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Languages of the Caribbean

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Languages of the Caribbean

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Official languages spoken in the Caribbean   Spanish   French   English   Dutch   Haitian Creole   Papiamento

The languages of the Caribbean reflect the region’s diverse history and culture. There are six official languages spoken in the Caribbean:

Spanish (official language of Cuba, Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico, Bay Islands (Honduras), Corn Islands (Nicaragua), Isla Cozumel, Isla Mujeres (Mexico), Nueva Esparta (Venezuela) the Federal Dependencies of Venezuela and San Andrés, Providencia and Santa Catalina (Colombia)
French (official language of Guadeloupe, Haiti, Martinique, Saint Barthélemy, French Guiana and Saint-Martin)
English (official language of Anguilla, Antigua and Barbuda, Bahamas, Barbados, British Virgin Islands, Cayman Islands, Dominica, Grenada, Guyana, Jamaica, Montserrat, Puerto Rico (The American territory does not have a substantial anglophone population despite being part of the US), Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia, Sint Maarten, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, San Andrés, Providencia and Santa Catalina (Colombia), Trinidad and Tobago, Turks and Caicos Islands, and U.S. Virgin Islands)
Dutch (official language of Aruba, Bonaire, Curaçao, Saba, Sint Eustatius, Sint Maarten, and Suriname)
Haitian Creole (official language of Haiti)
Papiamento (a Portuguese and Spanish-based Creole language) (official language of Aruba, Bonaire and Curaçao)

There are also a number of creoles and local patois. Dozens of the creole languages of the Caribbean are widely used informally among the general population. There are also a few additional smaller indigenous languages. Many of the indigenous languages have become extinct or are dying out.

At odds with the ever-growing desire for a single Caribbean community,[1] the linguistic diversity of a few Caribbean islands has made language policy an issue in the post-colonial era. In recent years, Caribbean islands have become aware of a linguistic inheritance of sorts. However, language policies being developed nowadays are mostly aimed at multilingualism.

Languages

Most languages spoken in the Caribbean are either European languages (namely English, Spanish, French, and Dutch) or European language-based creoles.

Spanish-speakers are the most numerous in the Caribbean. English is the first or second language in most Caribbean islands and is also the unofficial “language of tourism”, the dominant industry in the Caribbean region. In the Caribbean, the official language is usually determined by whichever colonial power (England, Spain, France, or the Netherlands) held sway over the island first or longest.

English
Main article: Caribbean English

The first permanent English colonies were founded at Saint Kitts (1624) and Barbados (1627). The English language is the third most established throughout the Caribbean; however, due to the relatively small populations of the English-speaking territories, only 14%[2] of West Indians are English speakers. English is the official language of about 18 Caribbean territories inhabited by about 6 million people, though most inhabitants of these islands may more properly be described as speaking English creoles rather than local varieties of standard English.

Spanish
Main article: Caribbean Spanish

Spanish was introduced to the Caribbean with the voyages of discovery of Christopher Columbus in 1492. The Caribbean English-speakers are outnumbered by Spanish speakers by a ratio of about four to one due to the high densities of populations on the larger, Spanish-speaking, islands; some 64% of West Indians speak Spanish. The countries that are included in this group are Cuba, the Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico, Belize, and some islands off Central (Cozumel, Isla Mujeres, San Andrés and Providencia, Corn Islands, The Bay Islands) and South America (Federal Dependencies of Venezuela and Nueva Esparta).

French
Main article: French language § North and South America

About one-quarter of West Indians speak French or a French-based creole. They live primarily in Guadeloupe and Martinique, both of which are overseas departments of France; Saint Barthélemy and the French portion of Saint Martin (where the local language is English, but not an official language), both of which are overseas collectivities of France; the independent nation of Haiti (where both French and Haitian Creole are official languages);[3][4] and the independent nations of Dominica and Saint Lucia, which are both officially English-speaking but where the French-based Antillean Creole is widely used, and French to a lesser degree.

