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Cape Verdean Creole, also known as Kabuverdianu is a language spoken on the islands of Cape Verdemarker. It is a creole language of Portuguese basis, it is the mother tongue of virtually all Cape Verdeans, and it is used as a second language by descendants of Cape Verdeans in other countries.

Name and relevance

The current designation of this language is "Cape Verdean Creole", but in everyday use the language is simply called "Creole" by its speakers. The names "Cape Verdean" (cabo-verdiano in Portuguese, kabuverdianu in Cape Verdean Creole) and "Cape Verdean language" (língua cabo-verdiana in Portuguese, língua kabuverdianu in Sotavento Creole and língua kabverdian in Barlavento Creole) have 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 about to become one of the few creoles recognized as an official language.

Internal classification

In spite of Cape Verde's small size, 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, Santiagomarker and Maio variants; at North there are the Barlavento Creoles, which comprises the Boa Vistamarker, Salmarker, São Nicolau, São Vicentemarker and Santo Antãomarker 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.

For the writing system, check the section Writing system.

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 (Praiamarker and Mindelomarker), the variants with the greatest number of speakers, and the variants with a glottophagist tendency over the neighboring ones.

These variants have significant literature:
  • Brava: Eugénio Tavares
  • Fogo: Elsie Clews Parsons
  • Santiago: Carlos Barbosa, Tomé Varela da Silva, Daniel Spínola
  • São Vicente: Sérgio Frusoni, Ovídio Martins
  • Santo Antão: Luís Romano Madeira de Melo


Cape Verdean Creole differences:


Sotavento Creoles Barlavento Creoles English
Fogo Santiago São Nicolau São Vicente Santo Antão
Ês frâ-m’.

Ês flâ-m’.

Ês fló-m’.

Ês dzê-m’.

Ês dzê-m’.

They told me.
Bú câ ê bunítu.

Bú câ ê bunítu.

Bô câ ê b’nít’.

Bô câ ê b’nít’.

Bô n’ ê b’nít’.

You are not beautiful.
M’ câ sabê.

M’ câ sâbi.

M’ câ sabê.

M’ câ sabê.

Mí n’ séb’.

I don’t know.
Cumó’ qu’ ê bú nômi?

’Módi qu’ ê bú nómi?

Qu’ manêra qu’ ê bô nôm’?

Qu’ manêra qu’ ê bô nôm’?

Qu’ menêra qu’ ê bô nôm’?

What is your name?
Bú podê djudâ-m’?

Bú pôdi djudâ-m’?

Bô podê j’dó-m’?

Bô podê j’dá-m’?

Bô podê j’dé-m’?

Can you help me?
Spiâ lí!

Spía li!

Spiâ li!

Spiá li!

Spiá li!

Look at here!
Ê’ cantâ.

Ê’ cánta.

Êl cantâ.

Êl cantá.

Êl cantá.

He/she sang.
Bú tâ cantâ.

Bú tâ cánta.

Bô tâ cantâ.

Bô tâ cantá.

Bô tâ cantá.

You sing.
M’ stâ cantâ.

M’ sâ tâ cánta.

M’ tâ tâ cantâ.

M’ tí tâ cantá.

M’ tí tâ cantá.

I am singing.
Screbê

Scrêbi

Screbê

Screvê

Screvê

To write
Gossím

Góssi

Grinhassím

Grinhassím

Grinhessím

Now
Pôrcu

Pôrcu

Pôrcu

Tchúc’

Tchúc’

Pig
Conxê

Cônxi

Conxê

Conxê

Conxê

To know
Dixâ

Dêxa

D’xâ

D’xá

D’xá

To leave
Dixâ-m’ quétu!

Dexâ-m’ quétu!

D’xó-m’ quêt’!

D’xá-m’ quêt’!

D’xé-m’ quêt’!

Leave me alone!
Dôci

Dóxi

Dôç’

Dôç’

Dôç’

Sweet
Papiâ

Pâpia

Papiâ

Falá

Falá

To speak
Cúrpa

Cúlpa

Cúlpa

Cúlpa

Cúlpa

Fault
Nhôs amígu

Nhôs amígu

B’sôt’ amígu

B’sôt’ amíg’

B’sôt’ emíg’

Your (plural) friend
Scúru

Sucúru

Scúr’

Scúr’

Scúr’

Dark
Cárru

Cáru

Córr’

Córr’

Córr’

Car
Lébi

Lébi

Lêb’

Lêv’

Lêv’

Light (Weight)


For more examples check the Swadesh List of Cape Verdean Creole (in Portuguese).

Origins

Mornas – cantigas crioulas by Eugénio Tavares,
one of the first books with creole texts.


The history of Cape Verdean Creole is hard to trace due to a lack of written documentation and to ostracism during the Portuguese administration of Cape Verde.

There exist presently three theories about the formation of Creole. The monogenetic theory claims that the creole was formed by the Portuguese by simplifying the Portuguese language in order to make it accessible to African slaves. That is the point of view of authors like Prudent, Waldman, Chaudesenson, Lopes da Silva. Authors like Adam and Quint argue that Creole was formed by African slaves using the grammar of Western African languages and replacing the African lexicon with the Portuguese one. Linguists like Chomsky and Bickerton argue that Creole was formed spontaneously, not by slaves from continental Africa, but by the population born in the islands, using the grammar with which all human beings are born; this would explain how creoles localized several miles away have similar grammatical structures, even though they have a different lexical basis.

According to A. Carreira, Cape Verdean Creole was formed from a Portuguese pidgin, on the island of Santiago, starting from the 15th century. That pidgin was then transported to the west coast of Africa by the lançados. From there, that pidgin diverged into two proto-Creoles, one that was the base of all Cape Verdean Creoles, and another that was the base of the Guinea-Bissau Creole.

