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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

  • Anna Pytlowana. Finishing PhD fellowship (september 2016-march 2017) (UvA), Supervisors Prof. dr. Fred Weerman and dr. O. Zwartjes. What the ‘lost’ manuscripts of Joan Josua Ketelaar can tell us about Dutch Colonial linguistics. This project aims at completing a historical and linguistic analysis of “Instructie off Onderwijzinge der Hindoustanse en Persiaanse Talen” by Joan Josua Ketelaar (1698). The “Instructie” is one of the most significant linguistic texts on Asian languages written in Dutch and is recognized as the first grammar of Hindustani. See A. Pytlowany’s homepage for more information.
  • 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 

  • Astrid Alexander-Bakkerus & Sabine Dedenbach Salazar-Sáenz: Two Andean Colonial Confessionaries in Quechua and Yánesha.
  • Wolf Dietrich: Publication of an anonymous dictionary of Língua Geral Brasílica (about 1756)
  • 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.
  • José Antonio Flores Farfán & Otto Zwartjes: El arte de el idioma mexicano de Manuel Pérez (1713). Edición crítica.
  • Henning Klöter & Otto Zwartjes: The arte de la lengua mandarina of Francisco Díaz (Marsh 696). Critical edition. 
  • 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.
  • Liesbeth Zack: The making of a capital dialect: Language change in 19th century Cairo.

Completed projects

  • Book project: Xebero Grammar and dictionary. A critical text-edition with and introduction. The manuscript Additional 25,324 from the British Library contains a grammar of the Xebero language, Gramatica dela Lengua Xebera, as spoken in the eighteenth century. The manuscript is assumed to have been written by Father Samuel Fritz (1654-1728). The principle member of this project is A. Alexander Bakkerus.
  • Liesbeth Zack. Egyptian Arabic in the seventeenth century. A study and edition of Yusuf al-Magribi's 'Daf al-isr an kalam ahl Misr'. Utrecht: LOT, 2009. Promotor Prof Dr Manfred Woidich.
  • R. Fernández Rodríguez. El Calepino Ilocano (c.1797) del P. Vivar. Innovaciones lexicográficas y política traductora. Promotors Joaquín García-Medall Villanueva (UVa) and Otto Zwartjes (UvA). Completed in October 2012.

  • Pierre Winkler (UvA) Supervisors: Prof.dr. Olga Fischer and dr. O. Zwartjes. Missionary Pragmalinguistics: Father Diego Luis de Sanvitores’ grammar (1668) within the tradition of Philippine grammars. Utrecht: LOT, Defence: Completed in November 2016.


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

Xth International Conference on Missionary Linguistics. Sapienza università di Roma. Center of Chinese Studies. March 21-24, 2018.

Missionary Linguistics Archives Annual report 2017 Annual report 2016