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Tydskrif vir Geesteswetenskappe

versão On-line ISSN 2224-7912
versão impressa ISSN 0041-4751


STEYN, J.C.. The last project of the "Dutch language movement in South Africa": The Simplified Dutch Spelling. Tydskr. geesteswet. [online]. 2017, vol.57, n.2-1, pp.233-248. ISSN 2224-7912.

In the first edition of the Afrikaans Word List and Spelling Guidelines ("Afrikaanse Woordelys en Spelreëls"), the "Spelling-Commission" states five general principles that were assumed in setting the guidelines. The fourth is: "[Om] so weinig as moontlik van die Vereenvoudigde Hollandse Spelling af te wijk" ("to deviate as little as possible from the Simplified Dutch Spelling"). The VHS was one of the most important projects of the Dutch language movement in South Africa. The project's supporters aimed at restoring the position of Dutch as a medium of education and as a public language in the Cape Colony in the last quarter of the nineteenth century. To Afrikaners (and even the Dutch), Dutch was a difficult language to write by the end of the nineteenth century. Because of this, eminent Dutch language promoters aimed at simplifying Dutch as a written language. This movement came from the Zuid-Afrikaansche Taalbond (South African Language Association) in the Cape Colony, as well as teachers and journalists in the Free State and Transvaal, which both had Dutch as an official language. The Language Association was founded in 1890 for the purpose of promotion of knowledge of the people's language and establishing an emerging sense of nationality). With 47 votes against 36, it was decided that the "language of the people" would be Dutch rather than Afrikaans. Two of the most important figures in the Language Association were the theologian P.J.G. de Vos and linguist, W.J. Viljoen, professor of modern languages and history at the Victoria College (forerunner of the University of Stellenbosch). The Language Association realised that Dutch would be in a much stronger position to compete with English if its written form could be simplified. It was understood that they could tie in with one of the linguists in the Netherlands that also advocated for language simplification. It was R.A. Kollewijn, founder, in 1892, of the Association for the simplification of our Writing Language. According to him, Dutch spelling was too difficult and students had to spend unnecessary time mastering Dutch spelling. A joint conference of Afrikaners from Cape Town and Stellenbosch, as well as Transvaal and the Free State, instructed an executive committee in 1897 to obtain a statement of support from Dutch linguists and linguistic bodies. A number of suggestions for simplification in the direction of the Kollewijn spelling were adopted. The Anglo-Boer War (1899-1902) brought an end to language activities. However, soon after the war, simplification was again on the agenda when the Dutch movement met in Stellenbosch on 20 January 1903. This was as a result of a question from the Transvaal Education Department in 1902 whether the 1897 decisions were to be considered authoritative for the purpose of education. The executive committee asked Viljoen to prepare a report on the simplification of the written language. He consulted with linguists and other experts in the Netherlands and Belgium and on 19 September 1903 the Commissie voor Taal en Letteren bij de Maatschappij der Nederlandsche Letterkunde te Leiden ("Committee for Language and Literature in Leiden at the Society of Dutch Literature") held a meeting in which twenty professors participated. Viljoen received a very positive supporting statement from management on 5 October 1903. A language conference was held on 28 December 1904 in Cape Town. The Language Association also invited delegates from the Transvaal, the Free State and Natal. All the education organisations were positive towards the recommendations and over the course of the following year, the VHS received additional support. Viljoen, De Vos and the other simplifiers therefore had reason to feel satisfied by the end of 1906. Education authorities supported the VHS and it was introduced in Dutch-Afrikaans newspapers such as Ons Land. But for speakers of Afrikaans outside of this intellectual space, even this simplified Dutch remained a difficult language. De Waal expressed this difficulty as follows in the newspaper De Goede Hoop (October 1904: "Hebben wij Afrikaners het niet moeilijk genoeg om zowel Nederlandsch als Afrikaansch in dit Engelsche land in stand te houden? Laat de lieve Taalbond ons toch niet met een derde Hollandsche taal komen lastig vallen". ("Do us Afrikaners not have it difficult enough to maintain both Dutch and Afrikaans in this English country? Let the dear Language Association not trouble us with a third Dutch language".) The South African Dutch written language underwent changes in 1904 that would only be accepted in the written language in the Netherlands in 1934. But the modernised spelling could not save Dutch in South Africa. Afrikaans won, but the VHS still exercised influence on the Afrikaans spelling guidelines.

Palavras-chave : Simplified Dutch Spelling; W.J. Viljoen; Zuid-Afrikaansche Taalbond [South African Language Association]; Kollewijn's spelling system; Afrikaans list of words and spelling guidelines; South African Academy for Science and Art; Afrikaans language movement; Dutch language movement; Johannes Brill; F.V. Engelenburg; Hubert Elffers; P.J.G. de Vos.

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