Cross referencing information regarding the settlement of each island with the linguistic comparisons, it is possible to conjecture some conclusions. The spreading of Cape Verdean Creole within the islands was done in three phases:
  • In a first phase, the island of Santiago was occupied (2nd half of the 15th century), followed by Fogo (end of the 16th century).
  • In a second phase, the island of São Nicolau was occupied (mostly in the 2nd half of the 17th century), followed by Santo Antão (mostly in the 2nd half of the 17th century).
  • In a third phase, the remaining islands were occupied by settlers from the first islands: Brava was occupied by population from Fogo (mostly in the beginning of the 18th century), Boa Vista by population from São Nicolau and Santiago (mostly in the 1st half of the 18th century), Maio by population from Santiago and Boa Vista (mostly in the 2nd half of the 18th century), São Vicente by population from Santo Antão and São Nicolau (mostly in the 19th century), Sal by population from São Nicolau and Boa Vista (mostly in the 19th century).


Status

Diglossia: announcement (law) in Portuguese; commercial in Creole.


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.

Check in this fictional text:
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.


In this text, several situations of decreolization / Portuguese intromission can be noted:
  • cú quêm / c’ quêm Portuguese order of words com quem;
  • encôntra / encontrá Portuguese lexicon, in Creole it would be more commonly átcha / otchá;
  • priocupáda Portuguese lexicon, in Creole it would be more commonly fadigáda;
  • púrqui / púrq’ Portuguese lexicon, in Creole it would be more commonly pamódi / pamód’;
  • sês minínus / sês m’nín’s Portuguese influence (plural marker on both words);
  • procurâ-’s / procurá-’s Portuguese lexicon, in Creole it would be more commonly spiâ-’s / spiá-’s;
  • olhâ-’s / olhá-’s Portuguese phonetics (intromission of the phoneme /ʎ/);
  • quí / qu’ Portuguese lexicon, the integrant conjunction in Creole is ’mâ;
  • sâ tâ pricisába / táva ta pr’cisá Portuguese lexicon, in Creole it would be more commonly sâ tâ mestêba / táva tâ mestê;
  • material, pesquisa, biblioteca words pretty uncommon in a basilect; if they are Portuguese words used when speaking Creole they should be pronounced in Portuguese and written in italic or between quotation marks;
  • úqui / úq’ intromission of Portuguese o que;
  • gradêci â / gradecê â wrong preposition, the Portuguese preposition “a” does not exist in Creole;
  • fála this form (from contemporary Portuguese falar) is only used in São Vicente and Santo Antão, in the other islands the word is papiâ (from old Portuguese papear);
  • cômu / côm’ intromission of Portuguese como;
  • curaçãu Portuguese phonetics (reduction of the phoneme /o/ to /u/ and Portuguese pronunciation /ɐ̃w/ instead of Creole /õ/);


The same text “corrected”:
Santiago variant:
: Quêl mudjêr quí m’ encôntra cú êl ónti stába fadigáda pamódi êl sqêci sês minínu nâ scóla, í cándu quí êl bâi spiâ-’s êl câ odjâ-’s. Alguêm lembrâ-’l ’ma sês minínu sâ tâ mestêba «material» pâ úm «pesquisa», entõ êl bâi atchâ-’s nâ «biblioteca» tâ spía cusê quí ês cría. Pâ gradêci pâ túdu quêm quí djudâ-’l, êl cumêça tâ pâpia, tâ flâ módi quí êl stába contênti di fúndu di coraçõ.
São Vicente variant:
: Quêl m’djêr qu’ m’ encontrá má’ êl ônt’ táva fadigáda pamód’ êl sq’cê sês m’nín’ nâ scóla, í cónd’ êl bái spiá-’s êl câ oiá-’s. Alguêm lembrá-’l ’mâ sês m’nín’ táva tâ mestê «material» pâ úm «pesquisa», entõ êl bâi otchá-’s nâ «biblioteca» tâ spiá c’sê qu’ ês cría. Pâ gradecê pâ túd’ quêm qu’ j’dá-’l, êl c’meçá tâ fála, tâ dzê qu’ manêra qu’ êl táva contênt’ d’ fúnd’ d’ coraçõ.


As a consequence there is a continuum between basilectal and acrolectal varieties.

In spite of Creole not being officialized, there exists a governmental directive that puts forth the necessary conditions for the officialization of Creole. This officialization has not yet occurred, mostly because the language is not yet standardized, for several reasons:
  • There is significant dialectal fragmentation. Speakers are reluctant to speak a variant that is not their own.
  • Absence of rules to establish which is the right form (and also the right spelling) to be adopted for each word. For example for the word corresponding to the Portuguese word algibeira (“pocket”), A. Fernandes records the forms algibêra, agibêra, albigêra, aljubêra, alj’bêra, gilbêra, julbêra, lijbêra.
  • Absence of rules to establish which are the lexical limits to be adopted. It is frequent for speakers of Creole, when writing, to join different grammatical classes. For ex.: pâm... instead of pâ m’... “for me to...”.
  • Absence of rules to establish which are the grammatical structures to be adopted. It is not just about dialectal differences; even within a single variant there are fluctuations. For ex.: in the Santiago variant, when there are two sentences and one is subordinated to the other, there is a tense agreement in the verbs (bú cría pâ m’ dába “you wanted me to give” both cría and dába are past tense), but some speakers do not practice it (bú cría pâ m’ dâ past then present or bú crê pâ m’ dába present then past).
  • The writing system (ALUPEC) has not been well accepted by all Creole users.
  • The language levels (formal, informal, scientific, slang, etc.) are not well differentiated yet.


