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Revitalizing Older Linguistic Documentation (ROLD)

Revitalizing Older Linguistic Documentation (ROLD)



Description of the research group

The members of the group investigate older texts (colonial, postcolonial, missionary and non-missionary, word lists of travelers and historians) with  the following objectives: historical linguistics, the history of linguistics, linguistic documentation, translation studies and sociocultural analysis. The aim of historical linguistics is to describe older stages of languages as well as (processes of) language change, while the history of linguistics studies early thinking on languages, linguistics typologies and structures and linguistics. Linguistic documentation is a crucial part of both branches. These studies are often interrelated with those of the cultural context in which colonial societies developed. Non-Western languages are our main focus.


Current PhD projects

  • Roxana Sarion: Supervisors Prof. dr. Carlos Cabanillas (Universitetet I Tromsø) and dr. O. Zwartjes. Title: Conversión de Píritu de indios cumanagotos, palenques y otros (1690):  prácticas transculturales y discursos subversivos en la literatura misionera colonial de Venezuela

Other [current] projects 

  • Gonçalo Fernandes. Missionary and Colonial Linguistics under the Portuguese Patronage in Africa and Asia.

  • Rebeca Fernández Rodríguez. The disclosure of linguistic and ethnographic documentation: language description in the Americas and the Philippines and networks of transcontinental informarion in the 18th century.

  • Henning Klöter & Otto Zwartjes: The arte de la lengua mandarina of Francisco Díaz (Marsh 696). Critical edition. 

  • Norval Smith: the interpretation of older forms of Scottish Gaelic place-names and their relevance for the Early Medieval History of Scotland.

  • Norval Smith & John R. Johnson: Lengua de los Llanos: The full text of the Northern Valley Yokuts catechism.

  • Toon van Hal: The 18th century interest in Sanskrit and the exchange of linguistic knowledge between missionaries and European scholars.

  • Manfred Woidich & Peter Behnstedt: Wortatlas der arabischen Dialekte (fourth volume).

  • Liesbeth Zack: The making of a capital dialect: Language change in 19th century Cairo.


The ROLD group organises annual meetings on older linguistic documentation at the UvA. International conferences on missionary linguistics are organised every other year. Details of the latter can be found in the archive (see pdf).

Next International Conference of Missionary Linguistics

The 11th International Conference of Missionary Linguistics will be held from 3 to 5 March 2020 at the Universidad Nacional de La Pampa, Argentina: