Belizean Creole

Last updated
Native to Belize
Native speakers
150,000 (2013) [1]
Second language: over 200,000
English Creole
  • Atlantic
    • Western
      • Kriol
Language codes
ISO 639-3 bzj
Glottolog beli1260 [2]
Linguasphere 52-ABB-ad
This article contains IPA phonetic symbols. Without proper rendering support, you may see question marks, boxes, or other symbols instead of Unicode characters. For an introductory guide on IPA symbols, see Help:IPA.
(audio) A native female speaker of Belizean Creole, speaking about her ambition as a youth.

Belize Kriol (also Kriol or Belizean Creole) is an English-based creole language closely related to Miskito Coastal Creole, Jamaican Patois, San Andrés-Providencia Creole, Bocas del Toro Creole, Colón Creole, Rio Abajo Creole, and Limón Coastal Creole.


Population estimates are difficult; virtually all of the more than 70,000 Creoles in Belize speak Kriol. In the 2010 Belize Census, 25.9% claimed Creole ethnicity and 44.6% claimed to speak Kriol. [3] Possibly as many as 85,000 Creoles have migrated to the United States and may or may not still speak the language. This puts the number at over 150,000. Kriol is the lingua franca of Belize and is the first language of some Garifunas, Mestizos, Maya, and other ethnic groups. It is a second language for most others in the country. [4]

When the National Kriol Council began standardizing the orthography for Kriol, it decided to promote the spelling Kriol only for the language but to continue to use the spelling Creole to refer to the people in English. [5] [6]


Belize Kriol is derived mainly from English. Its substrate languages are the Native American language Miskito, and the various West African and Bantu languages which were brought into the country by slaves. These include Akan, Efik, Ewe, Fula, Ga, Hausa, Igbo, Kikongo and Wolof. [7]

There are numerous theories as to how creole languages form. A language emerged from the contact of English landowners and their West African slaves to ensure basic communication. The Baymen first began to settle in the area of Belize City in the 1650s. Ken Decker [5] proposed that the creole spoken in Belize previous to 1786 was probably more like Jamaican than the Belize Kriol of today. By the Convention of London in 1786 the British were supposed to cease all logwood cutting operations along the Caribbean coast of Central America, except for the Belize settlement. Many of the settlers from the Miskito Coast moved to Belize, bringing their Miskito Coast Creole with them. The immigrants outnumbered the Baymen five to one. [8] The local Kriol speech shifted to become something more like the Miskito Coast Creole. [4]

Today, Belize Kriol is the first or second language of the majority of the country's inhabitants. Many of them speak standard English as well, and a rapid process of decreolization is going on. As such, a creole continuum exists and speakers are able to code-switch among various mesolect registers between the most basilect to the acrolect ("Mid-Atlantic") varieties. The acrolect, much like the basilect, is rarely heard. [9]

A 1987 travel guide in the Chicago Tribune newspaper reported that Belize Kriol is “a language that teases but just escapes the comprehension of a native speaker of English.”

English taught in Belizean schools

English taught in the schools of Belize is based on British English. However, this is often influenced by the teachers' Kriol speech. The 1999 Ministry of Education: School Effectiveness Report (p. 84) notes “Creole is spoken as the first language in most homes.” Kriol is “di stiki stiki paat” that holds Belize together. Belizean people speak English, Kriol, and often Spanish, while learning the English system of writing and reading in schools. It is a slightly different system of communication from the standard forms. [9]


Kriol shares phonological similarities with many Caribbean English Creoles as well as to English, its superstrate language. [9] Pidgin languages have a general tendency to simplify the phonology of a language in order to ensure successful communication. Many Creoles keep this tendency after creolization. Kriol is no exception in this point.

Kriol uses a high number of nasalized vowels, palatalizes non-labial stops and prenasalizes voiced stops. Consonant clusters are reduced at the end of words and many sylables are reduced to only a consonant and vowel.

1. Like most creole languages, Kriol has a tendency to an open syllabic structure, meaning there are many words ending in vowels. This feature is strengthened by its tendency to delete consonants at the end of words, especially when the preceding vowel is unstressed.

2. Nasalization is phonemic in Kriol, caused by the deletion of final nasal consonants. The nasal feature is kept, even if the consonant has been dropped.

3. Many Kriol speakers tend to palatalize the velar consonants /ɡ/ and /k/ preceding /ɑː/. Sometimes they also palatalize alveolar consonants, such as /t/, /d/, and /n/.[ in which context? ]

4. Like all other creoles, Kriol also has a tendency to reduce consonant clusters no matter where they occur. Final consonant clusters are almost always reduced by dropping the second consonant. Initial and medial occurrences are reduced much less consistently.

5. When /r/ occurs finally, it is always deleted. When it occurs in the middle of a word, it is often deleted leaving a residual vowel length.

6. Although its superstrate language, English, makes extensive use of dental fricatives (/θ/ /ð/), Belizean Kriol does not use them. It rather employs the alveolar stops /t/ and /d/. However, due to the ongoing process of decreolization, some speakers include such dental fricatives in their speech.

7. Unstressed initial vowels are often deleted in Kriol. Sometimes this can lead to a glottal stop instead.

8. Vowels tend to be alternated for the ones used in English, f.i. /bwɑi/ or /bwoi/ (boy) becomes /boi/, /ɑnɡri/ (angry) becomes /ænɡri/ and so on. [9]

9. Stress is evenly distributed across syllables, meaning that the prosody of Kriol is different than its lexifier. It is reserved mainly for content words an appears to only have High and Low tones [10]

Vowel Chart [11]

Front Central Back
High long




Mid long



Low long





Consonant Chart [12]

Bilabial Labio-dental Alveolar Post-alveolar Palatal Velar Glottal






Nasal mnŋ







Approximant/Lateral w

Some of these sounds only appear as allophones of phonemes.

Consonants and vowels

Kriol uses three voiced plosives (/b/ /d/ /ɡ/) and three voiceless plosives (/p/ /t/ /k/). The voiceless stops can also be aspirated. However, aspiration is not a constant feature; therefore, the aspirated and non-aspirated forms are allophonic. The language employs three nasal consonants, (/m/ /n/ /ŋ/). It makes extensive use of fricatives, both unvoiced (/f/ /s/ /ʂ/) and voiced (/v/ /z/ /ʐ/. Its two liquids, /l/ and /r/, are articulated alveo-palatally. The tongue is more lax here than in American English; its position is more similar to that of British English. Kriol's glides /w/, /j/, and /h/ are used extensively. Glottal stops occur rarely and inconsistently. Kriol makes use of eleven vowels: nine monophthongs, three diphthongs, and schwa [ə]. The most frequently occurring diphthong, /ai/, is used in all regional varieties. Both /au/ and /oi/ can occur, but they are new additions and are viewed as a sign of decreolization. The same is perceived of four of the less productive monophthongs. [9]


Unlike most creoles, Kriol has a standardized orthography.

Consonants: b, ch, d, f, g, h, j, k, l, m, n, p, r, s, sh, t, v, w, y, z, zh

/i/ɡi, ɡiv"give"
/a/bak"back of body"

The symbol choices for lengthened vowels come from ways those vowels are spelled in English, not the International Phonetic Alphabet. [5] There is a dictionary for Kriol with over 5000 entries, including sample sentences for each word. [6]



The present tense verb is not marked overtly in Kriol. It also does not indicate number or person. As an unmarked verb, it can refer both to present and to perfective. The English past tense marker |d| at the end of the verbs indicates acrolectal speech. However, there is the possibility to mark past by putting the tense marker |mi| before the verb. Overt marking is rare, however, if the sentence includes a semantic temporal marker, such as "yestudeh" (yesterday) or "laas season" (last season).

The future tense is indicated by employing the preverbal marker wa or a. Unlike the marking of past tense, this marking is not optional. [9]


The progressive aspect

The preverbal marker di expresses the progressive aspect in both past and present tense. However, if the past is not marked overtly (lexically or by using mi), an unambiguous understanding is only possible in connection to context. di is always mandatory. In past progressive, it is possible to achieve an unambiguous meaning by combining mi + di + verb.

Progressive action in the future can be expressed by using bi in conjunction with . The correct combination here would be + bi + verb.

The habitual aspect

Kriol does not have a habitual aspect in its own right. Other creoles have a general tendency to merge the habitual with completive, the habitual with progressive, or the habitual with future. Kriol however, does not clearly merge it with anything. Thus, we can only assume that the habitual is expressed through context and not through morphological marking.

The completive aspect

The completive aspect is expressed either without marking — that is, by context only — or by the use of a completive preverbal marker, such as don or finiʂ. [9]

Mood and voice


The conditional mood is expressed through the conditional verbs wuda, mi-wa, and mia. The short version, da, is employed only in the present tense; past tense requires the longer forms.

Passive voice

There is no overt lexical marking of active and passive in Kriol. It is only the emphasis of a sentence which can clarify the meaning, together with context. Emphasis can be strengthened by adding emphatic markers, or through repetition and redundancy.

Verb usage

Special verbs

There are four forms of "be" in Kriol: de, two uses of di, and the absence of a marker. The equative form di is used as a copula (when the complement of the verb is either a noun or a noun phrase). de is the locative form which is used when the verb's complement is a prepositional phrase. No overt marking is used when the complement is an adjective. di, finally, is used in the progressive aspect.

The verb "to go" is irregular in Kriol, especially when set in the future progressive. It does not use the progressive marker di but is exchanged by the morpheme and ɡwein. In past tense, this is similar: instead of employing mi, it uses the lexical item ɡaan.

A verb which is used extensively in each conversation is mek. It can be used like a modal in casual requests, in threats and intentional statements, and, of course, like the standard verb "to make". [9]

Noun usage

Plural formation

Plurals are usually formed in Kriol by inserting the obligatory postnomial marker de. Variations of this marker are den and dem. As decreolization is processing, the standard English plural ending -s occurs far more frequently. Sometimes, the de is added to this form, f.i. in "shoes de" – shoes.

The absence of a plural marker occurs rarely.

Loan words

Many Spanish, Maya, and Garifuna words refer to popular produce and food items: [9]



Syntactic ordering

The construction of sentences in Kriol is very similar to that in English. It uses a Subject-Verb-Object order (SVO). All declarative and most interrogative sentences follow this pattern, the interrogatives with a changed emphasis. The construction of the phrases follows Standard English in many ways.


Locatives are more frequently used in Kriol and much more productive than in Standard English. The general locative is expressed by the morpheme da ("at" or "to"). It is possible to use to or pɑn ("on") instead. This is an indication of either emphasis or decreolization. Another morpheme which is more specific than is inɑ ("into"). It is used in contexts where is not strong enough.

Together with the verb "look", however, is not used and denoted as incorrect. To express "to look at", it is wrong to say "luk da". The correct version would be "luk pan". [9]

Noun plus pronoun

In a noun phrase, Kriol can employ a structure of both noun and pronoun to create emphasis. The ordering then is noun + pronoun + verb (f.i. "mista filip hi noa di ansa" – Mr Philip knows the answer).


Adjectives are employed predicatively and attributively. They can be intensified either by the postposed adverb modifier bad, by iteration, or by the use of the adverb modifier onli. Iteration is here the usual way. Comparatives and superlatives are constructed according to morphosyntactic rules. A comparative is made by adding -a to the stem ("taal" – "taala" – tall). The morpheme den is employed to form comparative statements, f.i. "hî tɑlɑ dan shee" – He is taller than she. Superlatives are created by adding -es to the stem. In all cases, the use of the definite article di is obligatory. The copula is present if the superlative is used predicatively. An example could be: "She dah di taales" – She is the tallest.


Adverbs are used much as they are in Standard English. In almost all cases, they differ from adjectives not in form but in function. There are, however a few exceptions, such as "properli" (properly), "errli" (early) or "po:li" (poorly). Adverbs can be intensified by reduplication.


Most Kriol conjunctions are very similar to English and employed in the same way. The main difference is that Kriol allows double negation, so that some conjunctions are used differently. Some examples for Kriol conjunctions are: "an" (and), "but" (but), "if" (if), "o:" (or) etc.