That is the reason why, each speaker when speaking (or writing) uses his/her own dialect, his/her own sociolect and his/her own idiolect.

To overcome these problems, some Creole advocates propose the development of two standards: a North (Barlavento) standard, centered on the São Vicente variant, and a South (Sotavento) standard, centered on that of Santiago. If so, Creole would become a pluricentric language

There exists no complete translation of the Bible. However, Sérgio Frusoni produced a New Testament in the São Vicente Creole, Vangêle contód d'nôs móda, translated from Bartolomeo Rossetti's version in Rome dialect (Er Vangelo Seconno Noantri).

Writing system

The only writing system officially recognized by the authorities in Cape Verde is called ALUPEC. In spite of having been officially recognized by the government, the ALUPEC is neither officially nor mandatorily used, instead used only by enthusiasts.

In spite of being the only system officially recognized, the same law allows the use of alternative writing models, “as long as they are presented in a systematic and scientific way”. As not all users are familiarized with ALUPEC or the IPA, in this article a slightly different system will be used to make it easier for the reader:
  • The sound [s] will be represented in an etymological way (“s” when in Portuguese is “s”, “ss” when in Portuguese is “ss”, “c” when in Portuguese is “c”, “ç” when in Portuguese is “ç”) instead of ALUPEC always “s”.
  • The sound [z] will be represented in an etymological way (“s” when in Portuguese is “s”, “z” when in Portuguese is “z”) instead of ALUPEC always “z”.
  • The sound [tʃ] will be represented by “tch” instead of ALUPEC “tx”.
  • The sound [ʃ] will be represented in an etymological way (“x” when in Portuguese is “x”, “ch” when in Portuguese is “ch”) instead of ALUPEC always “x”.
  • The sound [ʒ] will be represented in an etymological way (“j” when in Portuguese is “j”, “g” when in Portuguese is “g”) instead of ALUPEC always “j”.
  • The sound [k] will be represented in an etymological way (“c” when in Portuguese is “c”, “qu” when in Portuguese is “qu”) instead of ALUPEC always “k”.
  • The sound [ɡ] will be represented in an etymological way (“g” when in Portuguese is “g”, “gu” when in Portuguese is “gu”) instead of ALUPEC always “g”.
  • The nasality of the vowels will be represented by an “m” after the vowel, when this vowel is at the and of the word or before the letters “p” and “b”. In the other cases the nasality will be represented by the letter “n”.
  • The words will always have a graphic accent. This will be an overwhelming use of accents, but it is the only way to effectively represent both the stressed syllable and vowel aperture.
  • To show an elided vowel in certain variants an apostrophe will be used.


Vocabulary

The vocabulary of Cape Verdean Creole comes mainly from Portuguese. Although the several sources do not agree, the figures oscillate between 90 to 95% of words from Portuguese. The remaining comes from several languages from Western Africa (Mandingo, Wolof, Fulani, Temne, Balant, Mandjak, etc.), and the vocabulary from other languages (English, French, Latin) is negligible.

The page Etimologias from this Cape Verdean Portuguese on-line dictionary gives a glimpse of the different origins of Creole vocabulary.

Phonology

Cape Verdean Creole's phonological system comes mainly from 15th- through 17th-century Portuguese. In terms of conservative features, Creole has kept the affricate consonants /dʒ/ and /tʃ/ (written “j” (in the beginning of words) and “ch”, in old Portuguese) which are not in use in today’s Portuguese, and the pre-tonic vowels were not reduced as in today’s European Portuguese. In terms of innovative features, the phoneme /ʎ/ (written “lh” in Portuguese) has evolved to /dʒ/ and the vowels have suffered several phonetic phenomena.

Vowels

There are eight oral vowels and their corresponding nasal counterparts, making a total of sixteen vowels:

  Front Central Back
oral nasal oral nasal oral nasal
Close  
Close-mid  
Open-mid
Open    


Consonants and semi-vowels

Labial Dental/
Alveolar
Postalveolar/
Palatal
Velar Uvular
Nasal  
Plosive      
Affricate                
Fricative      
Tap        
Trill      
Approximant      
Lateral      


  • Note: The sounds , and are variants of the same phoneme .


First-person singular

The personal pronoun that represents the subject form of the first person singular has a variable pronunciation according to the islands.

This pronoun comes from the object form of the first person singular in Portuguese mim, and it is phonetically reduced to the sound .

This pronunciation is nowadays found in the Barlavento variants. In the Sotavento variants that consonant was reduced to a simple nasality . For example: m’ andâ ('I have walked'), m’ stâ tâ sintí ('I am feeling'), m’ labába ('I had washed'). Before plosive or affricate consonants this nasality becomes homorganic nasal of the following consonant. For ex.: m’ bêm ('I came'), m’ têm ('I have'), m’ tchigâ ('I arrived'), m’ crê ('I want').

Speakers who are strongly influenced by the Portuguese language tend to pronounce this pronoun as a nasal vowel úm [ũ] instead of m’ [m].

Before some forms of the verb sêr this pronoun takes back its full form , in whatever variant: mí ê (‘I am’), mí éra (‘I was’).

In this article, this pronoun is conventionally written m’, no matter the variant.

Some linguistic books about the creole.


Grammar

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 (check syntactic similarities of creoles).

Sentence structure

The basic sentence structure in Creole is Subject Verb Object. Ex.:
  • Êl tâ cumê pêxi. “He eats fish.”


When there are two objects, the indirect object comes first while the direct object comes after, and the sentence structure becomes Subject Verb Indirect Object Direct Object. Ex.:
  • Êl tâ dâ pêxi cumída. “He gives food to the fish.”


