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Guyanese Creole





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Guyanese Creole (Creolese by its speakers: or simply Guyanese) is an English-based creole language spoken by people in Guyana. Linguistically, it is similar to other English dialects of the Caribbean region, but has most influences of African and some loan words from Dutch, Arawakan languages, and Indian (East Indian) languages.

Guyanese Creole
Native to Guyana
(Immigrant communities: UK,Canada, US, Netherlands)
Native speakers
unknown (undated figure of 650,000 in Guyana)
50,000 in Surinam (1986)
Language family
English Creole

  • Atlantic
    • Eastern
      • Southern
        • Guyanese Creole
Language codes
ISO 639-3 gyn
Glottolog creo1235
Linguasphere 52-ABB-av

Varieties and influences

There are many sub-dialects of Guyanese Creole based on geographical location, urban — rural location, and race of the speakers. For example, along the Rupununi River, where the population is largely Amerindian, a distinct form of Guyanese Creole exists. The Georgetown (capital city) urban area has a distinct accent, while within a forty-five-minute drive away from this area the dialect/accent changes again, especially if following the coast where rural villages are located.

As with other Caribbean languages, words and phrases are very elastic, and new ones can be made up, changed or evolve within a short period. They can also be used within a very small group, until picked up by a larger community. Ethnic groups are also known to alter or include words from their own backgrounds.

A socially stratified creole speech continuum also exists between Guyanese English and Standard / British English. Speech by members of the upper classes is phonetically closest to British and American English, whereas speech by members of the lower classes most closely resembles other Caribbean English dialects. A phrase such as «I told him» may be pronounced in various parts of the continuum:

Utterance Represents the speech of
[ai tɔuld hɪm] acrolect speech of upper-class speakers
[ai toːld hɪm] mesolect varieties of speech of middle-class speakers
[ai toːl ɪm] mesolect varieties of lower-middle and urban class speakers
[ai tɛl ɪm]
[a tɛl ɪm]
[ai tɛl ɪ]
[a tɛl i]
[mi tɛl i] rural working class
[mi tɛl am] basilect speech of illiterate rural laborers.

Grammar

It is common in Guyanese Creole to repeat adjectives and adverbs for emphasis (the equivalent of adding «very» or «extremely» in standard British and American English), a phenomenon also attested in Polynesian languages. For example, «Dis wata de col col» translates into «This water is very cold». «Come now now» translates into «Come right now.» There is also a tendency among older speakers toward replacing «-er» and its corresponding sound with «-a»; for example, «computer» becomes to «computa» and «river» becomes «riva». Various items and actions have also been given their own names that either vaguely resemble or reflect corruptions of their names in standard English.

Example words and phrases

Note that the following phrases are written as they are pronounced.

  • a go do it - Meaning: «I will do it»
  • dem a waan sting yu waan bil - Literally: «they want to sting your one bill» — Meaning: «they usually want to take money from you»
  • evri de mi a ron a raisfil - Literally: «Every day I run the ricefield» — Meaning: «Every day I take care of the ricefield»
  • i bin get gon - Literally: «He been get gun» — «he had the gun»
  • i wuda tek awi lil taim but awi bin go kom out seef - Literally: «it would have taken us a little time but we would have come out safely»
  • mi a wok abak - Meaning: «I’m working further inland»
  • suurin - a form of courtship (from «suitoring,» itself the result of adapting the noun «suitor» for use as a verb and then applying standard patterns to generate a gerund form)




Published - February 2016










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