|Native to||Aruba, Curaçao, Caribbean Netherlands: Bonaire|
|Latin (Papiamento orthography)|
Official language in
|Aruba, Bonaire, Curaçao|
Location map of Aruba, Bonaire, and Curaçao, where Papiamento is spoken
Papiamento  or Papiamentu is a Portuguese-based creole language spoken in the Dutch Caribbean. It is the most widely spoken language on the Caribbean ABC islands (Aruba, Bonaire, Curaçao) having official status in Aruba and Curaçao. Papiamento is also a recognised language in the Dutch public bodies of Bonaire, Sint-Eustatius and Saba.
Papiamento (Aruba) or Papiamentu (Bonaire and Curaçao) is largely based on Portuguese and has been influenced considerably by Dutch and Spanish. Because of lexical similarities between Portuguese and Spanish, it is difficult to distinguish the exact origin of each word. Though there are different theories about its origins, most linguists now believe that Papiamento originated from the Portuguese creole languages of the West African coasts, as it has great similarities with Cape Verdean Creole and Guinea-Bissau Creole.
The precise historical origins of Papiamento have not been established. Its parent language is surely Iberian, which is why it is Spanish-based, but scholars disputed whether Papiamento was derived from Portuguese and its derived Portuguese-based creole languages or from old or new Spanish. Historical constraints, core vocabulary, and grammatical features that Papiamento shares with Cape Verdean Creole and Guinea-Bissau Creole are far less than those shared with Spanish, even though the Spanish and Dutch influences occurred later, from the 17th century onwards. Jacoba Bouschoute made a study of the many Dutch influences in Papiamento.
The name of the language itself comes from papia or papear ("to chat", "to talk"), a word present in colloquial Spanish, derived from Italian parlare and present in Portuguese but in a joint phrase (bate-papo, and informal talk).
Spain claimed dominion over the islands in the 15th century but made little use of them. Portuguese merchants had been trading extensively in the West Indies and with the Iberian Union between Portugal and Spain during 1580-1640 period, their trade extended to the Spanish West Indies. In 1634, the Dutch West India Company (WIC) took possession of the islands, deporting most of the small remaining Arawak and Spanish population to the continent (mostly to the Venezuelan west coast and the Venezuelan plains, as well as all the way east to the Venezuela Orinoco basin and Trinidad), and turned them into the hub of the Dutch slave trade between Africa and the Caribbean.
The first evidence of widespread use of Papiamento in Aruba and Curaçao can be seen in official documents in the early 18th century. In the 19th century, most materials in the islands were written in Papiamento including Roman Catholic school books and hymnals. The first Papiamento newspaper was published in 1871 and was called Civilisadó (The Civilizer).
There are various theories about the origin and development of the Papiamento language.
One local development theory proposes that Papiamento developed in the Caribbean from an original Portuguese-African pidgin, with later Dutch and Spanish (and even some Arawak) influences.
Another theory is that Papiamento first evolved from the use in the region since 1499 of 'lenguas' and the first repopulation of the ABC Islands by the Spanish by the Cédula real decreed in November 1525 in which Juan Martinez de Ampués, factor of Española, had been granted the right to repopulate the depopulated Islas inútiles of Oroba, Islas de los Gigantes, and Buon Aire.
The evolution of Papiamento continued under the Dutch colonisation under the influence of 16th-century Dutch, Portuguese (Brazilian), and Native American languages (Arawak en Taíno), with the second repopulation of the ABC islands with immigrants who arrived from the ex-Dutch Brazilian colonies.
The Judaeo-Portuguese population of the ABC islands increased substantially after 1654, when the Portuguese recovered the Dutch-held territories in Northeast Brazil, causing most Portuguese-speaking Jews and their Portuguese-speaking Dutch allies and Dutch-speaking Portuguese Brazilian allies in those lands to flee from religious persecution. The precise role of Sephardic Jews in the early development is unclear, but Jews certainly played a prominent role in the later development of Papiamento. Many early residents of Curaçao were Sephardic Jews from Portugal, Spain, Cape Verde or Portuguese Brazil. Also, after the Eighty Years' War, a group of Sephardic Jews immigrated from Amsterdam. Therefore, it can be assumed that Judaeo-Portuguese was brought to the island of Curaçao, where it gradually spread to other parts of the community. The Jewish community became the prime merchants and traders in the area and so business and everyday trading was conducted in Papiamento. While various nations owned the island, and official languages changed with ownership, Papiamento became the constant language of the residents.
