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Slave Trade, Plantation Life and the Presence of African Languages in the Caribbean. Nicole Scott. Questions . What are the principal regions of origin of Africans in the Caribbean? What are the cultural and linguistic implications of the different regions of origin?. Questions cont’d.

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Slave trade plantation life and the presence of african languages in the caribbean l.jpg

Slave Trade, Plantation Life and the Presence of African Languages in the Caribbean

Nicole Scott


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Questions

  • What are the principal regions of origin of Africans in the Caribbean?

  • What are the cultural and linguistic implications of the different regions of origin?


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Questions cont’d

  • What are the social contexts of African language survival in the Caribbean?

  • What are the factors which contributed to the emergence of Creole languages in most, but not all Caribbean societies?


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References

  • Eltis, David & David Richardson (1997) ‘West Africa and the Transatlantic Slave Trade: New Evidence of Long-run Trends’ in Routes to Slavery: Direction, Ethnicity, and Mortality in the Transatlantic Slave Trade. David Eltis & David Richardson (eds.) London: Frank Cass, 16-35. [2 O/S; 1WIC]


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References cont’d

  • Thornton, John (2000) ‘The Birth of an Atlantic World’ in Caribbean Slavery in the Atlantic Word: A Student Reader. Verene Shepherd and Hilary McD Beckles (eds.) Kingston: Ian Randale Publishers, 55-73. First published in Thornton, John (1992) in Africa and Africans in the Making of the Atlantic World 1400-1680 Cambridge: CUP, 13-42. [6 RBC]


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Preliminaries

  • The rise of plantation – moved from the cultivation of crops like ginger, cotton, tobacco to the labour intensive sugar.

  • Shortage of labour.

  • The need to have labour unrewarded to increase profits for plantation owners.


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Preliminaries

  • The supply of a source of labour coerced and free.

  • Increasingly a reliance on African slavery.

  • Portuguese trading slaves from as early as 1479

  • Spanish started in 1503


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Preliminaries

  • Dutch started in 1630’s.

  • English and French started in the 1640’s.

  • Trading was mainly done by private trading companies (along the West Coast). For e.g. Royal African Company’s trading post was established in modern day Ghana at Elmina.


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Preliminaries

  • Slaves were: -

    • Prisoners of war

    • Criminal offenders

    • Debtors

    • Abductees


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Principal Regions of African Origin

  • West Africa

    • area bounded by Senegal River in the North to contemporary Angola in the South

    • Includes countries such as Senegambia (Senegal and Gambia), Sierra Leone, Windward Coast, Gold Coast, Bight of Benin, Bight of Biafra, West Central Africa.


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Map of West Africa


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Note

  • Historians do not have all the answers but the hope is that in this course we will be able assess patterns of cultural and linguistic retention and adaptation. The idea is for us to understand the ways in which Africans shaped the Atlantic world through agricultural innovations, belief systems and cultural practices. Language is very important to all these areas.


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Principal Regions of Origin

  • Senegambia

    • Modern Senegal and Gambia

    • Largely dominated by the French after the 1600’s.

    • Groups came from inland territories (around upper Niger River).


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Principal Regions of Origin – Senegambia cont’d

  • Groups spoke mostly Bambara, Wolof

  • Mandingo slave traders brought them down to ports and outposts

  • Slaves from interior preferred as they were less likely to try to escape


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Principal Regions of Origin –Senegambia cont’d

  • General linguistic category – Mande

  • Very heterogeneous

  • Mostly Muslims and Animists


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Principal Regions of Origin

  • Windward Coast

    • Trade along this part of the coast was haphazard

    • The dominant languages in the area are those of the Kru group.


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Principal Region of Origin

  • Gold Coast

    • Modern day Ghana

    • Trading post dominated by Royal African Company. The largest trading post was Elmina

    • Dutch expelled the Portuguese in 1642.

    • Lexical items of Portuguese origin survive in languages spoken there.


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Principal Region of Origin—Gold Coast cont’d

  • Main language groups –Ashanti, Fante, Agni (all subsumed under the name Akan)

  • Enslaved Africans from this area would be more likely to form an ethno linguistic grouping.


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Principal Region of Origin

  • Slave Coast

    • Area particularly important in early slave trade, especially 1700’s

    • Area dominated by French by 1730’s

    • Africans sold to mostly British and French traders.


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Principal Regions of Origin – Slave Coast cont’d

  • Language groups—Ewe, Ga (subsumed under Kwa)

  • Dominance of this area in Atlantic Slave Trade waned in 1790

  • A relatively homogeneous culture (the Ewe) – the main variety of which is Fon but the languages are closely related to Akan languages in Morpho-syntactic structure.


