Guinea-Bissau Creole

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Guinea-Bissau Creole
Kriol, Kiriol, Kriolu
Native to Guinea-Bissau, Senegal
Native speakers
unknown (undated figure of 480,000)[1]
600,000+ L2 users
Portuguese Creole
  • Afro-Portuguese Creoles
    • Upper Guinea
      • Guinea-Bissau Creole
Language codes
ISO 639-3 pov
Glottolog uppe1455[2]
Linguasphere 51-AAC-ab

Guinea-Bissau Creole (native name kriol, kiriol or kriolu varying with dialects; crioulo da Guiné in Portuguese) is the lingua franca of the West African country of Guinea Bissau. It is a Portuguese-based creole language, closely related to Cape Verdean creole. Kriolu is spoken as a first language by approximately 15% (190,000) of Bissau-Guineans and as a second language by approximately 45% (600,000), and is the de facto language of national identity.[1] It is also spoken in parts of Senegal, primarily as a trade language. Portuguese itself is the official language of Guinea Bissau, although it is not spoken regularly by a majority of the population.


Upper Guinea creoles are the oldest Portuguese-based creoles, first appearing around the Portuguese settlements along the northwest coast of Africa. Bissau-Guinean Creole is therefore among the first Portuguese Creoles. Portuguese merchants and settlers started to mix with locals almost immediately; this became a rule among Portuguese explorers and the main reason for the large number of Portuguese Creoles throughout the world. A small body of settlers called lançados ("the thrown out ones"), contributed to the spread of the Portuguese language and influence by being the intermediaries between the Portuguese and natives.

There are three main dialects of this Creole in Guinea-Bissau and Senegal:

  • Bissau and Bolama
  • Bafata
  • Cacheu–Ziguinchor

The Creole's substrate language is the language of the local peoples: Mandingas, Manjacos, Pepéis and others, but most of the lexicon (around 80%) comes from Portuguese.

The dialect of Casamance (Ziguinchor), similar to the one of Cacheu (Guinea-Bissau) has some influence of French. Fijus di Terra (Filhos da Terra, English: Children of the Land) and Fijus di Fidalgu (Port. Filhos de Fidalgo, Eng. Children of Nobles) speak it, all of them are known, locally, as Portuguis because they adopt European habits, are Catholics and speak a Creole. They are descendants of Portuguese men and African women. Most of them have Portuguese surnames, such as da Silva, Carvalho or Fonseca. The former Kingdom of Casamance made a friendship alliance with the Portuguese and the local king adopted European lifestyle and there were Portuguese in his court . In 1899, the city was ceded to France and in the middle of the 20th century, the language spread to the surrounding area. After Senegal's independence from France, the Creole people were seen as friends of the French, and discrimination by the more numerous northern Wolof speaking community started, which has caused Casamance to struggle for independence since 1982. Today, although they continue to struggle, the movement is more placid and learning Portuguese became popular in Senegal[citation needed] because they see it has a link to their past. In Senegal, the Creole is the first language of at least 46,500 people (1998), it is mainly spoken in Ziguinchor but also there are speakers in other Casamance cities and in The Gambia.


  1. ^ a b Guinea-Bissau Creole at Ethnologue (17th ed., 2013)
  2. ^ Nordhoff, Sebastian; Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin, eds. (2013). "Upper Guinea Crioulo". Glottolog 2.2. Leipzig: Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology. 


Thesis on body part idioms in Guinea-Bissau Creole: