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The description of non-European languages as a momentum of Early Modern transfer of knowledge

Subproject by Prof. Dr. Horst Simon and Linnéa Weitkamp

This project focuses on the massive growth of knowledge that resulted from the geographical expansion of the European powers in the Early Modern period. After initially more trade-oriented ‘encounters’, soon characterized by the military superiority of the Europeans, from the 16th century onwards Christian ‘missionary work’ plays a central role in the relationship with the indigenous populations of the European-dominated territories overseas: In the context of the missionary efforts it is indispensable to learn the respective indigenous languages so that a multitude of grammatical descriptions are produced. This project endeavours to explore the complex web of interrelationships that arises through the newly acquired ‘factual’ knowledge. Concretely, we look at linguistic descriptions that were written in the context of activities by the Dutch Vereenigde Oostindische Compagnie (VOC), and at those in relation to the Jesuit missions in the Portuguese sphere.