|Native to||Suriname, French Guiana|
|90,000 (2013)Price, Richard, The Maroon Population Explosion, New West Indian Guide, 87, pp 323-327|
Saramaccan (autonym: Saamáka) is a creole language spoken by about 58,000 ethnic African people near the Saramacca and upper Suriname Rivers, as well as in the capital Paramaribo, in Suriname (formerly also known as Dutch Guyana), 25,000 in French Guiana, and 8,000 in the Netherlands. It has three main dialects. The speakers are mostly descendants of fugitive slaves who were native to West and Central Africa; they form a group called Saamacca, also spelled Saramaka.
Linguists consider Saramaccan notable because it is based on two European source languages, English (30%) and Portuguese (20%), and various west- and Central African languages (50%) but diverges considerably from all of these. The African component accounts for about 50% once ritual use is taken into account, the highest percentage in the Americas. African portions are derived from Niger-Congo languages of West Africa, especially Fon and other Gbe languages, Akan, and Central African languages such as KiKongo.
The Saramaccan lexicon is largely drawn from English, Portuguese, and to a lesser extent Dutch, among European languages, and Niger-Congo languages of West Africa, especially Fon and other Gbe languages, Akan, and Central African languages such as KiKongo. The African component accounts for about 50% of the total.
Over one quarter of Saramaccan's words are from English. It is generally agreed that Saramaccan's Portuguese influence originated from enslaved peoples who lived on plantations with Portuguese masters, and possibly with other slaves speaking a Portuguese creole. The masters might have brought the latter when migrating to Suriname from Brazil. Saramaccan originators began with an early form of Sranan Tongo, an English-based creole, and transformed it into a new creole via this Portuguese influx, plus influence from the grammars of Fongbe and other Gbe languages.
An earlier idea that Saramaccan was an offshoot of a Portuguese pidgin spoken by slaves who had learned it on the West African coast is no longer subscribed to by working creolists. See monogenetic theory of pidgins for more information.
Certain common words in Sranan Tongo, the most common creole spoken in Suriname, also derive from Portuguese words but Sranan remains a largely English-based creole.
Saramaccan is divided into three main dialects. The Upper Suriname River dialect and the Lower Suriname River dialect are both spoken by members of the Saramaccan tribe. The Matawari tribe have their own dialect.
Thirty percent of the vocabulary of Saramaccan is derived from English, while 20% is derived from Portuguese. It is one of the few known creoles to derive a large percentage of its lexicon from more than one source (most creoles have one main lexifier language), and it is said to be both an English-based creole and a Portuguese-based creole.
To English speakers not familiar with it, the English basis of this language is almost unrecognizable. These are some examples of Saramaccan sentences (taken from the SIL dictionary):
De waka te de aan sinkii möön.
"They walked until they were worn out."
U ta mindi kanda fu dee soni dee ta pasa ku u.
"We make up songs about things that happen to us."
A suku di soni te wojo fëën ko bëë.
"He searched for it in vain."
Mi puu tu dusu kölu bai ën.
"I paid two thousand guilders to buy it."
Examples of words originally from Portuguese or a Portuguese creole are: mujee (mulher) "woman"; womi (o homem) "man"; da (dar) "to give"; bunu (bom) "good"; kaba (acabar) "to end"; ku (com) "with"; kuma (como) "as"; faka (faca) "knife"; aki (aqui) "here"; ma (mas) "but"; kendi (quente) "hot"; liba (riba) "above"; lio (rio) "river".
Two books have now been published in Saamaka, at the request of the Saamaka people, who have distributed them in their schools: Fesiten and Boo go a Kontukonde. Both have used the orthography now accepted by the Saamaka People, developed by Saamaka linguist Vinije Haabo.
- Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin; Bank, Sebastian, eds. (2016). "Saramaccan". Glottolog 2.7. Jena: Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History.
- Price, Richard (2013). "The Maroon Population Explosion: Suriname and Guyane". New West Indian Guide. 87 (3/4). Retrieved 4 September 2016 – via open source.
- Price, Richard (2007). Travels with Tooy: History, Memory, and the African American Imagination. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. pp. 309–389. ISBN 978-0226680590.
- Price, Richard (2007). Travels with Tooy: History, Memory, and the African American Imagination. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. pp. 309–389.
- Pieter Muysken and Norval Smith (editors) (2015). Surviving the Middle Passage: The West Africa-Surinam Sprachbund. Berlin, Germany: Walter de Gruyter. ISBN 978-3-11-039499-3.
- Pieter Musyken and Norval Smith (2015). Surviving the Middle Passage The West Africa-Surinam Sprachbund. Berlin, Germany: Walter de Gruyter.
- Bakker, Smith and Veenstra (1994): p. 165
- Bakker, Smith and Veenstra (1994): p. 170
- Bakker, Smith and Veenstra (1994): pp. 168–169.
- Price, Richard (2007). Travels with Tooy. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. pp. 309–389.
- Price, Richard (2013). Fesiten. La Roque d'Anthéron (France): Vents d'ailleurs. ISBN 978-2364130388.
- Price, Richard and Sally Price (2016). Boo go a Kontukonde. La Roque d'Anthéron (France): Vents d'ailleurs. ISBN 9782364131842.
- Bakker, Peter; Smith, Norval; Veenstra, Tonjes (1994). "Saramaccan". In Jacque Arends; Pieter Muysken; Norval Smith. Pidgins and Creoles. Amsterdam/Philadelphia: John Benjamins. pp. 165–178.
- McWhorter, John and Jeff Good. 2012. A grammar of Saramaccan creole. Berlin: de Gruyter.
- Muysken, Peter, Smith, Norval (editors) (2015) Surviving the Middle Passage: The West Africa-Suriname Sprachbund. Berlin: Walter de Gruyter.
- Price, Richard. 2007 Travels with Tooy: History, Memory, and the African American Imagination. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
- Saramaccan Vocabulary List (from the World Loanword Database)
- SIL Saramaccan-English dictionary
- Collected Saramaccan texts
- Loan words in Saramaccan
- Variety of published resources in and about Saramccan language and culture