|Latin script (Papiamento orthography)|
Official language in
Recognised regional language:
Location map of Aruba, Bonaire, and Curaçao, where Papiamento is spoken
Papiamento  or Papiamentu is a Portuguese-based creole language spoken in the Dutch West Indies. It is the most-widely spoken language on the Caribbean ABC islands, having official status in Aruba and Curaçao. The language is also recognized in Bonaire by the Dutch government.
Papiamento is based largely on Portuguese language with some elements of grammar and vocabulary deriving from African languages, a strong influence from Spanish, and some vocabulary from Indigenous American languages, as well as English, and Dutch. There is some degree of mutual intelligibility with both Portuguese and Spanish.
The precise historical origins of Papiamento have not been established. Historical constraints, core vocabulary and grammatical features that Papiamento shares with Cape Verdean Creole suggest that the basic ingredients are Portuguese, and that other influences occurred at a later time (17th and 18th centuries, respectively).
Its parent language is Iberian for sure, but scholars dispute whether Papiamento is derived from Portuguese or from Spanish. A summary of the century-long debate on Papiamento's origins is provided in Jacobs (2009a).
The name of the language itself comes from papia, pap(e)o or pap(e)ar ("to chat", "to talk"), a word present in Portuguese (um papo, "a chat") and colloquial Spanish; compare with Papiá Kristang ("Christian talk"), a Portuguese-based creole of Malaysia and Singapore, alternate term for Macanese Patois called Papia Cristam di Macau ("Christian speech of Macau"), and the Cape Verdean Creole word papiâ ("to talk"), or elsewhere in the Caribbean (Puerto Rico, Dominican Republic, Cuba) papear--"to talk excessively" (and without sense) or "to stutter" (but also, "to eat" or "food". Castilian Spanish papeo, Portuguese papar is a children's term for "to eat").
Spain claimed dominion over the islands in the 15th century, but made little use of them after the Spanish defeat to the Netherlands as a result of Eighty Years' War. Portuguese merchants had been trading extensively in the West Indies, and with the Union with Castille, this trade extended to the Castillian West Indies, as the Spanish kings favoured the free movement of people. In 1634, the Dutch West India Company (WIC) took possession of the islands, deporting most of the small remaining Arawak and Spanish population to the continent, and turned them into the hub of the Dutch slave trade between Africa and the Caribbean.
The first evidence of widespread use of Papiamento in Aruba can be seen through the Curaçao official documents in the early 18th century. In the 19th century, most materials in the islands were written in Papiamento including Roman Catholic schoolbooks and hymnals. The first Papiamento newspaper was published in 1871 and titled Civilisado (The Civilized). Civilizado (stress on /za/) is Spanish and Portuguese for "civilized" but can also be understood as having a suppressed final "r" from the word civilizador (stress on /do/) ("civilizer").
An outline of the competing theories is provided below.
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There are various local development theories. One such theory proposes that Papiamento developed in the Caribbean from an original Portuguese-African pidgin used for communication between African slaves and Portuguese slavetraders, with later Dutch and Spanish (and even some Arawak) influences. Another theory is that Papiamento first evolved from the use in this region since 1499 of 'lenguas' and the first Repopulation of the ABC islands by the Spanish by the Cédula real decreed in November 1525, in which Juan Martinez de Ampués, factor of Española, had been granted the right to repopulate the depopulated Islas inútiles of Oroba, Islas de los Gigantes and Buon Aire. Columbus took ten natives back to Europe precisely so that they could acquire knowledge of the Spanish language and culture, a policy he maintained throughout future voyages. On his return to America, Columbus was accompanied by two interpreters ('lenguas', literally, 'tongues'), Alonso de Cáceres and a young boy from Guanahani (the Bahamas) who was given the name Diego Colón. Subsequent expeditions followed the same pattern. In 1499 Alonso de Ojeda, Juan de la Cosa and Amerigo Vespuccio took captives to serve as lenguas. Ojeda actually married his native interpreter and guide, Isabel. The evolution of Papiamento continued under the Dutch Colonization under the influence of the 16th century 'Dutch'/European/Native American (ABC islands) and 'Portuguese'/Native American (Brazilian) languages with the second Repopulation of these ABC islands under Peter Stuyvesant, who arrived here from the ex-Dutch Brazilian colonies.
