Samaná English

Samaná English (SE and SAX) is a variety of the English language spoken by descendants of Black immigrants from the United States who have lived in the Samaná Peninsula, which belongs today to the Dominican Republic. Members of the enclave are known as the Samaná Americans.

The language is a relative of the Antebellum Black Vernacular English, with variations unique to the enclave's history in the area. In the 1950 Dominican Republic census, 0.57% of the population (about 12,200 people) said that their mother tongue was English.[1]


The majority of speakers trace their lineage to immigrants that arrived to the Peninsula in 1824 and 1825. The island of Hispaniola was all administered by Haiti, and its president was Jean-Pierre Boyer. The immigrants responded to an invitation for settlement that Jonathas Granville delivered in person to Philadelphia, Baltimore, Boston and New York City. Abolitionists like Richard Allen, Samuel Cornish, Benjamin Lundy and Loring D. Dewey joined the campaign, which was coined the Haitian emigration.

The response was unprecedented, as thousands of African Americans boarded ships in eastern cities and migrated to Haiti. The bulk of the immigrants arrived during the fall of 1824 and the spring of 1825. More continued moving back and forth in the coming years, but at a slower rate.

Between 1859 and 1863, another immigration campaign brought new settlers to the island, but at a fraction of those in 1824 and 1825. Those who originally settled in Samana were fewer than 600 but formed the only surviving immigration enclave.[2][3]


While more than six thousand immigrants came in 1824-5, by the end of the 19th century, only a handful of enclaves on the island spoke any variety of the antebellum Black Vernacular. These were communities in Puerto Plata, Samaná and Santo Domingo. The largest was the one in Samaná that maintained church schools where it was preserved. During the Trujillato (1930–1961), however, the government began a systematic policy of Hispanizing the entire Dominican population. That meant that church schools where English was taught were eliminated and its usage was discouraged.

Enclaves across the island soon lost an important element of their identity and this led to their disintegration. Samaná English withstood the assaults in part because the location of Samaná was favorable to a more independent cultural life. However, government policies have still influenced the language's gradual decline, which may well now be an endangered language.[4][5][6]


The language is variously described a creole language, or a dialect of English. It is similar to that of Caribbean English Creoles spoken by the English speaking Caribbean, especially Turks and Caicos and Bahamian Creole.


The 15th edition (2005) of Ethnologue dropped it from its list of languages, but linguists still consider it a separate language variation.


  1. Irma Nicasio; Jesús de la Rosa (April 1998). "Historia, Metodología y Organización de los Censos en República Dominicana: 1920–1993" (PDF) (in Spanish). Santo Domingo: Oficinal Nacional de Estadística. p. 44/131. Retrieved 14 May 2014.
  2. Hidalgo, Dennis R. (2003). From North America to Hispaniola. Mt. Pleasant, Michigan: Central Michigan University. pp. 1–50.
  3. Miller, Floyd J. (1975). The search for a black nationality : black emigration and colonization, 1787–1863. Urbana: University of Illinois. pp. 132–250. ISBN 0252002636.
  4. Tabliamonte, Sali Anna. . (1991). A Matter of Time: Past Temporal Reference Verbal Structures in Samaná English and the Ex-Slave Recordings. Ottawa, Canada: Université d'Ottawa.
  5. DeBose, Charles E. (1983). "A Dialect That Time Forgot". Proceedings of the Ninth Annual Meeting of the Berkeley Linguistics Society: 47–53.
  6. Davis, Martha Ellen (2007). "Asentamiento y vida económica de los inmigrantes afroamericanos de Samaná: testimonio de la profesora Martha Willmore (Leticia)" (PDF). Boletín del Archivo General de la Nación (LXIX, Vol. XXXII, Núm. 119 ed.). 32 (119): 709–734.
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