African elements in the English and

Presented by Roger Blench

McDonald Institute for Archaeological Research, University of Cambridge

11:00 Wednesday 19th August 2015

A2 Lecture Theatre, Arts Building , UNE


Belize (former British Honduras) is the only Anglophone country in Central America, and the majority of its population are Afro-descendant. Although originally Mayan-speaking, most of the territory was devoid of population when Belize was settled from Jamaica in the eighteenth century. As a British colony, English was enforced as a language of administration, but Caribbean Creole (Krio) is spoken as an everyday language. Nonetheless, even the English is derived from the West Indies and as such has many African elements adopted from Krio. The presentation looks at how these are derived and what they say about the different parts of West Africa whence the African populations originated.

In addition to African lexicon, Belize English has borrowings from Miskito, a Misumalpan language from Nicaragua, deriving from nineteenth century trade congtacts. Apart from the Krio, Belize has two other populations of African origin, the Maroons and the Garifuna. The Maroons are mainly based in the single settlement of Gale’s Point, and their origin is something of a mystery. However, their music and family names point to a distinct origin. The Garifuna are descendants of African people wrecked on the island of St. Vincent and now speaking an Arawakan language, but with African elements in both grammar and lexicon as well as a distinctive African culture.