Bahamian Creole

Infobox Language
name=Bahamas Creole English
states=Bahamas, United States, Turks and Caicos
speakers=400,000
familycolor=Creole
fam1=Creole language
fam2=English Creole
fam3=Atlantic
fam4=Eastern
fam5=Northern
iso2="none"
iso3=bah
notice=nonotice

Bahamian (simply known by its users as “dialect”) is spoken by approximately 400,000 people in the Bahamas and the Turks and Caicos Islands. (Although, the creole spoken in the Turks and Caicos Islands differs slightly from that spoken in the Bahamas). Variations exists between the various islands, villages or communities on islands. Bahamian is spoken by both white and black Bahamians, although in slightly different forms. Bahamian also tends to be more "pronounced" in certain areas of the Bahamas, such as the Family Islands. It is also more prevalent among Bahamians with limited education. The use of Bahamian is also more prevalent in situations of heightened emotion.

Like most creoles, Bahamian is constantly evolving. Youth slang, in the Bahamas, borrows heavily from Jamaican Creole and African American Vernacular English.

Bahamian also shares similar features with other Caribbean English creoles, such as Jamaican Creole, Bajan, Trinidadian Creole and Virgin Islands Creole. There is also a very significant link between Bahamian and the Gullah language of South Carolina, as many Bahamians are descendants of slaves brought to the islands, from the Gullah region, after the American revolution.

In the Bahamas, Bahamian is not referred to as "Creole." If it were this would probably cause confusion as the Bahamas has a large immigrant Haitian population, whose native tongue is Haitian Creole, a French creole. Some scholars have argued that Bahamian speech has undergone significant 'de-creolisation', as a result of exposure to American mass media and association of stronger dialect with lack of education as has been witnessed in some other Caribbean islands and former colonial societies. As in many countries where a creole is spoken, educators are divided over whether the creole should be taught in schools. The Ministry of Education currently advises teachers to teach Standard English but encourage ‘enjoyment of and respect for Bahamian'.

The ability to switch between Bahamian and Standard English is common among many Bahamians, a skill artfully used by many of the nation's politicians 'to connect with the people'.

Pronoun usage

Pronouns in Bahamian are generally the same as in Standard English.

However, the second person plural can take the forms
*"yinna",
*"y’all" or
*"all a ya" and the third person plural
*"they" is pronounced "dey".

Possessive pronouns

Possessive pronouns in Bahamian often differ from Standard English with:
*"your" becoming "you", "ya", or "yuh"

*"his" or "hers" becoming "he" or "she"

*"our" becoming "we"; and

*"their" becoming "dey".

For example:
*"Das yuh book?" (Is that your book?)

*"You see are tings?" (Have you seen our things?)
*"No, but das dey car over dere" (No, but that's their car over there)

In addition, the possessive pronouns "mine", "yours" (sing.), "his", "hers", "ours", "yours" (plur) and "theirs" often become "mine's", "yorns", "he own", "she own", "we own", "yinna's" and "dey own" or "des".

For example: "Who book dis is?" (Whose book is this?)

*"mine's" (my own)
*"yorns" (yours)
*"he own" (his)
*"we own" (ours)
*"yinnas" (yours)
*"dey own" (theirs)
*"des" (theirs) Bahamians have a separate pronoun form for describing actions done alone or by a single group or party:
*"only me one sing" (I'm the only one who sang)
*"only you one was dere" (You were the only one there)
*"only him one went" (He was the only one who went)
*"only we one gone" (We were the only ones who went)
*"dey the only ones dat come" (They were the only ones who came)

This can also be applied when the proper noun is used:
*"Only Mary one gone to Nassau" (Mary was the only one who went to Nassau)

Verb usage

Verb usage in the Bahamian differs significantly from that of Standard English.

Often a number of different alternatives exist for the same Standard English verb.

Irregular Verbs

To go

The verb "to go" is expressed in a number of different ways in Bahamian. There are no apparent rules but note the following examples:

1) I'm going to Freeport:
*"I goin ta Freepo(r)t"
*"I gern ta Freepo(r)t"
*"I gun go Freepo(r)t"
*"I gin go Nassau"
*"I gwine George Town"

2) I am going to cook (some food)
*"I ga cook"
*"I goin cook"
*"I gern cook"
*"I gern go cook
*"I gwine cook"

3) Where are you going?
*"Wey yinna gern or Wey y'all gern?" (literally: Where are you all going?)

To do

The verb "to do" has numerous variations depending on tense and context.

For example:
*"I dis (does) do dat" (I do that)
*"I dis (does) eat conch erry day" (I eat conch everyday)
* "Wot you does do?" (What kind of work do you do?)

