Antillean Creole French

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Antillean Creole
kreyol, kwéyòl, patois
Native to French Antilles, Dominica, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Grenada, Trinidad & Tobago[1]
Native speakers
1.2 million  (1998–2001)[2]
French Creole
  • Antillean Creole
Language codes
ISO 639-3 Variously:
gcf – Guadeloupean Creole
acf – Saint Lucian / Dominican Creole
scf – San Miguel Creole French (Panama)
Glottolog less1242[3]

51-AAC-cc (varieties:

51-AAC-cca to -cck)
This article contains IPA phonetic symbols. Without proper rendering support, you may see question marks, boxes, or other symbols instead of Unicode characters.

Antillean Creole is a French-based creole, which is primarily spoken in the Lesser Antilles. Its grammar and vocabulary include elements of Carib and African languages.[citation needed]

Antillean Creole is related to Haitian Creole but has a number of distinctive features; however, they are mutually intelligible. The language was formerly more widely spoken in the Lesser Antilles, but its number of speakers is declining in Trinidad & Tobago and Grenada. While the islands of Dominica and Saint Lucia are officially English-speaking, there are efforts to preserve the use of Antillean Creole, as well as in Trinidad & Tobago and its neighbour Venezuela. In recent decades, it has gone from being seen as a sign of lower socio-economic status, banned in school playgrounds,[4] to a mark of national pride.

Since the 1970s there has been a literary revival of Creole in the French-speaking islands of the Lesser Antilles, with writers such as Raphaël Confiant and Monchoachi employing the language. Edouard Glissant has written theoretically and poetically about its significance and its history.

Antillean Creole is spoken, to varying degrees, in Dominica, Grenada, Guadeloupe, Îles des Saintes, Martinique, Saint-Barthélemy (St. Barts), Saint Martin, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent, French Guiana, Trinidad and Tobago and Venezuela (mainly in Macuro, Güiria and El Callao). Dominican, Grenadian, St. Lucian, Trinidadian, Brazillian (Lanc-Patuá) and Venezuelan speakers of Antillean Creole call the language patois.[5]

Antillean Creole has approximately 1 million speakers. It is a means of communication for migrant populations traveling between neighbouring English- and French-speaking territories.


Pierre Belain d'Esnambuc was a French trader and adventurer in the Caribbean, who established the first permanent French colony, Saint-Pierre, on the island of Martinique in 1635. Belain sailed to the Caribbean in 1625, hoping to establish a French settlement on the island of St. Christopher (St. Kitts). In 1626 he returned to France, where he won the support of Cardinal Richelieu to establish French colonies in the region. Richelieu became a shareholder in the Compagnie de Saint-Christophe, created to accomplish this with d'Esnambuc at its head. The company was not particularly successful and Richelieu had it reorganized as the Compagnie des Îles de l'Amérique. In 1635 d'Esnambuc sailed to Martinique with one hundred French settlers to clear land for sugar cane plantations.

After six months on Martinique, d'Esnambuc returned to St. Christopher, where he soon died prematurely in 1636, leaving the company and Martinique in the hands of his nephew, Du Parquet. His nephew, Jacques Dyel du Parquet, inherited d'Esnambuc's authority over the French settlements in the Caribbean. In 1637, His nephew Jacques Dyel du Parquet became governor of the island. He remained in Martinique and did not concern himself with the other islands.

The French permanently settled on Martinique and Guadeloupe after being driven off Saint Kitts and Nevis (Saint-Christophe in French) by the British. Fort Royal (Fort-de-France) on Martinique was a major port for French battle ships in the region from which the French were able to explore the region. In 1638, Jacques Dyel du Parquet (1606-1658), nephew of Pierre Belain d'Esnambuc and first governor of Martinique, decided to have Fort Saint Louis built to protect the city against enemy attacks. From Fort Royal, Martinique, Du Parquet proceeded south in search for new territories and established the first settlement in St.Lucia in 1643, and headed an expedition which established a French settlement in Grenada in 1649. Despite the long history of British rule, Grenada's French heritage is still evidenced by the number of French loanwords in Grenadian Creole, French-style buildings, cuisine and places name (For ex. Petit Martinique, Martinique Channel, etc.)

In 1642 the Compagnie des Îles de l'Amérique company received a twenty-year extension of its charter. The King would name the Governor General of the company, and the company the Governors of the various islands. However, by the late 1640s, in France Mazarin had little interest in colonial affairs and the company languished. In 1651 it dissolved itself, selling its exploitation rights to various parties. The du Paquet family bought Martinique, Grenada, and Saint Lucia for 60,000 livres. The sieur d'Houël bought Guadeloupe, Marie-Galante, La Desirade and the Saintes. The Knights of Malta bought Saint Barthélemy and Saint Martin, which were made dependencies of Guadeloupe. In 1665, the Knights sold the islands they had acquired to the newly formed (1664) Compagnie des Indes occidentales.

