Mauritian Creole (Mauritian Creole: kreol morisien) is a French-based creole language spoken in Mauritius. In addition to the French base of the language, there are also a number of words from English and from the many African and Asian languages that have been spoken on the island.
Mauritian creole is the lingua franca of Mauritius. Mauritius, formerly a British colony, has kept English as its official language, although French is more widely spoken. Mauritians tend to speak Creole at home and French in the workplace. French and English are spoken in schools. Though a large percentage of Mauritians are of Indian descent, they primarily speak Creole, which is their ancestral tongue in the sense that their ancestors along with those of African, European and Chinese descent helped build the creole languages together centuries ago, when Mauritius was the meeting place of peoples from different continents who together founded a nation with its own culture and history.
Mauritian creole is a French-based creole language, closely related to Seychellois Creole, Rodriguan Creole and Chagossian Creole. The language's relationship to other French-based creole languages besides these is controversial. Robert Chaudenson (2001) and Henri Wittmann (1972, 1987, etc.) have argued that Mauritian creole is closely related to Réunion Creole, while Philip Baker and Chris Corne (1982), on the other hand, have argued that Réunion influence on Mauritian was minimal and that the two languages are barely more similar to one another than they are to other French-based creoles.
Although the Portuguese were the first Europeans to visit Mauritius, they did not settle there. The small Portuguese element in the vocabulary of Mauritian creole derives rather from the Portuguese element in European maritime jargons (such as Sabir and Lingua Franca) or from enslaved Africans or Asians who came from areas where Portuguese was used as a trade language. Similarly, while the Dutch had a colony on Mauritius between 1638 and 1710, all the Dutch settlers evacuated the island to Réunion, leaving behind only a few runaway slaves who would have no discernible impact on Mauritian creole. The French then claimed Mauritius and first settled it between 1715 and 1721.
As they had done on Réunion and in the West Indies, the French created on Mauritius a plantation economy based on slave labor. Slaves became a majority of the population of Mauritius by 1730, and were 85% of the population by 1777. These forced migrants came from West Africa, East Africa, Madagascar, and India. Given the resulting linguistic fragmentation, French became the lingua franca among the slaves. However, the small size of the native French population on the island, their aloofness from most of their slaves, and the lack of formal education for slaves ensured that the slaves' French would develop in very different directions from the slaveowners' French. Historical documents from as early as 1773 already speak of the "creole language" that the slaves spoke.
The British took over Mauritius during the Napoleonic era, but few English-speakers ever settled there and by then Mauritian creole was firmly entrenched. The abolition of slavery in the 1830s enabled many Mauritian creoles to leave the plantations, and the plantation owners started bringing in Indian indentured workers to replace them. Though the Indians soon became, and remain, a majority on the island, their own linguistic fragmentation and alienation from the English- and French-speaking white elite led them to take up Mauritian creole as their main lingua franca. English and French have long enjoyed greater social status and dominated government, business, education, and the media, but Mauritian creole's popularity in most informal domains has persisted.
Phonology and orthography
The phonology of Mauritian creole is very similar to that of French. However, standard French /ʃ/ and /ʒ/ have depalatalized to /s/ and /z/ respectively in Mauritian, and the front vowels /y/ and /ø/ lost their roundedness and became /i/ and /e/ respectively.
The language has several published dictionaries, both monolingual and bilingual, written by authors such as Philip Baker (1987), the group "Ledikasyon pu travayer," and Arnaud Carpooran (2005, 2009, 2011), among others. The number of publications in creole is increasing steadily; however, the orthographies used in these works vary wildly.
The Mauritian government began supporting an orthographic reform in 2011, with a system that generally follows French, but eliminates silent letters and reduces the number of different ways in which the same sound can be written. This was codified in the Lortograf Kreol Morisien (2011) and used in the Gramer Kreol Morisien (2012) as well. It has become standard upon its adoption by the second edition of the Diksioner Morisien (which previously had been spelled as the Diksyoner Morisyen).
