Origin of the language
In Guadeloupe Archipelago most people do speak French and Creole. As we are an overseas department of France, the official language is French. However, the majority of the population widely speaks Creole on a daily basis.
First and foremost, let’s understand what is a Creole language. Let’s start to grasp the difference between Pidgin and Creole languages, because these two terms can be quite confusing.
Difference between Pidgin and Creole
A Pidgin emerges when speakers of two different languages meet and have a need to communicate. The Pidgin combines vocabulary from both sources as well as a basic grammatical structure.
A Pidgin does not have native speakers as the language arises pretty quickly, when there is a need for communication in a specific situation. Most of the time, the less dominant group is the one who has to adopt the language of the more dominant one.
Bear in mind that they don’t have any proper education in the language of that dominant group. So, they use the most basic vocabulary of that dominant group’s language and elemental grammar of their own native language.
We are dealing with Creole language, when this Pidgin language remains alive and become the native language of the next generation. At this point, the Creole language is a complete language with a fully developed grammar and syntax.
Most pidgins and creoles were formed during the Slavery era. Slaves from multiple countries and tribes were working together on a plantation but, they have no common language. They developed their Pidgin and it quickly became their extended Pidgin, which is the language used in all aspects of life.
Then, the Creole language fell into place when their children grew up in that environment with that Pidgin language as their native language.
Creole in Guadeloupe Archipelago
Most Creoles were born during the Colonial expansion and Slave trade. Also called plantation Creoles, they are based on European colonial languages.
The main European nations involved in the colonial expansion were Britain, France, Portugal, Spain and the Netherlands. That is why there are Dutch, English, Portuguese, Spanish and French-based creoles.
The French-based creole from Guadeloupe Archipelago has emerged from the 17th to 19th centuries, during the Transatlantic slave trade. At this time, they brought slaves from West African countries to work in the plantations.
French colonialists and West African slaves had to communicate on a daily basis. In this case, the more dominant group was the colonialists whereas the slaves the less dominant.
This French-based Pidgin language, which was a mix of basic French vocabulary with grammar from African languages, became a Creole over time. The language also has some English and Spanish words because of the former settlers’ influences.
Even though French is the official language, Creole is part of our culture and almost everyone speaks it throughout the archipelago. For instance, most of traditional Music are sung in Creole. Furthermore, lots of elderly people over 75 years old only speak it, even if they do understand French.
For a long time, the language has essentially been oral and considered as dialects. Today, the French-based Creole from Guadeloupe Archipelago has a strong writing system, thanks to the GEREC-F.
The GEREC-F (Groupe d’Études et de Recherches en Espace Créolophone et Francophone) is a study group that has established formal Creole writing standards. Since 1975, this group of researchers has actively investigated the Creole culture, language and population.
Over the years, there have been tremendous progresses to increase the acknowledgement of Creole as a regional language. Here are important key dates:
- 1984: Creation of DULCC, a Degree programme in Creole Language and Culture. DULCC stands for Diplôme Universitaire en Langue et Culture Créole.
- 1992: The former DULCC became DULCR , a degree programme specialised in Regional Languages and Culture. DULCR stands for Diplôme universitaire de Langues et Cultures Régionales.
- 1994: Creation of LCR, a Bachelor Degree in Regional Languages and Culture, option Creole. LCR stands for Langues et Cultures Régionales-option Créole. Creation of the Master degree MEEF (Métiers de l’enseignement, de l’éducation et de la formation: parcours créole) two years later.
- 2001: Creation of CAPES in Regional Languages and Culture Creole. The CAPES is a competitive exam to hire teachers. The first competitive exam took place the following year.
Creole in schools is the result of the willing to restore, the continuity between the traditional socio-family environment and the educational system. The language is now taught in multiple primary, secondary and high schools in Guadeloupe Archipelago.
In addition to the introduction of the language in schools, there are multiple articles, books, essays, poems in Creole. If you are browsing the internet, you will also find various online dictionaries available.