Third oldest Papiamento text discovered

Leiden University researchers have discovered by chance a note from 1783 in Papiamento. They are working on a linguistic study on confiscated Dutch letters. The ‘Letters as loot’ project is headed by Professor Marijke van der Wal.

'Mi papa bieda die mi Courasson'

First page of Papiamento letter

First page of Papiamento letter

Anna Elisabeth Schermer-Charje wrote a note in Papiamento, signed it from her son, Jantje, and sent it to her husband, Dirk Schermer, who was in Rotterdam at the time. Mi papa bieda die mi Courasson ‘My daddy, my heart’s life,’ bieni prees toe seeka bo joego doesje ‘come quickly to your sweet little child’: thus starts the note that Dirk Schermer never received.


From Curaçao

View of the harbour of Curaçao

View of the harbour of Curaçao

The value of the Papiamento note was confirmed by Creol expert Bart Jacobs at the University of Konstanz. He was unable to hide his enthusiasm when he laid eyes on the note that was sent from Curaçao to Rotterdam in 1783. The Papiamento of today’s ABC islands; Aruba, Bonaire and Curaçao, had always been a spoken means of communication. The two oldest written texts date from the late eighteenth century. This third text has now been added to them. The Leiden researchers found the remarkable document in the London National Archives, enclosed in a Dutch letter sent from Curaçao.


Papiamento heritage document

Professor Marijke van der Wal

Professor Marijke van der Wal

Professor Marijke van der Wal has been working on the project ‘Letters as loot’ since 2008 with her team. The project’s goal is to study the use of language in seventeenth and eighteenth century private letters that were seized by the British in times of war. The study gives new insight into the Dutch of people from different social ranks and positions, so also that of normal men and women from those times. Sometimes there are unexpected ‘extra catches’ such as this foreign language text. This Papiamento heritage document, supplied with explanatory notes, can now be read by everyone.


See also

Studying at Leiden

Bachelor's
Dutch Language and Culture (in Dutch)

Master's
Dutch Studies (partially in Dutch)

Last Modified: 08-11-2012