Questions usually take the same form in Kriol as they do in Standard English: question word + subject + verb. The "do-support" does not occur here either. The rising intonation at the end of the sentence may increase even more if no question word is necessary. Thus, most declarative sentences can become interrogative with the right intonation. "Which" has various translations in Kriol. If the speaker means "which", he uses witʂ, but he can also use witʂ wan for "which one". [9]


The tense/aspect system of Kriol is fundamentally unlike that of English. There are no morphological marked past tense forms corresponding to English -ed -t. There are three preverbial particles: "mi" and "did" for the past, "di" as an "aspect marker", and a host of articles to indicate the future ("(w)a(n)", "gwein", "gouɲ"). These are not verbs, they are simply invariant particles which cannot stand alone like the English "to be". Their function differs also from the English.

The progressive category is marked by /di~de/. Past habitual is marked by /doz/ or /juustu/. Present habitual aspect is unmarked but can be indicated by "always", "usually", etc. (i.e. is absent as a grammatical category). [5] Mufwene (1984) and Gibson and Levy (1984) propose a past-only habitual category marked by /juustu doz/ as in /weh wi juustu doz liv ih noh az koal az ya/ ("where we used to live is not as cold as here") [13]

For the present tense, an uninflected verb combining with an iterative adverb marks habitual meaning as in /tam aalweiz noa entaim keiti tel pɑn hii/ ("Tom always knows when Katy tells/has told about him"). [14]

Like many other Caribbean Creoles /fi/ and /fu/ have a number of functions, including: [15]

The pronominal system

The pronominal system of Standard English has a four-way distinction of person, number, gender and case. Some varieties of Kriol do not have the gender or case distinction, though most do; but it does distinguish between the second person singular and plural (you). [9]


The question words found in Kriol are: [9]


Contrast of Copula Forms

Copula = helping verb forms of “be”

Kriol: Ai da di teecha

English: I am the teacher.

Kriol: Yu da di teecha.

English: You are the teacher

Kriol: Ih da di teecha.

English: He/She is the teacher.

Kriol: Ah da-mi di teecha

English: I was the teacher

Kriol: Yu da-mi di teecha

English: You were the teacher.

Kriol: She/Ih da-mi di teecha.

English: She/He was the teacher.

Kriol: Da huu dat?

English: who is that?


See also

Related Research Articles

In linguistics, a copula is a word that links the subject of a sentence to a subject complement, such as the word is in the sentence "The sky is blue." The word copula derives from the Latin noun for a "link" or "tie" that connects two different things.

In grammar, a future tense is a verb form that generally marks the event described by the verb as not having happened yet, but expected to happen in the future. An example of a future tense form is the French aimera, meaning "will love", derived from the verb aimer ("love"). English does not have a future tense formed by verb inflection in this way, although it has a number of ways to express the future, particularly the construction with the auxiliary verb will or shall or is/am/are going to and grammarians differ in whether they describe such constructions as representing a future tense in English.

The past tense is a grammatical tense whose function is to place an action or situation in past time. In languages which have a past tense, it thus provides a grammatical means of indicating that the event being referred to took place in the past. Examples of verbs in the past tense include the English verbs sang, went and was.

Torres Strait Creole is an English-based creole language spoken on several Torres Strait Islands, Northern Cape York and South-Western Coastal Papua. It has approximately 25,000 mother-tongue and bi/tri-lingual speakers, as well as several second/third-language speakers. It is widely used as a language of trade and commerce. Torres Strait Creole has six main dialects: Papuan, Western-Central, TI, Malay, Eastern, and Cape York. Its main characteristics show that it is a Pacific Pidgin, but the future in X [i] go VERB aligns it with Atlantic Creoles. Related languages are Pijin of the Solomon Islands, Tok Pisin of Papua New Guinea, and Bislama of Vanuatu. The other creoles of Australia are more distantly related, being descendants of the Pidgin English that developed in and around Sydney after the colonisation of Australia.

The imperfect is a verb form which combines past tense and imperfective aspect. It can have meanings similar to the English "was walking" or "used to walk". It contrasts with preterite forms, which refer to a single completed event in the past.