A curiosity that makes Cape Verdean Creole closer to other creoles is the possibility of double negation (ex.: Náda m’ câ atchâ. liter. “Nothing I didn’t find.”), or sometimes even triple negation (ex.: Núnca ninguêm câ tâ bába lâ. liter. “Never nobody didn’t go there.”), in forms not allowed in Portuguese.

Nouns

Only the animated nouns (human beings and animals) have gender inflection. Ex.:
  • inglês / inglésa “Englishman / Englishwoman”
  • pôrcu / pórca “pig (male) / pig (female)”


In some cases the distinction between sexes is made putting the adjectives mátchu “male” and fémia “female” after the nouns. Ex.:
  • fídju-mátchu / fídju-fémia “son / daughter”
  • catchôrr’-mátchu / catchôrr’-fémia “dog (male) / dog (female)”


The nouns in Creole have number inflection only when they are well determined or known in the context. Ex.:
  • Minínus dí Bía ê bêm comportádu. “The children of Bia are well behaved.”


When the noun refers to something in general that noun does not have number inflection. Ex.:
  • Minínu devê ruspetâ alguêm grándi. “Children must respect grown up people.”


If in a sentence there are several grammatical categories, only the first bears the plural marker. Ex.:
  • minínu's “boys”
  • nhâ's minína “my girls”
  • minínu's bunítu “beautiful boys”
  • nhâ's dôs minína buníta í simpática “my two kind and beautiful girls”


Personal pronouns

According to their function, the pronouns can be subject pronouns or object pronouns. Furthermore, in each of these functions, according to the position within the sentence the pronouns can be unstressed or stressed.

The unstressed subject pronouns generally bear the function of the subject and the come before the verb. Ex.:
  • crê. We' want.”


The stressed subject pronouns bear the function of some kind of vocative and usually are separated from the verb (disjunctive pronouns). Ex.:
  • , m’ stâ lí, í, bú stâ lâ. Me', I am here, and you, you are there.”


The object pronouns, as the name shows, bear the function of the object (direct or indirect). The unstressed object pronouns are used with the present-tense forms of verbs. Ex.:
  • M’ odjá-'’l. “I have seen it'.”
  • M’ tâ bejá-'bu. “I kiss you'.”


The stressed object pronouns are used with the past-tense forms of verbs, when they are the second pronoun in a series of two pronouns, and after prepositions (prepositional pronouns). Ex.:
  • Ês tâ odjába-'êl. “They saw it'.”
  • Bú dâ-m’-'êl. “You gave it' to me.”
  • M’ stâ fártu dí '! “I’m fed up of you'!”


When there are two object pronouns, the indirect pronoun comes first while the direct pronoun comes after, and the sentence structure becomes Subject Verb Indirect Pronoun Direct Pronoun.

There are no reflexive pronouns. To indicate reflexivity, Creole uses the expression cabéça ("head") after the possessive determiner. Ex.:
  • Ês mordê sês cabéça. “They have bitten themselves.”


There are no reciprocal pronouns. To indicate reciprocity, Creole uses the expression cumpanhêru ("companion"). Ex.:
  • Ês mordê cumpanhêru. “They have bitten each other.”


Verbs

The verbs do not have inflection. They have the same form for all the persons, and the notions of tense, mood and aspect are expressed through the presence (or absence) of certain morphemes (called “verbal actualizers” by Veiga), as in the majority of creoles.

The verbs are generally reduced to two base forms, one for the present, another for the past. The form for the present is the same to the form for the infinitive (exception: sêr “to be”), that in turn comes, in the majority of the verbs, from the infinitive in Portuguese but without the final r. Ex.: cantâ /kɐ̃ˈtɐ/ (from Portuguese cantar), mexê /meˈʃe/ (from Portuguese mexer), partí /pɐɾˈti/ (from Portuguese partir), compô /kõˈpo/ (from Portuguese compor), *lumbú /lũˈbu/ (from Portuguese lombo). The form for the past is formed from the infinitive to which is joined the particle for the past ~ba. Ex.: cantába /kɐ̃ˈtabɐ/, mexêba /meˈʃebɐ/, partíba /pɐɾˈtibɐ/, compôba /kõˈpobɐ/, *lumbúba /lũˈbubɐ/ (in the Barlavento variants, the particle for the past ~va (or ~ba) is joined to the imperfective actualizer, and not to the verb). It is noteworthy that the Upper Guinea creoles (Cape Verdean Creole and Guinea-Bissau Creole) put the past tense marker after the verbs, and not before like the majority of creoles (check syntactic similarities of creoles).

It is important to mention that in the Santiago variant, the stress goes back to before the last syllable in the present tense forms of the verbs. Therefore we have: cánta /ˈkãtɐ/ instead of cantâ /kɐ̃ˈtɐ/, mêxe /ˈmeʃe/ or mêxi /ˈmeʃi/ instead of mexê /meˈʃe/, pârti /ˈpɐɾti/ instead of partí /pɐɾˈti/, cômpo /ˈkõpo/ or cômpu /ˈkõpu/ instead of compô /kõˈpo/, búmbu /ˈbũbu/ instead of bumbú /bũˈbu/. In the pronominal forms, however, the stress remains on the last syllable: cantâ-m’ /kɐ̃ˈtɐ̃/, mexê-bu /meˈʃebu/, partí-’l /pɐɾˈtil/, compô-nu /kõˈponu/, bumbú-’s /bũˈbuz/.

Regular verbs

As was said before, the regular verbs are reduced to a form for the present tense and a form for the past tense, and the notions of mood and aspect are expressed through verbal actualizers.

