Ndyuka language


Ndyuka written in the Afaka syllabary
Native to Suriname, French Guiana
Ethnicity Ndyuka, Aluku, Paramaccan
Native speakers
(34,000 cited 1980–2011)[1]
English Creole
  • Atlantic

    • Suriname
      • Ndyuka
Afaka syllabary
Language codes
ISO 639-3 djk
Glottolog ndyu1242[2]
Linguasphere 52-ABB-ay (varieties:
52-ABB-aya to -aye)

Ndyuka /nˈkə/, also called Aukan, Okanisi, Ndyuka tongo, Aukaans, Businenge Tongo (considered by some to be pejorative), Eastern Maroon Creole, or Nenge is a creole language of Suriname, spoken by the Ndyuka people. The speakers are one of six Maroon peoples (formerly called "Bush Negroes") in the Republic of Suriname and one of the Maroon peoples in French Guiana. Most of the 25 to 30 thousand speakers live in the interior of the country, which is a part of the country covered with tropical rainforests. Ethnologue lists two related languages under the name Ndyuka.


Ndyuka is based on English vocabulary, with influence from African languages in its grammar and sounds. For example, the difference between na ("is") and ("isn't") is tone; words can start with consonants such as mb and ng, and some speakers use the consonants kp and gb. (For other Ndyuka speakers, these are pronounced kw and gw, respectively. For example, the word "to leave" is gwé or gbé, from English "go away".) There are also influences from Portuguese and other languages.


Modern orthography differs from an older Dutch-based orthography in substituting u for oe and y for j. The digraphs ty and dy are pronounced somewhat like the English ch and j, respectively. Tone is infrequently written, but it is required for words such as ("isn't"). The syllabic Afaka script was devised for Ndyuka in 1908.


The Ndyuka language has three dialects: proper Ndyuka (or Okanisi), Aluku, and Paramaccan, which are ethnically distinct.

Kwinti is distinct enough linguistically to be considered a separate language, but it is sometimes included as well under the name Ndyuka.

Ndyuka was also a basis of the Ndyuka-Tiriyó Pidgin.


A Ndyuka letter written in the Afaka syllabary

Here is an example of Ndyuka text, and its translation into English (showing the similitarities as well as the lexical evolution), adapted from Languages of the Guianas (SIL Publications):

En so den be abaa na a líba, dísi wi kai Kawína Líba. Di den abaa de, den abaa teke gwe na opu fu Kawína. En so den be waka langa langa gwe te na Mama Ndyuka ede, pe wi kai Mama Ndyuka.
And so they crossed the river, which we call "Kawina [Commewijne] River". Having crossed it, they went way upstream along the Commewijne. Thus they walked a long, long way, clear to the upper Tapanahony, the place we call "Mama Ndyuka".

The language bears some similarity to Twi and other Akan languages spoken by the Akan people of Ghana.

See also


  1. Ndyuka at Ethnologue (18th ed., 2015)
  2. Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin; Bank, Sebastian, eds. (2016). "Ndyuka = Aukan". Glottolog 2.7. Jena: Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History.

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