Examples shown are in Mauritian Creole and French only.
|Number||Mauritian Creole||French||Number||Mauritian Creole||French|
|1||Enn||Un/Une||21||Vin-e-enn||Vingt et un|
|19||Diznef||Dix-neuf||1000000||Enn milyon||Un million|
Examples shown are in English, Mauritian Creole and French respectively.
|You (informal)||To (Twa)||Tu (Toi)|
|You (plural)||Zot||Vous (autres)|
|In front (of)||Devan||Devant|
|(To the) right||A drwat||À droite|
|(To the) left||A gos||À gauche|
|Next to||A koté||À côté|
While most of the words in Mauritian creole share a common origin with French, they are not always used in the same way. For example, the French definite article "le/la" is often fused with the noun it modifies. Thus French "rat" is Mauritian "lera," French "temps" is Mauritian "letan." The same is true for some adjectives and prepositions, for example, "femme" and "riz" in French and "bonfam" (from "bonne femme") and "diri" (from "du riz") in Mauritian. Some words have changed their meanings altogether, like "gayn" (meaning "to get" or "to obtain" in Mauritian), which is derived from "gagner" ("to win", or "to earn", in French).
There are also several loan words from the languages of the African slaves: Madagascans contributed such words as Mauritian "lapang," Malagasy "ampango" (rice stuck to the bottom of a pot); Mauritian "lafus," Malagasy "hafotsa" (a kind of tree); Mauritian "zahtak," Malagasy "antaka" (a kind of plant). Note that in these cases, as with some of the nouns from French, that the modern Mauritian word has fused with the French article "le/la/les." Words of East African origin include Mauritian "makutu," Makua "makhwatta" (running sore); Mauritian "matak," Swahili and Makonde "matako" (buttock).
Recent loan words tend to come from English, such as map (plan or carte in French).
Mauritian creole nouns do not change their form when they are pluralized. Thus, whether a noun is singular or plural can usually only be determined by context. If an unambiguous marker is needed, the particle "ban" (from "bande") is often placed before the noun. French "un/une" corresponds to Mauritian "ene," though the rules for its use are slightly different. Mauritian has an article, "la," but this is placed after the noun it modifies: compare Fr. "un rat," "ce rat" or "le rat," "les rats," Mauritian "en lera," "lera-la," "ban-lera."
In Mauritian creole there is only one form for each pronoun, regardless of whether it is the subject, object, or possessive, regardless of gender. Mauritian creole "li" can thus be translated as he, she, it, him, his, her, or hers, depending upon how it is used in any particular instance.
Like nouns, Mauritian creole verbs do not change their form according to tense or person. Instead, the accompanying noun or pronoun is used to determine who is engaging in the action, and several preverbal particles are used alone or in combination to indicate the tense. Thus "ti" (from Fr. "étais") marks past tense, "pe" (from "après" as Québec French) marks progressive, "(f)in" (from Fr. "fin") marks completive or perfect, and "a" (from Fr. "va") marks future. Example: "li fin gayh" (he/she/it had), which can also be shortened to "li n gayh" and pronounced as if it is one word. The Réunion version is li té fine gagne for past, li té i gagne for past progressive, and li sava gagne for present progressive or a close future.
|Mauritian Creole||French||Gallicized orthography||English|
|Nou Papa ki dan lesiel
Fer rekonet ki to nom sin,
|Notre Père qui est aux cieux,
Que ton Nom soit sanctifié,
|Nous Papa qui dans le-ciel,
Faire reconnait(re) que ton nom saint,
|Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name.
- Mauritian Creole at Ethnologue (18th ed., 2015)
- Nordhoff, Sebastian; Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin, eds. (2013). "Morisyen". Glottolog. Leipzig: Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology.
- Auguste Toussaint, Histoire de l'île Maurice, Paris: Presses universitaires de France, 1971.
- Baker, Philip (1972). Kreol. A description of Mauritian creole. Hurst.
