A Brief History

Guyanese Creole, known to its native speakers as Creolese, was born of the communication between European settlers, African slaves and indigenous peoples of Indian descent in the Dutch colonies of Essequibo and Demerara (Devonish & Thompson 2013). Present day Guyana, Essequibo and Demerara was inhabited by slaves of different African tribes who developed a pidgin in order to communicate with one another. The inter-African pidgin then began to be influenced by the language of the slaves’ Dutch masters, creating an Anglo-West African language variety known as “Dutch-Creole” (Amral Khan 2018). Dutch-Creole became the first language of the newer generations of slaves and began gaining English language influence once English immigrants and plantation owners began to settle in Demerara around 1746. By 1760, the English had become a majority of the European population of Demerara.

Due to the Anglo-Dutch wars, the colonies of Essequibo, Demerara and Berbice were acquired by the Dutch, the British and for a brief period in 1781-1784, resulting in some French influence on Dutch Creole as well. At the end of the wars, Great Britain gained control of colonies in 1814 and remined in control until Guyana’s gain of independence in 1966 (Prothero 1920). While Guyana was in the control of the English, the Dutch-Creole transitioned into the present day Creolese of the country. Though Creolese is English-lexified, there are still some Dutch and French words that remain in it. Holbrook (2001) also notes that, due to the Indo-Guyanese population of Guyana, there is also language influence from Hindi, Urdu and Bhojpuri in Creolese. Due to Creolese’s being on a Creole Continuum, the language exists between the standard English of Guyana and its creole. Creolese constantly undergoes change because of this and the multi-cultural population of Guyana.


Works Cited

Devonish, Hubert and Dahlia Thompson. 2013. Creolese.
In: Michaelis, Susanne Maria & Maurer, Philippe & Haspelmath, Martin & Huber, Magnus (eds.) The survey of pidgin and creole languages. Volume 1: English-based and Dutch-based Languages. Oxford: Oxford University Press. http://apics-online.info/surveys/5


Holbrook, D.J. and Holbrook, H.A. (2001) Guyanese Creole Survey Report. On WWW at http://www.sil.org/silesr/2002/011/SILESR2002–011.pdf.

Kahn, Amral http://www.guyana.org/features/guyanastory/chapter61.html