Kristang language

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Papia Kristang
Malaccan Creole Portuguese
Native to Malaysia, Singapore
Native speakers
2,200 (2007)[1]
Portuguese Creole
  • Malayo-Portuguese Creole
    • Papia Kristang
Language codes
ISO 639-3 mcm
Glottolog None
mala1533  (Malacca–Batavia Creole)[2]
Linguasphere 51-AAC-aha
This article contains IPA phonetic symbols. Without proper rendering support, you may see question marks, boxes, or other symbols instead of Unicode characters.

Papia Kristang ("speak kristang"), or just Kristang, is a creole language. It is spoken by the Kristang, a community of people of mixed Portuguese and Asian ancestry, chiefly in Malacca (Malaysia) and Singapore.

The language is also called Cristão or Cristan ("Christian"), Portugues di Melaka ("Malacca Portuguese"), Linggu Mai ("Mother Tongue") or simply Papia. Papia means speak. However, locals and most of the Kristang community refer to the language as "Portugis".


The language has about 750 speakers in Malacca [3] and another 100 in Singapore.[4] A small number of speakers also live in other Portuguese Eurasian communities in Kuala Lumpur and Penang in Malaysia, and in diaspora communities in Perth, Canada, the United Kingdom and elsewhere.[5]

The language is currently in steep decline, although efforts to revive it have begun in recent years in both Malacca and Singapore.[6]


The Kristang language originated after the conquest of Malacca (Malaysia) in 1511 by the Portuguese Empire. The community of speakers descends mainly from interracial relationships between Portuguese men and local women, as well as a number of migrants from Portuguese India, themselves of mixed Indo-Portuguese ancestry.

Kristang had a substantial influence on Macanese, the creole language spoken in Macau, due to substantial migration from Malacca after its takeover by the Dutch.

Even after Portugal lost Malacca and almost all contact in 1641, the Kristang community largely preserved its language. The language is not taught at school, although there are still some Church services in Portuguese.


Its grammatical structure is similar to that of the Malay language.

Because of its largely Portuguese vocabulary, and perhaps also as a result of migrations and cultural exchange along trade routes, Kristang has much in common with other Portuguese-based creoles, including the extinct creoles of Indonesia and East Timor.


To indicate verb tenses the following appositions are used: jah (i.e. from the Portuguese , meaning "already", or controversially a corruption of Malay dah, shortened version of sudah, also "already") for past tenses, ta (from está, which means "is") for present continuous tenses and logu or lo (from logo, which means "soon") for the future tense. These simplified forms correspond with their equivalents in Malay sudah, sedang, and akan, respectively.


A peculiarity of the language is the pronoun yo (meaning "I") which is used in northern Portuguese dialects (pronounced as yeu) as well as Spanish and Italian/Sicilian.

The Kristang lexicon borrowed heavily from Portuguese, but often with drastic truncation; for example, Portuguese padrinho and madrinha ("godfather" and "godmother") became inyu and inya in Kristang.

Metathesis was common: for example, Portuguese gordo "fat" gave Kristang godru. The Portuguese diphthong oi (or ancient ou) was reduced to o, e.g. dois/dous "two" → dos, à noite/à noute "tonight" → anoti/anuti.

Many Portuguese words that began with ch, pronounced [ʃ] ("sh") in modern Portuguese, have the pronunciation [tʃ] ("ch" as in "cheese") in Kristang. So, for example, Portuguese chegar "to arrive" and chuva "rain" produced Kristang chegak and chua (pronounced with [tʃ]). This could have been due to Malay influence, or it could be that Kristang preserved the original pronunciation [tʃ] of Old Portuguese. (Note that Portuguese "ch" pronounced [tʃ] occurs in Northern Portugal.)

Writing system[edit]

Since Kristang was never taught officially in schools, it was largely an oral language. The first proposal for a standard orthography was made in the late 1980s, with the publication of a thesis, “A Grammar of Kristang”, by Alan N. Baxter, in which he emphasizes the use of the Malay orthography.[7]

As in most Portuguese dialects, the vowel e is usually pronounced [i] when followed by a syllable with /i/; so, for example, penitensia ("penitence") is pronounced [piniˈteɲsia].

