Upper Guinea Creole

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Upper Guinea Creole
Kriol, Kiriol, Kriolu, Portuguis
Native to Guinea-Bissau, Senegal
Native speakers
310,000[1] (2006–2007)[2]
L2 speakers: 600,000 in Guinea-Bissau (no date)[3]
Portuguese Creole
  • Upper Guinea–Cape Verdean
    • Upper Guinea Creole
Language codes
ISO 639-3 pov
Glottolog uppe1455[4]
Linguasphere 51-AAC-ab

Upper Guinea Creole (native name kriol, kiriol, kriolu and Portuguis varying with dialects; crioulo da Guiné in Portuguese) is the lingua franca of the West African country of Guinea Bissau. It is also spoken in parts of Senegal, primarily as a trade language where it is known as "Portuguese".[5] It is a Portuguese-based creole language, closely related to Cape Verdean creole. Kriol is spoken as a first language by approximately 15% (190,000) of Bissau-Guineans[2] and as a second language by approximately 50%, as of some time before 1992,[3] and is the de facto language of national identity.

The creole is still expanding but with growing interference from Portuguese (decreolization): due to television, literacy, prestige and emigration to Portugal, and the African languages: through migration of speakers of native African languages to the main urban centres where the creole is prevalent. Standard Portuguese is the official language of Guinea-Bissau, but the creole is the language of trade, public services, the parliament, informal literature, entertainment and educational programming. It is not used in news media.[6]


Upper Guinea creoles are the oldest Portuguese-based creoles, first appearing around the Portuguese settlements along the northwest coast of Africa. 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 is popular in Casamance because they see it has a link to their past. It is also learned across Senegal since the independence of the country from France.[7] In Senegal, the Creole is the first language of at least 46,500 people (1998), it is mainly spoken in Ziguinchor but there are also speakers in other Casamance cities and in The Gambia. In 2008, Senegal was admitted as an observer country of the Portuguese-speaking commonwealth in the VII CPLP Summit.


  1. ^ The remainder of the population listed in Ethnologue 18 appears to be Cape Verdean Creole, as per Ethnologue 12.
  2. ^ a b Upper Guinea Creole at Ethnologue (18th ed., 2015)
  3. ^ a b Upper Guinea Crioulo at Ethnologue (12th ed., 1992).
  4. ^ Nordhoff, Sebastian; Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin, eds. (2013). "Upper Guinea Crioulo". Glottolog. Leipzig: Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology. 
  5. ^ José Horta (12-25 April 20006). "A Língua Portuguesa no Senegal". Instituto Camões. Retrieved 10 December 2014.  Check date values in: |date= (help)
  6. ^ Situação Sociolinguística da Guiné-bissau
  7. ^ José Horta (12–25 April 20006). "A Língua Portuguesa no Senegal". Instituto Camões. Retrieved 10 December 2014.  Check date values in: |date= (help)


Thesis on body part idioms in Guinea-Bissau Creole: www-01.sil.org/silepubs/pubs/928474551529/e-book_44_nicoleti.eliz.thesisfinal.pdf