Dutch
Main article: Dutch language § Americas

Dutch is an official language of the Caribbean islands that remain under Dutch sovereignty. However, Dutch is not the dominant language on these islands. On the islands of Aruba, Curaçao and Bonaire, a creole based on Portuguese and West African languages known as Papiamento is predominant, while in Sint Maarten, Saba and Sint Eustatius, English, as well as a local English creole, are spoken. A Dutch creole known as Negerhollands was spoken in the former Danish West Indian islands of Saint Thomas and Saint John, but is now extinct. Its last native speaker died in 1987.[5]

Other languages
Caribbean Hindustani
Further information: Caribbean Hindustani

Caribbean Hindustani is a form of the Bhojpuri and Awadhi dialect of Hindustani (Hindi-Urdu) spoken by descendants of the indentured laborers from India in Trinidad and Tobago, Guyana, Suriname, and other parts of the Caribbean.[6]

Indigenous languages
Main article: Indigenous languages of the Americas § South America and the Caribbean
Further information: Indigenous peoples of the Caribbean

Several languages spoken in the Caribbean belong to language groups concentrated or originating in the mainland countries bordering on the Caribbean: Suriname, Guyana, French Guiana, Brazil, Venezuela, Colombia, and Peru.

Many indigenous languages (actually spoken with the mainland Caribbean rather than the islands) have been added to the list of endangered or extinct languages—for example, Arawak languages (Shebayo, Igñeri, Lokono, Garifuna of St. Vincent, and the one now labeled Taíno by scholars, once spoken in the Greater Antilles), Caribbean (Nepuyo and Yao), Taruma, Atorada, Warrau, Arecuna, Akawaio and Patamona. Some of these languages are still spoken there by a few people.[7][8]

Creole languages

Creoles are contact languages usually spoken in rather isolated colonies, the vocabulary of which is mainly taken from a European language (the lexifier).[9] Creoles generally have no initial or final consonant clusters but have a simple syllable structure which consists of alternating consonants and vowels (e.g. “CVCV”).[10]

A substantial proportion of the world’s creole languages are to be found in the Caribbean and Africa, due partly to their multilingualism and their colonial past. The lexifiers of most of the Caribbean creoles and patois are languages of Indo-European colonizers of the era. Creole languages continue to evolve in the direction of European colonial languages to which they are related, so that decreolization occurs and a post-creole continuum arises. For example, the Jamaican sociolinguistic situation has often been described in terms of this continuum.[11] Papiamento, spoken on the so-called ‘ABC’ islands (Aruba, Bonaire, and Curaçao), shows traces of both indigenous languages and Spanish,[12] Portuguese, and Dutch lexicons.).

In Jamaica though generally English-speaking island, a patois, often called “patwa” drawing on a multitude of influences including Spanish, Portuguese, Hindi, Arawak and African languages as well as Irish. In Barbados, a dialect often known as “bajan” have influences from West African languages that can be heard on a regular daily basis.

Contact between French- and English-lexified creoles is fairly common in the Lesser Antilles (apart from Saint Lucia), and can also be observed on Dominica, Saint Vincent, Carriacou, Petite Martinique and Grenada.[13]

Others

Asian languages such as Chinese and other Indian languages such as Tamil are spoken by Asian expatriates and their descendants exclusively. In earlier historical times, other Indo-European languages, such as Danish or German,[14] could be found in northeastern parts of the Caribbean.

Change and policy

Throughout the long multilingual history of the Caribbean continent, Caribbean languages have been subject to phenomena like language contact, language expansion, language shift, and language death.[15] Two examples are the Spanish expansion, in which Spanish-speaking peoples expanded over most of central Caribbean, thereby displacing Arawak speaking peoples in much of the Caribbean, and the Creole expansion, in which Creole-speaking peoples expanded over several of islands. Another example is the English expansion in the 17th century, which led to the extension of English to much of the north and the east Caribbean.

Trade languages are another age-old phenomenon in the Caribbean linguistic landscape. Cultural and linguistic innovations that spread along trade routes, and languages of peoples dominant in trade, developed into languages of wider communication (linguae francae). Of particular importance in this respect are French (in the central and east Caribbean) and Dutch (in the south and the east Caribbean).

After gaining independence, many Caribbean countries, in the search for national unity, selected one language (generally the former colonial language) to be used in government and education. In recent years, Caribbean countries have become increasingly convinced of the importance of linguistic diversity. Language policies that are being developed nowadays are mostly aimed at multilingualism.[16]

Demographics

Of the 38 million West Indians (as of 2001),[17] about 62% speak Spanish (a west Caribbean lingua franca). About 25% speak French, about 15% speak English, and 5% speak Dutch. Spanish and English are important second languages: 24 million and 9 million speak them as second languages.

