Cape Verdian language
The official language of Cape Verde is Portugese. Business, affairs of state, newspapers, in fact anything that needs to be written is done so in Portugese. It is good to learn some useful words before visiting Cape Verde to help get around the islands. Creole, however, is the language that Cape Verdeans use to talk to each other. When slaves were brought to Cape Verde, they were discouraged from speaking their native tongue and were forced to speak the limited words of Portugese they learnt. This, combined with words from various tribal languages, was the beginning of Creole. Creole, varies from island to island depending on the influences of the different nationalities that once lived on each island. The biggest difference is between the Barlavento and Sotavento Creole. Barlavento Creole (spoken in the North) is closer to Portugese than Sotavento Creole (spoken in the South) and Sotavento Creole has many more African words in it. Creole is not a fully written language. Written Creole does exist, but only a handful of books have been written in it and spellings are certainly not standardised.
Cape Verdean Creole is the mother tongue of nearly all Cape Verdeans, and it is used as a second language by descendants of Cape Verdeans in other countries.
Name and relevance
The correct designation of this language is “Cape Verdean Creole”, but in everyday use the language is simply called “Creole” by its speakers. The name “Cape Verdean” (cabo-verdiano in Portuguese, cabuverdiánu in Cape Verdean Creole), or “Cape Verdean language” (língua cabo-verdiana in Portuguese, língua cabuverdiánu in Cape Verdean Creole) has been proposed for whenever the language will be standardized.
Cape Verdean Creole has particular importance for creolistics studies since it is the oldest (still spoken) creole, the Portuguese-based creole with the greatest number of native speakers, the most studied Portuguese-based creole, and one of the few creoles to become an official language.
In spite of the smallness of the country, each island has developed its own way of speaking Creole. Each of these nine ways is justifiably a different dialect, but the scholars in Cape Verde usually call them “variants”. These variants can be classified into two branches: at South there are the Sotavento Creoles, which comprises the Brava, Fogo, Santiago and Maio variants; at North there are the Barlavento Creoles, which comprises the Boa Vista, Sal, São Nicolau, São Vicente and Santo Antão variants. For more details check the articles about each variant. The linguistic authorities in Cape Verde consider Creole as one language, and not as nine different languages.
Since some lexical forms of Cape Verdean Creole can be different according to each variant, the words and the sentences in this article will be presented in compromise model, a kind of “middle Creole”, in order to ease the understanding and in order not to favor any variant. Whenever it will be necessary the phonemic transcription (or sometimes the phonetic transcription) will be shown immediately after the word.
From a linguistic point of view, the most important variants are the Fogo, Santiago, São Nicolau and Santo Antão ones, and any deep study of Creole should approach at least these four. They are the only islands that have received slaves directly from the African continent, that possess the most conservative linguistic features, and that are the most distinct from each other.From a social point of view, the most important variants are the Santiago and São Vicente ones, and any light study of Creole should approach at least these two. They are the variants of the two bigger cities (Praia and Mindelo), the variants with the greatest number of speakers, and the variants with a glottophagist tendency over the neighboring ones.
In spite of Creole being the mother tongue of nearly all the population in Cape Verde, Portuguese is still the official language. As Portuguese is used in everyday life (at school, in administration, in official acts, in relations with foreign countries, etc.), Portuguese and Cape Verdean Creole live in a state of diglossia. Due to this overall presence of Portuguese, a decreolization process occurs for all the different Cape Verdean Creole variants.
Santiago variant: Quêl mudjêr cú quêm m’ encôntra ónti stába priocupáda púrqui êl sqêci dí sês minínus nâ scóla, í cándu êl bâi procurâ-’s êl câ olhâ-’s. Alguêm lembrâ-’l quí sês minínus sâ tâ pricisába dí material pâ úm pesquisa, entõ êl bâi encontrâ-’s nâ biblioteca tâ procúra úqui ês cría. Pâ gradêci â túdu quêm djudâ-’l, êl cumêça tâ fála, tâ flâ cômu êl stába contênti di fúndu di curaçãu.
São Vicente variant: Quêl m’djêr c’ quêm m’ encontrá ônt’ táva priocupáda púrq’ êl sq’cê d’ sês m’nín’s nâ scóla, í cónd’ êl bái procurá-’s êl câ olhá-’s. Alguêm lembrá-’l qu’ sês m’nín’s táva tâ pr’cisá d’ material pâ úm pesquisa, entõ êl bâi encontrá-’s nâ biblioteca tâ procurá úq’ ês cría. Pâ gradecê â túd’ quêm j’dá-’l, êl c’meçá tâ fála, tâ dzê côm’ êl táva contênt’ d’ fúnd’ d’ curaçãu.
Translation to Portuguese: Aquela mulher com quem eu encontrei-me ontem estava preocupada porque ela esqueceu-se das suas crianças na escola, e quando ela foi procurá-las ela não as viu. Alguém lembrou-lhe que as suas crianças estavam a precisar de material para uma pesquisa, então ela foi encontrá-las na biblioteca a procurar o que elas queriam. Para agradecer a todos os que ajudaram-na, ela começou a falar, dizendo como ela estava contente do fundo do coração.
Translation to English: That woman with whom I met yesterday was worried because she forgot her children at school, and when she went to seek them she didn’t see them. Someone reminded her that her children were needing some material for a research, and so she found them at the library searching what they needed. To thank to everyone who helped her, she started speaking, telling how she was glad from the bottom of her heart.
Even though over 90% of Cape Verdean Creole words are derived from Portuguese, the grammar is very different, which makes it extremely difficult for an untrained Portuguese native speaker even to understand a basic conversation. On the other hand, the grammar shows a lot of similarities with other creoles, Portuguese-based or not.