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Mauritian Creole, called Kreol Morisyen in the language itself, is a creole language spoken in Mauritiusmarker. Almost all of its vocabulary stems from French, with smaller numbers of words from English and the many African and Asian languages that have been spoken on the island.

Sociolinguistic Situation

Mauritian Creole is the lingua franca of Mauritius. Although English is the official language of government and education and standard French is widely learnt, Mauritian creole is the most commonly spoken language on the island, especially between people of different ethnic groups in informal settings. Such inter-ethnic encounters are very common owing to the great ethnic and linguistic diversity of the people of Mauritius. A majority of the population of Mauritius is of Indian descentmarker, but they speak numerous languages, including Tamil, Bhojpuri, Telugu, Hindi, Gujarati, as well as English, French, and Creole. The same is true for the much smaller European and Chinese minorities, which speak French, English, Cantonese, Mandarin, and Hakka. The Creoles, who make up just under a third of the population, are descended primarily from enslaved Africans and Asians brought to the island until the abolition of slavery throughout the British Empire in the 1830s. Creoles are most likely to speak Creole as their first language, although they, too, often speak French and English, as well.

Classification

Linguists consider Mauritian Creole a French-based creole language insofar as the vast majority of the words in the language are of French origin. They also agree that the creoles of the Seychellesmarker, the Chagos archipelagomarker, and Rodrigues Islandmarker are closely related to Mauritian creole. However, the language's relationship to other French-based creole languages besides these is controversial. The linguist Robert Chaudenson has argued that Mauritian Creole is closely related to the creole spoken on the nearby island of Reunionmarker, which was settled by French-speakers earlier than Mauritius was. On the other hand, the linguists R. A. Papen, Phillip Baker, and Chris Corne have all argued that Reunionnais creole influence on Mauritian creole was minimal, and that the two languages are barely more similar to one another than they are to other French-based creoles.

History

Although the Portuguese were the first Europeans to visit Mauritius, they did not settle there. The small Portuguese element in the vocabulary of Mauritian creole derives rather from the Portuguese element in European maritime jargons (such as Sabir and Lingua Franca) or from enslaved Africans or Asians who came from areas where 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, leaving behind only a few runaway slaves who would have no discernible impact on Mauritian Creole. The French then claimed Mauritius and first settled it between 1715 and 1721.

As they had done on Réunionmarker and in the West Indiesmarker, the French created on Mauritius a plantation economy based on slave labor. Slaves became a majority of the population of Mauritius by 1730, and were 85% of the population by 1777. These forced migrants came from West Africa, East Africa, Madagascarmarker, and Indiamarker. 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 utter lack of formal education for slaves ensured that the slaves' French would develop in very different directions from the slaveowners' French. Historical documents from as early as 1773 already speak of the "creole language" that the slaves spoke.

The British took over Mauritius during the Napoleonic era, but few English-speakers ever settled there and by now Mauritian Creole was firmly entrenched. The abolition of slavery in the 1830s enabled many Mauritian Creoles to leave the plantations, and the plantation owners started bringing in Indian indentured workers to replace them. Though the Indians soon became, and remain, a majority on the island, their own linguistic fragmentation and alienation from the English- and French-speaking white elite 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.

Phonology and Orthography

The phonology of Mauritian Creole is very similar to that of French. However, the French "j" and soft "g" are pronounced like "z" in Mauritian, and the French rounded vowels "u" and "eu" are realized as "i" or "u" (unrounded, like Fr. "ou") and "e" or "o," respectively.

Though the language has as yet no official standard orthography, it does have several published dictionaries, both monolingual and bilingual, written by authors such as Philip Baker, the group "Ledikasyon pu travayer," and Arnaud Capooran, among others. The number of publications in creole is increasing steadily, and an unofficial standard orthography is emerging. This system generally follows French, but eliminates silent letters and reduces the number of different ways in which the same sound can be written.

In 2005, Professor Vinesh Hookoomsing of the University of Mauritius published the report "Grafi Larmoni" which seeks to harmonize the different ways of writing Mauritian Creole in Mauritius.

A Mauritian Creole translation of the Holy Bible is under way.

Lexicon

While most of the words in Mauritian Creole are derived from French, they are not always used in the same way. For example, the French definite article "le/la" is often fused with the noun it modifies. Thus French "rat" is Mauritian "lera," French "temps" is Mauritian "letan." The same is true for some adjectives and prepositions, for example, "femme" and "ris" in French and "bolfam" (from "bonne femme") and "duri" (from "du ris") in Mauritian. Some words have changed their meanings altogether, like "gayh" (meaning "to have" in Mauritian), which is derived from "gagner" ("to win" in French).

