Criolo / Crioulo / Creole

Written by  Annette van der Merwe

The definition of a Creole language is a mother tongue formed from the contact of a European language such as English, French, Spanish, or Portuguese, with local languages (especially African languages) during the slave trade. The Creole language exists in many forms and is best differentiated by geographical location. The main groups are Portuguese Creole spoken in West African and French Creole that developed in the Pacific region (Mauritian Creole) and the Atlantic region (Haitian Creole).

Portuguese Crioulo is the oldest of the Portuguese Creole languages and is the lingua franca in both the Cape Verde Islands and Guinea Bissau even though Portuguese remains the official language. (Apart from Portuguese, Crioulo also has some Spanish influences.) Crioulo mainly uses a West African grammatical structure and Portuguese vocabulary. 

In the Cape Verdi Islands there is a concerted effort to legitimise and regulate Crioulo orthography into a dictionary and for use in schools. The main challenge in this effort is the presence of two groups of dialects due to the geographical make-up of the island group. 

In Guinea Bissau, where some 20 different languages and dialects are spoken, Crioulu acts as a unifying factor precisely because it is a language that developed in order to bridge the gap between cultures.


Haitian Creole is one of the most revolutionary of languages because it played a big part in liberating Haiti as a free country apart from France. In 1791, Haitian slaves organized a revolt, using the language that bound them together.

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