The Judaeo-Portuguese population of the ABC islands increased substantially after 1654, when the Portuguese recovered the Dutch-held territories in Northeast Brazil - causing most of the Portuguese-speaking Jews and their Portuguese-speaking Dutch allies and Dutch-speaking Portuguese Brazilian allies in those lands to flee from religious persecution. The precise role of Sephardic Jews in the early development is unclear, but it is certain that Jews played a prominent role in the later development of Papiamento. Many early residents of Curaçao were Sephardic Jews either from Portugal, Spain, or Portuguese Brazil. Therefore, it can be assumed that Judaeo-Portuguese (presently extinct)and Judaeo-Spanish were brought to the island of Curaçao, where it gradually spread to other parts of the community. As the Jewish community became the prime merchants and traders in the area, business and everyday trading was conducted in Papiamento with some Ladino influences. While various nations owned the island and official languages changed with ownership, Papiamento became the constant language of the residents. When Netherlands opened economic ties with Spanish colonies in what are now Venezuela and Colombia in the 18th century  that the students on Curaçao, Aruba, and Bonaire were taught predominantly in Spanish, Spanish began to influence the creole language. Influence of English dates to the early 19th century, when the British took Curaçao, Aruba, and Bonaire until after Dutch rule resumed in 1815. Because of this, during the 18th and 19th centuries, Spanish, English, and French were very important languages for the colonial elites, who for the most part did not use the Dutch language. Since there was a continuous Latinization process (Hoetink, 1987), even the elite Dutch-Protestant settlers eventually served better in Spanish than in Dutch. A wealth of local Spanish-language publications in the nineteenth century testify to this. It has recently been discovered that a small group on the Venezuelan Paraguaná peninsula speaks a variant of Papiamento. Some researchers claim that the Papiamentu that originated in Curaçao via Venezuela ended up on Aruba and that that is why the Aruban dialect of Papiamento sounds more like Spanish in terms of sound and vocabulary.
Peter Stuyvesant's appointment to the ABC islands followed his service in Brazil. He brought Indians, soldiers, etc. from Brazil to Curaçao as well as to New Netherland. In Stuyvesant's Resolution Book, document #4b in the Curaçao Papers presents the multi-ethnic makeup of the garrison and the use of local Indians as cowboys: "... whereas the number of Indians, together with those of Aruba and Bonnairo, have increased here by half, and we have learned that they frequently ride ..." They communicated with each other in 'Papiamento' a language originating when the first Europeans began to arrive on these islands under Ojeda, Juan de Ampues, Bejarano and mixing with the natives. Stuyvesant also took some Esopus Indians captives in New Netherland and brought them as slaves to Curaçao. There was little Dutch government activity in the management of DWI because during the period 1568-1648, they were actively fighting for their independence and were not in a position to manage their colonies.
A more recent theory holds that the origins of Papiamento lie in the Afro-Portuguese creoles that arose almost a century earlier, in the west coast of Africa and in the Portuguese Cape Verde islands. From the 16th to the late 17th century, most of the slaves taken to the Caribbean came from Portuguese trading posts ("factories") in those regions. Around those ports there developed several Portuguese-African pidgins and creoles, such as Guinea-Bissau Creole, Mina, Cape Verdean Creole, Angolar, and Guene. The latter bears strong resemblances to Papiamento. According to this theory, Papiamento was derived from those pre-existing pidgins/creoles, especially Guene, which were brought to the ABC islands by slaves and/or traders from Cape Verde and West Africa.
Some specifically claim that the Afro-Portuguese mother language of Papiamento arose from a mixture of the Mina pidgin/creole (a mixture of Cape Verdean pidgin/creole with Twi) and the Angolar creole (derived from languages of Angola and Congo). Proponents of this theory of Papiamento contend that it can easily be compared and linked with other Portuguese creoles, especially the African ones (namely Forro, Guinea-Bissau Creole, and the Cape Verdean Creole). For instance, compare mi ("I" in Cape Verdean Creole and Papiamento) or bo (meaning you in both creoles). Mi is from the Portuguese mim (pronounced [m?]) "me", and bo is from Portuguese vós "you". The use of "b" instead of "v" is very common in the African Portuguese Creoles (probably deriving from the pronunciation of Portuguese settlers in Africa, numerous from Northern Portugal). However, because of the similarities between Portuguese and Spanish, it can also be argued that these two words derive from Spanish "mi" and "vos" (usually pronounced bos).
Papiamento is, in some degree, intelligible with Cape Verdean creoles and could be explained by the immigration of Portuguese Sephardic Jews from Cape Verde to these Caribbean islands, although this same fact could also be used by dissenters to explain a later Portuguese influence on an already existing Spanish-based creole.
