Krio

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Krio

Postby vijayjohn » 2014-03-13, 21:59

Krio is the lingua franca of Sierra Leone, apparently spoken by 97% of the population. It is an English-based creole. The official language of Sierra Leone is English, and in fact, from what I vaguely recall hearing, ethnic Krios (who are descended from both Africans and English people) often prefer to speak English and get offended if foreigners attempt to speak to them in Krio, but people from other ethnic groups are less likely to speak English...Anyway, Krio is a creole that I happen to be particularly familiar with, because my advisor has done (or perhaps I should even say "has been doing"!) lots of work on it and taught me some in a class I took with him once.

The orthography for Krio is pretty straightforward and phonetic. It does have some English-based digraphs, namely <ch>, <ny>, <sh>, and <zh>, which are pronounced just as in English. It also has <gb> and <kp>, which represent the labial-velar stops (I guess those appear in words that come from certain West African languages, although I'm pretty sure the vocabulary is English-derived for the most part). Other digraphs are very straightforward; for example, <aw> represents [aw], not what it represents in English.

The orthography also includes <ɛ>, <ŋ>, and <ɔ>, which represent the same sounds they do in the IPA.

Finally, one interesting feature of Krio phonology is that the only rhotic it has, <r>, is neither alveolar nor uvular. Instead, it's the voiced velar fricative [ɣ]. IIRC, this sound exists in some of the languages spoken in the area, but the uvular fricative doesn't, so when German missionaries arrived in Sierra Leone to spread Christianity, Sierra Leoneans imitated their uvular fricatives by treating their velar fricatives as rhotics - or something like that.

Anyway, I still have some notes on Krio. I haven't looked back at them yet, but they should come in handy, and I'd like to use them to share what little information I can on this language. :)

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Re: Krio

Postby vijayjohn » 2014-04-09, 17:52

A few more notes about Krio phonology: I think generally, when the character for a nasal follows a vowel (and a consonant does not follow the nasal), that just means the vowel is nasalized, and not that there is actually a nasal after the vowel. For example, the word for 'want' in Krio is written <wan>, but it's pronounced [wã].

Also, according to my notes, Sierra Leone had a large influx of teachers from Germany in the 1820s and 1830s. My notes also claim that speakers of many German dialects have the velar fricative instead of a uvular one.

Finally, I'd just like to make a note about English creoles in general, including (but not limited to) Krio (actually, this is a pretty important point for lots of languages): A lot of what may appear to be unusual pronunciations of English words (to modern English-speakers) and which are stigmatized by teachers in countries where the common vernacular is an English-based creole but the official language is English are in fact simply older pronunciations of those words.

For example, apparently no English-based creole has the word "woman" with the initial consonant. Instead, they (including Krio) have something like "uman" (although presumably some English-based creoles have entirely different words for 'woman', such as (I believe) "meri" in Tok Pisin). And in fact, Shakespeare didn't have the initial [w], either, and (if I'm not mistaken) pronounced it [ˈ(ʔ)ũːmə̃n].

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Re: Krio

Postby vijayjohn » 2014-06-10, 2:41

All right, about time I posted something on this forum! I haven't posted anything on creoles for a long time (two whole months)!

One more note on the phonetics of Krio: My advisor (who taught the class where I got all this information from) claimed that Krio has phonemic tone, but it seems the only tones that it has are low and high (both flat). These are supposed to be represented with grave and acute accents (respectively), but I think I'll just use the stress mark for high tone instead (and none for low tone), because I have no idea how to put accent marks on [ɛ] or [ɔ].

Now that we've gotten that out of the way, I think we can finally start talking a bit about non-phonological features of Krio. Not surprisingly, many English words underwent semantic extension in Krio, and there are certain expressions in Krio that can all be formed from the same word to mean very different things. Apparently, the meanings of these expressions are often inspired by West African languages.

For example, the word bɛˈlɛ means (and I guess originally meant) 'stomach' (from English "belly"), but now it also has a few related meanings, such as 'womb'.

The word for 'woman' in Krio is ˈuman. bɛˈlɛ-ˈuman in Krio means 'pregnant'. (I think it just means 'pregnant', but maybe I'm wrong and it means 'pregnant woman'. I definitely didn't get enough time to write it out in my notes (they just say 'pregnan' :lol:)).

