Sranan Tongo

Sranan Tongo

nativename=Sranan Tongo
fam1=Creole language

Sranan (also "Sranan Tongo" "Surinamean tongue", "Surinaams", "Surinamese", "Suriname Creole ") is a creole language spoken as a first language by approximately 400,000 people in Suriname. [ [ Ethnologue] ] It is the mother tongue of the Creoles. Sranan was previously referred to as the less politically correct "nengre" or "negertaal" (Dutch, "negrolanguage").

Since this language is shared between the Dutch-, Javanese-, Hindustani-, and Chinese-speaking communities, most Surinamese speak it as a first language.

Outside of Suriname the language is sometimes incorrectly referred to as "Taki Taki" (from English "talk talk").


The Sranan Tongo words for 'to know' and 'small children' are "sabi" and "pikin" which is due to the Portuguese having been the first explorers of the West African coast, where they developed a pidgin language from which a few words became common coin in interactions with Africans by explorers who came afterward, including the English. However, research has established that Sranan is fundamentally an English-based language, with an overlay of words from Dutch, due to the Dutch takeover of Surinam in 1667.

Sranan Tongo's lexicon is thus a fusion of English, Dutch, Portuguese and Central and West African languages. It began as a pidgin spoken primarily by African slaves in Suriname who often did not have a common African language. Sranan also became the language of communication between the slaves and the slave-owners, as the slaves were prohibited to speak Dutch. As other ethnic groups were brought to Suriname as contract workers, Sranan became a "lingua franca".

Although the formal Dutch-based educational system repressed its use, Sranan became more accepted by the establishment over time, especially during the 1980s when it was popularized by Suriname's then dictator Desi Bouterse who often delivered national speeches in Sranan.

Sranan remains widely used in Suriname, especially in casual conversation where it is often mixed in freely with Dutch. People often greet each other using Sranan, saying for example "fa waka" (how are you) instead of the more formal Dutch "hoe gaat het" (how are you).

Sranan as a written language has existed since the late 19th century, and was given an official spelling by the government of Suriname on July 15, 1986 (resolution 4501). A small number of writers have used Sranan in their work, most notably the poet Henri Frans de Ziel ("Trefossa"), who also wrote Suriname's national anthem (the second verse is sung in Sranan Tongo).


Further reading

*Jan Voorhoeve and Ursy M. Lichtveld: "Creole Drum. An Anthology of Creole Literature in Suriname". New Haven: Yale University Press, 1975.
*C.F.A. Bruijning and J. Voorhoeve (editors): " Encyclopedie van Suriname". Amsterdam and Brussel: Uitgeverij Elsevier, 1977, pp. 573-574.
*Eithne B. Carlin and Jacques Arends (editors): "Atlas of the Languages of Suriname". Leiden: KITLV Press, 2002.
*Michael Ietswaart and Vinije Haabo: "Sranantongo. Surinaams voor reizigers en thuisblijvers". Amsterdam: Mets & Schilt, 2002.
*J.C.M. Blanker and J. Dubbeldam: "Prisma Woordenboek Sranantongo". Utrecht: Uitgeverij Het Spectrum B.V., 2005, ISBN 90-274-1478-5, [] - A Sranantongo to Dutch and Dutch to Sranantongo dictionary.

External links

* [ Sranan Tongo page on SIL]
* [ Webster's Sranan English Online Dictionary]
* [ A study of Early Sranan word formation (in PDF)]

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