The following table shows a paradigm of the annunciative (indicative) mood with the verb “to give” in the first-person singular:

  Present Tense Past Tense
Perfective Aspect M’ dâ M’ dába
Imperfective Aspect M’ tâ dâ M’ tâ dába
Progressive Aspect M’ stâ tâ dâ M’ stába tâ da


The perfective aspect of the present is used when the speech refers to present situations, but that are finished, that are complete. Ex.:
M’ dâ. [m dɐ] “I gave. / I have given.”
It corresponds roughly, according to context, to the past tense or present perfect tense in English.


The imperfective aspect of the present is used when the speech refers to present situations, but that are not finished yet, that are incomplete. Ex.:
M’ tâ dâ. [m tɐ dɐ] “I give.”
It corresponds roughly to the present tense in English.


The progressive aspect of the present is used when the speech refers to present situations that are happening in a continuous, uninterrupted way. Ex.:
M’ stâ tâ dâ. [m stɐ tɐ dɐ] “I am giving.”
It corresponds roughly to the present continuous tense in English.
:Note: Actually, this model doesn’t exist anymore. It has evolved to M’ stâ dâ. [ƞ stɐ dɐ] in Brava Fogo and Maio, to M’ sâ tâ dâ. [ƞ sɐ tɐ dɐ] in Santiago, to M’ tâ tâ dâ. [m tɐ tɐ dɐ] in Boa Vista, Sal and São Nicolau and to M’ ti tâ dá. [m ti tɐ da] in São Vicente and Santo Antão.


There is no specific form for the future. The future of the present may be expressed through three resources:
  1. Using the imperfective of the present but bearing the function of the future. Ex.: M’ tâ dâ manhã. [m tɐ dɐ mɐˈɲɐ̃] liter. “I give tomorrow.”
  2. Using the auxiliary verb “to go”. Ex.: M’ tâ bái dâ. [m tɐ baj dɐ] liter. “I go to give.”
  3. Using a periphrasis showing an eventuality. Ex.: M’ ál dâ. [m al dɐ] “I will give.”
It corresponds roughly to the future tense in English.


The perfective aspect of the past is used when the speech refers to past situations that were finished, or complete. Ex.:
M’ dába. [m ˈdabɐ] “I had given.”
It corresponds roughly to the past perfect tense in English.
:Note: This form does not exist in the Barlavento variants.


The imperfective aspect of the past is used when the speech refers to past situations that were not finished yet, or incomplete. Ex.:
M’ tâ dába. [m tɐ ˈdabɐ] “I gave. / I use to give.”
It corresponds roughly to the past tense in English.
:Note: In the Barlavento variants the particle for the past is joined to the imperfective actualizer and not to the verb: M’ táva dâ. [m ˈtavɐ dɐ]. In São Nicolau, alongside with M’ táva dâ also subsists the older form M’ tá dába [m ta ˈdabɐ].


The progressive aspect of the past is used when the speech refers to past situations that were happening in a continuous and uninterrupted way. Ex.:
M’ stába tâ dâ. [m ˈstabɐ tɐ dɐ] “I was giving.”
It corresponds roughly to the past continuous tense in English.
:Note: Actually, this model only exists in Brava and Fogo. It has evolved to M’ sâ tâ dába. [ƞ sɐ tɐ ˈdabɐ] in Santiago and Maio and to M’ táva tâ dâ. [m ˈtavɐ tɐ dɐ] in Boa Vista, Sal, São Nicolau, São Vicente and Santo Antão.


There is no specific form for the future. The future of the past may be expressed through three resources:
  1. Using the imperfective of the past but bearing the function of the future. Ex.: M’ tâ dába manhã. [m tɐ ˈdabɐ mɐˈɲɐ̃] liter. “I gave tomorrow.”
  2. Using the auxiliary verb “to go”. Ex.: M’ tâ bába dâ. [m tɐ ˈbabɐ dɐ] liter. “I went to give.”
  3. Using a periphrasis showing an eventuality. Ex.: M’ ál dába. [m al ˈdabɐ] “I would give.”
It corresponds roughly to the conditional in English.


The remaining moods subjunctive, conditional (not the same as “conditional” in English), eventual do not have different aspects, only present and past tense, except the injunctive (imperative) mood which has only the present tense.

Irregular verbs

There is a group of verbs that do not follow the paradigmatic model presented above. They are the auxiliary verbs sêr /seɾ/ “to be”, stâ /stɐ/ “to be”, têm /tẽ/ “to have” and tenê /teˈne/ “to have”, and the modal verbs crê /kɾe/ “to want”, sabê /sɐˈbe/ “to know”, podê /poˈde/ “can”, devê /deˈve/ “must” and mestê /mesˈte/ “to need”.
Note.: The designation “auxiliary verbs” is not consensual.


There exist two registers for these verbs.

In the first register (in older speakers, in rural areas speakers or in speakers with little exposure to Portuguese) there are only two forms for the verbs: one for the present (ê /e/, stâ /stɐ/, têm /tẽ/, tenê /teˈne/, crê /kɾe/, sabê /sɐˈbe/, podê /poˈde/, devê /deˈve/, mestê /mesˈte/) and one for the past (éra /ˈɛɾɐ/, stába /stabɐ/, têmba /tẽbɐ/, tenêba /teˈnebɐ/, crêba /kɾebɐ/, sabêba /sɐˈbebɐ/, podêba /poˈdebɐ/, devêba /deˈvebɐ/, mestêba /mesˈtebɐ/). However, on the contrary of regular verbs, when the base form is used alone it represents the imperfective aspect and not the perfective aspect. Therefore, mí ê, m’ têm, m’ crê, m’ sabê mean “I am, I have, I want, I know”, and not “I’ve been, I’ve had, I’ve wanted, I’ve known”, as it would be expected. Parallelly, mí éra, m’ têmba, m’ crêba, m’ sabêba mean “I was, I had, I wanted, I knew”, and not “I had been, I had had, I had wanted, I had known”, as would be expected.