The following is a list of major Caribbean languages (by total number of speakers)[needs updating]:

Country/Territory
Population
Official language
Spoken languages
Anguilla
11,430
English
English, Anguillian Creole English, Spanish (immigrants)
Antigua and Barbuda
66,970
English
English, Antiguan Creole English, Spanish (immigrants)
Aruba
103,400
Dutch, Papiamento
Papiamento, Dutch, English, Spanish
Bahamas
303,611
English
English, Bahamian Creole, Haitian Creole (immigrants), Spanish (immigrants), Chinese (immigrants)
Barbados
275,330
English
English, Bajan Creole
Bay Islands, Honduras
49,151
Spanish
Spanish, English, Creole English, Garifuna
Bermuda
63,503
English
English, Bermudian Vernacular English, Portuguese
Bonaire
14,230
Dutch
Papiamento, Dutch, English, Spanish
Bocas del Toro Archipelago
13000
Spanish
Spanish
British Virgin Islands
20,812
English
English, Virgin Islands Creole English, Spanish (immigrants)
Cayman Islands
40,900
English
English, Cayman Creole English, Spanish (immigrants)
Corn Islands
7,429
Spanish
Spanish, English
Cuba
11,217,100
Spanish
Spanish
Curaçao
130,000
Dutch, Papiamentu, English
Papiamento, Dutch, English, Spanish
Dominica
70,786
English
English, Antillean Creole French, French, Haitian Creole (immigrants)
Federal Dependencies of Venezuela
2,155
Spanish

Dominican Republic
8,581,477
Spanish
Spanish, Haitian Creole (immigrants), English (immigrants)
Grenada
89,227
English
English, Grenadian Creole English, Antillean Creole French
Guadeloupe
431,170
French
French, Antillean Creole French, Spanish (immigrants)
Guyana
747,884
English
English, Guyanese Creole, Guyanese Hindustani (Hindi-Urdu), Spanish, Portuguese, Chinese, Tamil, and the native languages: Akawaio, Macushi, Waiwai, Arawak, Patamona, Warrau, Carib, Wapishana, and Arekuna
Haiti
6,964,549
French, Creole
French, Haitian Creole
Isla Cozumel
50,000
Spanish
Spanish, English
Isla Mujeres
12642
Spanish
Spanish, English
Jamaica
2,665,636
English
English, Jamaican Patois, Spanish, Caribbean Hindustani, Irish, Chinese
Martinique
418,454
French
French, Antillean Creole French, Spanish (immigrants)
Montserrat
7,574
English
English, Montserrat Creole English
Nueva Esparta
491,610
Spanish

Puerto Rico
3,808,610
Spanish, English
Spanish, English
Saba
1,704
Dutch
English, Saban Creole English, Dutch
Saint Barthelemy
6,500
French
French, French Creole, English
Saint Kitts and Nevis
38,756
English
English, Saint Kitts and Nevis Creole English, Spanish (immigrants)
Saint Lucia
158,178
English
English, Saint Lucian Creole French, French
Saint Martin
27,000
French
English, St. Martin Creole English, French, Antillean Creole French (immigrants), Spanish (immigrants), Haitian Creole (immigrants)
Saint Vincent and the Grenadines
115,942
English
English, Vincentian Creole English, Antillean Creole French
San Andrés, Providencia and Santa Catalina
75,167
Spanish
English, Spanish, San Andrés–Providencia Creole
Sint Eustatius
2,249
Dutch
English, Statian Creole English, Dutch, Spanish (immigrants)
Sint Maarten
41,718
Dutch, English
English, St. Martin Creole English, Dutch, Papiamento (immigrants), Antillean Creole French (immigrants), Spanish (immigrants), Haitian Creole (immigrants)
Suriname
541,638
Dutch
Dutch, Sranan Tongo, Sarnami Hindustani (Hindi-Urdu), Javanese, Ndyuka, Saramaccan, Chinese, English, Portuguese, French, Spanish, and the native languages: Akurio, Arawak-Lokono, Carib-Kari’nja, Mawayana, Sikiana-Kashuyana, Tiro-Tiriyó, Waiwai, Warao, and Wayana
Trinidad and Tobago
1,169,682
English
English, Trinidadian Creole, Tobagonian Creole, Trinidadian Hindustani (Hindi-Urdu), Spanish, Chinese, Arabic, Trinidadian French Creole, Yoruba
Turks and Caicos Islands
36,132
English
English, Turks and Caicos Creole English, Spanish (immigrants), Haitian Creole (immigrants)
United States Virgin Islands
108,000
English
English, Virgin Islands Creole English, Danish (colonial), Spanish (immigrants), Antillean Creole French (immigrants)

Linguistic features

Some linguistic features are particularly common among languages spoken in the Caribbean, whereas others seem less common. Such shared traits probably are not due to a common origin of all Caribbean languages. Instead, some may be due to language contact (resulting in borrowing) and specific idioms and phrases may be due to a similar cultural background.

