Creolese or Guyanese?

Some of us refer to our language as Creolese.  Others have been using the name Guyanese. Both refer to the same language. Which do you prefer?

Guyanese (or Creolese) is no different from any other language. It has rules just like any other. If you speak Guyanese, you can tell right away whether a sentence is Guyanese or not.

See if you can pick out the grammatical Guyanese sentences from this list:

  1. Meemee de a bakdaam                  (‘May-May is at the backdam’)
  2. Joo de wan brait pikni                   (‘Joe is a bright child’)
  3. Dem a plee krikit                                (‘They are playing cricket’)
  4. Meemee wan tiicha now               (May-May is a teacher now’)
  5. Joo bai som buk dem                     (‘Joe has bought some books’)
  6. Di bokit wash                                      (‘The bucket has been washed’)

You may not know it, but you know the rules of your language. Every human being knows the rules of his/her language. No one has to teach them. This doesn’t mean that they can explain the rules. That is the job of someone trained to write grammars. So, did you pick numbers 1, 3, and 6 to be grammatically Guyanese?

The grammar of Guyanese is different from that of English in many ways. But the words are different too. If I say that you’re disgusting, I don’t mean that you repulse me. We have special  sayings too. Let’s say I hear a song and it reminded me of something you said. I might say, “Mi main jos ron pan yu.” The man talking English would say, “You just crossed my mind.”  

Creolese/Guyanese was created by enslaved Africans working on the plantations. The indentured labourers who came later learned this language from the Africans and added words from their own languages. But they did not change the grammar very much, if at all.

Many of the words that came from India are still in use today, but these are often not known by the general public. For many Indo-Guyanese, however, words are all they remember of their ancestral language. They do not know its grammar.

Let’s learn about each other’s language and culture. Let’s learn about our own. There is much to celebrate about who we are.

Further reading

The Linguistic Legacy of Indian-Guyanese