Is it difficult to understand the Creole language

Interesting facts about the languages ​​of the world: Creole languages


by Regina Schwojer

Like most of our contemporaries, you probably speak English fairly well. Then try your luck with the following sentence:

di uol liedi you, tan! a wa de go hapm?
wilyam sie, wa de go hapm yu wil fain out

Understood nothing? You may find it helpful to say this phrase out loud to yourself. In standard English this excerpt means something like:

The old lady said: "Wait, what is going to happen?"
William said: "You will find out what is going to happen."

This language example is written in Jamaican Creole, which brings us to the question of this blog article:
What are Creole languages ​​and how did they come about?

Origin of the Creole Languages: Stage 1 - Pidgin

Creole languages ​​are mainly spoken in former colonies, which is due to the history of their origins.
As part of the colonization, slaves were brought to the new colonies from different parts of Africa. Communication between colonial masters and slaves, as well as between slaves among themselves, was anything but easy. What happens when people need to communicate but don't speak the same language?
The slaves communicated with a mixture of words from the language of the colonial rulers and their own language, whereby all grammatical structures were radically simplified. There was neither an inflection of the verbs (one simply said “I come, you come”) nor plural endings (one simply said “one tree, two trees”).
This language level, which is very inconsistent and has no fixed rules, is called in linguistics "Pidgin“.

Origin of the Creole languages: Level 2 - Creole

But how did the children of these slaves communicate?
The children of these slaves naturally learned their parents' pidgin as their mother tongue. The descendants of the pidgin speakers were more or less forced to "expand" the pidgin, that is, to make it more complex, as it was far too rudimentary for the purposes of a mother tongue. This more complex and stable language level is called Creole.
The explanation just presented tries to do justice to the fact that Creole languages ​​developed in different places at different times. However, there is also the thesis that all Creole languages ​​developed from a lingua francades of the Mediterranean.
One can therefore generally state that Creole languages ​​always arise in a contact situation between two languages, one of which is usually the language of the colonial rulers and one of the original language of the slaves. Most of the vocabulary comes from the language of the colonial rulers, whereas the internal grammatical logic of the Creole languages ​​is more like that of the "inferior" language.

Classification and Status of Creole Languages

Creole languages ​​are usually classified according to the European language on which they are based. Thus there are French, English, Portuguese, Spanish, and Dutch-based Creole languages. However, it is difficult to say to what extent the Creole languages ​​can be counted as part of the respective European base language.
This is countered by the fact that, for example, French Creole languages ​​are not understandable for French native speakers and thus the gap between the Creole and the basic language is too great for them to be considered varieties of the same language. On the other hand, Creole speakers are often aware that they do speak some form of French.
Thus it is difficult to determine the status of the Creole languages. Are the Creole languages ​​just a dialect of the standard language or are they actually separate languages? Do they have the status of an official language or are they reserved for the colloquial area?
For a long time, the Creole languages ​​were seen only as "spoiled" or "depraved" versions of the European standard, and researchers were also very little interested in the Creole languages.

Changed appreciation of the Creole languages

In the course of decolonization, the former colonies gained in self-confidence and thus increasingly understood their Creole languages ​​as independent languages ​​with their own rules. In some states, the local Creole language has even been given the status of the official language and has thus taken over the function of the language of the former colonial rulers.
Even more and more writers are using Creole for their novels or poems; A nice example is the novel "The Color Purple", which is largely told from the perspective of the African American Celie and is therefore written in "Black English".

Would you like to get a taste of the Creole language?

On the web, for example, you can find a lot of material on Papiamentu, an extreme case of the Creole languages, which has Spanish, Portuguese, English and Dutch as well as African and Arawak influences.
Browse through the Papiamentu version of Wikipedia, for example, or read an excerpt from the Bible on Papiamentu.
Or would you like to be transported to Jamaica?
Take a look at the following YouTube video: We guarantee a holiday feeling, but don't be disappointed if you don't understand too much.
If you are more serious and want to learn more about the Jumieka Langwij (Jamaican Language), browse through this bilingual site. This page is particularly interesting because it was written from the Jamaican point of view, not the linguist point of view.
Another tip for a better understanding: Since the spelling is not so fixed, you can understand texts written in Creole much better if you say them out loud.