There are also several loan words from the languages of the African slaves: Madagascans contributed such words as Mauritian "lapang," Malagasy "ampango" (rice stuck to the bottom of a pot); Mauritian "lafus," Malagasy "hafotsa" (a kind of tree); Mauritian "zahtak," Malagasy "antaka" (a kind of plant). Note that in these cases, as with some of the nouns from French, that the modern Mauritian word has fused with the French article "le/la/les." Words of East African origin include Mauritian "makutu," Makua "makhwatta" (running sore); Mauritian "matak," Swahili and Makonde "matako" (buttock).

Grammar

Mauritian Creole nouns do not change their form when they are pluralized. Thus, whether a noun is singular or plural can usually only be determined by context. If an unambiguous marker is needed, the particle "ban" (from "bande") is often placed before the noun. French "un/une" corresponds to Mauritian "en," though the rules for its use are slightly different. Mauritian has an article, "la," but this is placed after the noun it modifies: compare Fr. "un rat," "le rat," "les rats," Mauritian "en lera," "lera-la," "ban-lera."

In Mauritian Creole there is only one form for each pronoun, regardless of whether it is the subject, object, or possessive, regardless of gender. Mauritian Creole "li" can thus be translated as he, she, it, him, his, her, or hers, depending upon how it is used in any particular instance.

Like nouns, Mauritian creole verbs do not change their form according to tense or person. Instead, the accompanying noun or pronoun is used to determine who is engaging in the action, and several preverbal particles are used alone or in combination to indicate the tense. Thus "ti" (from Fr. "etais") marks past tense, "pe" (from "apres") marks progressive, "(f)in" (from Fr. "fin") marks completive or perfect, and "a" (from Fr. "va") marks future. Example: "li fin gayh" (he/she/it had), which can also be shortened to "li n gayh" and pronounced as if it were one word.

Sample Text

Lord's Prayer
Mauritian Creole French English
Nou Papa ki dan lesiel

Fer rekonet ki to nom sin,

Fer ki to regn vini,

Fer to volonte akompli,

Lor later kuma dan lesiel.

Donn nou azordi dipin ki nou bizin.

Pardonn-nou nou bann ofans,

Koman nou osi pardonn lezot ki fin ofans nou.

Pa less nou tom dan tentation

Me tir-nu depi lemal.

Notre Père qui es aux cieux,

Que ton Nom soit sanctifié,

Que ton règne vienne,

Que ta volonté soit faite

Sur la terre comme au ciel.

Donne-nous aujourd'hui notre pain de ce jour.

Pardonne-nous nos offenses,

Comme nous pardonnons aussi à ceux qui nous ont offensés.

Et ne nous soumet pas à la tentation,

Mais délivre-nous du mal.

Our Father, who art in heaven,

Hallowed be thy Name.

Thy kingdom come.

Thy will be done,

On earth as it is in heaven.

Give us this day our daily bread.

And forgive us our trespasses,

As we forgive those who trespass against us.

And lead us not into temptation,

But deliver us from evil.


External links

  • http://www.kreol.mu/
  • http://www.freeweb.hu/etymological (Morisyen Dictionary by Andras Rajki)


Bibliography

  • Adone, Dany. The Acquisition of Mauritian Creole. Amsterdam; Philadelphia: J. Benjamins, 1984.
  • Baker, Philip and Chris Corne, Isle de France Creole: Affinities and Origins. Ann Arbor: Karoma, 1982.
  • Baker, Philip. Kreol: A Description of Mauritian Creole. London: Hurst, 1972.
  • Baker, Philip and Vinesh Y. Hookoomsing. Morisyen-English-français : diksyoner kreol morisyen (Dictionary of Mauritian Creole). Paris : Harmattan, 1987.
  • Carpooran, Arnaud. Diksioner morisien. Quatre Bornes, Ile Maurice : Editions Bartholdi, 2005.
  • Chaudenson, Robert. Les créoles francais. Evreux: F. Nathan, 1979.
  • Chaudenson, Robert. Creolization of language and culture; translated and revised by Salikoko S. Mufwene, with Sheri Pargman, Sabrina Billings, and Michelle AuCoin. London ; New York : Routledge, 2001.
  • Frew, Mark. Mauritian Creole in seven easy lessons. 2nd ed. Port Louis, Republic of Mauritius : Ledikasyon pu Travayer, 2003.
  • Holm, John. Pidgins and Creoles, Volume II: Reference Survey. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1989.
  • Lee, Jacques K. Mauritius : its Creole language : the ultimate Creole phrase book : English-Creole dictionary. London, England : Nautilus Pub. Co., 1999.
  • Strandquist, Rachel Eva. Article Incorporation in Mauritian Creole. B.A. thesis, University of Victoria, 2003.
  • No author. Diksyoner Kreol-Angle / Prototype Mauritian Creole-English Dictionary. Port Louis: L.P.T., 1985.



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