Another word that can be combined with bɛˈlɛ is ˈa.n. ˈa.n is made up of two syllables, not just one, and that's why I'm transcribing it with a dot in the middle (<ˈa.n> instead of just <ˈan>). The [a] has high tone, and the [n] has low tone. It comes from 'hand', but in Krio, it means every part of the body from the shoulder down. bɛˈlɛ-ˈan means 'palm'. I guess that's because it's the "womb of the hand" (which suggests, at least, that the original meaning of 'hand' is preserved in some sense).

ˈgi comes from and means 'give', and ˈgi bɛˈlɛ means '(to) impregnate'. ˈtek bɛˈlɛ means 'to give birth' (ˈtek < take).

ˈrɔn bɛˈlɛ means 'dysentery' (ˈrɔn < run). ˈban bɛˈlɛ means 'constipation'; I think ˈban comes from "bind." ˈpwel bɛˈlɛ means 'to miscarry', and I think ˈpwel comes from "spoil."

bɛˈlɛ-ˈwɔd (belly + word) is an expression used to refer to a person's deepest/innermost secrets. ˈnak bɛˈlɛ (knock + belly) means 'to make someone divulge a secret'.

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Re: Krio

Postby vijayjohn » 2014-07-19, 22:45

Some words in Krio come from English words that mean (or can mean) something very different, and apparently, these are serious problems for e.g. Krio-speakers trying to learn English. For example, the word ˈyala comes from the English word yellow, but in Krio, it means 'light-skinned' (and not 'yellow'). ˈSawa can apparently mean both 'sour' (the original meaning) and 'septic' (that is, if a wound has gone septic). Piˈkin can mean not only 'infant' but also 'young woman' (compare babe/baby in English :twisted:) as well as 'son', 'daughter', the smaller one of two things, and 'pupil (of an eye)'. It might also mean the bud of a plant, but I'm not sure.

It seems there is also a word boboluks or something in Krio that means 'fat'. I think there's some kind of onomatopoeia or imagery involved in the etymology of this word, but I don't really remember.

Also in my notes are these:

wet ˈfu 'extremely white'
blæk ˈti 'extremely black' (so here, apparently 'black' is pronounced with the same vowel as in English, even though I haven't seen this vowel in Krio otherwise! Or is it that I recorded this wrong in my notes and it should really just be blak (ˈti)?)
rɛd gain 'extremely red' (pronounced [ɣɛd gaɪn] according to my notes...maybe that should've been [ɣɛd gaɪ̃n] :hmm:)

The same day that my advisor went over all this, he also talked about reduplication, but I think I'll post about that separately so that I can also make a reference to this on the Sranan Tongo thread. There's an interesting parallel he noted between Krio and Sranan Tongo in this regard. :)

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Re: Krio

Postby Lauren » 2014-07-20, 0:28

vijayjohn wrote:wet ˈfu 'extremely white'
blæk ˈti 'extremely black'
rɛd gain 'extremely red'

How do you know which word to use to mean "extremely"? :?
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Re: Krio

Postby vijayjohn » 2014-07-20, 22:31

I...guess I don't really. :lol: I mean, I don't think any of those words is used to mean 'extremely' in general (but I don't think I know what word is used then, either!). But I think ˈfu, ˈti, and gain are intensifiers that are specifically used with those particular colors. (I have no idea or at least no recollection as to where any of those three intensifiers come from, but I guess it's a bit like saying "pitch black" in English, for instance. You wouldn't say *pitch white or *pitch red, right? By the way, [wet] is likely to be pretty close to how British sailors at the time pronounced 'white' :)).

By the way, if you or anybody else wants to hear some Krio, I'm pretty sure I meant to post this video ages ago, lol. It's a short drama promoting family planning. This is pretty deep Krio, so with relatively little interference from the local variety of English:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SMcu0V8lIZI

This is the same video in English, but...somehow, I don't think it's too likely that anybody will understand it much better than the Krio version. Or maybe I'm just saying that because I couldn't when I first found it! :lol:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WxTJNV7H-5s

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Re: Krio

Postby Lauren » 2014-07-20, 22:55

I understood none of the first, maybe half of the second. :lol:
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Re: Krio

Postby vijayjohn » 2014-07-20, 23:01

Yeah, so there you go. :lol:

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Re: Krio

Postby vijayjohn » 2014-08-15, 17:31

Now, I'll finally talk about reduplication in Krio as promised about a month ago, and then also post about the parallel I mentioned at that time between Krio and Sranan Tongo (on the Sranan Tongo thread).