Jamaican Patois, known locally as Patois and called Jamaican Creole by linguists, is an English-based creole language with West African influences spoken primarily in Jamaica and among the Jamaican diaspora; it is spoken by the majority of Jamaicans as a native language. Patois developed in the 17th century when slaves from West and Central Africa were exposed to, learned and nativized the vernacular and dialectal forms of English spoken by the slaveholders: British English, Scots, and Hiberno-English. Jamaican Creole exhibits a gradation between more conservative creole forms that are not significantly mutually intelligible with English, and forms virtually identical to Standard English.

Cape Verdean Creole is a Portuguese-based creole language spoken on the islands of Cape Verde. It is also called Kriolu or Kriol by its native speakers. It is the native creole language of virtually all Cape Verdeans and is used as a second creole language by the Cape Verdean diaspora.

San Andrés–Providencia creole is an English-based creole language spoken in the San Andrés and Providencia Department of Colombia by the native Raizals, very similar to Belize Kriol and Miskito Coastal Creole. Its vocabulary originates in English, its lexifier, but San Andrés–Providencia creole has its own phonetics and many expressions from Spanish and African languages, particularly Kwa languages and Igbo languages. The language is also known as "San Andrés Creole", "Bende" and "Islander Creole English".

A post-creole continuum is a dialect continuum of varieties of a creole language between those most and least similar to the superstrate language. Due to social, political, and economic factors, a creole language can decreolize towards one of the languages from which it is descended, aligning its morphology, phonology, and syntax to the local standard of the dominant language but to different degrees depending on a speaker's status.

Gurindji Kriol is a mixed language which is spoken by Gurindji people in the Victoria River District of the Northern Territory (Australia). It is mostly spoken at Kalkaringi and Daguragu which are Aboriginal communities located on the traditional lands of the Gurindji. Related mixed varieties are spoken to the north by Ngarinyman and Bilinarra people at Yarralin and Pigeon Hole. These varieties are similar to Gurindji Kriol, but draw on Ngarinyman and Bilinarra which are closely related to Gurindji.

This article provides a grammar sketch of the Miskito language, the language of the Miskito people of the Atlantic coast of Nicaragua and Honduras, a member of the Misumalpan language family. There also exists a brief typological overview of the language that summarizes the language's most salient features of general typological interest in more technical terms.

Habitual be is the use of an uninflected be in African American Vernacular English (AAVE) and Caribbean English to mark habitual or extended actions, in place of the Standard English inflected forms of be, such as is and are. In AAVE, use of be indicates that a subject repeatedly does an action or embodies a trait. In Standard English, the use of be merely conveys that an individual has done an action in a particular tense, such as in the statement "She was singing".

Rama is one of the indigenous languages of the Chibchan family spoken by the Rama people on the island of Rama Cay and south of lake Bluefields on the Caribbean coast of Nicaragua. Other indigenous languages of this region include Miskito and Sumu. Rama is one of the northernmost languages of the Chibchan family.

The grammar of the Marathi language shares similarities with other modern Indo-Aryan languages such as Odia, Gujarati or Punjabi. The first modern book exclusively on Marathi Grammar was printed in 1805 by Willam Carey.

The Nukak language is a language of uncertain classification, perhaps part of the small Nadahup (Makú) language family. It is mutually intelligible with Kakwa.

Punjabi is an Indo-Aryan language native to the region of Punjab of Pakistan and India and spoken by the Punjabi people. This page discusses the grammar of Modern Standard Punjabi as defined by the relevant sources below.

Pashto grammar grammar of the Pashto language

Pashto is a S-O-V language with split ergativity. Adjectives come before nouns. Nouns and adjectives are inflected for gender (masc./fem.), number (sing./plur.), and case. The verb system is very intricate with the following tenses: present; simple past; past progressive; present perfect; and past perfect. In any of the past tenses, Pashto is an ergative language; i.e., transitive verbs in any of the past tenses agree with the object of the sentence. The dialects show some non-standard grammatical features, some of which are archaisms or descendants of old forms that are discarded by the literary language.

