|Pronunciation||[k?eol mo?isj, -mo?i]|
|1,090,000 (2012 UNSD)|
1,335,000 total speakers
L2 speakers: 200,000 (2016)
Mauritian Creole or Morisien or formerly Morisyen (Mauritian Creole: kreol morisien [k?eol mo?isj, -mo?i]) 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 and de facto language of Mauritius, formerly a British colony, which has kept both English and French as its core languages, even though English is used mostly for administration and educational purposes and French for media and as a second language for speaking.
Mauritians tend to speak Mauritian Creole at home and French in the workplace. French and English are spoken in schools. Though most Mauritians are of Indian descent, Creole has gradually replaced the ancestral Indian languages, mainly Bhojpuri, as the mother tongue. Over generations, Mauritians of Indian, African, European and Chinese descents, created the current creole language with Mauritius being the meeting place of peoples from different continents who together founded a nation with its own culture and history. Today, around 1.3 million people speak the language.
Mauritian Creole is a French-based creole language, closely related to the Seychellois, Rodriguan and Chagossian Creoles. Its relationship to other French-based creole languages is controversial. Robert Chaudenson (2001) and Henri Wittmann (1972, 1987, etc.) have argued that Mauritian Creole is closely related to Réunion Creole, but Philip Baker and Chris Corne (1982) have argued that Réunionnais influence on Mauritian was minimal and that the two languages are barely more similar to each other than they are to other French-based creoles.
Although the Portuguese were the first Europeans to visit Mauritius, they did not settle there. Rather, the small Portuguese element in the vocabulary of Mauritian derives from the Portuguese element in European maritime jargon (such as the Mediterranean Lingua Franca) or from enslaved Africans or Asians who came from areas in which 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. 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 labour. Slaves became a majority of the population of Mauritius by 1730 and were 85% of the population by 1777. They came from West Africa, East Africa and Madagascar.
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 developed in very different directions from the slave owners' French. In the generally agreed upon genesis of creole languages, this pidgin language learned by new slaves as the language for daily communication with people from varying linguistic backgrounds eventually became the native language of children born in these communities, and this is the point where a pidgin language evolves into a creole language, with the complexity and completeness of a language required for young children to use it as their mother tongue.
Historical documents from as early as 1773 note the "creole language" that the slaves spoke.
The abolition of slavery in the 1830s made many leave the plantations, and Indian indentured workers replaced them after they had been brought in by plantation owners. These indentured labourers' linguistic background mirrored that of the West African, East African and Malagasy enslaved labourers whose linguistic backgrounds were so varied and diverse that no native language or even group of closely related native languages was dominant enough or widely intelligible enough to become the basis for a shared language of inter-ethnic communication. Though the Indians soon became the majority on the island, and they remain the majority to this day, their own linguistic fragmentation, as well as their alienation from the English and French-speaking plantation owners 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, with around 85% of the population speaking the language as their mother tongue.
The phonology of Mauritian Creole is very similar to that of Standard French. However, French /?/ and /?/ have respectively depalatalised to /s/ and /z/ in Mauritian, and the front vowels /y/ and /ø/ have respectively been unrounded to /i/ and /e/.
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 is increasing steadily; however, the orthographies used in them are significantly different.
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. It 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 spelt 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||Vint-e-enn||Vingt et un|
|19||Diznef||Dix-neuf||1000000||Enn milion||Un million|
Examples shown are in English, Mauritian Creole and French.
|You (informal)||To (Twa)||Tu (Toi)|
|Your (informal)||To (Twa)||Ton (Tien)|
|Your (formal)||Ou (Ou)||Votre (Vôtre)|
|Our||Nou (Nou)||Notre (Nôtre)|
|In front (of)||Devan||Devant|
|(To the) right||Adrwat||À droite|
|(To the) left||Agos||À gauche|
|Next to||Akote||À côté|
|Mourouk; Mourkou||Muruku||A type of snack|
|Vetiver||? Vettiver||Chrysopogon zizanioides|
|At||Atta||Name of a fruit|
|Avrayka||? Avaraykai||Lablab purpureus|
|Poutou||Puttu||A rice dish|
|Ounde||? Urundai||A sphere-shaped confection|
Most words come from French but are not always used in the same way. For example, the French article le, la, les is often fused with the noun in Mauritian: French rat is Mauritian lera and French temps is Mauritian letan. The same is true for some adjectives and prepositions: French femme ("woman") and riz ("rice") are bonnfam (from bonne femme) and diri (from du riz) in Mauritian. Some words have changed their meanings altogether: Mauritian gagn ("to get" or "to obtain") is derived from French gagner ("to win" or "to earn").
There are also several loanwords from the languages of the African Malagasy slaves, who contributed such words as Mauritian lapang from Malagasy ampango (rice stuck to the bottom of a pot), Mauritian lafus from Malagasy hafotsa (a kind of tree), and Mauritian zahtak from Malagasy antaka (a kind of plant). In some cases, as with some of the nouns from French, the Mauritian word has fused with the French article le/la/les.
Recent loanwords tend to come from English, such as map instead of plan or carte in French (plan or kart in Mauritian Creole). English words used in Mauritian Creole retain their English spelling but should normally be written with inverted commas.
Chinese words in Mauritian Creole only number 3: these are matakwi, min and malang. Matakwi is a derogatory term for police; mata means "eye" in Malay and kwi means "ghost" in Hakka. Min means comes from Cantonese and means "noodle". Malang means "dirty" or "poor".
Nouns do not change in the according to grammatical number. Whether a noun is singular or plural can usually be determined only by context. However, the particle bann (from bande) is often placed before a plural. French un/une corresponds to Mauritian enn but its use has slightly different rules. Mauritian has an article (la), but it is placed after the noun. Compare French un rat, ce rat, le rat, les rats, and Mauritian enn lera, lera-la and bann lera.
In Mauritian, there is only one form for each plural pronoun and the third-person singular pronoun, regardless of case or gender; li can thus be translated as "he, she, it, him, his, her, hers" depending on the context.
Verbs do not change their form according to tense or person. Instead, the accompanying noun or pronoun determines who is engaging in the action, and several preverbal particles are used alone or in combination to indicate the tense: ti (from French étais) marks past tense, pe, short for the now-rare ape (from "après," as Québec French) still uses to mark the progressive aspect, (f)inn (from French fini) marks the completive or perfect, and pou or sometimes va or av (from French va) marks the future tense.
For example, li finn gagn ("he/she/it had") can also be shortened to linn gagn and pronounced as 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 near future.
Here is the Lord's Prayer in Mauritian Creole, French and English:
|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.