I have a few examples of reduplication in Krio in my notes that seem to convey fairly different meanings. One is tutu, which means 'by twos'. So tu means 'two', but tutu means 'by twos'.

Another example I have is tonˈton 'stone'. I don't know what the motivation for reduplication is; in particular, what does ton on its own mean, if anything?

A third example, which is kind of interesting, is ˈafaf. I'm pretty sure af in Krio comes from English half, but it means any portion of something, not just half. ˈAfaf, however, means 'mediocre'.

The last example is the one that has a parallel in Sranan Tongo. Here, reduplication is used for the purpose of disambiguation. The word for 'wasp' in Krio is wasˈwas, while was on its own means 'wash'.

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Re: Krio

Postby vijayjohn » 2014-11-25, 7:53

At the time that English sailors arrived in Sierra Leone, English was not standardized in England. The sailors all spoke their own dialects of English, but they probably developed a variety of their own in order to communicate with each other, which was probably a koine, sometimes (at least) known as "Ship English." It was this Ship English, not English as we know it today, that the English sailors brought with them. As a result, there's a lot of nautical terminology in Krio that's used in non-nautical senses. Here are (some of?) the examples of this that I have in my notes:

Bambowt means 'prostitute' in Krio. It's short for bambowt gyal. Gyal just means 'girl' (this is an 18th-century English pronunciation), while bambowt comes from "bumboat," which is a small boat that goes from a ship to the shore in order to get supplies (including female prostitutes, I guess) and bring them back to the ship.

Similarly, in Krio, pailot means 'pimp', and towrowp means the fee that's charged by the pimp.

Bowsin-pep means 'police whistle' and comes from boatswain's pipe [ˈbowsn̩z pʰʌjp̚].

Dek means 'floor', bonk means 'bed', gyali means 'kitchen', and flap means 'fly (on pants)'.

Mo 'to fasten in a spot' comes from "moor."

Finally, there's krank. It comes from "crank," which means a ship rolling into sea, but in Krio, according to my advisor, it means 'heavy-set woman waddling'!

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Re: Krio

Postby vijayjohn » 2015-08-23, 2:36

More words in Krio:

Begnet and bagnet apparently both mean 'bayonet'.

Kovechos means 'covetous' and shows clear evidence of palatalization.

Swinj comes from "singe" but means specifically 'burn feathers off a chicken before plucking'.

I think my advisor may have also said something about something like "hammock" meaning the meeting place in the middle of a village? But I'm not sure.

Dash means a tip or gift.

Kɛkrɛbu means 'to die', apparently from "kick the bucket"(!).

Kyanwud is a kind of dye.

Marabu means 'Muslim' (compare marabout).

There's also this word in my notes: plasas. Apparently, it's short for palaba sɔs. I don't remember (or perhaps never actually found out) what palaba means, but sɔs means 'stew'. Apparently plasas is made out of fish, meat, palm oil, and vegetables.

Rɛdwata, according to my notes, is a "traditional means of judgment."

Totonja means 'loin cloth'. Not sure where that comes from. Also, fritambo apparently means 'bush deer' but is (sometimes? commonly?) mistranslated as "rabbit"(!).

Bigul means 'bugle'.

Kofi means 'curfew', cf. kɔˈfi 'coffee'!

Pala means 'living room', whereas rum means 'bedroom'.

Verbs by default have a past tense meaning, e.g. kam by default means 'came', not 'come'.

Verbs in progressive aspect are apparently expressed by repeating the word dey as follows:

dey sidom dey
is sit.down PROG

So the first dey means 'is' whereas the second indicates that the verb is in progressive aspect.

Just one more note on Krio phonology: according to my advisor, the vowel phonemes of Krio are /i u e o ɛ ɔ a ɛ̃ ɔ̃ ã/, but the nasalized vowels [ĩ ũ ẽ õ] are marginal. Krio also has [ɣ] (as previously discussed), [kp͡], and [gb͡].

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Re: Krio

Postby vijayjohn » 2016-04-02, 23:58

I'll start out with a few comments on my own previous post:
Kɛkrɛbu means 'to die', apparently from "kick the bucket"(!).

