Forro Creole

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Forro Creole
Native to São Tomé and Príncipe
Native speakers
70,000 (1999)[1]
Portuguese-based creole
  • Lower Guinea
    • Forro Creole
Language codes
ISO 639-3 cri
Glottolog saot1239[2]
Linguasphere 51-AAC-aca

Forro Creole, Sãotomense or Santomense,[3] is a Portuguese-based creole language spoken in São Tomé and Príncipe.

It should not be confused with São Tomean Portuguese, the non-creolized form of Portuguese spoken in São Tomé and Príncipe.


São Tomé is an island of the Gulf of Guinea, discovered by the Portuguese in the 15th century. It was uninhabited at the time, but Portuguese settlers used the island as a center of the slave trade, and there was a need for slaves in the island. Since both parties needed to communicate, a pidgin was formed. The substrate languages were from the Bantu and Kwa groups. This pidgin then became fixed (creolized) as it became the mother language of children born from Portuguese men and African women slaves. Mixed marriages were then encouraged by the Portuguese Crown, for the sake of settlement.

Later because of Dutch and French pressure to gain the island, many Portuguese settlers left. It must be remembered that children of Portuguese and black women were, eventually, not considered as African or slaves, some were considered as full right Portuguese citizens. Those mixed-raced that did not have the status of Portuguese, darker skin, often gained a "forro" declaration; because their Portuguese fathers did not want to enslave their children. Thus they gained the name "forro". The São Tomean Creole is mostly known as "Forro", language of the freed slaves or Crioulo Santomense, not to confuse the creole Santomense with São Tomean Portuguese (a variety and dialect of Portuguese in São Tomé and Príncipe). Portuguese is the main language for children until their early 20's, when they relearn Forro. The rich São Tomean culture also preserves a unique mixture of Portuguese and African cultures.

Classification and related languages[edit]

Forro is a creole language based on Portuguese, the superstrate language. The substrate languages were from the Bantu and Kwa groups. It is most similar to Principense, Angolar, and Annobonese.

Geographic distribution[edit]

Forro is spoken mainly in São Tomé Island (most of it); there are some speakers in Principe Island.

Due to their great similarity and historical derivation, Principe Island's Principense and Equatorial Guinea's Annobonese may be regarded as dialects of Forro. Lexical similarity: 77% with Principense, 62% with Fa d’Ambu, 70% with Angolar.


Although the São Tomean Creole had (and still has) a restricted contact with Portuguese (seen as a prestigious language), it did preserve a larger number of the substrate languages elements, more than the Creoles of Cape Verde, that preserve fewer traces. Roughly 93% of São Tomean Creole lexicon is from Portuguese and 7% of African origin. Most forro speakers also speak noncreolized Portuguese.

Although 98.4% of São Tomeans speak Portuguese and it is the country's national language, Forro is traditionally said to be spoken by 85% of the inhabitants of São Tomé Island, or 81.7% of the country’s population.[4] However, official census figures state that only 36.2% of the population can speak Forro, and the creole is now considered threatened. Even though it does not have the prestige and communication value of the Portuguese language on the islands, it is the language of social networks for those over the age of 30 and it is clear that continuous contact with the large number Portuguese speakers did not destroy the creole, as many learn it when they become adults. The rich São Tomean culture also preserves a unique mixture of Portuguese and African cultures.

Writing system[edit]

There is no orthography.


Hello: Seja lovadu! (proposed: sejalovadu); From Port. seja louvado
Good Morning: Bom dja ô (proposed: Bondja o); From Port. bom dia
Good Afternoon: Bos tadji ô (proposed: Boxtadji o); From Port. boas tardes or boa tarde
Good Evening: Boj notxi ô (proposed: Bojnotxi o); From Port. boas noites or boa noite
What's your name: Que nomi bo e? (proposed: Ke nomi bo e?); possibly from Port. qual é o teu nome? or como te chamas? – compare with vernacular Brazilian Portuguese que nome você tem?
My name's Pedro: Nomi mu sa Pedro; possibly from Port. o meu nome é Pedro.

Not everything is from Portuguese:

I live in Neves (São Tomean city): Nga-ta Tlaxa. (-ta is from está and tlaxa is from praça)


  1. ^ Forro Creole at Ethnologue (18th ed., 2015)
  2. ^ Nordhoff, Sebastian; Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin, eds. (2013). "Saotomense". Glottolog. Leipzig: Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology. 
  3. ^ Steve and Trina Graham (10 August 2004). "West Africa Lusolexed Creoles Word List File Documentation". SIL International. Retrieved August 2, 2012. 
  4. ^ Leclerc, Jacques (23 November 2011). "São Tomé-et-Príncipe". L’aménagement linguistique dans le monde (in French). Retrieved August 1, 2012. 

External links[edit]