Berbice Dutch Creole

Berbice Dutch Creole is an extinct creole of Dutch found in english speaking Guyana in the Berbice region, once a Dutch colony, founded by Dutchmen from Zeeland. Ian Robertson discovered the creole along the Berbice River, while living around the Wirunu Creek. Albertha Bell was the last speaker of the language. She was last interviewed in March of 2004, at the age of 103. She died in 2005.


The language developed from Berbice Dutch plantation colony in areas along the Berbice River, Canje River, and Wiruni Creek. The language developed from a pidgin that served as communication between African slaves, Dutch planters, and Arawak. Abraham van Peere in 1627 founded the colony, after being granted permission by the Zeeland chamber of the West India Company. The creole began its demise with the moving of the plantation economy to the coast. The latter was further compounded with the takeover of the region by the English in 1814. Berbice Dutch Creole was preserved by the Arawak Indians and mixed race individuals of Afro-Guyanese ancestry, in the Berbice region. The black Guyanese population was one of the first to discard the tongue with the prevalence of the Guyanese English creole language.

Language description

30% of Berbice word inventory is of eastern Ijaw(Kalabari) West African origins. 60% is Dutch, and 10% is from Arawak or Guyanese English Creole. Swadesh wordlist gives another breakdown: Dutch 57%, Eastern Ijo  38% , Arawak 1%, Guyanese Creole  1%, no equivalent 2%, etymology unknown  1%. Most of the vocabulary or lexicon of Berbice comes from Dutch. Berbice's lexicon comes from one African source, which is unusual, eastern Ijaw more specifically Kalabari, spoken in southeastern Nigeria. Its lexicon also comes from Arawak, which tends to describe animal and plant life, tools and implements, kinship , body area, the spiritual world, verbs for hunting and food processing. It also borrowed from the Guyanese English Creole.

Ijo Dutch Arawak 
feni ‘bird’ feshi ‘fish’  anwanwa ‘carrion crow’
bjebje ‘yellow’ or ‘ripe’ grun ‘green’ or ‘unripe kurheli ‘smoke’ 
bita ‘clothes’ hemdu ‘shirt’  sarapa ‘three-pronged arrow’ 
baba ‘hollowed calabash’  jaluku ‘ghost’  
bwa ‘leg / foot’  

Related Articles: Negerhollands , Skepi Dutch Creole

Works Cited
Berbice Dutch Creole Declared Extinct. Repeating Islands. March 2, 2010

Kouwenberg, Silvia. Berbice Dutch Creole.

Lewis, M. Paul, Gary F. Simons, and Charles D. Fennig (eds.). 2013. Ethnologue: Languages of the World, Seventeenth edition. Dallas, Texas: SIL International. Online version:

External Links:

YouTube Video