Infobox Language
name = Papiamento
nativename = Papiamento
familycolor = Creole
states = Netherlands Antilles, Aruba and Netherlands
nation = flag|Aruba flag|Netherlands Antilles
region = Caribbean islands
speakers = 329,000
fam1 = Creole language
fam2 = Portuguese Creole [Also debated as to whether it is a Spanish Creole or an Iberian Creole.Fact|date=August 2008]
iso2=pap |iso3=pap

Papiamento (or Papiamentu) is the language spoken on the Caribbean islands of Aruba, Bonaire, and Curaçao (the so-called "ABC islands").

Papiamento is a creole language with roots in primarily African, Portuguese and Dutch and to a lesser extent Spanish, and Native Indian languages. The biggest menace to the existence and the further development of Papiamento is that native speakers tend to deviate from its origins by replacing original African, Portuguese and Dutch words with Spanish equivalents.


The historical origins of Papiamento are still not very well known. It is disputed whether Papiamento originated from Portuguese or from Spanish. Due to the resemblance between Spanish and Portuguese, it is difficult to tell whether a particular word came from one or from the other, or even from Italian (old Genovese). In addition, some Arubans claim Papiamento to be of exclusively Arawak-Spanish origin and do not want to accept the African influence on the language, while others do not want to accept the Native American influence on Papiamento and therefore maintain it to be an exclusively Afro-Iberian language that developed first on Curaçao and then spread to Aruba. While such discussions often are based on historical evidence selectively interpreted for nationalist purposes, they nevertheless further complicate the debate on the origins of Papiamento.

However, historical constraints, core vocabulary and grammatical features that Papiamento shares with Cape Verdean Creole suggest that the basic ingredients were Portuguese and languages of West Africa, and that the Dutch, Spanish and other influences occurred at a later time (17th and 18th century, respectively). The name of the language itself comes from "papear" ("to chat", "to talk"), a word present in both Portuguese and Spanish; compare with "Papiá Kristang" ("Christian talk"), a Portuguese-based creole of Indonesia, and the Cape Verdean Creole word "papiâ" ("to talk"). Spain claimed dominion over the islands in the 15th century, but made little use of them. In 1634, the Dutch-based West India Company (WIC) took possession of the islands, deporting most of the small remaining Arawak and Spanish population to the continent, and turned them into the hub of the Dutch slave trade between Africa and the Caribbean. An outline of the competing theories is provided below.

Local development theory

There are various local development theories. One such theory proposes that Papiamento developed in the Caribbean from a original Portuguese-African pidgin used for communication between African slaves and Portuguese slavetraders, with later Dutch and Spanish (and even some Aruac) influences.

The Judaeo-Portuguese population of the ABC islands increased substantially after 1654, when the Portuguese recovered the Dutch-held territories in Northeast Brazilndash causing most of the Portuguese-speaking Jews in those lands to flee from religious persecution.The precise role of Sephardic Jews in the early development is unclear, but it is certain that Jews play a prominent role in the later development of Papiamento. Many early residents of Curaçao were Sephardic Jews either from Portugal, Spain, or Portuguese Brazil. Therefore, it can be assumed that Ladino was brought to the island of Curaçao, where it gradually spread to other parts of the community. As the Jewish community became the prime merchants and traders in the area, business and everyday trading was conducted in Papiamento with some Ladino influences. While various nations owned the island and official languages changed with ownership, Papiamento became the constant language of the residents.

African origin theory

A more recent theory holds that the origins of Papiamento lie in the Afro-Portuguese creoles that arose almost a century earlier, in the west coast of Africa and in the 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 there developed several Portuguese-African pidgins and creoles, such as Guinea-Bissau Creole, Mina, Cape Verdean Creole, Angolar, and Guene. The latter bears strong resemblances to Papiamento. According to this theory, Papiamento was derived from those pre-existing pidgins/creoles, especially Guene, which were brought to the ABC islands by slaves and/or traders from Cape Verde and West Africa.

Some specifically claim that Afro-Portuguese mother language of Papiamentu arose from a mixture of the Mina pidgin/creole (a mixture of Cape Verdean pidgin/creole with Twi) and the Angolar creole (derived from languages of Angola and Congo).Proponents of this theory of Papiamento contend that it can easily be compared and linked with other Portuguese creoles, especially the African ones (namely Forro, Guinea-Bissau Creole, and the Cape Verdean Creole). For instance, Compare "mi" ("I" in Cape Verdean Creole and Papiamento) or "bo" (meaning "you" in both creoles). "Mi" is from the Portuguese "mim" (pronounced|mĩ) "me", and "bo" is from Portuguese "vós" "you". [E.F. Martinus (1996) A Kiss of the Slave: Papiamentu and its West African Connections] The use of "b" instead of "v" is very common in the African Portuguese Creoles.