When the Netherlands opened economic ties with Spanish colonies in what are now Venezuela and Colombia in the 18th century students on Curaçao, Aruba, and Bonaire were taught predominantly in Spanish, and Spanish began to influence the creole language. Since there was a continuous Latinisation process (Hoetink, 1987), even the elite Dutch-Protestant settlers eventually communicated better in Spanish than in Dutch, as a wealth of local Spanish-language publications in the 19th century testify.
According to the European and African origin theory the origins of Papiamento lie in the Afro-Portuguese creoles that arose in the 16th century in the west coast of Africa and in the Portuguese Cape Verde islands. From the 16th to the late 17th century, most of the slaves taken to the Caribbean came from Portuguese trading posts ("factories") in those regions. Around those ports, several Portuguese-African pidgin and creole languages developed, such as Cape Verdean Creole, Guinea-Bissau Creole, Angolar, and Forro (from São Tomé). The sister languages bear strong resemblance with Papiamento. According to this theory, Papiamento was derived from one or more of these older creoles or their predecessors, which were brought to the ABC islands by slaves and traders from Cape Verde and West Africa.
The similarity between Papiamento and the other Afro-Portuguese creoles can be seen in the same pronouns used, "mi", "bo", "el", "nos", "bos(o)", being Portuguese-based. Afro-Portuguese creoles often have a shift from "v" to "b" and from "o" to "u": "bientu" ("wind"), instead of "viento". In creole and also in Spanish, "v" is pronounced as a "b". In creole, it is also written as a "b". The final "o" changes in an "u", just like in Portuguese, where the final "o" is pronounced as an "u".
Guene (the name comes from "Guinea") was a secret language that was used by slaves on the plantations of the landhouses of West Curaçao. There were about a hundred Guene songs that were sung to make the work lighter. However, because of the secret character of Guene, it never had much influence on Papiamento.
Recently, research has been done that shines light on the ties between Papiamento and Upper Guinea Portuguese Creole. Martinus (1996), Quint (2000) and Jacobs (2008, 2009a, 2009b) focus specifically on the linguistic and historical relationships with the Upper Guinea Portuguese Creole, as spoken on the Santiago island of Cape Verde and in Guinea-Bissau and Casamance. In Bart Jacob's study The Upper Guinea Origins of Papiamento he defends the hypothesis that Papiamento is a relexified offshoot of an early Upper Guinea Portuguese Creole variety that was transferred from Senegambia to Curaçao in the second half of the 17th century, when the Dutch controlled the island of Gorée, a slave trading stronghold off the coast of Senegal. The Creole was used for communication among slaves and between slaves and slave holders.
On Curaçao, this variety underwent internal changes as well as contact-induced changes at all levels of the grammar, but particularly in the lexicon, due to contact with Spanish and, to a lesser extent, Dutch. Despite the changes, the morphosyntactic framework of Papiamento is still remarkably close to that of the Upper Guinea Creoles of Cape Verde and Guinea-Bissau.
Papiamento has been an official language of Aruba since May 2003. In the former Netherlands Antilles, Papiamento was made an official language on March 7, 2007. After the dissolution of the Netherlands Antilles, Papiamento's official status was confirmed in the newly-formed Caribbean Netherlands. Also, 150,000 Antillians (mostly from Curaçao) live in the Netherlands and speak their mother language, Papiamento, fluently. Some Papiamento is also spoken on Sint Maarten and the Paraguaná Peninsula of Venezuela.
Papiamento is spoken in Aruba, Curaçao, and Bonaire. There it is spoken at home, in the street, in the church, at the primary and secondary school, in court and in the parliaments. There are Papiamento newspapers, radio and television stations.
Venezuelan Spanish and American English are constant influences today. Code-switching and lexical borrowing from Spanish, Dutch and English among native speakers is common. This is considered as a threat to the development of the language because of the loss of the authentic and Creole "feel" of Papiamento.
Many immigrants from Latin America and the Caribbean choose to learn Papiamento because it is more practical in daily life on the islands. For Spanish-speakers, it is easier to learn than Dutch, because Papiamento uses many Spanish and Portuguese words.
