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Trinidadian Creole

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Trinidadian Creole is a creole language commonly spoken throughout Trinidad. It is distinct from Tobagonian Creole – particularly at the basilectal level – and from other Lesser Antillean English creoles.

English is the country’s official language (the local standard variety is Trinidadian English), but the main spoken languages are Trinidadian Creole and Tobagonian Creole. Both creoles contain elements from a variety of African languages. Trinidadian Creole is also influenced by French and French Creole (patois).

Trinidadian Creole
Native to Trinidad
Native speakers
1 million (2011)
Language family
English Creole

  • Atlantic
    • Eastern
      • Southern
        • Trinidadian Creole
Language codes
ISO 639-3 trf
Glottolog trin1276
Linguasphere 52-ABB-au


Like other Caribbean English-based creoles, Trinidadian Creole has a primarily English-derived vocabulary. Although the island also had a creole with a largely French and Antillean creole lexicon until the nineteenth century, when it was gradually replaced, due to influence from the British.

Other languages on the island, such as Spanish, a number of African languages, Chinese (mainly Cantonese, with some Hakka, and now Mandarin) and Bhojpuri (which acted as a lingua franca amongst Indian immigrants) have also influenced the language.

Phonological features

Although there is considerable variation, some generalizations can be made about the speech of Trinidad:

  • Like a number of related creoles, Trinidadian Creole is non-rhotic, meaning that /r/ does not occur after vowels, except in recent loanwords or names from Spanish, Hindi/Bhojpuri, and Arabic.
  • In mesolectal forms, cut, cot, caught, and curt are all pronounced with [ɒ].
  • The dental fricatives of English are replaced with dental/alveolar stops.


Both Trinidad and Tobago feature creole continua between more conservative creole forms and forms much closer to Trinidadian English, with the former being more common in spontaneous speech and the latter in more formal speech. Because of the social values attributed to linguistic forms, the more common varieties (that is, more creolized forms) carry little prestige.

Example words and phrases

  • bacchanal: to have a good time/drama
  • back chat: insolence.
  • bad-john: a bully or gangster.
  • chinksin: miserly; distributing less than one could or should.
  • calypso: a musical or lyrical comment on something, particularly popular during Carnival.
  • dougla: a person having both East Indian and African parentage.
  • full pelt: as fast as possible.
  • lime: to party and hang out
  • maco: someone who gets into other people’s business.
  • maljo: an evil spell of misfortune cast out of envy.
  • pothound: a mongrel dog of no specific breed; mutt.
  • tabanca: heartbreak.
  • ups kabat: a type of game played with marbles.
  • vaps: a sudden or inexplicable move or statement.

Published - August 2016

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