Limonese Creole

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Limón Creole English
Native toCosta Rica
Native speakers
(55,000 cited 1986)[1]
English creole
Language codes
ISO 639-3

Limonese Creole (also called Limón Creole English or Mekatelyu) is a dialect of Jamaican Creole spoken in Limón Province on the Caribbean Sea coast of Costa Rica. Limón Coastal Creole is similar to varieties such as Colón Creole, Mískito Coastal Creole, Belizian Kriol, and San Andrés and Providencia Creole. The number of speakers is below 100,000.[3] Limón Coastal Creole does not have the status of an official language. It is very similar to Jamaican Creole and has borrowed many words from English.

Jamaican Creole was introduced to the Limón Province by Jamaican migrant workers who arrived to work on the construction of the Atlantic railway, the banana plantations and on the Pacific railway.

The name Mekatelyu is a transliteration of the phrase "make I tell you", or in standard English "let me tell you". Linguists of the Universidad Nacional de Costa Rica and the Universidad de Costa Rica consider it as not English.

When European countries went to Africa to take people for slavery, they sent Africans from different countries who had no language in common to work on plantations in the Caribbean Islands. Those Africans had to develop a way to speak to communicate between themselves. If their slave driver spoke English, they started to learn it. Over time, those enslaved people created an English that was only understandable between them (a kind of pidgin) and then, they taught that way to speak to their children—a creole language.

Those speakers of creole English had a lot of contact with Scottish, Irish and English people, so they had to learn to speak an English that was more understandable to different nationalities (a "neutral" or standard English). Therefore, they created many ways to speak English, from the "most creole" to the "most standard" varying gradually according to the context.

Africans enslaved by the French developed a French creole, but they had little or no contact with French speakers. So, their French creole became an independent language.

One common way to call the Limón Creole English in Costa Rica is by the term "Patois", a word was used initially by French. In France, there are many ways to speak French and also many languages (including other romance languages as Provençal). This country needed to homogenize the language and declared the French of Paris as the correct French. For that, the other varieties of French or the other minority languages were considered incorrect or bad ways to speak and were called patois (that means to speak with the feet). The French creole was also considered patois because it differed to the French or Paris. By the pass of time, the meaning of the term patois expanded even more. As an analogy to the French creole, the English creole was also called with patois. When Costa Ricans talk about the Costa Rican Patois used in Limón, it is not clear if they mean the creole English (the most common creole) or the creole French.

Limón was once a very important port of the Caribbean and the English was an important language used there. There were French creole speakers that migrated to this region and had to learn English. As it was hard for these migrants to learn a new language as adults, they started to mix their native language (French creole) with the creole English. That is the reason why some Costa Ricans have the false belief that in Limón is spoken a mix of French and English. Only a few migrants made it.

Linguists are undecided if the English creole is a kind of English or another language. According to some authors,[4] the Limonese Creole should be declared other language as it happens with the French creole of Haiti. However, in Haiti there is no dialectal continuum, as the distinction between the French and the creole is clear; and in Limón there exists a continuum between the English and the Creole.[5] This is related to the linguistic phenomenon of decreolization.

There is controversy about what should be taught in Limón schools, Creole English or Standard English. The first option would conserve cultural identity and history of those African descendants. However, the second option would allow people to have jobs needing bilingualism in Spanish and English.

See also[edit]


  • Herzfeld, Anita. Tense and Aspect in Limon Creole. Kansas: The University of Kansas, 1978.
  • Herzfeld, Anita (2002). Mekaytelyuw: La Lengua Criolla. Editorial de la Universidad de Costa Rica, 438 pp. ISBN 9977-67-711-5.
  • Wolfe, Terry. An Exploratory Study of the Morphology and Syntax of the English of the Province of Limon, Costa Rica. San José: Universidad de Costa Rica, 1970.
  • Wright M., Fernando. Limon Creole: A Syntactic Analysis. San José: Universidad de Costa Rica. 1974.
  • Wright M., Fernando. "Problemas y Métodos para la Enseñanza como Segunda Lengua a los Habitantes del Mek-a-tél-yu en la Provincia de Limón". Revista de la Universidad de Costa Rica, March–Sept. 1982.
  • Wright M., Fernando. Problems and Methods of Teaching English as a Second Language to Limon Creole Speakers. Lawrence: The University of Kansas, 1979.

External links[edit]


  1. ^ Jamaican Creole English (Costa Rica) at Ethnologue (18th ed., 2015)
  2. ^ Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin, eds. (2017). "Limonese Creole". Glottolog 3.0. Jena, Germany: Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History.
  3. ^
  4. ^ Museo Nacional de Costa Rica - Canal Oficial (2016-01-21), ¿Kryol, patwá, inglés, mekaytelyu? ¿Lengua o dialecto? ¿Qué se habla en Limón?, retrieved 2016-02-03
  5. ^ Price, Franklyn Perry (2011-01-01). "MI LENGUA MATERNA Y YO". Revista de Filología y Lingüística de la Universidad de Costa Rica (in Spanish). 37 (2). ISSN 2215-2628.