TRINIDAD AND TOBAGO: Trinidadian Patois / French Creole

Trinidad and Tobago has two commonly spoken English-based creole languages – Trinidadian Creole (see the trailer for Green Days by the River) and Tobagoan Creole. However, there is a third creole language spoken in the country as well, Trinidadian French Creole, or Trinidadian Patois.

Unlike Tobago, Trinidad was never under French control, but the French patois developed as a lingua franca under Spanish rule, as Spain encouraged Catholics to settle on Trinidad – many slaveholders as well as free people of colour came from the French Caribbean during the French Revolution. French Creole was actually the main language spoken on the island for the 19th century until English and English Creole displaced it.

While there’s still French influence in the English Creole languages, French Creole today is mainly centred around the village of Paramin, in the mountains north of Port of Spain. While it is used in casual conversation and for Dimanche Gras – the Sunday mass before Carnival (see above video) – it is an endangered language. However, there are efforts underway to preserve it and share it with younger generations.

Here’s an interesting report on the language from a French channel – there’s no English subtitles, but Creole is subtitled in French. Haitian Creole speakers in the comments all note that it’s very close to their language and that it’s mutually intelligible.

I’d also recommend falling down the Wikipedia hole on Creole languages in general – how they differ from pidgin languages, how they develop, the history of recognizing creole languages, and even the language surrounding the language.

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