Papiamento is, in some degree, intelligible with Cape Verdean creoles and could be explained by the immigration of Portuguese Sephardic Jews from Cape Verde to these Caribbean islands, although this same fact could also be used by dissenters to explain a later Portuguese influence on an already existing Spanish-based creole. [McWorter (2002) The Missing Spanish Creoles. Berkeley: University of California Press]

Another comparison is the use of the verb "ta" and "taba ta" from vernacular Portuguese "tá" (an aphesis of "estar", "to be" or "está", "it is") with verbs where Portuguese does and with others where it does not use it: "Mi ta" + verb" or "Mi taba ta" + verb", also the rule in the São Vicente Creole and other Barlavento Cape Verdean Creoles . These issues can also be seen in other Portuguese Creoles (Martinus 1996; see also Fouse 2002 and McWhorter 2000).

Present status

Many Papiamento speakers are also able to speak Dutch, English and Spanish. Venezuelan Spanish is a constant influence today, especially in Aruba. In the Netherlands Antilles, Papiamento was made an official language on March 7, 2007. [ [ Nieuwsbrief 070313 - Papiaments officieel erkend ] ]


Papiamento has two main dialects: Papiamento in Aruba and Papiamentu in Curaçao and Bonaire. Although the Papiamentu in Curaçao and Bonaire are significantly the same, there are still minor differences.

Papiamento sounds much more Spanish. The most apparent difference between the two dialects is given away in the name difference. Many words in Aruba end with "o" while that same word ends with "u" in Curaçao and Bonaire. It is the same with the letters c and k.

For example:

Papiamento: Palo (tree) Cas (house)Papiamentu: Palu (tree) Kas (house)


Vowels and diphthongs

Most Papiamento vowels are based on Ibero-Romance vowels, but some are also based on Dutch vowels like : ee IPA|/eː/, ui IPA|/œy/, ie IPA|/i/, oe IPA|/u/, ij/ei IPA|/ɛi/, oo IPA|/oː/, and aa IPA|/aː/.

tress and tone

Polysyllabic words that end in vowels are stressed on the next-to-last syllable; most words ending in consonants are stressed on the final syllable. There are exceptions. When a word deviates from these rules, the stressed vowel should be indicated by an acute accent mark. The accent marks are often omitted in casual writing. [E.R. Goilo (1994) Papiamentu Textbook, ninth edition. Oranjestad-Aruba: De Wit Stores NV]

Papiamento words have distinct tone patterns. According to recent linguistic research, there are two classes of words: those which typically have rising pitch on the stressed syllable, and those which typically have falling pitch on the stressed syllable. [Bert Remijsen and Vincent J. van Heuven (2005) "Stress, tone and discourse prominence in the Curaçao dialect of Papiamentu" in: Phonology 22:205-235] The latter category includes most of the two-syllable verbs in the language. Any given word's tone contours may change depending on discursive factors such as whether the sentence is affirmative, interrogative, or imperative. [Raúl Römer (1991) Studies in Papiamentu Tonology. Amsterdam Centre for Caribbean Studies]



Most of the vocabulary is derived from Spanish,and Portuguese and most of the time the real origin is unknown due to the great similarity between the two Iberian languages and the adaptations required by Papiamentu.Linguistic studies have shown that roughly two thirds of the words in Papiamentu's present vocabulary are of Iberian origin, a quarter are of Dutch origin,and some of Native American origin and the rest come from other tongues. A recent study by Buurt & Joubert inventarised several hundred words of indigenous Arawak origins [Gerard van Buurt & Sidney M Joubert (1997) Stemmen uit het Verleden, Indiaanse Woorden in het Papiamentu. Curaçao]

Examples of words of Iberian and Roman, Latin origin, which are impossible to label as either Portuguese or Spanish:
* por fabor = please - Spanish/Portuguese, "por favor"
* señora = mrs, madam - Spanish, "señora'; 'Portuguese, "senhora";
* kuá? = which? Spanish, "cuál?"; Portuguese, "qual?";
* cuántu? = how many? - Spanish, "cuánto?"; Portuguese, "quanto?";

While the presence of word-final IPA|/u/ can easily be traced to Portuguese, the diphthongization of some vowels is characteristic of Spanish. The use of IPA|/b/ (rather than IPA|/v/) is difficult to interpret; although the two are separate phonemes in standard Portuguese, they merge in the dialects of northern Portugal, just like they do in Spanish. Also, a sound-shift could have occurred in the direction of Spanish, whose influence on Papiamento came later than that of Portuguese.

