Sea Island creole dialect (Gullah/gechee)

Sea Island creole dialect (Gullah/gechee)
Julius-Maximilians-Universität Würzburg SS 2015
Philosophische Fakultät I 08.06.2015
Neuphilologisches Institut
Lehrstuhl für englische Sprachwissenschaft
Dozentin: Marie-Christin Himmel, M.A.
Referentinnen: Christina Aigner, Sabrina Brust
Sea Island Creole (Gullah / Geechee)
Historical Background
– primarily spoken along the coasts of South Carolina and Georgia
– slaves from West Africa (Liberia, Sierra Leone, Guinea) and the Caribbean were brought to the rice plantations on the Sea Islands
– English based creole language, but origins are still speculative (three hypotheses)
– warm, semitropical climate of coastal South Carolina and Georgia ? spread of tropical diseases
– isolated on the islands, no contact to mainland ? Gullahs were able to preserve their language and cultural habits
like in pile
voiceless stops [p], [t] and [k] in Gullah are generally unaspirated at the beginning of stressed syllables
consonants are sometimes omitted:
b: in medial position number ? nummuh
d: in medial position candle ? cannel
or (final) when it follows n or l band ? ban´
l: in medial position almost ? a´most
ng: when final and unstressed evening ? evenin´
s: initial when followed by a consonant scratch ? ´cratch
w: in intial position woman ? óman
Consonants which are added:
n: prefixes esp. to words beginning with u- or yu- sound young ? nyoung
s: prefixed to a few words beginning with consonant question ? squestion
y: initially added to word beginning with a vowel arm ? yahm
the “th” sound:
/?/ ? /t/ ‘thank you’ ? tank yu
/ð/ ? /d/ ‘this, that, them’ ? d?s, dat, d?m
Features that share Gullah with other Atlantic English creoles:
– tenses: bin for past or past of past, go/ga [g´] for future, duh [d´] for progressive, and done for perfect
– partial gender and case distinctions in the pronominal systems (thus him is used for all three genders and is used both as object and subject)
– use of fuh [f´] (English: for, to): we tell um fuh come = ‘we told him to come’
– extensive use of serial verb/predicate constructions: come kyah me to d’hospital = ‘come and take me to the hospital’
– use of weh derived from what
– nouns are uninflected in number: kyat don eat raw tato = ‘a cat does not eat raw potato’ or ‘cats don’t eat raw potato’
– common usage of the associative plural: Sara dem very nice people = ‘Sara and her family/friends/associates are very nice people’)
– common usage of the associative plural (as in Sara dem very nice people ‘Sara and her family/friends/associates are very nice people’)
– similar pronunciations of words such as oil [ayl], cat [kyat], fair [fyE:]

No fixed set of features that has Gullah in order to be identified as a creole
– Gullah has an indefinite article a (pronounced only as [´]), where other English creoles use the singular quantifier one
– it actually has a schwa, which is not attested in Caribbean creoles
– dem (as in dem boy) both with the meaning ‘those boys’ and ‘the boys’, whereas Jamaican Creole uses prenominal dem for the plural demonstrative meaning only
– wider set of negations, whereas Jamaicans only have only one
Gullah structure:
– many structures that are English, as NP and VP
– questions are typically marked by intonation, especially those starting with a wh-phrase or aint ([Eyn(t)], [E)], [InI] < aint it): Ain/Inni you see Al yes’day? = ‘Didn’t you see Al yesterday? – the object NP still follows the verb, and within the NP, the order is still Det(erminer) + Adj(ective) + N(oun) + Modifying clause – pronominal system: a) personal pronouns Standard English Gullah – relative clauses ?distinction between factive and non-factive /purposive relative clauses ?purposive: introduced by the complementizer fuh: a book fuh da chillum (fuh/tuh) read = ‘a book for the children to read’ ?factive: introduced by a null complementizer or by weh [wE] (English: what): everything (weh) Alison say= ‘everything what Alison said’ ‘everything that Alison said’ Bibliography Brown, Keith & Sarah Ogilvie. 2009. Concise encyclopedia of languages of the world. Amsterdam et al.: Elsevier, p.470-471. Kortmann, Peter & Edgar W. Schneider, eds. 2004. Handbook of Varieties of English. 3 vols. Berlin / New York: Mounton de Gruyter. Mufwene, Salikoko S. 1997. “The Gullah´s Development: Myth and Sociohistorical Evidence.” Language Variety in South Revisited. Ed. Cynthia Bernstein, Thomas Nunnaly and Robin Sabino. Tuscaloosa: The University of Alabama Press, p. 113-122. Opala, Jospeh A. 2004. The Gullah: Rice, Slavery and the Sierra Leone – American Connection. (05.06.2015).
Stevens, Jeff. 2005. Gullah. (05.06.2015).