The origin and development of possibility in the creoles of Suriname

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In this paper we discuss the origin and development of the expression of possibility in the creoles of Suriname. We first describe the systems of possibility in Sranan and three Maroon creoles (Ndyuka, Pamaka, and Saamaka), drawing on data elicited from informants, conversational data, as well as the published literature. We examine several modal elements, namely <i>sa</i>, <i>kan</i>, <i>man</i>, <i>poy</i>, whose distribution differs across the different varieties and also over time. Our analysis reveals that the system of possibility in Sranan is organized quite differently from that of the Maroon creoles. To explain these facts, we trace the development of this area of grammar by drawing on historical data from the early Sranan and Saamaka texts, and by exploring possible influence from the Gbe substrate languages as well as Dutch. We argue that the overall structure of this subsystem in the Maroon creoles was broadly modelled on Gbe while the rather different system found in Sranan Tongo is due primarily to influence from Dutch, and to internal developments.


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