Volume 26, Issue 3
  • ISSN 0176-4225
  • E-ISSN: 1569-9714
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The Afro-descendents of Panama’s Caribbean coast maintain the tradition of the Negros Congos, a series of folkloric manifestations occurring during Carnival season, and including a special cryptolect based loosely on Spanish. According to oral tradition, Congo speech was devised among captive and maroon Africans in colonial Panama as a means of hiding their speech from their colonial masters. Widely felt — both by Congo participants and by outside observers — to consist only of deliberate deformations of Spanish words and semantic inversions, Congo speech in reality also contains numerous elements traceable to Afro-Hispanic communities in other former Spanish-American colonies. Data drawn from twenty-four Congo communities demonstrate systematic regional variation — phonetic and lexical — that verifies the status of Congo speech as a cryptolect undergoing natural language evolution. These data also contribute to the search for the geographical locus of the original Congo dialect.


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  • Article Type: Research Article
Keyword(s): Afro-Hispanic language; Afro-Panamanioan; Congos; creole languages; cryptolects; Panama
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