History of Kabuverdianu ( Cape Verdean Creole)

History of the Cape Verde Islands

Cape Verde is a small island nation situated off the West African coast. There are several theories as to whether Cape Verde was inhabited prior to the arrival of the Portuguese in the 15th Century. With the arrival of the Portuguese in the 15th century Cape Verde rose in importance for the then expanding Atlantic slave trade. In the 15th century Portugal established a colony on the Islands beginning with the city of Ribeira Grande ( now known as Cidade Velha) and proceeded to bring slaves from West Africa. By the late 1500’s Cape Verde also became a trading post for such things as Cotton, Copper, Wine, and Salt. As the operations on the island continued to grow, demand for slave labor on the islands continued to increase.

These slaves would speak various languages such as Wolof, Mandinka and Timne. This combination of an imposed Language, Portuguese, with the mixture of other languages created what is known as a Pidgin language. A Pidgin Language is formed quickly from a mixture of several languages when speakers of different languages need to talk to each other. As the inhabitants of the island began to have children the Pidgin language used to communicate became their first language. According to Linguists, it’s at this point that a language makes the transition from a Pidgin and is classified as a Creole language.

Throughout the Centuries the communities of former slaves , either runaway slaves or slaves freed by their dying masters in hopes of going to heaven continued to increase. There also was a growing mixed population on the islands.

All three groups while knowing Portuguese the official language of the colonial power would speak Kabuverdianu at home or amongst themselves.

Why Kabuverdianu?

While the term Kriolu is affectionately used to refer to the language of Cabo Verde, why do many linguists use Kabuverdianu? Kriolu or Creole in English refers to a classification of languages. There are over 40 different Creole languages. According to Encyclopedia Britannica, Creole languages are vernacular languages (a language or dialect native to a region or country) that developed in colonial European plantation settlements in the 17th and 18th centuries as a result of contact between groups that spoke mutually unintelligible languages. Examples of Creole languages spoken are Haitian , Papiamento & Seychelles to name a few. In linguistics a Creole language takes a more broad meaning and includes all languages developed as a result of contact between two groups, independent of time. For a list of more Creole Languages click this link. A few languages use the term Creole in their official description. Kabuverdianu is not one of them. Notice the reason below.

In 1979 on the city of Mindelo, São Vicente Cape Verdean Linguists had a conference with language specialists from U.N.E.S.C.O, the African International Institute and representatives from the International Phonetic Association to discuss the importance of establishing a written standard for Kabuverdianu. In this meeting it was decided that the language should be known as Kabuverdianu. An attendee of that historic meeting, Cape Verdean Linguist Manuel Veiga explained in his book ‘Diskrison Strutural na Lingua Kabuverdianu’ why the term Kabuverdianu was adopted instead of Kriolu? In part he explains that the term Kriolu is “internationally ambiguous, and that the term Kabuverdianu is preferred to differentiate it from the many types of creoles such as Haitian Creole, Papiamento and others.” For example if you use the term Kriolu or Creole in Haiti or in many parts of the U.S.A, people will think you are referring to Haitian Creole. The meaning of the term Creole changes depending on a person's location and the predominant language spoken in that region or community.

The term Kabuverdianu is a term that Cape Verdean Linguists developed and are using themselves. The ALUPEC/ALUPEK which is the Cape Verdean Alphabet stands for Alfabeto Unificado para a Escrita do Caboverdiano (written in Portuguese) . Because the Cape Verdean Alphabet does not include the letter C , it is spelled KABUVERDIANU with the letter K .