In the second register (in younger speakers, in urban areas or in speakers with more exposure to Portuguese) the system has been enriched with other forms influenced by Portuguese. Therefore, we have:
  • ê /e/, stâ /stɐ/, têm /tẽ/, crê /kɾe/, sabê /sɐˈbe/, podê /poˈde/, devê /deˈve/, mestê /mesˈte/ for the imperfective of the present;
  • fôi /foj/, stêvi /ˈstevi/, têvi /ˈtevi/, crís /kɾis/, sôbi /ˈsobi/, púdi /ˈpudi/ for the perfective of the present;
  • éra /ˈɛɾɐ/, stába /ˈstabɐ/, tínha /ˈtiɲɐ/, cría /ˈkɾiɐ/, sabía /sɐˈbiɐ/, pudía /puˈdiɐ/, divía /diˈviɐ/, mistía /misˈtiɐ/ for the imperfective of the past;
  • sêrba /ˈseɾbɐ/, stába /ˈstabɐ/, têmba /ˈtẽbɐ/, crêba /ˈkɾebɐ/, sabêba /sɐˈbebɐ/, podêba /poˈdebɐ/, devêba /deˈvebɐ/, mestêba /mesˈtebɐ/ for the perfective of the past;
Note.: Some authors call these verbs “stative verbs” and to these verbs they add others: gostâ, conxê, merecê, morâ, tchomâ, valê. However that designation is contested: not all those verbs are in fact stative; not all those verbs are irregular (for ex. morâ); some of those verbs are regular in some variants (m’ tâ gostâ imperfective of the present with ), and irregulars in other variants (m’ gostâ imperfective of the present but without ).


There is a parallelism between the pair of the verbs sêr / stâ “to be” and the pair of the verbs têm / tenê “to have”.
  • The verb sêr is a copulative verb that expresses a permanent quality. Ex.:
:Mí ê úm ómi. /mi e ũ ˈɔmi/ “I am (I’ve always been and I will always be) a man.”
  • The verb stâ is a copulative verb that expresses a temporary state. Ex.:
:Êl stâ trísti. /el stɐ ˈtɾisti/ “He is (in this precise moment) sad.”
  • The verb têm is a possessive verb that expresses a permanent quality. Ex.:
:M’ têm péli scúru. /m tẽ ˈpɛli ˈskuɾu/ “I have (I had and I will always have) dark skin.”
  • The verb tenê is a possessive verb that expresses a temporary possession. Ex.:
:M’ tenê úm canéta nâ bôlsu. /m teˈne ũ kɐˈnɛtɐ nɐ ˈbolsu/ “I have (in this precise moment) a pen in the pocket.”


  permanent temporary
copulative verbs sêr stâ
possessive verbs têm tenê


Note.: The verbs stâ and tenê do not have the progressive aspect: forms like *m’ stâ tâ stâ or *m’ stâ tâ tenê do not exist. The verb tenê does not exist in the Barlavento variants. In São Vicente and Santo Antão the verb stâ has the form stód’ for the infinitive, for the imperfective of the present, tív’ for the perfective of the present, and táva for the imperfective of the past.


Passive

Cape Verdean Creole has two voices. The active voice is used when the subject is explicit. The passive voice is used when the subject is indeterminate or unknown. There is also two forms for the passive. The form for the present is made with the infinitive to which is joined the particle ~du. The form for the past is made with the infinitive to which is joined the particle ~da. Ex.:
  • Tâ papiádu inglês nâ Mérca. /tɐ pɐpiˈɐdu ĩɡˈlez nɐ ˈmɛɾkɐ/ “English is spoken in America.”
  • M’ inxinádu tâ andâ. /m ĩʃiˈnadu tɐ ɐˈdɐ/ “I was taught to walk.”
  • Úm vêz, tâ cumêda tchêu mídju. /ũ vez tɐ kuˈmedɐ tʃew ˈmidʒu/ “Once, one used to eat a lot of corn.”
Note.: In the Barlavento variants the form for the past does not exist.


Negative

To negate a verb, the negative adverb /kɐ/ is used after the subject and before any verbal actualizer. Ex.:
  • Nú câ tâ bebê. /nu kɐ tɐ beˈbe/ “We don’t drink.”
  • Êl câ tâ odjába. /el kɐ tɐ oˈdʒabɐ/ “He didn’t see.”
  • Bú câ bái. /bu kɐ baj/ “You haven’t gone.”


In the Santo Antão variant, the negative adverb is n’ /n/. Ex.:
  • Nô n’ dâ bibê. /no n dɐ biˈbe/ “We don’t drink.”
  • Êl n’ dáva o’á. /el n davɐ oˈa/ “He didn’t see.”
  • Bô n’ bé. /bo n bɛ/ “You haven’t gone.”


In imperative sentences the negative adverb /kɐ/ is always in the beginning. Ex.:
  • Câ bú bái! /kɐ bu baj/ “Don’t go!” (you singular)
  • Câ nhôs fazê! /kɐ ɲoz fɐˈze/ (Sotavento), Câ b’sôt’ fazê! /kɐ bzot fɐˈze/ (Barlavento) “Don’t do!” (you plural)


And in the Santo Antão variant:
  • N’ bô bé! /n bo bɛ/ “Don’t go!” (you singular)
  • N’ b’sôt’ fezê! /n bzot feˈze/ “Don’t do!” (you plural)


Adjectives

Adjectives in Creole almost always come after the noun. Only the animated nouns (human beings and animals) demand gender inflection in their adjectives. Ex.:
  • ómi fêiu / mudjêr fêia “ugly man / ugly woman”
  • bódi prêtu / cábra préta “black buck / black goat”


The adjectives for unanimated nouns have the same form as the masculine adjectives. Ex.:
  • bistídu bráncu “white dress”
  • camísa bráncu “white shirt”


In general the plural marker does not appear on adjectives since it comes in a preceding grammatical category.