Dominica is a former French and British colony in the Eastern Caribbean, located about halfway between the French islands of Guadeloupe (to the north) and Martinique (to the south). Christopher Columbus named the island after the day of the week on which he spotted it, a Sunday (domingo in Latin), 3 November 1493. In the hundred years after Columbus's landing, Dominica remained isolated. At the time it was inhabited by the Island Caribs, or Kalinago people, and over time more settled there after being driven from surrounding islands, as European powers entered the region. In 1690, French woodcutters from Martinique and Guadeloupe begin to set up timber camps to supply the French islands with wood and gradually become permanent settlers. France had a colony for several years, they imported slaves from West Africa, Martinique and Guadeloupe to work on its plantations. In this period, the Antillean Creole language developed. France formally ceded possession of Dominica to Great Britain in 1763. Great Britain established a small colony on the island in 1805. As a result, Dominica speak English as an official language while Antillean creole is spoken as a secondary language and is well maintained due to its location between the French-speaking departments of Guadeloupe and Martinique.

In Trinidad, the Spanish who were in possession of the island, contributed little towards advancements, with El Dorado the focus, Trinidad was perfect due to its geographical location. Because Trinidad was considered underpopulated, Roume de St. Laurent, a Frenchman living in Grenada, was able to obtain a Cédula de Población from the Spanish king Charles III on 4 November 1783. Following the cedula of population French planters with their slaves, free coloreds and mulattos from the French Antilles of Martinique, Grenada, Guadeloupe and Dominica migrated to the Trinidad. They too added to the ancestry of Trinidadians, creating the creole identity; Spanish, French, and Patois were the languages spoken. The Spanish also gave many incentives to lure settlers to the island, including exemption from taxes for ten years and land grants in accordance to the terms set out in the Cedula. These new immigrants establishing local communities of Blanchisseuse, Champs Fleurs, Paramin, Cascade, Carenage and Laventille. Trinidad's population jumped to over 15,000 by the end of 1789, from just under 1,400 in 1777. In 1797, Trinidad became a British crown colony, with a French-speaking population. This exodus was encouraged due to the French Revolution.


Antillean Kwéyòl was born out of the slavery era, Africans were assigned to the slavery plantations in the French Antilles; the French of their slave masters and their native tongues were somewhat useless as a method of communication since they spoke different languages. As a result, they were forced to develop a new form of communication by relying on what they heard from their colonial masters and other slaves. Sporadically, they would use words they thought they heard their colonial masters speak and combine them with their African expressions and sentence structure; thus, new words were wrought (fashioned) and given meaning.[citation needed]

Gradually, this new method of communication amongst the slaves spread across the regions of the Caribbean. This “Creole” language (French for "indigenous") progressively grew into a more recognizable language.[citation needed]

Variety of Antillean creole[edit]

Dominican Creole French[edit]

The Dominican Creole French is a creole French, which is the generally spoken language in Dominica.[6]

It is a sub-variety of Antillean Creole, which is spoken in other islands of the Lesser Antilles and is very closely related to the varieties spoken in Martinique, Saint Lucia, Guadeloupe, Grenada and Trinidad and Tobago. The intelligibility rate with speakers of other varieties of Antillean Creole is almost 100%. Its syntactic, grammatical and lexical features are virtually identical to that of Martinican Creole, though, like its Saint Lucian counterpart, it includes more English loanwords than the Martinican variety. People who speak Haitian Creole can also understand Dominican Creole French, even though there are a number of distinctive features; they are mutually intelligible.

Like the other Caribbean Creoles, Dominican French Creole combines syntax of African and Carib origin with a primarily French-derived vocabulary.

Saint Lucian Creole French[edit]

The Saint Lucian Creole French is a French-based creole, which is the generally spoken language in Saint Lucia.

It is a sub-variety of Antillean Creole, which is spoken in other islands of the Lesser Antilles and is very closely related to the varieties spoken in Martinique, Dominica, Guadeloupe, Grenada and Trinidad and Tobago. Its syntactic, grammatical and lexical features are virtually identical to that of Martinican Creole.

Like the other Caribbean Creoles, Saint Lucian French Creole combines syntax of African and Carib origin with a primarily French-derived vocabulary.[citation needed] In addition, many expressions reflect the presence of an Spanish influence are also present in the language.[citation needed] The language can be considered to be mutually intelligible with French,[7] and is also intelligible with the other French creoles of the Lesser Antilles, and is not related to Haitian Creole which has a number of distinctive features, nonetheless they are both mutually unintelligible to one another.[8]

It is still widely spoken in Saint Lucia. In the mid 19th century it was exported to Panama, where it is now moribund.

Grenadian Creole French[edit]

The Grenadian Creole French is a variety of Antillean Creole French.[9] In Grenada, and among Grenadians, it is referred to as Patois or French Patois. This was once the lingua franca in Grenada, and was commonly heard as recently as 1930, when even children in some rural areas could speak it. In the twenty-first century, it can only be heard among elderly speakers in a few small pockets of the country.