Syntax

Widespread syntactical structures include the common use of adjectival verbs for e.g.:” He dirty the floor. The use of juxtaposition to show possession as in English Creole, “John book” instead of Standard English, “John’s book”, the omission of the copula in structures such as “he sick” and “the boy reading”. In Standard English, these examples would be rendered, ‘he seems/appears/is sick’ and “the boy is reading”.

Semantic

Quite often, only one term is used for both animal and meat; the word nama or nyama for animal/meat is particularly widespread in otherwise widely divergent Caribbean languages.

See also

Anglophone Caribbean
Antillean Creole
Caribbean English
Caribbean Spanish
Caribbean Hindustani
Creole language
Use of the Dutch language in the Caribbean
English-based creole languages
French-based creole languages
List of sovereign states and dependent territories in the Caribbean
Pre-Arawakan languages of the Greater Antilles

Notes

^ For Caribbean community see Commonwealth Caribbean and CARICOM

^ Using the 2001 census of the region.

^ Orjala, Paul Richard. (1970). A Dialect Survey Of Haitian Creole, Hartford Seminary Foundation. 226p.

^ Pompilus, Pradel. (1961). La langue française en Haïti. Paris: IHEAL. 278p

^ Ureland, P. Sture. (1985). ‘Entstehung von Sprachen und Völkern'(Origins of Languages and Peoples). Tübingen

^ .mw-parser-output cite.citation{font-style:inherit}.mw-parser-output .citation q{quotes:”\”””\”””‘””‘”}.mw-parser-output .id-lock-free a,.mw-parser-output .citation .cs1-lock-free a{background:linear-gradient(transparent,transparent),url(“//upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/6/65/Lock-green.svg”)right 0.1em center/9px no-repeat}.mw-parser-output .id-lock-limited a,.mw-parser-output .id-lock-registration a,.mw-parser-output .citation .cs1-lock-limited a,.mw-parser-output .citation .cs1-lock-registration a{background:linear-gradient(transparent,transparent),url(“//upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/d/d6/Lock-gray-alt-2.svg”)right 0.1em center/9px no-repeat}.mw-parser-output .id-lock-subscription a,.mw-parser-output .citation .cs1-lock-subscription a{background:linear-gradient(transparent,transparent),url(“//upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/a/aa/Lock-red-alt-2.svg”)right 0.1em center/9px no-repeat}.mw-parser-output .cs1-subscription,.mw-parser-output .cs1-registration{color:#555}.mw-parser-output .cs1-subscription span,.mw-parser-output .cs1-registration span{border-bottom:1px dotted;cursor:help}.mw-parser-output .cs1-ws-icon a{background:linear-gradient(transparent,transparent),url(“//upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/4/4c/Wikisource-logo.svg”)right 0.1em center/12px no-repeat}.mw-parser-output code.cs1-code{color:inherit;background:inherit;border:none;padding:inherit}.mw-parser-output .cs1-hidden-error{display:none;font-size:100%}.mw-parser-output .cs1-visible-error{font-size:100%}.mw-parser-output .cs1-maint{display:none;color:#33aa33;margin-left:0.3em}.mw-parser-output .cs1-format{font-size:95%}.mw-parser-output .cs1-kern-left,.mw-parser-output .cs1-kern-wl-left{padding-left:0.2em}.mw-parser-output .cs1-kern-right,.mw-parser-output .cs1-kern-wl-right{padding-right:0.2em}.mw-parser-output .citation .mw-selflink{font-weight:inherit}”Sarnámi Hindustani”. Omniglot. Retrieved June 8, 2016.

^ Amerindian Peoples’ Association.(2003). Guyana

^ Devonish, H., (Mar 2010) ‘The Language Heritage of the Caribbean’ Barbados: University of the West Indies

^ Lexifiers are languages of the former major colonial powers, whereas the grammatical structure is usually attributed to other languages spoken in the colonies, the so-called substrates.