Determiners

In Creole there are no definite articles. If it is absolutely necessary to determine the noun, the demonstrative determiners are used instead.

For the indefinite articles there are two forms, one for the singular, another for the plural:
  • úm… /ũ/ “a, an (singular)”, úns… /ũz/ “a, an (plural)”


The possessive determiners have number inflexion, but the plural refers to the objects possessed, and not to the owners. Ex.:
  • nhâ cárru “my car”
  • nhâs cárru “my cars”
  • nôs cárru can be either “our car” or “our cars”


The demonstrative determiners have only two degrees of proximity: close to the speaker (êss “this, these”) and away from the speaker (quêl “that”, quês “those”).
Note.: Only the São Vicente and Santo Antão Creoles make a phonetic distinction between the singular êss /es/ (“this”) and the plural ês /eʒ/ (“these”).


Designatives

Creole possesses a special grammatical category for presenting or announcing something. It appears in two forms, one to present something near, (alí… /ɐˈli/) and another to present something far (alâ… /ɐˈlɐ/). Ex.:
  • Alí nhâ fídju. “Here is my son.”
  • Alá-’l tâ bái. “There he goes.”


Cape Verdean Creole examples

Example 1 (Santiago variant)

Creole transcription translation to English
Ôi Cábu Vêrdi,
Bô qu’ ê nhâ dôr más sublími
Ôi Cábu Vêrdi,
Bô qu’ ê nhâ angústia, nhâ paxõ
Nhâ vída nâce
Dí disafíu dí bú clíma ingrátu
Vontádi férru ê bô nâ nhâ pêtu
Gôstu pâ lúta ê bô nâ nhâs bráçu
Bô qu’ ê nhâ guérra,
Nhâ dôci amôr

Stênde bús bráçu,
Bú tomâ-m’ nhâ sángui,
Bú rêga bú tchõ,
Bú flúri!




























Pâ térra lôngi
Bêm cába pâ nôs
Bô cú már, cêu í bús fídju
N’ úm dôci abráçu dí páz

















Oh Cape Verde,
It is you who are my most sublime pain
Oh Cape Verde,
It is you who are my anguish, my passion
My life was born
From the challenge of your ungrateful climate
The will of iron is you in my chest
The taste for the fight is you in my arms
It is you who are my war,
My sweet love

Stretch your arms,
Take my blood,
Water your ground,
And blossom!




























In order to distant land
Come to an end for us
You with the sea, the sky and your sons
In a sweet hug of peace



















Excerpt of the lyrics of Dôci Guérra from Antero Simas. The full lyrics may be found (with a different orthography) in » Blog Archive » Doce Guerra.

Example 2 (São Vicente variant)

Creole transcription translation to English
Papái, bêm dzê-m’ quí ráça quí nôs ê, óh pái
Nôs ráça ê prêt’ má’ brónc’ burníd’ nâ vênt’
Burníd’ nâ temporál dí scravatúra, óh fídj’
Úm geraçõ dí túga cú africán’

Ês bêm dí Európa farejá riquéza
Ês vendê fídj’ dí África nâ scravatúra
Carregód’ nâ fúnd’ dí porõ dí sês galéra
D’bóx’ dí chicôt’ má’ júg’ culuniál

Algúns quí f’cá pralí gatchód’ nâ rótcha, óh fídj’
Trançá má’ túga, ês criá êss pôv’ cab’verdián’
Êss pôv’ quí sofrê quinhênt’s ón’ di turtúra, ôi, ôi
Êss pôv’ quí ravultiá tabánca intêr’












Daddy, come tell me which race are we, oh dad
Our race is blacks and whites melted in the wind
Melted in the storm of slavery, oh son
A generation of Portuguese with Africans

They came from Europe to scent richness
They sold sons of Africa in slavery
Loaded deep in the hold of their ships
Under the whip and colonial yoke

Some that remained by here hidden in the mountains, oh son
Mixed with the Portuguese, and created this Cape Verdean people
This people that has suffered five hundred years of torture, oh, oh
This people that has rebelled completely














Excerpt of the lyrics of Nôs Ráça from Manuel d’ Novas. The full lyrics may be found (with a different orthography) in Cap-Vert :: Mindelo Infos :: Musique capverdienne: Nos raça Cabo Verde / Cape Verde.

Example 3

Creole transcription translation to English
Túdu alguêm tâ nacê lívri í iguál nâ dignidádi cú nâ dirêtus. Ês ê dotádu cú razõ í cú «consciência», í ês devê agí pâ cumpanhêru cú sprítu dí fraternidádi. All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood.


