The Danish West Indian Missionary Creolistic Tradition: Investigating Moravian and Lutheran religious and secular texts in Virgin Islands Dutch Creole, 1765–1834

Name of applicant

Kristoffer Friis Bøegh




Utrecht University


DKK 900,000



Type of grant

Internationalisation Fellowships


The project is about the language Virgin Islands Dutch Creole, which was spoken in the former Danish West Indies and the current US Virgin Islands from around 1700 to 1987. Dutch Creole was documented by missionaries who left behind a significant amount of religious and secular texts from the period 1765–1834. The project uses this material to study the colonial-period development of the language.


Creoles are contact languages that emerged as a result of European colonialism, often created by enslaved people. Creoles' developmental histories provide an opportunity to study how humans adapt and innovate language under specific, adverse social conditions. The project addresses one of the major questions in creole studies, namely, whether creoles change more rapidly than non-creole languages.


The unique missionary source material allows us to closely monitor the evolution of Dutch Creole over time. The project will generate grammatical descriptive and contextual studies, taking a comparative, historical linguistic approach and employing computational techniques to analyze the development of Dutch Creole, thereby shedding new light on the language history of the Virgin Islands.

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