Another comparison is the use of the verb ta and taba ta from vernacular Portuguese tá (an aphesis of estar, "to be" or está, "it is") with verbs where Portuguese does and with others where it does not use it: "Mi ta + verb" or "Mi taba ta + verb", also the rule in the São Vicente Creole and other Barlavento Cape Verdean Creoles. These issues can also be seen in other Portuguese Creoles (Martinus 1996; see also Fouse 2002 and McWhorter 2000), but some are also found in colloquial Spanish.
Current research on the origins of Papiamento focuses specifically on the linguistic and historical relationships between Papiamento and Upper Guinea Portuguese Creole as spoken on the Santiago island of Cape Verde and in Guinea-Bissau and Casamance. Elaborating on comparisons done by Martinus (1996) and Quint (2000), Jacobs (2008, 2009a, 2009b) defends the hypothesis that Papiamento is a relexified offshoot of an early Upper Guinea Portuguese Creole variety, transferred from Senegambia to Curaçao in the second half of the 17th century, a period in which the Dutch controlled the harbour of Gorée, just below the tip of the Cape Verde Peninsula. On Curaçao, this variety underwent internal changes as well as contact-induced changes at all levels of the grammar (though particularly in the lexicon) due to contact with Spanish and, to a lesser extent, Dutch as well as with a variety of Kwa and Bantu languages. These changes notwithstanding, the morpho-syntactic framework of Papiamento is still remarkably close to that of the Upper Guinea Creoles of Cape Verde and Guinea-Bissau/Casamance.
Many Papiamento speakers are multilingual and are also able to speak Dutch, English and Spanish. Papiamento has been an official language of Aruba since May, 2003. In the former Netherlands Antilles (which at the time comprised Bonaire, Curaçao, Saba, Sint Eustatius and Sint Maarten) Papiamento was made an official language on March 7, 2007. After its dissolution, the language's official status was confirmed in the newly formed Caribbean Netherlands (part of the Netherlands proper, and compromising Bonaire, Saba and Sint Eustatius), until January 1, 2011; since then, Bonaire is the only portion of the Caribbean Netherlands in which it is recognized.
Papiamento is also spoken elsewhere in the Netherlands, particularly on Saba and Sint Eustatius, and on St. Maarten, by immigrants from Aruba, Bonaire and Curaçao.
Venezuelan Spanish and American English are constant influences today. Code-switching and lexical borrowing between Papiamento, Spanish, Dutch and English among native speakers is common. This is perceived as a threat to the further development of Papiamento due to a language ideology that is committed to preserving the authentic African or Creole "feel" of Papiamento.
Many Latin American immigrants (from Venezuela, Colombia, and Spanish Caribbean) who settle Aruba, Bonaire, and/or Curaçao choose to learn Papiamentu because it's more practical in daily life on the islands, and for Spanish speakers, it's much easier to learn than Dutch. That's because Papiamentu has many Spanish and Portuguese words in it.
Spoken (Aruban) Papiamento sounds much more like Spanish. The most apparent difference between the two dialects is given away in the name difference. Whereas Bonaire and Curaçao opted for a phonology-based spelling, Aruba uses an etymology-based spelling. Many words in Aruba end with "o" while that same word ends with "u" in Bonaire and Curaçao. And even in Curaçao, the use of the u-ending is still more pronounced among the Sephardic Jewish population. Similarly, there is also a difference between the usage of "k" in Bonaire and Curaçao and "c" in Aruba.
Papiamento has the following nine vowels. The orthography (writing system) of Curaçao has one symbol for each vowel.
|IPA||Curaçao orthography||Aruba orthography|
|a||a in kana||a in cana (= walk)|
|e||e in sker, nechi||e in scheur (= to rip, Dutch: scheuren)|
|?||è in skèr, nèchi||e in sker (= scissors, Dutch: schaar)|
|i||i in chikí||i in chikito (= small)|
|o||o in bonchi, doló||o in dolor (= pain)|
|?||ò in bònchi, dòler||o in dollar (= currency)|
|u||u in kunuku||u in cunucu (= farm)|
|ø||ù in brùg||u in brug (= bridge, Dutch: brug)|
|y||ü in hür||uu in huur (= rent, Dutch: huur)|
There are dialects that exist in the island itself. An example is the Aruban word, "dolor" ("pain"), which is the same in Curaçao's version, but written differently. The R is silent in certain parts of the island. It is also written without the R.