Senior citizens still speak Creole French, but they are becoming fewer and fewer because, unlike St. Lucia and Dominica which lie close to the French islands of Martinique and Guadeloupe, Grenada does not have French speaking neighbours to keep that language alive. Nevertheless, and in spite of the fact that, a generation or two ago, the use of Grenadian-English was frowned on by teachers and parents, a look at the history gives some understanding as to why conversations today are so liberally sprinkled with a collection of picturesque French Creole words and phrases.

French, or French Creole, was the language of the large majority of the inhabitants, slaves and estate owners, and, though the new British administrators spoke English, French was predominant.

Trinidadian French Creole[edit]

The Trinidadian French Creole is a French-patois of Trinidad spoken by descendants of the French Creole migrants from the French Antilles.

The Cedula of Population of 1783 laid the foundation and growth of the population of Trinidad. Following the Cedula of population, French planters with their slaves, free coloreds and mulattos from the French Antilles of Martinique, Grenada, Guadeloupe and Dominica migrated to the Trinidad during the French Revolution. These new immigrants establishing local communities of Blanchisseuse, Champs Fleurs, Paramin, Cascade, Carenage, Laventille, etc. Trinidad's population jumped to over 15,000 by the end of 1789, from just under 1,400 in 1777. This exodus was encouraged due to the French Revolution.

In 1797, Trinidad became a British crown colony, with a French-speaking population. Today, the Trinidadian French Creole can be found in regional pockets among the elder population, particularly in the villages of Paramin and Lopinot.


Road sign in residential area in Guadeloupe. Slow down. Children are playing here.
  • Hello - bonjou /bonzu/ (from "bonjour").
  • Please - souplé /su plɛ/ (from "s'il vous plaît").
  • Thank you - mèsi /mɛsi/ (from "merci").
  • Excuse me - eskizé mwen (from "excusez-moi").
  • Rain is falling - lapli ka tonbé / lapli ap tonbe (Haitian) / (from "la pluie qui est/a tombé").
  • Today is a nice/beautiful day - jodi-a sé an bel jounin / yon bel jou jodi-a bel (from "aujourd'hui c'est une belle journée").
  • How are you/how are you keeping - ka ou fè? (Guadeloupe) / sa ou fè? (Martinique) sa k ap fèt? (Haitian).
  • Anne is my sister/mother/wife - Ann sé sè/manman/madanm (an) mwen
  • Andy is my brother/father/husband - Andy sé fwè/papa/mari (an) mwen
  • He is going to the beach - i ka alé bodlanmè-a/laplaj (from "il va aller au bord de la mer/à la plage")

Text Sample[edit]

Below is a sample of St. Lucian Creole French taken from a folktale.[10]

Pwenmyé ki pasé sé Konpè Kochon. I di, "Konpè Lapen, sa ou ka fè la?"

Konpè Lapen di'y, "Dé ti twou yanm ng'a (=mwen ka) fouyé bay ich mwen pou mwen bay ich mwen manjé."

Konpè Kochon di, "Mé, Konpè, ou kouyon, wi! Ou vlé di mwen sa kay fè yanm?"

An inaccurate English translation from the same source:

First to pass was Konpè Kochon (Mister Pig). He said, "Konpè Lapen (Mister Rabbit), what are you doing there?"

Konpè Lapen told him, "I am digging a few holes to plant yams to feed my children."

Konpè Kochon said, "But, Konpè, you're too foolish! You mean to tell me you can grow yams there?"


  1. ^ Ethnologue codes Guadeloupean Creole French (spoken in Guadeloupe and Martinique) and Saint Lucian Creole French (spoken in Dominica and Saint Lucia) distinctly, with the respective ISO 639-3 codes: gcf and acf. However, it notes that their rate of comprehension is 90%, which would qualify them as dialects of a single language.
  2. ^ Guadeloupean Creole at Ethnologue (18th ed., 2015)
    Saint Lucian / Dominican Creole at Ethnologue (18th ed., 2015)
    San Miguel Creole French (Panama) at Ethnologue (18th ed., 2015)
  3. ^ Nordhoff, Sebastian; Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin, eds. (2013). "Antillean Creole". Glottolog. Leipzig: Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology. 
  4. ^ Guilbault, Jocelyne (1993). Zouk: world music in the West Indies. University of Chicago Press. p. 12. ISBN 978-0-226-31041-1. Retrieved 2010-05-22. 
  5. ^ Gordon, Raymond G., Jr. (ed.), 2005. Languages of Dominica. Ethnologue: Languages of the World, SIL International, Fifteenth edition. Dallas, Tex.
  6. ^ "The Creole Language of Dominica". Retrieved 31 March 2014. 
  7. ^ Saint Lucian Dictionary
  8. ^ Saint Lucian Dictionary; Speaker of Saint Lucian creole; Researched whether other Saint Lucian's can understand Haitian Creole which they can't
  9. ^ Ethnologue report for language code:acf
  10. ^ Konpè Lapen mandé on favè = Konpè Lapen asks a favor: a Saint Lucian folk tale. 1985. Vieux-Fort, Saint Lucia: SIL. 10 p.

External links[edit]