- Online edition of "Le Mauricien" on second edition of Diksioner kreol morisien (French)
- Corne (1970, 1988), Carpooran (2007), Wittmann (1972); on the subject of the characteristic article incorporation,the agglutination to the noun of an erstwhile article (in French), see Standquist (2005), Wittmann & Fournier (1981).
|Mauritian Creole test of Wikipedia at Wikimedia Incubator|
- Korek - A Beginners Guide To Mauritian Creole (4th ed., 2014)
- Adone, Dany. The Acquisition of Mauritian creole. Amsterdam; Philadelphia: J. Benjamins, 1984.
- Anonymous. Diksyoner Kreol-Angle / Prototype Mauritian creole-English Dictionary. Port Louis: L.P.T., 1985.
- Baker, Philip and Chris Corne, Isle de France Creole: Affinities and Origins. Ann Arbor: Karoma, 1982.
- Baker, Philip and Vinesh Y. Hookoomsing. Morisyen-English-français : diksyoner kreol morisyen (Dictionary of Mauritian creole). Paris : Harmattan, 1987.
- Carpooran, Arnaud. Diksioner morisien[version prototip/let A-E]. Quatre Bornes, Ile Maurice : Editions Bartholdi, 2005.
- Carpooran, Arnaud. Le Créole Mauricien de poche. Chennevières-sur-Marne : Assimil, 2007. ISBN 978-2-7005-0309-8.
- Carpooran, Arnaud. Diksioner morisien[version integral/1e edision]. Sainte Croix, Ile Maurice : Koleksion Text Kreol, 2009, 1017p.
- Carpooran, Arnaud. Diksioner morisien. [version integral/2em edision]. Vacoas, Ile Maurice : Edition Le Printempss, 2011, 1200p.
- Chaudenson, Robert. Les créoles francais. Évreux: F. Nathan, 1979.
- Chaudenson, Robert. Creolization of language and culture; translated and revised by Salikoko S. Mufwene, with Sheri Pargman, Sabrina Billings, and Michelle AuCoin. London ; New York : Routledge, 2001.
- Choy, Paul. Korek - A Beginners Guide To Mauritian Creole. 4th ed. Grand Baie, Mauritius: Pachworks, 2014.
- Corne, Chris. Essai de grammaire du créole mauricien, Auckland : Linguistic Society of New Zealand, 1970.
- Corne, Chris. A contrastive analysis of Reunion and Isle de France Creole French: two typologically diverse languages. In: Isle de France Creole: affinities and origins, Philip Baker & Chris Corne, 8-129. Ann Arbor: Karoma,1982.
- Corne, Chris. "Mauritian creole Reflexives", Journal of Pidgin and Creole Languages, Volume 3, Number 1, 1988, pp. 69–94, 1988.
- Corne, Chris. From French to Creole, Battlebridge Publications (Westminster Creolistics), 1999.
- Frew, Mark. Mauritian creole in seven easy lessons. 2nd ed. Port Louis, Republic of Mauritius : Ledikasyon pu Travayer, 2003.
- Holm, John. Pidgins and Creoles, Volume II: Reference Survey. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1989.
- Lee, Jacques K. Mauritius : its Creole language : the ultimate Creole phrase book : English-Creole dictionary. London, England : Nautilus Pub. Co., 1999.
- Strandquist, Rachel Eva. Article Incorporation in Mauritian creole. M.A. thesis, University of Victoria, 2005.
- Wittmann, Henri. Les parlers créoles des Mascareignes: une orientation. Trois-Rivières: Travaux linguistiques de l'Université du Québec à Trois-Rivières 1, 1972.
- Wittmann, Henri. « Lexical diffusion and the glottogenetics of creole French. » CreoList debate, parts I-VI, appendixes 1-9. The Linguist List, Eastern Michigan University & Wayne State University. 2001.
- Wittmann, Henri & Robert Fournier. "L'agglutination nominale en français colonial." Revue québécoise de linguistique théorique et appliquée 2:2.185-209, 1981.
- Wittmann, Henri & Robert Fournier. "Interprétation diachronique de la morphologie verbale du créole réunionnais". Revue québécoise de linguistique théorique et appliquée 6:2.137-50, 1987; in response to the hypothesis put forward by Corne (1982) in Baker and Corne (1982).