African substratal influence on the counterfactual in Belizean Creole

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Belizean Creole (BC) has a counterfactual structure expressed by a preverbal combination of the past and future morphemes (me wan V). There is no equivalent structure in the English superstrate of Belizean Creole, so the possibility of the continuity and transmission of African substratal features (especially from Bantu) is explored here. Furthermore, although many creoles mark counterfactuality in one way or another, the only English-based creoles exhibiting a past+future sequence – albeit with different morphemes – are Krio, Sranan and Guyanese Creole, and they are all geographically distant from Belize. I will attempt to explain the unique presence of BC me wan in terms of the particular sociolinguistic history of Belize. Belize differs from other West Indian colonies in the sense that it was never a plantation society, but rather a settlement (British Honduras) that was exclusively dedicated to the exploitation of logwood. Due to the woodcutting economy, African slave-labourers remained relatively isolated from European influences in forest camps and may therefore have retained more African linguistic characteristics than the plantation slaves in other colonies. In addition, the territory of British Honduras was particularly exposed to interethnic contacts within Central America and the possibility that such contacts impacted the linguistic development of the creole cannot be discounted.


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