The Gulf of Guinea Creoles

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Since Luis Ivens Ferraz’ work of the 1970s on the four Gulf of Guinea creoles, it has been generally accepted that we are dealing with closely related languages based on historical and linguistic data. However, Ferraz (1987: 348) considers that the Gulf of Guinea creoles share similarities because “(…) they grew up together, with slaves and settlers introduced through the central administration in São Tomé. Hence different languages developed in the archipelago rather than dialects of one contact language.” This paper will reassess the linguistic relation between the Gulf of Guinea creoles and the typological contribution of the African strata. It will be argued that there is indeed substantial linguistic evidence that the GGCs are the result of a common ancestor, a proto-Gulf of Guinea creole. Furthermore, since Ferraz (1979) it has generally been assumed that the substrate of the Gulf of Guinea creoles, in particular of Santome, is halfway Edo and Kongo. I will argue, against this claim by showing that most of the features that are shared by the GGCs or can be reconstructed to the proto-GGC relate to the Niger delta, and Edo in particular, whereas western Bantu languages only played a secondary or adstratal role.


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