Portuguese-based creole languages

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Portuguese creoles are creole languages which have Portuguese as the lexifier language


Portuguese overseas exploration in the 15th and 16th centuries led to the establishment of a Portuguese Empire with trading posts, forts and colonies in the Americas, Asia and Africa. Contact between the Portuguese language and native languages gave rise to many Portuguese-based pidgins, used as linguas francas throughout the Portuguese sphere of influence. In time, many of these pidgins were nativized becoming new stable creole languages.

As is the rule in most creoles, the lexicon of these languages can be traced to the parent languages, usually with predominance of Portuguese; while the grammar is mostly original and unique to each creole with little resemblance to the syntax of Portuguese or of other parent languages.

These creoles are (or were) spoken mostly by communities of descendants of Portuguese, natives, and sometimes other peoples from the Portuguese colonial empire.

Until recently creoles were considered "degenerate" languages unworthy of attention. As a consequence, there is little documentation on the details of their formation. Since the 20th century, increased study of creoles by linguists led to several theories being advanced. According to the monogenetic theory of pidgins, most of the pidgins and creoles the world derived from European languages actually descend from a single pidgin, the Mediterranean Lingua Franca, which was relexified by the Portuguese explorers and used by them throughout the empire. This theory was advanced to explain supposed similarities between all European-based creoles; such as the preposition na, meaning "in" and/or "on", which would come from the Portuguese contraction na meaning "in the" (feminine singular). However, the language bioprogram theory claimed that creole grammars are created by children from pidgins that have no grammatical structure; so the supposed similarities between creoles are a consequence of the unity of human innate linguistic abilities. However, some linguists have dismissed those similarities as being due to residual influences of the parent languages.

Origin of the name[edit]

See also: Creole peoples

The Portuguese word for "creole" is crioulo, which derives from the verb criar ("to raise", "to bring up") and a suffix -oulo of debated origin. Originally the word (like its Spanish equivalent criollo) was used to distinguish the members of any ethnic group who were born and raised in the colonies from those who were born in their homeland. So in Africa it was often applied to locally born people of (wholly or partly) Portuguese descent, as opposed to those born in Portugal; whereas in Brazil it was also used to distinguish locally born black people of African descent from those who had been brought from Africa as slaves.

In time, however, this generic sense was lost, and the word crioulo or its derivatives (like "Creole" and its equivalents in other languages) became the name of several specific communities and their languages, such as the Guinea-Bissauan people (and their language) and the Cape Verdean people (and their language). In Brazil, on the other hand, crioulo became a derogatory term for "black". Its use to refer to a black person is frowned upon, making it a racial slur.


The oldest Portuguese-based creole are the so-called Crioulos of Upper Guinea, born around the Portuguese settlements along the northwest coast of Africa. Originally spoken on a wider area, they are presently reduced to the following branches:

Another group of restructured Portuguese is spoken in the Gulf of Guinea, in São Tomé and Príncipe and Equatorial Guinea:

Many other Portuguese creoles probably existed in Africa, especially in the Congo region and former Portuguese feitorias in the Gulf of Guinea.

Portuguese pidgins still exist in Angola and Mozambique, uncreolized. A Portuguese pidgin, known as Pequeno Português, is still used as lingua franca between people speaking different languages.

Portuguese Creoles are the mother tongue of Cape Verde and São Tomé. In Guinea-Bissau, Creole, which is used as lingua franca among people speaking different languages, is becoming the mother tongue of a growing population.


Portuguese has contributed to Papiamento (spoken in Aruba, Bonaire and Curaçao — Portuguese/Spanish (60%), Dutch (25%), African languages and Arawak (15%)), although its similarity with Spanish makes it difficult to separate the influence of the two languages. An Afro-Portuguese pidgin or creole is posited to be ancestral to both the Portuguese and Spanish creoles of the Caribbean, with characteristically Portuguese features such as ele being retained despite later Spanish influence.[3]

Although sometimes classified as a creole, the Cupópia language from the Quilombo do Cafundó, at Salto de Pirapora, São Paulo,[4] is better classified as a Portuguese variety since it is structurally similar to Portuguese, in spite of having a large number of Bantu words in its lexicon. For languages with this characteristics, H. H. do Couto has forged the designation of Anticreole[5] which would be the inverse of a Creole language, as they are seen by the non-European input theories (i.e.: Creoles = African languages grammar + European languages lexicon; Anticreoles = European languages grammar + African languages lexicon).