This expression is also pretty common in other Atlantic English-based creoles. I wonder whether maybe that might suggest a Ship English origin for "kick the bucket," but I haven't found any evidence of that being a theory or anything yet.
Also, fritambo apparently means 'bush deer' but is (sometimes? commonly?) mistranslated as "rabbit"(!).

In fact, I remember my advisor saying that Br'er Rabbit was originally not a rabbit at all but rather a bush deer. In his course packet, he also includes a drawing with a caption that he calls "The Real Bre'r Rabbit"; the caption reads "Cunnie Rabbit pretends to blow all the horns," but the animal portrayed there, as he points out, clearly is not a rabbit and does look much more like a bush deer.

One more note about phonology: Apparently, in Krio, two adjacent highs undergo upstep. So I guess if one high tone is next to another, the second (in sequence) will be higher than the first. Also, Ruˈbi is a name (Ruby); ˈrubi means 'ruby' as in the stone.

Nouns also aren't marked for number except with the optional pluralizer dɛn. Thus dì pikîn, where the first syllable has a low tone and the last has a falling one, can mean both 'the child' and 'the children', but di pikin dèn (where the last syllable is low) can only mean 'the children'.

Possessors come before the possessum, thus di pikin tois means 'the child's toy' (or 'the child's toys', I guess).

ˈWaka 'to walk' has the same (initial) vowel as its equivalent in Early Modern English, i.e. [wk].

The personal pronouns are a, yu, i, wi, una, and dɛn (this isn't a complete list). A de ˈwaka can mean either 'I am walking (now)' or 'I walk (usually)', de being one of the two main aspect markers in Krio. The other one is ˈdɔn, e.g. yu ˈdɔn ˈwaka. On the surface, in this sentence, ˈdɔn is pronounced with a rising tone, and ˈwaka, with a falling tone. Apparently, "done" in AAVE is related to the usage of ˈdɔn etc. in English-based Atlantic creoles.

OK, I think that's actually enough for now. :P

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Re: Krio

Postby vijayjohn » 2017-03-11, 7:35

First, a note on the use of piˈkin to mean 'pupil': My advisor said this is a calque from earlier varieties(?) of English and can be compared to the Shakespearean use of the phrase "baby of the eye." I'm not sure why he made a reference to Shakespeare here; perhaps it would make more sense to call this Elizabethan English? Shakespeare doesn't seem to have used this phrase in his works, or did he?

My notes say that dɛf yez means 'deaf' in Krio and that this is an example of a tautology or redundant extension (anyone who is deaf has deaf ears by definition).

Some more notes: Krio often has ky and gy where English would have [k] and [g], respectively. This is apparently due to the fact that Krio preserves 18th-century English pronunciations of various words. In Krio, two adjacent high tones undergo upstep according to my notes. This is why the first syllable of ˈwaka undergoes upstep after ˈdɔn.

Nouns are not marked for number. According to my notes, dì pikîn can mean either 'the child' or 'the children', but di pikin dèm can only mean 'the children'. (These are the spellings I wrote down in my notes, not necessarily consistent with the approach I've been using in this post).

Possessors come before the thing being possessed, e.g. di pikin tois 'the child's toy'.


My notes say, "Kìn is a habitual indicating availability of option."

A ˈno de ˈwaka is apparently pronounced a nó dè wâka. 'I didn't walk' is a nóbà wâkà. Apparently, ˈnoba comes from nɔ and dɔn.

Adjectives behave like words, ˈpas is used for comparison (I think) and I think literally means 'to exceed', and ˈbig 'old' is apparently a "very British usage!" My advisor said ˈdis pikin big pas in broda is an example of serialization (serial verbs?).

Wit means 'with' only as in 'accompanying', whereas 'I cut the bread with a knife' would be a ˈtek ˈnɛf ˈkɔt ˈbred, with upstep occurring between every two words with a high tone.

Am is the third singular object pronoun. Tranga comes from strong but really means 'ran'. Ustɛm means 'when', and usai means 'where'. 'Like' or 'as if' is lɛkɛ se. Se is a complementizer whereas we is a relativizer. Apparently, a sabi di yus se i tel mi means 'I know that he told me the news' (unlike I guess a sabi di yus we i tel mi 'I know the news that he told me').


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