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Principal Regions of Origin

  • Bight of Biafra

  • Bight of Benin

    • Collectively form the Niger Delta area

    • Modern day Benin and SE coast of Nigeria respectively.

    • Main languages –Yoruba, Ijo, Ibo, Efik -Kwa languages (to a lesser extent Hausa, Fulani – West Atlantic language)


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Principal Regions of Origin –Biafra and Benin cont’d

  • Area dominated by the Yoruba in 17th Century

  • Le Page argues that this is an area of fair linguistic diversity

  • Area became more important in the latter part of the slave trade.


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Principal Regions of Origin

  • West Central Africa

    • Modern day Cameroon

    • Main language— Kongo

      • Mostly Bantu languages. There are at least 300 Bantu languages (covering much of the continent from Cameroon in the west to the tip of South Africa).

  • Angola

    • Became important to the Caribbean in the latter part of trading.


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Principal Regions of African Origin—Languages

  • By even conservative estimates, there are more than 800 distinct languages in Africa.

  • The largest, most far-flung family is Niger-Kordofanian.

  • Kordofanian includes pockets of little studied languages in Sudan

  • Niger-Congo includes all the West African Coastal Languages as well as the Bantu subgroup.


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Niger Congo Language Family

Niger Congo

BantuKwaMande W/Atlantic

KikongoAkan(Twi) MandingoWolof

LubaAnyiBambaraSerer

LingalaEweMandeFulani

KimbunduYoruba

Ibo

Ga


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Principal Region of Origin

  • West Africa is the most populous area and it also has the most languages.

  • Nigeria alone is estimated to have over 300 languages


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Regions of Origin cont’d

  • The Transatlantic Slave Trade – largest long distance coerced migration in history. As it relates to the Caribbean, three regions dominated.

    • The Gold Coast

    • The Bight of Benin

    • The Bight of Biafra


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Regions of origin cont’d

  • These areas tend to be seen as the centre of gravity of traffic not just from West Africa but from the whole Sub-Saharan Africa.

  • These areas had the largest population densities on the sub continent.


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Regions of Origin cont’d

  • Greatest urban development.

  • Most sophisticated state structures (Gold Coast and Bight of Benin)

  • Reasonably exclusive ethno-linguistic homogeneity within their hinterlands.


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Regions of Origin cont’d

  • Portuguese based in Brazil dominated trade in the Bight of Benin

  • British were dominant in Gold coast and Bight of Biafra

  • Dutch – second largest number of voyages to the Gold Coast.


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Regions of Origin cont’d

  • French – second largest group in Bight of Biafra

  • After 1808 Cuban based Spanish slave traders became the largest group in the Bight of Biafra.


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A Look at the Gold Coast

  • The pattern of West African arrival in the Americas was far from random.

  • The major single destination of Gold Coast slaves was Jamaica – 36% of the arrivals. Many however went to other parts of British Americas


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Gold Coast cont’d

  • Two thirds of all slaves leaving the Gold Coast went to the English speaking new world.

  • Barbados – major 17th cent. destination

  • Jamaica – dominated the 18th cent.


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Gold Coast cont’d

  • Akan cultural prominence in Jamaica (Ahanta, Fanti, Akim and Asante peoples among others) is well noted in the slave trade.

  • Spanish America – second most important destination for Gold Coast slaves after Jamaica


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Cont’d

  • Most from Bight of Benin went to Brazil (6/10)

  • French Americas (2/10)

  • British Caribbean (1/10)


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Gold Coast Languages

  • Kwa

    • Akan -(Akwapem, Akim, Asante,Fante)

    • Anyi

    • Ewe

    • Yoruba

    • Ibo

    • Ga

      (to name a few were spoken from the Ivory Coast to Nigeria)


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Cultural and Linguistic Implications of Regional Differentiation

  • The enslaved people were a heterogeneous group.

  • Could linguistic dominance have been established in spite of heterogeneity?


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Cultural and Linguistic Implications of Regional Differentiation

  • The people were not homogenous in terms of nation but were they culturally and/or linguistically homogenous?


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Culturally Homogeneous Areas

  • Gold CoastAkan (Twi)

  • Slave CoastEwe (Fon)

  • Niger DeltaYoruba until 17th C.


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Linguistic Homogeneity

  • Niger-Congo Languages have common features: -

    • Morpho-Syntax

      • Copula, Serial Verbs, Negative concord, Isolating, Predicate Adjectives, Plurals, Reduplication.