Portuguese-based creoles existed in Brazil. There is a Portuguese dialect in Helvécia, South of Bahia that presents signs of an earlier decreolization. Ancient Portuguese creoles originating from Africa are still preserved in the ritual songs of the Afro-Brazilian animist religions (Candomblé)[citation needed].

It has been conjectured that vernacular of Brazil (not the official and standard Brazilian Portuguese) resulted from decreolization of a creole based on Portuguese and native languages; but this is not a widely accepted view. Vernacular Brazilian Portuguese is continuous with European Portuguese, and in fact quite conservative in some aspects.[6] Academic specialists affirm the Brazilian linguistic phenomena are the "nativização", nativization/nativism of a most radically romanic form. The phenomena in Brazilian Portuguese are Classic Latin and Old Portuguese heritage. Not a creole form, but the radical romanic form.[6] Regardless of borrowings and changes, it must be kept in mind that Brazilian Portuguese is not a Portuguese creole, since both grammar and vocabulary remain real Portuguese. Some authors, like Parkvall,[7] classify it as a Semicreole in the concept defined by Holm:[8] a Semicreole is a language that has undergone “partial restructuring, producing varieties which were never fully pidginized and which preserve a substantial part of their lexifier’s structure (...) while showing a noticeable degree of restructuring”.

There is no consensus regarding the position Saramaccan, with some scholars classifying it as Portuguese Creole with an English relexification. Saramaccan may be an English Creole with Portuguese words, since structurally (morphology and syntax) it is related to Surinamese Creoles (Sranan, Ndyuka and Jamaican Maroon), despite the heavy percentage of Portuguese origin words. Other English creoles languages of Suriname, such as the Paramaccan or the Kwinti, have also Portuguese influences.


The numerous Portuguese outposts in India and Sri Lanka gave rise to many Portuguese-based creole languages, of which only a few have survived to the present. The largest group were the Norteiro languages, spoken by the Norteiro people, the Christian Indo-Portuguese in the North Konkan. Those communities were centered around Baçaim, modern Vasai, which was then called the “Northern Court of Portuguese India” (in opposition to the "Southern Court" at Goa). The creole languages spoken in Baçaim, Salsete, Thana, Chevai, Mahim, Tecelaria, Dadar, Parel, Cavel, Bandora (modern Bandra), Gorai, Morol, Andheri, Versova, Malvan, Manori, Mazagão, and Chaul are now extinct. The only surviving Norteiro creoles are:

These surviving Norteiro creoles have suffered drastic changes in the last decades. Standard Portuguese re-influenced the creole of Daman in the mid-20th century.

The Creoles of the Coast of Coromandel, such as of Meliapor, Madras, Tuticorin, Cuddalore, Karikal, Pondicheri, Tranquebar, Manapar, and Negapatam, were already extinct by the 19th century. Their speakers (mostly the people of mixed Portuguese-Indian ancestry, known locally as Topasses) switched to English after the British takeover.

Most of the creoles of the Coast of Malabar, namely those of Cananor, Tellicherry, Mahé, Cochin (modern Kerala), and Quilon) had become extinct by the 19th century. In Cananor and Tellicherry, some elderly people still spoke some creole in the 1980s. The only creole that is still spoken (by a few Christian families only) is

Christians, even in Calcutta, used Portuguese until 1811. A Portuguese Creole was still spoken in the early 20th century. Portuguese creoles were spoken in Bengal, such as at Balasore, Pipli, Chandernagore, Chittagong, Midnapore and Hugli.

Sri Lanka[edit]

Significant Portuguese-based creole flourished among the so-called Burgher and Kaffir communities of Sri Lanka:

In the past, Portuguese creoles were also spoken in Burma and Bangladesh.

