Kristang language

Kristang language
Papiá Kristang
Spoken in  Malaysia
Native speakers 1,000[1]  (date missing)
Language family
Portuguese Creole
  • Malayo-Portuguese Creole
    • Papiá Kristang
Language codes
ISO 639-3 mcm
Linguasphere 51-AAC-aha

Papiá Kristang ("Christian language"), or just Kristang, is a creole language. It is spoken by the Kristang, a community of people of mixed Portuguese and Asian ancestry, chiefly in Malacca (Malaysia) and Singapore.

The language is also called Cristão or Cristan ("Christian"), Português de Malaca ("Malacca Portuguese"), or simply Papiá.



The language has about 5,000 speakers in Malacca and another 400 in Singapore. About 80% of the older Kristang in Malacca regularly speak it. There are also a few speakers in Kuala Lumpur due to migration.

Kristang is also spoken by some immigrants and their descendants in the United Kingdom, where some settled after Malaysian independence, and also in Australia, in particular the city of Perth, which is a popular destination for retirees from this community.

In Pulau Tikus, there were more speakers in 1997 than in 1987.


The Kristang language originated after the conquest of Malacca (Malaysia) in 1511 by the Portuguese. The community of speakers descends mainly from marriages between Portuguese settlers and local Malay women, as well as a certain number of migrants from Goa, themselves of mixed Indian and Portuguese ancestry.

Kristang had a substantial influence on Macanese, the creole language spoken in Macau, due to substantial migration from Malacca after its takeover by the Dutch.

Even after Portugal lost Malacca and almost all contact in 1641, the Kristang community largely preserved its language. The language is not taught at school, although there are still some Church services in Portuguese.


Its grammatical structure is similar to that of the Malay language.

Because of its largely Portuguese vocabulary, and perhaps also as a result of migrations and cultural exchange along trade routes, Kristang has much in common with other Portuguese-based creoles, as well as with the extinct creoles of Indonesia and East Timor.


To indicate verb tenses the following adpositions are used: ja (i.e. from the Portuguese , meaning "already") for past tenses, ta (from the Portuguese está, which means "is") for present continuous tenses and logu for the future tense. These simplified forms correspond with their equivalents in Malay sudah, sedang, and akan, respectively.


A peculiarity of the language is the pronoun yo (meaning "I") which is used in northern Portuguese dialects (pronounced as yeu) as well as Spanish and Italian/Sicilian.

The Kristang lexicon borrowed heavily from Portuguese, but often with drastic truncation; for example, Portuguese padrinho and madrinha ("godfather" and "godmother") became inyu and inya in Kristang.

Metathesis was common: for example, Portuguese gordo "fat" gave Kristang godro. The Portuguese diphthong oi (or ancient ou) was reduced to o, e.g. dois/dous "two" → dos, à noite/à noute "tonight" → anoti.

Many Portuguese words that began with ch, pronounced [ʃ] ("sh") in modern Portuguese, have the pronunciation [tʃ] ("ch" as in "cheese") in Kristang. So, for example, Portuguese chegar "to arrive" and chuva "rain" produced Kristang chegak and chu (pronounced with [tʃ]). This could have been due to Malay influence, or it could be that Kristang preserved the original pronunciation [tʃ] of Old Portuguese. (Note that Portuguese "ch" pronounced [tʃ] occurs in Northern Portugal.)

Writing system

Since Kristang was never taught officially in schools, it was largely an oral language. The first proposal for a standard orthography was made in the late 1980s, with the publication of a thesis, “A Grammar of Kristang”, by Alan B. Baxter, in which he emphasizes the use of the Bahasa Malaysia orthography.

The vowel e is usually pronounced [i] when followed by a syllable with /i/; so, for example, penitensia ("penitence") is pronounced [piniˈteɲsia].

In the 1990s, Joan Marbeck's book "Ungua Andanza" was published, with the orthography written in a Luso-Malay context.


Common phrases

Thank You: Mutu Merseh (Port. Muitas mercês)
How Are You?, Teng Bong? (Port. Estás bom?, lit. Têm bom?)
Good Morning, Bong Pamiang (Port. Boa Manhã)
Good Afternoon: Bong Midia (Port. Bom Meio-dia)
Good Evening: Bong Atadi (Port. Boa Tarde)
Good Night: Bong Anuti (Port. Boa Noite)
Me: yo (Port. eu)
You (singular): bos (Port. vós)
You (plural): bolotudu (Port. vós todos')
Mother: mai (Port. mãe)
Father: pai (Port. pai)
Wife: muleh (Port. mulher)
Husband: maridu (Port. marido)
Old Woman: bela (Port. velha)
Old Man: belu (Port. velho)
Little one: Quenino or Kenino (Port. Pequenino)
Mouth: boca (Port. boca)
Fat: godru (Port. gordo)
Beautiful: Bonitu (Port. bonito)
Party: festa (Port. festa)
one, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, nine, ten: ungua, dos, tres, kuatu, singku, sez, seti, oitu, novi, des (Port. um, dois, três, quatro, cinco, seis, sete, oito, nove, dez)

Poem of Malacca

Keng teng fortuna ficah na Malaka,
Nang kereh partih bai otru tera.
Pra ki tudu jenti teng amizadi,
Kontu partih logo ficah saudadi.
Ó Malaka, tera di San Francisku,
Nten otru tera ki yo kereh.
Ó Malaka undi teng sempri fresku,
Yo kereh ficah atih moreh.

Portuguese translation:

Quem tem fortuna fica em Malaca,
Não quer partir para outra terra.
Por aqui toda a gente tem amizade,
Quando tu partes logo fica a saudade.
Ó Malaca, terra de São Francisco,
Não tem outra terra que eu queira.
Ó Malaca, onde tem sempre frescura,
Eu quero ficar até morrer.

English translation:

Who is lucky stays in Malacca,
Doesn't want to go to another land.
In here everyone has friendship,
When one leaves soon has saudade.
Oh Malacca, land of Saint Francis,
There is no other land that I want.
Oh Malacca, where there's always freshness,
I want to stay here until I die.

See also


External links

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