Free translation of the 1st article of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

References

  1. Santos, C., "Cultura e comunicação: um estudo no âmbito da sociolinguística"
  2. Carreira, A. (1982)
  3. Pereira, D. (2006)
  4. Duarte, D. A. (1998)
  5. Resolução n.º 48/2005 (Boletim Oficial da República de Cabo Verde – 2005)
  6. Fernandes, A. N. Rodrigues (1969)
  7. Pereira, D., « Pa Nu Skrebe Na Skola»
  8. Veiga, M. (2000)
  9. Quint, N. 2000


Bibliography

Linguistic books and texts
  • Os dialectos românicos ou neo-latinos na África, Ásia e América (Coelho, F. Adolpho 1880; capítulo 1: "Crioulo da Ilha de Santiago")
  • O crioulo de Cabo Verde. Breves estudos sobre o crioulo das ilhas de Cabo Verde (Botelho da Costa, Joaquim Vieira & Custódio José Duarte 1886)
  • A Parábola do Filho Pródigo no crioulo de Santiago, do Fogo, da Brava, de Santo Antão, de S. Nicolau e da Boavista: O crioulo de Cabo Verde (Botelho da Costa, Joaquim Vieira & Custódio José Duarte 1886)
  • Dialectos crioulos-portugueses. Apontamentos para a gramática do crioulo que se fala na ilha de Santiago de Cabo Verde (Brito, A. de Paula 1887)
  • O dialecto crioulo de Cabo Verde (Silva, Baltasar Lopes da 1957)
  • Cabo Verde. Contribuição para o estudo do dialecto falado no seu arquipélago (Duarte, Dulce Almada 1961)
  • O dialecto crioulo - Léxico do dialecto crioulo do Arquipélago de Cabo Verde (Fernandes, Armando Napoleão Rodrigues 1969)
  • The Creole dialect of the island of Brava (Meintel, Deirdre 1975) in Miscelânea luso-africana coord. Marius F. Valkhoff
  • A linguistic approach to the Capeverdean language (Macedo, Donaldo Pereira 1979)
  • O crioulo de Cabo Verde - surto e expansão (Carreira, António 1982)
  • Left-dislocation and topicalization in Capeverdean creole (Braga, Maria Luiza: Ph.D. Dissertation, University of Pennsylvania 1982)
  • Variation and change in the verbal system of Capeverdean crioulo (Silva, Izione Santos —1985)
  • O crioulo da ilha de S. Nicolau de Cabo Verde (Cardoso, Eduardo Augusto 1989)
  • Kabuverdianu: Elementaria seiner TMA-Morphosyntax im lusokreolischen Vergleich (Thiele, Petra. Kabuverdianu 1991)
  • "O princípio da parcimónia em crioulo de Cabo Verde" (Pereira, Dulce 1992: in Actas do II. Colóquio sobre Crioulos de base lexical portuguesa, pp. 141–151)
  • O crioulo de Cabo Verde: Introdução à gramática (Veiga, Manuel 1995)
  • Dicionário Caboverdiano-Português, Variante de Santiago (Quint(-Abrial), Nicolas, Lisboa: Verbalis 1998)
  • Bilinguismo ou Diglossia (Duarte, Dulce Almada 1998)
  • Le créole du Cap-Vert. Etude grammaticale descriptive et contrastive (Veiga, Manuel 2000)
  • Le Cap-Verdien: Origines et devenir d'une langue métisse (Quint, Nicolas 2000)
  • Grammaire de la langue cap-verdienne: Étude descriptive et compréhensive du créole afro-portugais des Iles du Cap-Vert (Quint, Nicolas 2000)
  • Dictionnaire Cap-Verdien/français (Quint, Nicolas 2000)
  • Dicionário do Crioulo da Ilha de Santiago (Cabo Verde) com equivalentes de tradução em alemão e português (ed. por Jürgen Lang: Tübingen 2002)
  • Kurze Skizze der Grammatik des Kreols von Santiago (Kapverde) (Jürgen Lang - 2000 in: Neue Romania 23 , 15-43)
  • The syntax of Cape Verdean Creole. The Sotavento Varieties (Baptista, Marlyse 2002)
  • Dicionário Prático Português-Caboverdiano/Disionári Purtugés-Berdiánu Kiriolu di Santiagu Ku Splikasom di Uzu di Kada Palábra (M. Mendes, N. Quint, F. Ragageles, A. Semedo, Lisboa: Verbalis 2002)
  • O Cabo-verdiano em 45 Lições (Veiga, Manuel 2002)
  • Parlons capverdien : Langue et culture (Nicolas Quint, Aires Semedo 2003)
  • Le créole capverdien de poche (Nicolas Quint, Aires Semedo, Chennevières-sur-Marne: Assimil 2005)
  • Crioulos de base portuguesa (Pereira, Dulce 2006)
  • Crioulo de Cabo Verde Situação Linguística da Zona do Barlavento (Delgado, Carlos Alberto; Praia: IBNL 2008)


Literature
  • Os Lusíadas (estâncias 8 e 9 do Canto V) Teixeira, A. da Costa 1898
  • Folk-Lore from the Cape Verde Islands ( Parsons, Elsie Clews 1923: Capeverdian Stories; book 1: English, book 2: Creole)
  • Mornas - Cantigas Crioulas, Tavares, eugénio 1932
  • Renascença de uma civilização no Atlântico médio (Melo, Luís Romano de Madeira 1967: Collection of poems and stories in Portuguese and in Creole)
  • 100 Poemas Gritarei, Berrarei, Matarei, Não vou para pasárgada Martins, Ovídio, 1973 Poems in Portuguese and in Creole
  • Negrume/Lzimparin (Melo, Luís Romano de Madeira 1973: Stories in Creole with Portuguese translation)
  • "Textos crioulos cabo-verdianos" (Frusoni, Sérgio 1975) in Miscelânea luso-africana coord. Valkhoff, Marius F.
  • Vangêle contód d'nôs móda (Frusoni, Sérgio : Fogo 1979; Novo Testamento)
  • A Poética de Sérgio Frusoni - uma leitura antropológica (Lima, Mesquitela; Lisboa 1992)


External links

Note: Ethnologue considers Cape Verdean Creole one language, and names it Kabuverdianu, although this name is not used by native speakers or by others to refer to the language.

Linguistic texts


Literature



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