Berbice Dutch officially extinct

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Berbice Dutch, a Dutch creole spoken in part of Guyana, has been declared officially extinct, according to an article in the March issue of the Dutch edition of National Geographic.

Berbice Dutch was spoken in plantations along the River Berbice, part of Guyana which was once a private colony founded by a Dutch planter from Zeeland. It is a mixture of the Zeeland dialect of Dutch, the local Arawak Indian language and Ijo, spoken by slaves from Nigeria.

Twenty years ago there were still handfuls of Berbice speakers in Guyana but, since it has been discovered that the last speaker died in 2005, the authoritative international language database Ethnologue has declared Berbice Dutch extinct.

A wide variety of Dutch creoles once existed around the globe. They included Albany Dutch, Jersey Dutch and Mohawk Dutch in North America, Berbice and Skepi in South America, Cape Dutch in South Africa, Ceylon Dutch in Sri Lanka and Javindo in Indonesia.

Those still alive and kicking include Papiamento in the Netherlands Antilles and Sranan Tongo in Surinam. Afrikaans, which is based largely on Dutch, is not officially classed as a creole although it does have features in common with many creoles.

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