LING2040 Languages in Contact 10: Creole Literacy

1. Contact languages and development (see Sebba, Ch. 8)

Problems of contact languages in newly independent countries:

2.  Orthography

2.1 etymological spelling: words from lexifier language written as if they were English, French etc.


Disadvantages: 2.2 phonemic spelling: one-to-one match between phonemes and orthographic symbols


Disadvantages: e.g. "why would you want to respell a word like 'flower' as 'flowa'?"

Haitian creole: see Sebba, 249-252

phonemic system devised by English speakers for Haitian annoyed some native speakers--particularly the "Germanic letters" (k, w)

2.3 Ethnophonemic spelling

3. Literacy: The case of Cape Verde Creole

Fomer Portuguese colony off coast of W.Africa
Independent since 1975
Portuguese-lexifier creole developed in 16th Century
430,000 speakers in Cape Verde Islands, also 100,000  in Portugal, 350,000 inUSA
Portuguese as colonial language
c. 37% literate in Portuguese, 7-80% understand spoken Portuguese

1999  Cape Verde's Constitution revised to bring Creole into "every segment of society."

-> Creole to be used for elementary education, lower courts, hospitals, some radio broadcasts

Cabo Verde becomes Kaboverde, creole Kabuverdianu as national language to be used in media, education etc


e.g. Passive in Barlavento variety:

Es traboj foj sid fejt pa min
this job was been made for me
"This job was done by me"

Gender agreement in Barlavento varieties:

mnina   malkriada
girl  bad-mannered-FEM
"a bad-mannered girl"

Santiago variety adopted as standard: most basilectal, reflects African roots of the population

Continuum:  Portuguese > Barlavento Kabuverdianu> Sotavento Kabuverdianu

Alfabeto Unificado para a Escrita do Crioulo ("Unified alphabet for writing of creole")
- a compromise between phonemic orthography and traditional etymological spelling
- still awaiting approval

Descriptive grammar:

The Syntax of Cape Verdean Creole by Marlyse Baptista. Amsterdam: John Benjamins, 2002.


Dicionário Prático Português-Caboverdiano (Variante de Santiago), by Mafalda MENDES, Nicolas QUINT, Fátima RAGAGELES & Aires SEMEDO. Verbalis, 2002.