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(Immigrant communities: UK, Canada, US)
|unknown (undated figure of 700,000)|
Guyanese Creole (Creolese by its speakers: or simply Guyanese) is an English-based creole language spoken by people in Guyana. Linguistically, it is most similar to other English dialects of the Caribbean region, but has slight influences from Dutch, West African languages, Arawakan and Caribbean languages (such as Jamaican Patois, and Haitian Creole) and to a lesser extent Indian languages. It is distantly related to Paramaccan and Aluku.
Varieties and influences
There are many sub-dialects of Guyanese Creole based on geographical location, urban/rural divide 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, can be 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 English. Speech by members of the upper classes are phonetically closest to British and American English, whereas speech by members of the lower classes most closely resemble 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.|
It is common in Guyanese Creole to repeat adjectives for emphasis (as if saying, very or extremely). 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 the tendency towards replacing the "-er" and its corresponding sound with the "-a" among the older generation. As they pick up newer words, they tend to repeat what was heard versus what the word actually is, for example, "Computer" is translated to "Computa" and "River" to "Riva". Various items and actions have also been given their own names that either vaguely resembling the original or being a corruption of the original.
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 to the ricefield" - Meaning: "Every day I hurry to 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)
- Bickerton, Derek (1973), "The nature of a creole continuum", Language 49 (3): 640–669
- Edwards, Walter (1989), "Suurin, koocharin, and grannin in Guyana: Masked intentions and communication theory", American Speech 64 (3): 225–232
- Escure, Geneviève (1999), "The pragmaticization of past in creoles", American Speech 74 (2): 165–202
- Gibson, Kean (1986), "The ordering of auxiliary notions in Guyanese Creole", Language (3): 571–586
- Gibson, Kean (1988), "The habitual category in Guyanese and Jamaican creoles", American Speech 63 (3): 195–202, doi:10.2307/454817