A short intro to Cabo Verdiano (Sao Vicente)

Cabo-verdiano, also known as Cape Verdean Creole, Kriolu or Kriol is a language spoken in Cabo Verde, an archipelago country of 10 inhabited islands, with an estimate of roughly half a million speakers in the country itself, and possibly several hundred thousand more in the US and its diaspora around the world. There are two main groups, the northern variety called Barlavento, is spoken in the city of Mindelo, and all the northern islands as far south as Sal. The southern variety is known as Sotavento, and is spoken in the capital city, Praia and the islands as far west as Brava and to the north in Maio. Cabo-verdiano derives its vocabulary mainly from an older form of Portuguese, that was spoken in the 17th century, most words reflect this such as “papia”, meaning “to speak, to talk”, comes from Portuguese “papear”, also present in Papiamentu (Creole language spoken on Aruba). Although at first glance it may seem completely intelligible with Portuguese, or even read as such, don’t be fooled, because the grammar is literally completely different from Portuguese. Some basic prepositions are very different from Portuguese, and the syntax (sentence order/rules) is not the same either. 

Many words appear to be jumbled together with many vowels removed, like in the words for “Monday” and “Tuesday”, originally from Portuguese’s “Domingo” and “Segunda-Feira”, have morphed into [dmiŋ] and [sguːnd]. Words like this that are written with two consonants following and others are not pronounced with vowels in between them, it isn’t like “diming” or “segund”, it is literally a [d]/[s] followed by an [m]/[d] sound. A pattern we notice is that the original Portuguese verb suffix “r” of Sao Vicente Cabo-verdiano verbs is removed, and the verb stem generally ends in a vowel, examples of this:

Chamar > [tʃma] (txma in Kriol)
Aprender > [prɛnde]
Achar > [otʃa]
Ir > vai > [bɑi]/[bɑ]

There are many other features of this creole, the world’s oldest continuously spoken creole that can be discussed further, but that will warrant many more blog posts to fully cover. Email us to hear more about Cabo-verdiano and other lesser-known languages! Thanks for reading.

Ethnologue. (n.d.). Kabuverdianu. Retrieved February 01, 2018

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