In addition to the vowels listed above, schwa also occurs in Papiamento. The letter e is pronounced as schwa in the final unstressed syllables of words such as agradabel and komader. Other vowels in unstressed syllables can become somewhat centralized (schwa-like) in rapid casual speech.
Polysyllabic words that end in vowels are stressed on the next-to-last syllable; most words ending in consonants are stressed on the final syllable. There are exceptions. When a word deviates from these rules, the stressed vowel should be indicated by an acute accent mark. The accent marks are often omitted in casual writing.
Papiamento words have distinct tone patterns. According to recent linguistic research, there are two classes of words: those that typically have rising pitch on the stressed syllable, and those that typically have falling pitch on the stressed syllable. The latter category includes most of the two-syllable verbs in the language. Any given word's tone contours may change depending on discursive factors such as whether the sentence is affirmative, interrogative, or imperative.
Altering tone in Papiamento can distinguish meaning and grammatical function: compare noun 'para' (PA-ra: bird) with verb 'para' (pa-RA:stand or stop)[clarification needed]
Independently from tone, stress can also be altered: compare 'pa-ra' (stand or stop) with 'pa-ra' (stopped or standing).
|word(s)||meaning||grammatical functions||stress pattern||accent pattern|
|kini-kini||falcon||noun substantive||ki-ni-ki-ni||kini-KI-ni (low-x-high-x)|
|divi-divi||Caesalpinia coriaria tree||noun substantive||di-vi-di-vi||divi-DI-vi (low-x-high-x)|
|blanku blanku||"snowwhite" (emphatic doubling)||adjective||blan-ku blan-ku||BLAN-ku blanku (high-x-low-x)|
|palu haltu||tree+high 'tall tree'||noun substantive+adjective||pa-lu hal-tu||PA-lu haltu (high-x-low-x)|
|poko-poko||slow/calm||adverb||po-ko po-ko||PO-ko poko (high-x-low-x)|
|bira ront||turn+round (to) turn around||verb+adverb||bi-ra ront||bira RONT (low-x-high-x)|
|masha bon||very+good||adverb+adjective||masha bon||masha BON (low-x-high)|
The following are the grammatical rules of Papiamento intonation:
-Verbs usually have rising tone; a following adverb receives high intonation (ex. 'bira RONT:' turn around).
-Nouns (substantives) and adjectives usually have falling tone, a following adjective receives low intonation (ex. 'PA-lu haltu:' tall tree).
-In words of more than three syllables, grammatical tone or accent will fall on the last stressed syllable. The first stressed syllable receives the opposite tone for contrast: compare noun 'kini-kini' (kini-KI-ni): falcon with adverb 'poko-poko' (PO-ko-poko): slowly.
-An adverb has rising tone, so a following adjective receives high tone (ex. 'masha BON' very good).
!!! - The adverbs 'bon' (good) and 'mal' (bad), even though they are adjectives, in grammar will always have adverbial, rising tone character (ex. 'bon ha-SI:' well-done). They will always behave like adverbs, even when they qualify nouns (ex. 'bon DI-a:' good day). They behave like adverbs even when doubled for emphasis ('bon-BON:' very good).
(Note: in all above examples, primary stress remains on the second word, while secondary stress remains on the first word, independently of tone changes. It is thus more accurate to transcribe 'PA-lu hal-tu' and 'bira RONT', with bold typing indicating stress and CAPITAL LETTERS indicating high tone syllables. Unstressed syllables' tone is dependent on contact syllables.)
-The particle of negation 'no' always receives rising tone: the following verb is inevitably raised in pitch: compare 'mi ta PA-pia' (I speak) and 'mi no TA PA-pia' (I do not speak). This negating pitch-raise is crucial and is retained even after contraction of the particle in informal speech: 'mi'n TA papia' ("I don't speak")
It is theorized that the unusual presence of both stress and tone in Papiamento is an inheritance of African languages (which use tone) and Portuguese (which has stress)
Most of the vocabulary is derived from Spanish and Portuguese and most of the time the real origin is unknown due to the great similarity between the two Iberian languages and the adaptations required by Papiamento. A list of 207 basic Papiamento words can be found in the standard Swadesh list. Linguistic studies have shown that roughly two-thirds of the words in Papiamento's present vocabulary are of Iberian origin, a quarter are of Dutch origin, some of Native American origin, and the rest come from other tongues. A recent study by Buurt & Joubert inventoried several hundred words of indigenous Arawak origins.
