Trinidadian Creole

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Trinidadian Creole
Native to Trinidad
Native speakers
1 million  (2011)[1]
English Creole
  • Atlantic
    • Eastern
      • Southern
        • Trinidadian Creole
Language codes
ISO 639-3 trf
Glottolog trin1276[2]
Linguasphere 52-ABB-au
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Trinidadian Creole is a Creole language generally spoken language in Trinidad. It is distinct from Tobagonian Creole, particularly at the basilectal level,[3] and from other Lesser Antillean English creoles.

Like other Caribbean English-based creoles, Trinidadian Creole has a primarily English-derived vocabulary, though the island also has a creole with a largely French and Antillean creole lexicon until the nineteenth century saw its gradual and ongoing replacement by influence from the British.[4] 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)[5] have also influenced the language.


English is the country's official language (the local variety of standard English is Trinidadian English or more properly, Trinidad and Tobago Standard English (TTSE)), but the main spoken language is either of two English-based creole languages (Trinidadian Creole or Tobagonian Creole) which reflects the Amerindian, European (including Spanish), African, and Indian heritage of the nation. Both creoles contain elements from a variety of African languages; Trinidadian English Creole, however, is also influenced by French and French Creole (Patois).[6]

Phonological features[edit]

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 /r/ does not occur after vowels, except in recently borrowed words or names from Spanish, Hindi/Bhojpuri, and Arabic.[7]
  • In mesolectal forms, cut cot, caught, and curt are all pronounced with [ɒ].[8]
  • The dental fricatives of English are replaced with dental/alveolar stops.[9]


Both Trinidad and Tobago[10] 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.[11] Because of the social values attributed to linguistic forms, the more common varieties (that is, more creolized forms) carry little prestige.[12]

Example words and phrases[edit]

  • back chat: insolence.[13]
  • bad-john: a bully or gangster.[13]
  • chinksin: miserly; distributing less than one could or should.[14]
  • calypso: a musical or lyrical comment on something, particularly popular during Carnival.[13]
  • dougla: a person having both East Indian and African parentage.[13]
  • maco: someone who gets into other people's business.[13]
  • maljo: an evil spell of misfortune cast out of envy.[14]
  • pothound: a mongrel dog of no specific breed; mutt.[14]
  • tabanca: heartbreak.[13]
  • ups kabat: a type of game played with marbles.[15]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Trinidadian Creole at Ethnologue (17th ed., 2013)
  2. ^ Nordhoff, Sebastian; Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin, eds. (2013). "Trinidadian Creole English". Glottolog 2.2. Leipzig: Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology. 
  3. ^ Youssef & James (2004:508, 514)
  4. ^ Youssef & James (2004:510–511)
  5. ^ Youssef & James (2004:511)
  6. ^ Jo-Anne Sharon Ferreira. THE SOCIOLINGUISTIC SITUATION OF TRINIDAD & TOBAGO. University of the West Indies.
  7. ^ Amastae (1979:191)
  8. ^ Youssef & James (2004:516)
  9. ^ Youssef & James (2004:517)
  10. ^ Minderhout (1977:168–169)
  11. ^ Winford (1985:352–353)
  12. ^ Winford (1985:353)
  13. ^ a b c d e f dictionary of terms for Trinidad and Tobago
  14. ^ a b c dictionary of the West Indies
  15. ^ Winer & Boos (1993:46)


  • Amastae, Jon (1979), "Dominican English Creole phonology: An initial sketch", Anthropological Linguistics 21 (4): 182–204 
  • Minderhout, David J. (1977), "Language variation in Tobagonian English", Anthropological Linguistics 19 (4): 167–179 
  • Winer, Lise; Boos, Hans E.A. (1993), "Right throughs, rings and taws: Marbles terminology in Trinidad and Tobago", Language in Society 22 (1): 41–66 
  • Winford, Donald (1985), "The concept of "diglossia" in Caribbean creole situations", Language in Society 14 (3): 345–356 
  • Youssef, Winford; James (2004), "The creoles of Trinidad and Tobago: Phonology", in Kortmann, Bernd; Schneider, Edgar W.; Burridge, Kate; Mesthrie, Rajend; Upton, Clive, Handbook of Varieties of English, 1: Phonology, Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter, ISBN 978-3-11-017532-5 

Further reading[edit]

  • Allsopp, Richard & Jeannette Allsopp (French and Spanish Supplement), 2003, Dictionary of Caribbean English Usage. Kingston: University of the West Indies Press.
  • Allsopp, Richard, & Jeannette Allsopp 2010, New Register of Caribbean English Usage. Kingston: University of the West Indies Press.
  • James, Winford 2002, A Different, not an Incorrect, Way of Speaking, Pt 1
  • Winer, Lise 2009, Dictionary of the English/Creole of Trinidad & Tobago: On Historical Principles. Montreal: McGill-Queen's University Press.