Yolmo language Sino-Tibetan language

Yolmo (Hyolmo) or Helambu Sherpa, is a Tibeto-Burman language of the Hyolmo people of Nepal. Yolmo is spoken predominantly in the Helambu and Melamchi valleys in northern Nuwakot District and northwestern Sindhupalchowk District. Dialects are also spoken by smaller populations in Lamjung District and Ilam District and also in Ramecchap District. It is very similar to Kyirong Tibetan and less similar to Standard Tibetan and Sherpa. There are approximately 10,000 Yolmo speakers, although some dialects have larger populations than others.

Duna language Language

Duna is a Papuan language of Papua New Guinea. It may belong to the Trans New Guinea language family and is often further classified as a Duna-Pogaya language, for Bogaya appears to be Duna's closest relative, as evidenced by the similar development of the personal pronouns. Estimates for number of speakers range from 11,000 (1991) to 25,000 (2002).

Swahili [swa] grammar is typical for Bantu languages, bearing all the hallmarks of this language family. These include agglutinativity, a rich array of noun classes, extensive inflection for person, tense, aspect and mood, and generally a subject–verb–object word order.


  1. Michaelis, Susanne (2013). The Survey of Pidgin and Creole Languages, Volume 1. Oxford: Oxford University Press. pp. 92–100. ISBN   0199691401.
  2. Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin, eds. (2017). "Belize Kriol English". Glottolog 3.0 . Jena, Germany: Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History.
  3. "Belize Population and Housing Census 2010: Country Report" (PDF). Statistical Institute of Belize. Archived from the original (PDF) on 27 January 2016. Retrieved 11 December 2014.
  4. 1 2 Johnson, Melissa A. The Making of Race and Place in Nineteenth-Century British Honduras. Environmental History, Vol. 8, No. 4 (October 2003), pp. 598–617.
  5. 1 2 3 4 Decker, Ken (2005), The Song of Kriol: A Grammar of the Kriol Language of Belize. Belize City: Belize Kriol Project, pp. 2.
  6. 1 2 Crosbie, Paul, ed. (2007), Kriol-Inglish Dikshineri: English-Kriol Dictionary. Belize City: Belize Kriol Project, pp. 196.
  7. "Kriol - Complete Web Solutions Provider". Archived from the original on 2008-09-28. Retrieved 2008-10-05.
  8. Floyd, Troy S. (1967). The Anglo-Spanish Struggle for Mosquitia. University of New Mexico Press.
  9. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 Escure, Geneviève (1999). "The pragmaticization of past in creoles". American Speech. 74 (2): 165–202. JSTOR   455577.
  10. Velupillai, Viveka (2015). Pidgins, Creoles and Mixed Languages. John Benjamins Publishing Company. pp. 225–226. ISBN   9789027252722.
  11. Decker, Ken. "The Song of Kriol: A Grammar of the Kriol Language of Belize" (PDF). Retrieved Jul 17, 2019.
  12. Escure, Geneviève (2013). Michaelis, Susanne Maria; Maurer, Philippe; Haspelmath, Martin; Huber, Magnus (eds.). "Belizean Creole". The survey of pidgin and creole languages. Volume 1: English-based and Dutch-based Languages.
  13. Gibson, Kean (1988), "The Habitual Category in Guyanese and Jamaican Creoles", American Speech, 63 (3): 195–202, doi : 10.2307/454817
  14. Mufwene (1984 :218) cited in Gibson (1988 :200)
  15. Winford, Donald (1985), "The Syntax of Fi Complements in Caribbean English Creole", Language, 61 (3): 588–624, doi : 10.2307/414387
  16. Bailey, Beryl, L (1966). Jamaican Creole Syntax. Cambridge University Press
  17. Patrick, Peter L. (1995), "Recent Jamaican Words in Sociolinguistic Context", American Speech, 70 (3): 227–264, doi : 10.2307/455899
  18. 1 2 Lawton, David (1984), "Grammar of the English-Based Jamaican Proverb", American Speech, 2: 123–130, doi : 10.2307/455246
  19. Irvine, Alison (2004), "A Good Command of the English Language: Phonological Variation in the Jamaican Acrolect", Journal of Pidgin and Creole Languages, 19 (1): 41–76, doi : 10.1075/jpcl.19.1.03irv