About 80 percent of the “Sinkang Manuscripts” (新港文書) have been deciphered in the ongoing collaboration project between Academia Sinica‘s Institute of Taiwan History and Institute of History and Philology. These documents, in the language of the Siraya people, were written in a romanization system devised by the Dutch colonists in Taiwan in the seventeenth century. Although the Dutch were forced out of Taiwan in the 1660s, writing in this system continued for at least 150 years.
The name Siraya, however, has been applied to the people of that group only since the period of Japanese rule (1895-1945). It was derived from the group’s pronunciation of the word for “I.” The documents get their name from Sinkang Sia, the largest Siraya settlement near the Dutch stronghold Fort Zeelandia.
Most of the documents are records of land contracts and business transactions. Some are bilingual: in Siraya and Dutch, or Siraya and Chinese. One long bilingual document is a translation by the Dutch of the Book of Matthew.
One of the articles cited below states, “The orthography of the Sinkang Manuscripts also embodies a vestige of 17th-century Europe where the italic style of lettering was still unknown in Dutch and Germanic writings.” This sample, however, makes me wonder. Any paleographers or font specialists out there?
The manuscripts also show that some words were borrowed from Hoklo, the Sinitic language now often referred to as Taiwanese