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Linguistic Homogeneity cont’d

  • Phonology

    • Open syllables, especially the inhibition of consonant clusters for e.g. JC wa ‘what,’ simit ‘smith’

    • Tone languages

    • Palatalization


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Linguistic Homogeneity

  • Lexicon/Semantics

    • Calques

    • Loan words

    • Semantic field (wood can refer to many things in JC etc.)


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Cultural and Linguistic Implications of Different areas of Origin

  • Cultural --Upon arriving in the Caribbean they would still be enemies. Negated many efforts to overcome oppressors by joining forces.

  • Linguistic – some languages were more closely related than others


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Linguistic implications of different regions of origin

  • There could have been

    • Lingua Franca at the trading posts.

    • Pidgin on Middle Passage


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Social Context of African Language Survival in the Caribbean

  • Retentions (full sentences) found mostly in the African rituals/religious practices. In Jamaica for example the Maroons use(d) Kromanti to communicate with ancestors (see also Aub-Buscher pg7-8).

  • Dishes, amusements and customs. (ibid)


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Social Context of African Language Retention

  • Past times. In TFC ninnin ‘riddle’ could have come from Bambara nyini ‘to look for, (Bazin 1906:470-1).’ Bèlè ‘a dance with drums and singing’ from Nde, mbelése ‘I dance.’

  • Customs relating to economic life

    • Carrying load on head JC Kata. Kata in Twi means ‘to cover.’

    • Pathner (Savings) TFC susu in Igbo is esusu


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Social context of African Language survival cont’d

  • Intimate, possibly taboo subjects such as certain parts of the body: TFC tutun, JC tuntun, in Bambaa tununin which means ‘private parts’

  • Designations of people and their characteristics. TFC béké ‘white man.’ This form is used in this sense in Igbo today.


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Social contexts of African Survival cont’d

  • A few terms designating creatures.


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Survival cont’d

  • Lexical items – taken as they are or with slight phonological changes.

  • Calques (loan translations) –

    • JC for e.g. Gad Aas (the preying mantis) can be found in Hausa Dokim (horse) Allah (God). Yai waata ‘tears’

    • TFC dlo zyé ‘tears,’ zo tèt ‘skull’

    • Berbice Dutch….


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Survival cont’d

  • Morphological features – maintained morphological features but lexical items were not retained for e.g. in Berbice Dutch Creole the demonstrative is formed by post posing the definite article to the noun as in Nembe (Ijo).

    • Nembe mi wari mi

      BDCdi wari di

      the house the

      “this house”


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Survival cont’d

  • Morphological features cont’d

    • Reduplication (lexical and/or morphological) eg in JC poto-poto ‘muddy, miry, etc’ TFC toupatou – everywhere but toupatou-toupatou ‘JC aalbout aalbout’ Dou – sweet, doudou - sweetheart

    • Compounding –JC kis-tiit, bata-bruuz


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Socio-historic Context of Creole Genesis

  • Life in plantation societies

    • The impact of the Caribbean plantation context on language: -

      • Nature of crops (labour intensive vs tobacco, coffee, cocoa, annatto)

      • Black to White ratio

      • Presence of European indentured labourers working alongside enslaved Africans (compare Barbados with Jamaica)


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Socio-historic context of Creole Genesis cont’d

  • Nature of European presence (compare absentee planters in the société de plantation with homesteads in the société de habitation)

  • Size of holdings (acreage under cultivation and the slave population required to maintain that size holding) (related to types of crops).

  • Stratification within the slave population (again compare sugar with other crops)


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Socio-historic Context of Creole Genesis

  • Ethnic and linguistic diversity (vs. homogeneity) within slave population.

  • Extent of networking between slave populations of different plantations.

  • Geography of the plantations:physical separation of Europeans and Africans.

    Geography of the wider terrain:physical separation of plantations.


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Socio-historic Context of Creole Genesis

  • Demographics

    • Origins of enslaved Africans over different periods of the slave trade

    • Origins of enslaved Africans from different ports

    • Differences between slave-trading nations


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Socio-historic Context of Creole Genesis

  • Direct arrivals vs transshipments of enslaved Africans

  • Life expectancy/rate of renewal of the enslaved population

  • Birth rate and child mortality

  • Out-migration

  • Internal population shifts (e.g. from plantations to maroon communities)

  • Origins of European population.


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Conclusion

  • The presence of the Africans in the Caribbean increased the number of languages present in the region. They brought new languages and coined new ones (Creoles). Issues relating to the formation of Creoles must necessarily examine the sociohistoric context of the genesis, both life in plantation societies and the demographics of the population in each territory.


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