In these previous example, the verb "to be" can be substituted for the verb "to do", in that the word "does" can be replaced with the word "is". For example: "I dis do dat"

The verbs "to do" and "to be" can be combined for effect, as in "She dis don’t like dat" (She doesn’t like that)

To be

In the present tense, the verb "to be" is usually conjugated "is" regardless of the grammatical person:
*I am – "I is"
*You are – "you is"
*We are – "we is"
*They are – "dey is"

In addition, note:
*"I is" can be pronounced "I's" (sounds like: "eyes")
*"We is" - "We's"

The negative of the verb "to be" usually takes the form "een" "I een gern" (I am not goin)

To like to

When the verb "to like" is combined with an infinitive, the "to" in the infinitive is usually dropped.

*"He like sing" (He likes to sing)
*"She like lie" (She likes to tell lies/She lies a lot)

Past Tense

Generally, the past tense, of a verb, in Bahamian is formed by combining the present tense, of the verb, in Standard English with a word or words that indicate that the action happened in the past.

For example:
*"I drink plenny rum las night" (I drank a lot of rum last night)
*"I eat peas an rice today" (I ate peas 'n' rice today)

To Do

The past tense in Bahamian English can also be formed by combining:
*"did" with the present tense of the relevant Standard English verb:
**"I did eat peas an rice yes'dee" (I ate peas 'n' rice yesterday)
**"'We did see dem at the t'ea-et-er" (We saw them at the theater)
**"She tell him already" (She already told him)
*"done" with the past tense of the Standard English verb:
**"I done told you"
In this instance, "done" usefully indicates "already" but "done" may also be used in conjunction with the word "already" as in
*"I den do dat aw'ready"
However, it is also possible to combine "done" with the present tense of a Standard English verb to form the past tense in Bahamian:
*"I den gee him back he book"

To Go

In addition, the word "gone" with the present tense or past tense of the relevant verb to form the past tense.
*"He gone tell her she was fat" (He told her she was fat)
*"Why you gone do dat?" (Why did you do that?)

To Be

Similarly, the word "been" can be combined with the present tense or past tense of the relevant verb to form the past tense.
*"He gone tell her she was fat" (He told her she was fat)
*"Why you gone do dat?" (Why did you do that?)
*"Why you been do dat?" (Why did you do that?)
*"I been Eleuthera last week" (I was in Eleuthera last week)

Differences from English

Dental fricatives are usually pronounced IPA|/d/ or IPA|/t/ as in
*"dis" (this)
*"dat" (that)
*"Tursdee" (Thursday)
*"tirty" (thirty)
*"tink" (think)
*"tree" (three)

The sound IPA|/oi/ often becomes "er" "ur"fact|date=November 2007
*oil – "url" or "erl"
*boil – "burl"
*going – "gern"

elected words and phrases

asue or asue draw: a form of savings where a group of people pay an agreed sum of money on a periodic basic (usually monthly) and each period one member of the group takes all the money that has been paid in (i.e. "draws" their share). This practice has been traced to a Yoruba credit system, similar schemes are common in other caribbean countries, eg. the susu in Barbados

Conchy Joe: It refers to Bahamians who are a considered neither white nor black but instead are descendants of both the white British who settled in the Bahamas and their miscegenation with the freed slaves. The term was initially a racial slur but today, the term is no longer considered to be derogatory in nature.

switcha: lemonade

jook: to stab or poke

mussy: literally- must be, "dey mussy een wan come" - 'it looks like they don't want to come' or it must 'be that they don't want to come.'

chile: Bahamian pronunciation of the English word child, frequently used as a form of address, or used to add emphasis to a sentence also it is used almost exclusively by women. "Chile, she done graduate arready,chile!" (She has already graduated)

dat ain no tru or dine no tru : that is not true

cut eye: to glare at someone and look away swiftly blinking the eyes firmly, literally describes the action of narrowing or 'cutting' your eyes.

God spare life: A very frequently used idiom used when describing a future action similar to 'God willing'. " I guh see ya tomorra, god spare life"

boongee: derrière

jungaliss: A derogatory term used to describe people (usually women) who are uncouth, act (and dress) without class and appear to have no desire to improve themselves.

suck ya teet: A sucking sound - the phrase means, suck your teeth - made to indicate anger/frustration. It is considered extremely disrespectful when done is direct response to the action(s) and/or statement(s) of another person. "Don't you suck ya teet at me."

mudda sick (dred) or muddos: An expression of disbelief.

buhy: Bahamian pronunciation of the English word "boy". "Dis buhy guh take ya tings if you ain't careful." Sometimes used as a form of address. "Buhy, you ain't guh never believe what happen to me."

teef: Bahamian pronunciation of the English word "thief". Also, often used to mean "steal". "I guh teef me one when I get a chance."

Body Parts

Crabby: The meaning of a woman's vagina.

Tonkey: The meaning of a woman's vagina.

Bubby: The meaning of a woman's breast.

Doggy: The meaning of a man's penis.

Boongy or boongie: A person's buttox.

Further reading

*Holm, John A. and Alison Watt Shilling "Dictionary of Bahamian English" (Lexik House: Cold Spring, New York: 1982) ISBN 0936368039

See also

* Caribbean English
* Gullah
* Virgin Islands Creole
* Jamaican Creole
* Antiguan Creole
* Saint Kitts Creole


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