"Mi no sal tron tongo". Early Sranan in court records 1667 - 1767

While Sranan is relatively well documented among creole languages, many of its early sources derive from non-native (i.e. European) authors. In addition to that, virtually no records are available for the pre-1765 period. It is important, therefore, to supplement the early Sranan text corpus both with regard to type of source and period covered. One particular type of document which is useful in both regards is represented by 17th- and 18th-century court records, in which (parts of) Blacksí testimonies are occasionally reproduced in Sranan. Supervised by Jacques Arends (University of Amsterdam) and Leon Stassen (Radboud University Nijmegen, I investigated these records. The results are presented in my masterís thesis, titled "Mi no sal tron tongo". Early Sranan in court records, 1667 - 1767 (simply click on the title if you want to download it, itís a pdf document).

The great majority of these records are contained in the archives of the Hof van Politie en Criminele Justitie, stored in the Nationaal Rijksarchief (NA) in The Hague, The Netherlands. Some additional data can be found in the archives of the Societeit van Suriname, also in the NA. These records, covering the 100-year period between 1667 (when Suriname came into Dutch hands) and 1767, consist mainly of depositions, statements and reports of examinations. The earliest document mentioning a lawsuit concerning an African slave dates from 1684. The earliest Sranan sentences that were found in these records date 1707. These antedate any other Sranan source known to exist. Apart from a number of interesting metalinguistic observations, these documents contain some 500 isolated Sranan words (tokens) and some 50 Sranan sentences.

The earliest Sranan sentences date from 16 - 18 July 1707. They are part of a short dialogue between the Blacks Mingo and Waly, two African slaves (presumably from Congo) of the plantation Palmeneribo at the Suriname River. Mingo wanted to visit his wife, who lived on another plantation. Although he had permission of the director Westphaal, the manager Wittens of the plantation did not permit him to go. Mingo decided to go anyway, but Wittens, who smashed his canoe and thus prevented him from leaving, caught him. Upset and angry, Mingo ran off to the forest and returned a few days later, his mind set on the compensation for the canoe. He discussed this with Waly and several other Blacks. Based on a comparison of the reports on the conversation between Waly and Mingo, Waly appears to be the one daring Mingo to go to the manager and demand compensation; he dares Mingo by saying "Jou no man" (literally 'you are not a man', i.e. 'you're a coward; you won't do it'), to which Mingo replies "Mi man" (literally 'I am a man', i.e. 'I'm not a coward; I will do it'). Waly calls his bluff by answering "Jou go dan" ('you go then'). The dialogue between Mingo and Waly as it occurred in the report is presented below:


CR, 234, f 257 ro; 1707

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