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The painful origins of many creole languages

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IN AN airy first-floor study, Eldred Jones, who is 93, takes a break from his Braille Bible to talk about how he first left Sierra Leone to study at Oxford. Later he became principal of west Africa’s oldest university, Fourah Bay College in Freetown. During a long, donnish life he also found time to co-write the only dictionary for Krio, the lingua franca of Sierra Leone.

Krio can sound like broken English. Aw de bodi?, the most common greeting, literally means “How’s the body?” Other popular questions are Aw yu slip? (“How did you sleep?”), and Aw de wok? (“How’s the work?”). But Krio is not broken anything. It is a fascinating mix of English, African, Portuguese, French and other influences, reflecting a unique history of imperialism, slavery and migration.

Sierra Leone’s Creoles, who created the language named after them, came to the country in three main waves….Continue reading

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