Bahamianese or Bahamian Dialect is an English-based creole language spoken by approximately 400,000 people in the Bahamas and the Turks and Caicos Islands.
Bahamianese is spoken by both white and black Bahamians, although in slightly different forms. Bahamianese also tends to be more prevalent in certain areas of the Bahamas. Islands that were settled earlier or that have a historically large Afro-Bahamian population have a greater concentration of individuals exhibiting creolized speech; the creole is most prevalent in urban areas. Individual speakers have command of lesser and greater creolized forms.
Bahamianese also shares similar features with other Caribbean English-based creoles, such as those of Jamaica,Barbados, Trinidad and the Virgin Islands. There is also a very significant link between Bahamian and the Gullah language of South Carolina, as many Bahamians are descendants of slaves brought to the islands from the Gullahregion after the American revolution.
In comparison to many of the English-based creoles of the Caribbean region, limited research has been conducted on what is known as Bahamian Creole. This lack of research on Bahamian Creole is perhaps because for many years, Bahamians have assumed that this language is simply a variety of English. However, academic research shows that this is not the case. In fact, there is much socio-historical and linguistic evidence to support the proposal that it is a creole language.
Though there is variation between black and white speakers, there is a tendency for speakers to drop /h/ or, in a hypercorrection, to add it to words without it soharm and arm are pronounced the same. The merger occurs most often in the speech of Abaco and north Eleuthera.
Some speakers have merged /v/ and /w/ into a single phoneme and pronounce words with [v] or [w] depending on context (the latter appearing in word-initial position and the former appearing elsewhere). Outside of white acrolectal speech, speakers have no dental fricativess and English cognate words are usually pronounced with [d] or [t] as in dis (‘this’) and tink (‘think’). Other characteristics of Bahamian Creole in comparison to English include:
Pronouns in Bahamianese are generally the same as in Standard English. However, the second person plural can take one of three forms:
Possessive pronouns in Bahamianese often differ from Standard English with:
For example, das ya book? means ‘is that your book?’
In addition, the possessive pronouns differ from Standard English:
When describing actions done alone or by a single group, only..one is used, as in only me one sing (‘I’m the only one who sang’) and only Mary one gern Nassau(‘Mary was the only one who went to Nassau’)
Verb usage in the Bahamianese differs significantly from that of Standard English. There is also variation amongst speakers. For example, the word go:
1) I’m going to Freeport:
2) I am going to cook
Similarly, verb «to do» has numerous variations depending on tense and context:
In the present tense, the verb «to be» is usually conjugated «is» regardless of the grammatical person:
The negative form of «to be» usually takes the form «een» I een gern (‘I am not goin’)
While context is often used to indicate tense (e.g. I drink plenny rum las night = ‘I drank a lot of rum last night’), the past tense can also be formed by combining «did», «done», «gone», or «been» with the verb:
Holm & Shilling (1982) features over 5,500 words and phrases not found in Standard English, with the authors attempting to link them to other English-based creoles, like Gullah. Words may derive from English, as well as some African languages.
Published - August 2016
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