The Papiamento language originates from about 1650. The oldest Papiamento texts that have been preserved are written letters. In the following three letters you can see that words changed and the spelling then was more conform the Dutch spelling. Some words are no longer in use and replaced by others. But the basis of Papiamento did not change much.
The oldest letter dates from 1775. It was sent by the Sephardic Jew Abraham Andrade to his mistress Sarah Vaz Parro, about a family meeting in the centre of Curaçao.
|Old Papiamento||Modern Papiamento||English|
Piter May the ora ky boso a biny.
My a topa tio la, ku Sara meme.
Nan taba biny Punta.
My Dusie, bo pay a manda bo ruman Aronchy, ku Tony & Merca koge na kamina dy Piter May.
Mi tabata na Pietermaai te ora ku boso a bini.
Mi a topa tio aya, ku Sara meimei.
Nan tabata bini na Punda.
Mi dushi, bo pai a manda bo ruman Aronchy, ku Tony i Merka kohe na kaminda di Pietermaai.
I was in Pietermaai until the time you came.
I met uncle there, and Sara halfway.
They were coming to Punda.
My sweetheart, your father sent your brother Aronchy, and Tony and Merka went on their way to Pietermaai.
The next letter dates from 1783 and was recently discovered in an English archive. It was sent by Anna Charje in the name of her baby Jantje Boufet to her husband Dirk Schermer in Rotterdam.
|Old Papiamento||Modern Papiamento||English|
Mi papa, bieda die mi Courasson, bieni prees toe seeka bo joego doesje.
Mi mama ta warda boo, mie jora toer dieja pa mie papa.
Coemda Mie groot mama pa mie, ie mie tante nan toer.
Papa doesje, treese oen boenieta sonbreer pa boo Jantje.
Mi papa, bida di mi kurason, bini lihé serka bo yu dushi.
Mi mama ta warda bo, mi ta yora tur dia pa mi papa.
Kumindá mi wela pa mi, i mi tantanan tur.
Papa dushi, trese un bunita sombré pa bo Jantje.
My father, life of my heart, come quickly close to your sweet son.
My mother awaits you, I cry all day for my father.
Greet my grandmother for me, and all my aunts.
Dear father, bring a nice hat for your Jantje.
The third text dates from 1803. It is a court testimony in which 26 Aruban farm workers sign a statement to support their boss Pieter Specht against false accusations by Quant.
|Old Papiamento||Modern Papiamento||English|
Noos ta firma por la berdad, y para serbir na teenpoe qui lo llega die moosteer.
Qui des die teempoe koe Señor B.G. Quant ta poner, na serbisje die tera...
Nos ta firma pa e berdad y pa sirbi den e tempo aki lo yega di mester.
Ku di e tempu e ku señor B.G. Quant ta pone, na servicio di e tera...
We sign for the truth and to serve the coming time if necessary.
About our time with B.G. Quant we declare, we were employed in land cultivation...
Papiamento is written using the Latin script.
Since the 1970s, two different orthographies were developed and adopted. In 1976, Curaçao and Bonaire officially adopted the Römer-Maduro-Jonis version, a phonetic spelling. In 1977, Aruba approved a more etymology-based spelling, presented by the Comision di Ortografia (Orthography Commission), presided by Jossy Mansur.
Papiamento has two main dialects, one in Aruba and one in Curaçao and Bonaire (Papiamentu), with lexical and intonational differences. There are also minor differences between Curaçao and Bonaire.
Spoken Aruban Papiamento sounds much more like Spanish. The most apparent difference between the two dialects is given away in the name difference. Whereas Bonaire and Curaçao opted for a phonology-based spelling, Aruba uses an etymology-based spelling. Many words in Aruba end with "o" while the same word ends with "u" in Bonaire and Curaçao. And even in Curaçao, the use of the u-ending is still more pronounced among the Sephardic Jewish population. Similarly, there is also a difference between the usage of "k" in Bonaire and Curaçao and "c" in Aruba.
