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Friedrich Wilhelm Schmolck

Die Korrespondenz zwischen Friedrich Wilhelm Schmolck und Hugo Schuchardt wurde von Hugo Cardoso und Johannes Mücke bearbeitet, kommentiert und eingeleitet.

Die Edition bzw. einzelne Briefe sind zu zitieren als:

Cardoso, Hugo & Johannes Mücke. 2015. 'The correspondence between Friedrich Wilhelm Schmolck and Hugo Schuchardt'. In Bernhard Hurch (ed.) (2007-). Hugo Schuchardt Archiv. Webedition available at, retrieved on 26.06.2019

Friedrich Wilhelm Schmolck


Biographical Sketch  

Friedrich Wilhelm Schmolck, 1839-1916, was a missionary of the protestant Basel Mission. With the assistance of the Basel Mission archive, where Schmolck’s diary, his personal file and personal letters are also stored, some biographical data could be compiled from the “Brüderverzeichnis“ (directory of the brethren) and the “Familienregister“ (directory of the families).

Schmolck seems to have lived the typical life of a protestant missionary in the 19th and early 20th century. He was born in the Southwest German town of Lahr, Baden. His former occupation was that of teacher. In June 1869, he joined the Basel Mission and was sent to Madras, where he arrived by the end of the same year. Since 1871, he worked in the Southwest Indian town of Tellicherry (Thalassery). In the same year, he married Rosalie Müller. The couple had five children, all of whom were born in India. In 1880, Schmolck travelled back to Europe to recover and left for India again in 1881. From thereon he worked in the Basel Mission House at Chombala, a rural area in the Malabar Province of British India located very close to the then French-controlled town of Mahé. He was back in Europe again from 1891 to 1892. In 1914 he retired and returned to Germany, where he died in 1916 in Karlsruhe, Baden. His spouse died in 1917 in Lahr and was buried also in Karlsruhe. 

Editorial notes

There are two letters by Schmolck stored in the Schuchardt papers at the University Library of Graz: one postcard from February 2, 1885 and a letter from March 29, 1885, both written in German. The contact seems to have been established by the Basel missionary B. Gräter at Mangalore, with whom Schuchardt also corresponded (cf. the letters 03902-03907 in the Schuchardt archive). This is indicated not only by the correspondence between Schuchardt and Gräter, but also by some notes on a manuscript in the Schuchardt legacy, filed under in Wolf (1993). In his last postcard from February 11, 1884 (Nr. 03906), Gräter writes that Schuchardt’s informant for his 1884 study on the Indo-Portuguese of Mangalore, F. M. Mascarenhas, had died. Then, he writes: “Ich will sehen ob ich durch meine Freunde in Mahé Ihnen von dort her Stoffe verschaffen kann.“

On June 24, 1884, Gräter writes that he had asked one of his colleagues “nearby Mahé“ to collect some data of the local Indo-Portuguese variety. The next piece of information is given in one of the manuscripts stored in the Schuchardt legacy with the number This manuscript contains a text written by Mr. D’Cruz with two marginalia, which sketch the route of the information. One of the notes is written by Schmolck, date September 12, 1884 Chombala, in which he informs his colleague Gräter:

“Mit vieler Mühe habe ich vorstehende Proben erlangen können. Noch mehr sind mir versprochen; aber es kann noch eine nette Zeit anstehen bis ich sie erhalte, deß wegen sende ich diese einstweilen. Mein Gewährsmann ist ein alter Portugiese, Mr. H. D’Cruz, ehemals Regierungsdolmetscher in Mahé, jetzt pensioniert.“

The other note is written and signed by Gräter and reads as follows:

“Probe aus Mahé, französische Besitzung in Malabar, 1 ½ Stunden südl. von Tellycherry & 1 ¼ Stunden nördl. von Chombala, welch letztere eine Missionsstation ist.“

This message is intended to inform Schuchardt of the origin of the text. Later, in his study on the Indo-Portuguese of Mahé and Cannanore, Schuchardt (1889: 516) would cite the information given by Schmolck and Gräter in these notes almost word for word.

The following step seems to have been a letter from Schuchardt to Schmolck. In one of Schuchardt’s notebooks, filed in the legacy under 11.1.8, there is an overview of Schuchardts correspondence concerning his global creole language data survey. On page 103 one can find the entry for his contact in Chombala: “W. Schmolck. Basel Mission 6 Jan. 85“. From the content of Schmolck’s reply, one can conclude that Schuchardt asked him to collect some speech samples from Mr. D’Cruz (the questionnaire that also integrates the manuscripts) and to convey a direct letter to him, the reception of which is confirmed in D’Cruz’s single letter to Schuchardt (Nr. 02067). This indicates that Schuchardt wished to get into direct contact with his informant. The next letter from Schmolck to Schuchardt contains some more information on the use of the Indo-Portuguese variety in Mahé. Along with this letter, Schmolck sent the questionnaire that Schuchardt had requested from Mr. D’Cruz, but also a second version of the same questionnaire, written by another informant, Mr. Rozario (for details see Cardoso 2014). 