Other words can have dual origin, and certainly dual influence. For instance: "subrino" (nephew): "sobrinho" in Portuguese, "sobrino" in Spanish. The pronunciation of "o" as IPA|/u/ is traceable to Portuguese, while the use of "n" instead of "nh" (IPA IPA|/ɲ/) in the ending "-no", relates to Spanish.

Portuguese origin words:
* sapatu = shoe - Spanish, "zapato"; Portuguese, "sapato";
* kacho = dog - Spanish, "cachorro; (puppy)"; Portuguese, "cachorro" (dog or puppy);
* bisiña = neighbour - Spanish, "vecino", "vecina"; Portuguese, "vizinho", "vizinha";
* galiña = hen or chicken - Spanish, "gallina"; Portuguese, "galinha";

Spanish origin words:
* siudat (ciudadnan) = city - Spanish, "ciudad"; Portuguese, "cidade"
* sombré = hat - Spanish, "sombrero"; Portuguese, "chapéu"
* karson = trousers - Spanish, "calzón"; Portuguese, "calção"
* homber = man - Spanish, "hombre"; Portuguese, "homem"

Dutch origin words:
* apel = apple - Dutch, "appel"
* blou = blue - Dutch, "blauw"
* buki = book - Dutch, "boekje"
* lesa = to read - Dutch, "lezen"

English origin words;
* bèk = back
* bòter = bottle

Italian origin words:
* kushina = kitchen - Italian "cucina"; Spanish "cocina"
* lanterna = lantern - Italian "lanterna"; Portuguese, "lanterna" too.

Native American words:
* horkan = hurricane - Taino, hurakan; Carib, yuracan, hyoracan;


*Mansur, Jossy M. (1991) Dictionary English-Papiamento Papiamento-English. Oranjestad: Edicionnan Clasico Diario
*Betty Ratzlaff (2008) Papiamentu-Ingles, Dikshonario Bilingual e di dos edishon. Bonaire: St. Jong Bonaire
* [ Papiamentondash English Dictionary]

Writing system

There are two orthographies: a more phonetic one called Papiamentu (in Curaçao and Bonaire), and the etymological spelling used in Aruba (and formerly used on all three islands).


Phrase samples

NOTE: These examples are not from the Aruban Papiamento.

* "Kon ta bai? "or" Kon ta k'e bida?": "How are you?" or "How is life?", Portuguese, "Como vai?/Como está a vida?", Spanish "¿Cómo te va?" "¿Cómo te va la vida?"
* "Por fabor": "Please" Portuguese/Spanish "por favor"
* "Danki": "Thank you" Dutch, "Dank u"
* "Ainda no": "Not yet" Portuguese "Ainda não"
* "Mi (ta) stima bo": "I love you" Portuguese "Eu (te) estimo (você)" / "Eu te amo"
* "Laga nos ban sali!": "Let's go out!", Spanish "¡Vamos a salir!"
* "Kòrda skirbi mi bèk mas lihé posibel!": "Write me back as soon as possible!" Portuguese: "Recorde-se de escrever assim que for possivel".
* "Bo mama ta mashá simpátiko": "Your mother is very nice" Portuguese " Tua/Sua mãe é muito simpática".

Comparison of vocabularies

This section provides a comparison of the vocabularies of Portuguese, Papiamento and the Portuguese creoles of Guinea-Bissau and Cape Verde. Spanish also shown for contrast.

*Santiago Creole variant
**Writing system used in this example: ALUPEC
***Portuguese expression used in creole.



* Efraim Frank Martinus (1996) The Kiss of a Slave: Papiamentu's West-African Connections. University of Amsterdam Press.
* Gary Fouse (2002) The Story of Papiamentu. New York: University Press of America
* John H. Holm (1989) Pidgins and Creoles Volume One. Theory and Structure. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press
* John McWhorter (2000) The Missing Spanish Creoles: Recovering the Birth of Plantation Contact Language. Berkeley: University of California Press.
* Gerard van Buurt & Sidney M Joubert (1997) Stemmen uit het Verleden, Indiaanse Woorden in het Papiamentu. Curaçao

See also

* Portuguese-based creole languages
* Spanish-based creole languages
* Creole language
* Linguistics
* Palenquero
* Afro-Latin American

External links

* [] : Ethnologue report on Papiamentu.
* [ Papiamentondash English Dictionary]
* [ Newspaper from Aruba]
* [ La Prensa] A Leading Curaçao Newspaper in Papiamentu
* [ Hasibokos] I-News in Papiamento (and Dutch)
* [ Radio Curom] Listen to Papiamentu Radio
* [ Papiamentu - history and grammatical features]
* [ Papiamentu origins]
* [ Bible Excerpt in Papiamentu]
* [ Papiamentu Translator] a simple online translation English - Papiamentu
* For a discussion about the origins of Papiamentu, see [ "Papiamentu facts"] , an essay by Attila Narin.

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