Papiamentu, a Creole language influenced over the centuries by African slaves, Sephardic merchants and Dutch colonists, is now spoken by only about 250,000 people on the islands of Curaçao, Bonaire and Aruba. But compared with many of the world’s other Creoles, the hybrid languages that emerge in colonial settings, it shows rare signs of vibrancy and official acceptance.
Most of Curaçao’s newspapers publish in Papiamentu. Music stores do brisk business in CDs recorded in Papiamentu by musicians like the protest singer Oswin Chin Behilia or the jazz vocalist Izaline Calister.
“Mi pais ta un isla hopi dushi, kaminda mi lombrishi pa semper ta derá,” goes a passage in Ms. Calister’s hit song “Mi Pais.” (That roughly translates as “My island is a lovely place, where my umbilical cord forever lies.”) [...]
“While English and French Creoles get more attention, the extension of Papiamentu into different domains like writing, education and policy is incredibly high,” said Bart Jacobs, a Dutch linguist who studies Papiamentu. “This bodes very well for the language’s chances to survive, and possibly even thrive well into the future.”
Scholars, writers and composers here say Papiamentu’s resilience has roots in a mixture of radical politics and pragmatic planning. They often tie Papiamentu’s resurgence to a violent uprising against symbols of Dutch power on May 30, 1969, known here as Trinta di Mei. [...]
Papiamentu’s vibrancy is related to the creation in 1998 of the Fundashon pa Planifikashon di Idioma, a language institute that maintains an orthography. Papiamentu also thrives on the street level, with immigrants from Haiti and Suriname often picking up the language quickly and using it instead of Dutch.
Nice to see an upbeat story on a “small” language for a change. (Thanks, Bonnie!)