Linguistic contribution

From Schmolck’s letter we gather that he did not speak Indo-Portuguese (“Leider verstehe ich das Portugiesische nicht, da ich in m[einer] Arbeit in Mahè mit Französisch & Malayalim auskomme“) and, therefore, was not in a position to be the source of linguistic data himself. His task was therefore simply that of collating and forwarding the information Schuchardt has requested.

The linguistic data Schmolck collected is extremely important, as it constitutes the only known sample of Mahé Indo-Portuguese and also because it offers a rare glimpse into community-internal variation. These letters attest that Schmolck had some doubts concerning the accuracy of D’Cruz’s answers to Schuchardt’s questionnaire and asked a second informant, Mr. H. De Rozario (described as “Sekretär des französ. Gouverneurs in Mahè“), for his opinion. As a result of this, Schuchardt received two versions of the same questionnaire, which differ consistently in that one (D’Cruz’s) is closer to the region’s Indo-Portuguese as currently spoken, and the other (Rozario‘s) appears more acrolectal and more influenced by French (for more details, see Cardoso 2014).

These questionnaires were dispatched along with Schmolck’s letters but were not part of the letters per se. In fact, almost all the linguistic data was conveyed in various attachments written by the informants. However, a few interesting snippets of linguistic information are found in the letters themselves. To begin with, Schmolck informs Schuchardt that the so-called Saxon génitif was a feature of Mahé Indo-Portuguese, which is also visible in the data he collected. This refers to a discussion in Schuchardt’s 1884 article on the Indo-Portuguese of Mangalore, in which he identifies a postnominal genitive marker graphed “-’s“ (and with other forms in the varieties of Ceylon and Cochin) and hypothesises an English source. Therefore, Schmolck’s reference could either indicate that he was familiar with Schuchardt’s study or, more likely, that Schuchardt asked him specifically about it.

The other linguistic remarks in the letters concern especially the status of the language in Mahé at the time. From them, we gather that Indo-Portuguese was already dwindling in Mahé and could be described as endangered:

“Leute die Portugiesisch schreiben können werden in Mahè immer seltener da das junge Geschlecht sich mehr dem Französischen & Englischen zuwendet & das Portugiesische meist nur noch für die häusliche Conversation in Anwendung kommt.“

The demise of the language in Mahé therefore appears to have followed a familiar pattern of replacement with another of the colonial languages and reduction to the domestic environment, echoing what would be reported by Sebastião Rodolfo Dalgado (1906; 1917), a few years later, for Bombay and Nagapattinam. Another dimension of this process was, according to information collected by Schmolck, the introduction of French elements in the language:

Ein portugiesischer Advocat in Mahè teilte mir nämlich mit, daß in dem Mahè-Portugiesisch nach & nach französ. Elemente Aufnahme gefunden haben, was sich sehr drollig ausnehmen soll.“

While Schmolck’s consultant probably referred to the introduction of French lexemes in the spoken language, this remark throws light on Rozario’s version of the questionnaire, in which we can identify at least one important structural interference from French, viz. in the syntax of polar questions (Cardoso 2014: 99).


BM Archives. 2012. Basel Mission Archives. [retrieved on 2015-01-26].

Cardoso, Hugo C. 2014. 'Factoring sociolinguistic variation into the history of Indo-Portuguese'. In Revista de Crioulos de Base Lexical Portuguesa e Espanhola 5: 87-114.

Dalgado, Sebastião Rodolfo. 1906. Dialecto indo-português do Norte. Revista Lusitana 9: 142–166, 193–228.

Dalgado, Sebastião Rodolfo. 1917. Dialecto indo-português de Negapatão. Revista Lusitana 20: 40–53.

Schuchardt, Hugo. 1884. 'Kreolische Studien VI. Ueber das Indoportugiesische von Mangalore '. In Sitzungsberichte der philosophisch-historischen Classe der Kaiserlichen Akademie der Wissenschaften. Wien 105: 881-904.

Schuchardt, Hugo. 1889. 'Beiträge zur Kenntnis des kreolischen Romanisch VI. Zum Indoportugiesischen von Mahé und Cannanore'. In Zeitschrift für romanische Philologie 13: 516-524.

Wolf, Michaela. 1993. Der Hugo Schuchardt Nachlaß. Schlüssel zum Nachlaß des Linguisten und Romanisten Hugo Schuchardt (1842-1927). Graz : Leykam.