Kwéyòl

A Brief History of Kwéyòl (Patwa)

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Kwéyòl is a language spoken which has its origins in French and West African languages. French is reflected in the lexicon (vocabulary) while the African is reflected in the syntax (grammar). Kwéyòl was created by Africans who were brought to Caribbean to work on the plantations as slaves during the 17th and 18th centuries. In days gone by the language was called patois (patwa) but today it is more commonly called Kwéyòl, the internationally accepted term for the language.

Worldwide, there are at least eleven (11) million Creole speakers. Kwéyòl is spoken in Dominica, Guadeloupe, Martinique, St. Lucia, French Guyana, Haiti, Louisiana, Seychelles, Mauritius and Reunion. Kwéyòl is also spoken in St. Maarten, parts of Trinidad and Grenada.

The recently created Dominica Institute for the Arts is a project of the Division of Cultural and the National Cultural Council.

The Kwéyòl Alphabet

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The alphabet for Antillean Creole (Kwéyòl) was developed in the late seventies. Though this emerging language has been in complete usage in the islands of the Creole Antilles or the Caribbean Basin for two hundred years it has been until recently mainly an oral language. It is understandable that various systems of transcription have emerged over the years.

However, the alphabet presented below emanated out of two Creole or ethnography workshops held in St. Lucia in January 1981 and September in 1982. This well integrated writing system has been developed through the coordinated efforts of individual researchers from the University of the West Indies (U.W.I.), The Université Antilles – Guyane groups from St. Lucia (MOKWÉYÓL), Dominica (K.E.K.) and the Groupé d’Etude et de Recherche en Espace, Creolophone (GEREC) from Martinique and Guadeloupe.

The alphabet has thirty-two (32) letters. The letters c,q,u,x have been dropped. C and U are used in combination as 'ch’ and ‘ou’. The French accents, acute and grave, have been adopted with certain conventions such as hyphens, apostrophes, capitalizations and features of punctuation.

Pronunciation

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Letteras in EnglishKwéyòlEnglish
An Another mitan middle
B Boy Bwè drink
Ch She Chivè hair
D Day douvan in front
Dj Django (John) Djéwi cure
É Say Mété to put
È Let Mèt master
F Fish Fwèt cold
G Goal Gadé look
H Hay Hach axe
I Feet Fwi fruit
J Jar jar
K Kettle Kwa cross
L Lesson letter
M Man Manjé to eat
N Now Népòt any
Ng Hanger Lanng tongue
O Ochro toloman arrowroot
Ò For Pòkò not yet
On Sonny Jipon skirt
Ou You Jou day
R Radio Branndi brandy
S Say Salézon relish
T Take Tet head
Tj Watch Tjè heart
V Very Vwèl sail
W Way Wat rat
Y yes yesterday
Z zoo zétwèl star

Kwéyòl Grammar

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In Kwéyòl the Subject Pronouns are:

Kwéyòl PronounEnglish Pronoun
Mwen I/me/my
Ou you (singular)
I he/she/it
Nou we
you (plural)
Yo they

Sé is to be preceeded by the subject pronoun:

KwéyòlEnglish
mwensé I am
ousé you are
isé he/she/it is
nousé we are
zòsé you are
yosé they are

Some Common Nouns

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KwéyòlEnglishKwéyòlEnglishKwéyòlEnglish
nonm man tèt head janm leg
gason boy chivé hair tjilòt trousers
pwéson fish fon forehead chimiz shirt
koko coconut zyé eye soulyé shoes
lajan money zòwèy ear chèz chair
fanm woman nen nose liv book
tifi girl bouch mouth    
fig banana manton chin    
légliz church kou neck    
kay house lanmen hand    
KwéyòlEnglish
nonm man
gason boy
pwéson fish
koko coconut
lajan money
fanm woman
tifi girl
fig banana
légliz church
kay house
KwéyòlEnglish
tèt head
chivé hair
fon forehead
zyé eye
zòwèy ear
nen nose
bouch mouth
manton chin
kou neck
lanmen hand
KwéyòlEnglish
janm leg
tjilòt trousers
chimiz shirt
soulyé shoes
chèz chair
liv book
 

Some Common Greetings

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KwéyòlEnglish
Bon jou Good morning
Bon apwémidi Good evening
Bon swè Good night
Sa kafèt How are you?