Southeast Asia[edit]

Southeast Asia Portuguese creoles: Papiá Kristang of Malaysia (1) and Macaista Chapado of Macao, SAR (2).

The earliest Portuguese creole in the region probably arose in the 16th century in Malacca, Malaysia, as well as in the Moluccas. After the takeover of those places by the Dutch in the 17th century, many creole-speaking slaves were taken to other places in Indonesia and South Africa, leading to several creoles that survived until recent times:

The Malacca creole also had an influence on the creole of Macau (see below).

The Portuguese were present in the island of Flores, Indonesia since the 16th century, mainly in Larantuka and Sikka; but the local creole language, if any, has not survived.

Other Portuguese-based creoles were once spoken in Thailand (In KudeeJeen and Conception) and Bayingy in Burma.


The Portuguese language was present in its colony, Macau, since the mid-16th century. A Portuguese creole, Patua, developed there, first by interaction with the local Cantonese people, and later modified by influx of refugees from the Dutch takeover of Portuguese colonies in Indonesia.

Concise List[edit]

Language Alternate names Location Notes
Angolar São Tomé Island, São Tomé and Príncipe
Annobonese Fá d'Ambô Annobón island, Equatorial Guinea
Cupópia Brazil Not a Creole,
but rather Portuguese language with Bantu words
Cape Verdean Creole Kriolu, Kriol Cape Verde National language. Subdivided in two major groups and 9 island-based creoles. A degree of Decreolization occurred.
Vaipim Indo-Portuguese India
Daman Indo-Portuguese Língua da Casa Daman, India Decreolization process occurred.
Diu Indo-Portuguese Língua dos velhos Diu, India
Forro[9] São Tomé Island, São Tomé and Príncipe
Guinea Creole Kriol Guinea-Bissau Senegal Lingua franca, with growing number of first language speakers in Guinea-Bissau;
also spoken in Casamance, Senegal
Kristang Malaysia Singapore Perth
Kristi Korlai, India
Macanese Patuá Macau and Hong Kong Decreolization process occurred.
Papiamento[10] Netherlands Antilles and Aruba Spanish influenced.
Pequeno Português Angola Not a Creole, but rather a Pidgin
Principense Lunguyê Príncipe Island, São Tomé and Príncipe Almost extinct. Most of the population now speak (standard) Portuguese.
Saramaccan Surinam English–Portuguese Creole
Sri Lanka Indo-Portuguese Sri Lankan Creole Portuguese, Battilocan Portuguese Coastal cities of Sri Lanka Portuguese creole with influences from Tamil, Sinhalese, English and Dutch.


  1. ^ Inverno, L., dos Reis Santos, A., & Blum, A. Jürgen Lang. "Gramática do Crioulo da ilha de Santiago (Cabo Verde)" (PDF). Retrieved 20 November 2014. 
  2. ^ Sandra Luísa Rodrigues Madeira, "Towards an Annotated Bibliography of Restructured Portuguese in Africa", Faculdade de Letras, Universidade de Coimbra, 2008.
  3. ^ Armin Schwegler, "Monogenesis Revisited", in Rickford & Romaine, 1999, Creole Genesis, Attitudes and Discourse, p. 252.
  4. ^ Em Cafundó, esforço para salvar identidade. São Paulo dos Campos de Piratininga, SP: O Estado de São Paulo, 24 December 2006, p. A8.
  5. ^ Hildo Honório do Couto, "Anticrioulo: manifestação lingüística de resistência cultural", 2002.
  6. ^ a b "Origens do português brasileiro".
  7. ^ Mikael Parkvall, "The alleged creole past of Brazilian Vernacular Portuguese", in d' Andrade, Pereria & Mota, 1999, Crioulos de Base Portuguesa, p. 223.
  8. ^ Holm, J., "American Black English and Afrikaans: two Germanic semicreoles", 1991.
  9. ^ Forro was a declaration of freedom of a specific slave used in Portugal and its colonies. These were the most wished documents for the enslaved population.
  10. ^ For a discussion about the origins of Papiamentu, see "Papiamentu facts", an essay by Attila Narin.

See also[edit]

External links[edit]