had fallen down. So we had to hold school in the church. And there the earthquake found us and we had to run outside of the church. And my mother was bringing milk to Kwati (the school grounds?, Dutch: Kwartier) and during the earthquake she got the convulsions (she became very frightened).
After the storm the same year, there was cholera. Many people that I knew died. We could not leave Kwati. The reverend did not let us go anywhere outside of the plantation. (cvr, rvs)
De Josselin de Jong did not add an English translation of this text in his work. He just remarks that “Prince (which must be Emil Francis, cvr) remembers an earthquake and a cholera epidemic about 1871.”
On St. Thomas, the earthquake raged after an attack of a hurricane, on August 21st 1871. All houses were damaged, but more than a hundred were destroyed. About 150 people were injured or died of their injuries. (See Delpher for more information.)
Both photo’s: KITLV, Leyden, The Netherlands
Thanks for your help, Robbert!