Supplementary material from "Using features of a Creole language to reconstruct population history and cultural evolution: tracing the English origins of Sranan"
Posted on 27.01.2018 - 05:30
Creole languages are formed in conditions where speakers from distinct languages are brought together without a shared first language, typically under the domination of speakers from one of the languages and particularly in the context of the transatlantic slave trade and European colonialism. One such Creole in Suriname, Sranan, developed around the mid-seventeenth century, primarily out of contact between varieties of English from England, spoken by the dominant group, and multiple West African languages. The vast majority of the basic words in Sranan come from the language of the dominant group, English. Here, we compare linguistic features of modern-day Sranan with those of English as spoken in 313 localities across England. By way of testing proposed hypotheses for the origin of English words in Sranan, we find that 80% of the studied features of Sranan can be explained by similarity to regional dialect features at two distinct input locations within England, a cluster of locations near the port of Bristol and another cluster near Essex in eastern England. Our new hypothesis is supported by the geographical distribution of specific regional dialect features, such as post-vocalic rhoticity and word-initial ‘h’, and by phylogenetic analysis of these features, which shows evidence favouring input from at least two English dialects in the formation of Sranan. In addition to explicating the dialect features most prominent in the linguistic evolution of Sranan, our historical analyses also provide supporting evidence for two distinct hypotheses about the likely geographical origins of the English speakers whose language was an input to Sranan. The emergence as a likely input to Sranan of the speech forms of a cluster near Bristol is consistent with historical records, indicating that most of the indentured servants going to the Americas between 1654 and 1666 were from Bristol and nearby counties, and that of the cluster near Essex is consistent with documents showing that many of the governors and important planters came from the southeast of England (including London) (Smith 1987 The Genesis of the Creole Languages of Surinam; Smith 2009 In The handbook of pidgin and creole studies, pp. 98–129).This article is part of the theme issue ‘Bridging cultural gaps: interdisciplinary studies in human cultural evolution’.
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Sherriah, André C.; Devonish, Hubert; A. C. Thomas, Ewart; Creanza, Nicole (2018): Supplementary material from "Using features of a Creole language to reconstruct population history and cultural evolution: tracing the English origins of Sranan". The Royal Society. Collection. https://doi.org/10.6084/m9.figshare.c.3972828.v2
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André C. Sherriah
Ewart A. C. Thomas