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Creole languages

The best example of culture-mixing 

 

The Creole languages appeared during the colonization era and are now spoken in about a hundred countries. From the Antilles to French Guyana and the Indian ocean, French Creole is spoken by ten million speakers. 

 

The Creole language, a linguistic process rather than a languagecreole_400 

The "Creole language" is often wrongly referred to in the singular form. There is actually over a hundred languages of this type in the world. The Creoles are a living testimony of the ancient intercultural processes. They are of English (Jamaica, United-States), Portuguese (Cape Verde, Guinea-Bissau), Spanish (Philippines) and of course French origins: the most significant Creole-speaking community lives in the former colonies of the Antilles, French Guyana and Indian ocean, with about ten million French Creole speakers.

 

A history bound to colonization 

The history of Creole languages is intertwined with the backdrop of colonial conquest in which they appeared. Starting of the 16th century, the main colonial powers of the time (Spain, France, Great-Britain, the Netherlands and Portugal) are  empires.

 

The slave trade organised by those powers leads to a massive moving of African populations. The Creoles appear in a backdrop of exchanges exclusively oral between colonisers and enslaved populations. Every Creole is the product of several idioms spoken by deported populations trying to find a common language.

 

French Creoles: so far away, yet so close 

French-base Creoles have a lot in common with the French. Phonetics, as a start. In Martinique, a "nomm" is a man ("homme") and a "gason", a young man ("garçon"). In Guadeloupe, "espwa" means hope ("espoir") and "enmé", to love ("aimer"). Lexicon has also common points: the vocabulary spoken in those former colonies is 90% derived from French.

It's the differences of syntax and pronunciation that make understanding often impossible for a non-speaker. The Creoles also take French language to their own accord to create an evocative, poetic and surprising language. In Réunion, a "tantine" is a young lady, a "bibine" a beer and a "bonbon-la-fesse" (literally "buttocks candy") a... suppository!

To know more, check out the online Creole dictionary ("dictionnaire du créole en ligne").