In the 1990s, Joan Marbeck's book "Ungua Andanza" was published, with the orthography written in a Luso-Malay context.


Common phrases[edit]

Thank You: Mutu Merseh (Port. Muitas mercês)
How Are You?, Teng Bong? (Port. Estás bom?, lit. Têm bom?)
What's your name?, Ki bos sa numi? (Port. Qual é o seu nome?, lit. Quê vosso nome?)
Good Morning, Bong Pamiang (Port. Boa Manhã)
Good Afternoon: Bong Midia (Port. Bom Meio-dia)
Good Evening: Bong Atadi (Port. Boa Tarde)
Good Night: Bong Anuti (Port. Boa Noite)
Me: yo (Port. eu)
You (singular): bos (Port. vós)
You (plural): bolotudu/bolotu (Port. vós todos')
Mother: mai (Port. mãe)
Father: pai (Port. pai)
Wife: muleh (Port. mulher)
Husband: maridu (Port. marido)
Old Woman: bela (Port. velha)
Old Man: belu (Port. velho)
Little one: Quenino or Keninu (Port. Pequenino)
Mouth: boka (Port. boca)
Fat: godru (Port. gordo)
Beautiful: Bonitu (Port. bonito)
Party: festa (Port. festa)
one, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, nine, ten: ungua/ngua, dos, tres, katru, singku, sez, seti, oitu, nubi, des (Port. um, dois, três, quatro, cinco, seis, sete, oito, nove, dez)

Poem of Malacca[edit]

Keng teng fortuna fikah na Malaka,
Nang kereh partih bai otru tera.
Pra ki tudu jenti teng amizadi,
Kontu partih logu fikah saudadi.
Oh Malaka, tera di San Francisku,
Nteh otru tera ki yo kereh.
Oh Malaka undi teng sempri fresku,
Yo kereh fikah ateh mureh.

Portuguese translation:

Quem tem fortuna fica em Malaca,
Não quer partir para outra terra.
Por aqui toda a gente tem amizade,
Quando tu partes logo fica a saudade.
Ó Malaca, terra de São Francisco,
Não tem outra terra que eu queira.
Ó Malaca, onde tem sempre frescura,
Eu quero ficar até morrer.

English translation:

Who is lucky stays in Malacca,
Doesn't want to go to another land.
In here everyone has friendship,
When one leaves soon has saudade.
Oh Malacca, land of Saint Francis,
There is no other land that I want.
Oh Malacca, where there's always freshness,
I want to stay here until I die.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Papia Kristang at Ethnologue (18th ed., 2015)
  2. ^ Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin; Bank, Sebastian, eds. (2016). "Malacca–Batavia Creole". Glottolog 2.7. Jena: Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History. 
  3. ^ Baxter, Alan Norman (2005). "Kristang (Malacca Creole Portuguese) –a long-time survivor seriously endangered". Estudios de Sociolingüística. 6 (1): 16. 
  4. ^ Wong, Kevin Martens. "Kodrah Kristang Kaminyu di Kodramintu: Kinyang Ngua (The Kristang Language Revitalization Plan, Phase One)" (PDF). Kodrah Kristang. Retrieved August 12, 2016. 
  5. ^ Baxter, Alan Norman (1988). A grammar of Kristang. Canberra, Australia: Australian National University Press. p. 17. 
  6. ^ Wong, Kevin Martens. "Kodrah Kristang Kaminyu di Kodramintu: Kinyang Ngua (The Kristang Language Revitalization Plan, Phase One)" (PDF). Kodrah Kristang. Retrieved August 12, 2016. 
  7. ^ A grammar of Kristang: (Malacca Creole Portuguese), Alan N. Baxter, Dept. of Linguistics, Research School of Pacific Studies, Australian National University, 1988

External links[edit]