^ Romaine, Suzanne (1988): Pidgin and creole languages. London: Longman, p.63

^ David, DeCamp. (1971) Pidgin and Creole Languages Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 13-39:351

^ see newspaper Civilisadó 1871–1875

^ Loftman, Beryl I. (1953). Creole Languages Of The Caribbean Area, New York: Columbia University

^ Schumann, Theophilus. (1748). Letters from Pilgerhut in Berbice to Ludwig von Zinzendorf, Berlin. A pilgrim who, with help from a native Arawak, translated his German Bible into the native language.

^ Devonish, H. (2004). Languages disappeared in the Caribbean region, University of the West Indies

^ Taylor, Douglas. (1977). Languages of the West Indies, London: Johns Hopkins University Press

^ All population data is from The World Factbook estimates (July 2001) with these exceptions: Bay Islands, Cancun, Isla Cozumel, Isla de Margarita, Saint Barthelemy, Saint Martin (these were obtained by CaribSeek’s own research. Anguilla, Bahamas, Cuba, Cayman Islands, and the Netherlands Antilles population data are from the sources mentioned below, and are estimates for the year 2000.

References

Adelaar, Willem F. H. (2004). Languages of the Andes: The Arawakan languages of the Caribbean, Cambridge University Press ISBN 052136275X
Appel, René., Muysken, Pieter. (2006). Language Contact and Bilingualism: Languages of the Caribbean
Ferreira, Jas. (). Caribbean Languages and Caribbean Linguistics
Gramley, Stephan., Pätzold, Kurt-Michael. (2003). A survey of modern English: The Languages of the Caribbean.
Patterson, Thomas C., Early colonial encounters and identities in the Caribbean
Penny, Ralph John, (2002). A history of the Spanish language.
Roberts, Peter. (1988). West Indians & their language Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Sprauve, Gilbert A., (1990). Dutch Creole/English Creole distancing: historical and contemporary data considered, International Journal of the Sociology of Language. Vol 1990:85, pp. 41–50
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Papiamento - the secret language of the Caribbean

Papiamento – the secret language of the Caribbean – Papiamento is a Creole language that contains elements of Spanish, Portuguese, Dutch, English and French, as well as Arawakan and African languages. It is primarily spoken in the lower Caribbean islands of Aruba, Bonaire and Curaçao also known as the ABC islands.Speakers of Caribbean Creole languages are demonstrating increased confidence about the value of their own languages and associated cultural identities. These speakers are, therefore, now much more likely than before to assert their language rights and to impose their linguistic and cultural identities on the nation states within which they live.Visitors to the Caribbean Islands will find that in addition to the languages above, there is a local patois or a creole that is spoken by the locals usually to communicate with each other. It is called Papiamento in the Dutch Caribbean.

Language and Liberation: Creole Language Politics in the – English is the first or second language in the majority of Caribbean islands as well as being the unofficial "language of tourism". It's the official language of Anguilla, Antigua, the Bahamas, Barbados the British Virgin Islands, Cayman Islands, Dominica, Grenada, Jamaica, St. Croix, St. John St. Kitts, and St. Thomas.* English is the official language of Anguilla, Antigua & Barbuda, Bahamas, Barbados, British Virgin Islands, Cayman Islands, Dominica, Grenada, Guyana, Jamaica, Montserrat, Puerto Rico, St. Kitts & Nevis, St. Lucia, Saint Maarten, St. Vincent & the Grenadines, Trinidad & Tobago, Turks & Caicos Islands, and the United States Virgin Islands.Mohammed, (2010) states that the Creole languages used in the Caribbean bear some degree of similarity to each other. For this reason they belong to a language family which is divergent from the one which was supposedly imposed on them, that is, the English Language.

Language and Liberation: Creole Language Politics in the

Most Commonly Spoken Languages of the Caribbean – Yazyk – Caribbean > Garifuna . Garifuna. an Afro-Indigenous Arawakan language, spoken in Honduras, Belize, Nicaragua, and Guatemala. Background. The Garifuna language is spoken primarily in Honduras, Belize and Guatemala. A large population of speakers are also found in New York City, as well as Los Angeles and New Orleans. The most reliable estimateEnglish is the official language of this Caribbean country of South America. Nevertheless, there are at least 15 other languages spoken in Guyana, including Tamil (from India) and Arawak (an indigenous Caribbean language). Jamaica. Along with English, some Jamaicans speak Jamaican Patois, Spanish, Caribbean Hindustani, Irish, or Chinese.European Languages in the Caribbean. Because of the complicated history of colonization, several European languages are widely spoken today in the region. Most Caribbean countries have a European language (English, Spanish, French or Dutch) as one of their official languages. For instance, Spanish is the official language in Cuba and the

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