Examples of words of Iberian and Roman, Latin origin, which are impossible to label as either Portuguese or Spanish:
While the presence of word-final /u/ can easily be traced to Portuguese, the diphthongization of some vowels is characteristic of Spanish. The use of /b/ (rather than /v/) is difficult to interpret; although the two are separate phonemes in standard Portuguese, they merge in the dialects of northern Portugal, just like they do in Spanish. Also, a sound-shift could have occurred in the direction of Spanish, whose influence on Papiamento came later than that of Portuguese.
Other words can have dual origin, and certainly dual influence. For instance: subrino (nephew): sobrinho in Portuguese, sobrino in Spanish. The pronunciation of "o" as /u/ is traceable to Portuguese, while the use of "n" instead of "nh" (IPA /?/) in the ending "-no", relates to Spanish.
Portuguese origin words:
The Papiamento name for one of the ABC islands, Kòrsou, is derived from Portuguese word curaçao (Spanish, curación)
Spanish origin words:
Dutch origin words:
English origin words;
Native American words:
African origin words:
Author: N. N.; Publisher: Impr. del Comercio; Year: 1876 Possible copyright status: NOT_IN_COPYRIGHT; Language: Spanish Digitizing sponsor: Google Book from the collections of: Harvard University Collection: americana Notes: Cover-title: Guia-manual para que los españoles puedan hablar y comprender el papiamento ó patois de Curazao y vice-versa ... 
Papiamento is written using the latin script. Since the 1970s, two different orthographies were developed and adopted by the governments of Aruba, Bonaire, and Curaçao: a more phonetic one in Bonaire and Curaçao, and an etymological-based spelling used in Aruba.
NOTE: These examples are from Curaçao Papiamento and not from Aruban Papiamento.
This section provides a comparison of the vocabularies of Portuguese, Papiamento and the Portuguese creoles of Guinea-Bissau and Cape Verde. Spanish and Galician are also shown for contrast.
|English||Portuguese||Bonaire and Curaçao||Aruba||Guinea-Bissau||Cape Verdean* **||Spanish||Galician|
|Welcome||Bem-vindo||Bon biní||Bon Bini||Bô bim drito||Bem-vindo***||Bienvenido||Benvido|
|Good morning||Bom dia||Bon dia||Bon dia||Bon dia||Bon dia||Buenos días||Bo dia|
|Thank you||Obrigado / Obrigada||Danki||Danki||Obrigadu||Obrigadu||Gracias||Grazas|
|How are you?||Como [é que] [tu] vais / [você] vai? Como está? Como estás?||Kon ta bai?||Con ta bay?||Kumá ku bo na bai?||Kumo bu sta?||¿Cómo estás? ¿Cómo te va?||Como che vai?|
|Very good||Muito bom||Mashá bon||Masha bon||Mutu bon||Mutu bon||Muy bueno, Muy bien||Moi ben|
|I am fine||Eu estou bem/(bom)||Mi ta bon||Mi ta bon||N' sta bon||N sta bon||(Yo) Estoy bien||(Eu) estou ben|
|I, I am||Eu, eu sou||Mi, Mi ta||Ami ta, Mi ta||N', Mi i||N, Mi e||Yo, yo soy||Eu, son eu|
|Have a nice day||Passa/Passe/Tenha um bom dia||Pasa un bon dia||Pasa un bon dia||Pasa un bon dia||Pasa un bon dia||Pasa/Pase/Tenga un buen día||Pasa un bo dia|
|See you later||Até logo / Até depois||Te aweró/ Te despues||Te aworo, Te despues||N' ta odjá-u dipus||N ta odjâ-u dipôs, Te lógu||Te veo después/ Hasta luego||Véxote despois/ Até logo|
|Food||Comida / Vianda||Kuminda||Cuminda||Bianda||Kumida||Comida||Comida|
|Juice||Sumo (not common in Brazil) / Suco||Djus||Juice||Sumu||Sumu||Zumo (common in Spain) / Jugo (common in Latin America)||Zume|
|I like Curaçao||Eu gosto de Curaçao||Mi gusta Kòrsou||Mi gusta Corsou, Mi gusta Korsou||N' gosta di Curaçao||N gosta di Curaçao||Me gusta Curazao||Gústame Curaçao/Curaçao gústame/Gostame Curaçao/Gosto de Curaçao|
Artikel 2: De officiële talen zijn het Engels, het Nederlands en het Papiamento. (English: Article 2: The official languages are English, Dutch and Papiamento)