Introduction to the Resolutions
of the Council of Policy of Cape of Good Hope

Language of the Resolutions

During the VOC period 17th century Dutch was the language generally spoken at the Cape . This was the older version of modern Dutch of the Netherlands and Flanders , and of Afrikaans spoken mainly in South Africa . For this reason it should not be too difficult for speakers of modern Dutch and Afrikaans to understand the language used in the Resolutions.

As the VOC was a Dutch company it is reasonable to expect that Dutch would have been prescribed as the language of communication on its ships and in its settlements. For the same reason, it was also the language used in the administration and judiciary, schools and churches of their settlements. The non-Dutch speaking VOC personnel, as well as the Company’s slaves had to learn Dutch. Examples of their quite acceptable attempts occasionally appear in the Resolutions. It often happened that names, expressions and words of non-Dutch personnel, freemen, slaves and Khoi were translated into Dutch. For example, the German Christian names Heinrich, Peter and Wilhelm were more than often turned into Hendrik, Pieter and Willem, while German surnames such as Holzhausen became Houthuijs [lit. wooden house] (25 Feb. 1744, C. 122).

Correspondence in languages other than Dutch had to be translated into “Neederduijtsch” or “Hollandse Taal” [Dutch language] before the Council members discussed those particular matters. The following are two of many similar examples: The first mate of the Danish ship, Koning van Deenemarken [King of Denmark] presented a “schriftuur” [written document] of which the translation from Danish into Dutch was read to the Council (4.6.1744, C. 122); on 6 October 1759 a Portuguese letter translated into Dutch by J.J. Warneck who was a VOC official, was presented to the Councillors (30.10.1759, C. 137).

Over the years Afrikaans developed from Cape Dutch . At present the two languages Afrikaans and Dutch still share 85% of their vocabulary. The remaining 15% of their vocabularies consists of the same words with different meanings in the two languages, self-created words and loan words that are not shared. In Afrikaans words were borrowed from indigenous languages (Khoi, e.g. karos, abba and gogga, and other African languages, e.g. mamba, lapa and makietie), as well as a number of words from the East (e.g. atjar, piekel, baklei, piesang, blatjang, kiaat and piering). Words from 17th century seamen’s jargon also found their way into Afrikaans, for example kombuis [kitchen] (1656, C. 1), kooi [bed] (1657, C. 1) en kombers [blanket] (1687, C. 19). From an historical perspective the Resolutions offer some very remarkable language material.


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