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“Two Missionaries’ Orthographies in Conflict in Curaçao: Papiamentu’s 19th Century Case,” by Gabriel Antunes de Araujo, LACS Weekly Seminar Series, Co-sponsored by the Linguistics Department

Monday, November 15, 2021 at 1:00pm to 2:15pm

Virtual Event

In this talk, we will present an orthographic and lexical analysis of three of the first printed documents in Papiamentu, a Portuguese-based Creole spoken in Curaçao: Prefecto Apostolico di Curacao na Cristian di su mision and Catecismo Corticu, both by M. J. Niewindt (1833, 1837, respectively), and Kamiena di Kroes, by J. J. Putman (1850). Our goal is to show that, even though two contemporary Dutch missionaries wrote them, the texts display significant variations, suggesting a quest for an orthographic standard in Papiamentu's earliest stages.

However, these orthographic standards were divergent. On the one hand, Niewdindt's Prefecto Apostolico and Catecismo contain a Hispanicized etymological orthography. On the other hand, Putman's Kamiena shows some influence from Dutch orthography. Consequently, we defend that both writers tried to establish unique orthographic systems for Papiamentu, forming the basis for the models that would end up as the official standardization of the language at the end of the twentieth century. Nevertheless, using a more Hispanicized orthography or one influenced by Dutch reflects its author's world view on Curaçao and the Netherlands as a political unit. At the same time, these two missionaries were able to propose innovations regarding methodology, objectives, recipients and pedagogical strategies that affected profoundly that society. To analyze the convergent and divergent characteristics of the Niewindt and Putman orthographies, we concentrate on the formal relationships between the graphemes in the texts. Our second objective is to study the lexicon of these documents and evaluate the degree of Iberian or Dutch influence on Papiamentu. From the socio-historical viewpoint, in the context of the nineteenth century Curaçao, Niewindt and Putman were living under an increasing influence from The Netherlands, as the influence from Iberia was fading away whilst Curaçao was also becoming more relevant to the Dutch state. However, Curaçao's society remained divided, marked by the scourge of slavery. It should be understood that within the segregated system in Curaçao in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, the Jews and the Calvinists neither obliged nor permitted slaves to follow any Jewish or Calvinist rites. Therefore, the Catholic religion practised by slaves was closely linked to their language, Papiamentu (Lampe 2002: 110-3). Thus, we consider that the lexicon of the three texts in Papiamentu is principally Iberian, with an irrelevant number of items of Dutch origin. Hence, the influence of Catholicism on Curaçao was also a linguistic one.

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Lampe, Armando. 2001.  Mission or submission? Moravian and catholic missionaries in the Dutch Caribbean during the 19th centuryGöttingen: Vandenhoeck und Ruprecht.

Niewindt, M. J. 1833 [2001]. Prefecto Apostolico di Curacao na Cristian di su misionFac-simile edition. Bloemendaal/Curaçao: Fundashon pa Planifikashon di Idioma/Stichting Libri Antilliani.

Niewindt, M. J. 1837 [2001]. Catecismo corticu pa uso di catolicanan di Curaçao, pa M.J. Niewindt. Curaçao. Fac-simile edition. Curaçao/Bloemendaal: Fundashon pa Planifikashon di Idioma/Stichting Libri Antilliani.

Putman, Jacobus Josephus. 1850 [2001]. Kamiena di kroes: ku historia, meditasjon i orasjon kortiekoe, pa J. J. Putman. Fac-simile edition. Bloemendaal: Stichting Libri Antilliani.

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Mario Einaudi Center for International Studies, Latino Studies Program, History, Government, Linguistics, Africana Studies and Research Center, Latin American and Caribbean Studies, Global Cornell



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William Phelan, LACS Program Manager

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Gabriel Antunes de Araujo, Associate Professor of Portuguese Linguistics

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University of Macau, SAR China

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Free and open to the public virtually via Zoom

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