|a||a in kana||a in cana||walk|
|e||e in efekto||e in efecto||effect|
|?||è in balèt||e in ballet||ballet|
|?||e in apel||e in appel||apple|
|i||i in chikí||i in chikito||small|
|o||o in obra||o in obra||work|
|?||ò in ònbeskòp||o in onbeschoft||impolite|
|u||u in kunuku||u in cunucu||farm|
|ø||ù in brùg||u in brug||bridge|
Papiamento has diphthongs, two vowels in a single syllable that form one sound. Papiamento diphthongs are based on Ibero-Romance and Dutch diphthongs. It has the following diphthongs:
|ai?||ai in baile||dance|
|au?||au in fauna||fauna|
|ei?||ei in esei||that|
|?i?||ei in preis||price|
|eu?||eu in leu||far|
|?i?||oi in djòin||join|
|oi?||oi in morkoi||tortoise|
|?u?||ou in abou||down|
|?i?||ui in dùim||thumb|
Stress is very important in Papiamento. Many words have a very different meaning when a different stress is used:
There are general rules for the stress and accent but also a great many exceptions. When a word deviates from the rules, the stressed vowel is indicated by an acute accent ( ´ ), but it is often omitted in casual writing.
The main rules are:
Most of the vocabulary is derived from Portuguese and its derived Portuguese-based creoles and (Old) Spanish. The real origin is usually difficult to tell because the two Iberian languages are very similar, and adaptations were made in Papiamento. A list of 200 basic Papiamento words can be found in the standard Swadesh list, with etymological reference to the language of origin. There is a remarkable similarity between words in Papiamento, Cape Verdean Creole, and Guinea-Bissau Creole, which all belong to the same language family of the Upper Guinea Creoles. Most of the words can be connected with their Portuguese origin.
Linguistic studies have shown that roughly 80% of the words in Papiamento's present vocabulary are of Iberian origin, 20% are of Dutch origin, and some of Native American or African origin. A study by Van Buurt and Joubert inventoried the words of Taíno and Caquetío Arawak origin, mostly words for plants and animals. Arawak is an extinct language that was spoken by Indians throughout the Caribbean. The Arawak words were re-introduced in Papiamento by borrowing from the Spanish dialect of Venezuela
Many words are of Iberian origin, and it is impossible to label them as either Portuguese or Spanish:
While the presence of word-final /u/ can easily be traced to Portuguese, the diphthongization of some vowels is characteristic of Spanish. The use of /b/, rather than /v/, descends from its pronunciation in the dialects of northern Portugal as well as of Spanish. Also, a sound shift may have occurred in the direction of Spanish, whose influence on Papiamento came later than that of Portuguese: subrino ("nephew"): sobrinho in Portuguese, sobrino in Spanish. The pronunciation of o as /u/ is certainly Portuguese, but the use of n instead of nh (/?/) in the ending -no is from Spanish.
Few Portuguese words come directly from Portuguese, but most come via the Portuguese-based creole; in the examples below, the Cape Verdean Creole equivalents are borboléta, katchor, prétu and fórsa.
And some words come from:
Native American-origin words:
This section provides a comparison of the vocabularies of Papiamento, Portuguese, and the Portuguese creoles of Guinea-Bissau and Cape Verde. Spanish is shown for the contrast.
|Welcome||Bon bini||Bon bini||Bem-vindo||Ben-vindu||Ben-vindu||Bienvenido|
|Good morning||Bon dia||Bon dia||Bom dia||Bon dia||Bon dia||Buenos días|
|How are you?||Kon ta bai?||Con ta bay?||Como vais?||Kuma ku bu na bai?||Mo ki bu sta?||¿Cómo estás?|
|Very good||Mashá bon||Masha bon||Muito bom||Muitu bon||Mutu bon||Muy bien|
|I am fine||Mi ta bon||Mi ta bon||Eu estou bem||N sta bon||N sta bon||Estoy bien|
|I, I am||Mi, Mi ta||Mi, Mi ta||Eu, Eu sou||N, Ami i||N, Mi e||Yo, Yo soy|
|Have a nice day||Pasa un bon dia||Pasa un bon dia||Passa um bom dia||Pasa un bon dia||Pasa un bon dia||Pasa un buen día|
|See you later||Te aweró||Te aworo||Até logo||Te logu||Te lógu||Hasta luego|
|Not yet||Ainda no||Ainda no||Ainda não||Inda nau||Inda ka||Aún no|
|I like Curaçao||Mi gusta Kòrsou||Mi gusta Corsou||Eu gosto de Curaçao||N gosta di Curaçao||N gosta di Curaçao||Me gusta Curazao|
Artikel 2: De officiële talen zijn het Engels, het Nederlands en het Papiamento. (English: Article 2: The official languages are English, Dutch and Papiamento)