Chabacano versus related creoles: Socio-linguistic Affinities and differences

                           John Holm

                     University of Coimbra
         Casa Nova Semide, Miranda do Corvo 3220-405, Portugal


This article compares Zamboangueño (the variety of Chabacano spoken in Zamboanga) with
several other creole languages to evaluate the relative importance of superstrate versus
substrate influence on their morphosyntax. The presence or absence of parallel
morphosyntactic structures are noted in two creole languages that share Zamboangueño's
superstrate but not its substrate (Papiamentu and Palenquero in the Caribbean). Parallels are
also noted in Tok Pisin, the restructured English of Papua New Guinea, which shares
Zamboangueño's Austronesian substrate but not its superstrate. The results point to the
importance of both superstrate and substrate as a source of creole grammatical features, but
suggests that the former may be more influential.

Copyright © Estudios de Sociolingüística 2(2), 2001, pp. 69-93, JOHN HOLM

1. Introduction

One of the primary thrusts of creole linguistics over the past forty years has been
to determine the defining characteristics of creole languages –what, if anything,
makes them different from other languages. We know that they came into being
during a linguistic crisis, when a community of people could no longer use their
ancestral languages to serve their most pressing communicative needs and were
forced to adopt another language for this purpose. We believe that language was a
pidgin, itself an emergency language to bridge the communication gap between two
or more groups with no language in common, but unlike a creole, a pidgin is a
rudimentary, makeshift language that is no one’s mother tongue. But something
happened when such pidgins became the native language of an entire community: the
creoles that grew out of them became much more structured and complex on every
linguistic level. They became, in fact, not only native languages but also natural
languages. However, the most difficult thing to explain about creoles is still puzzling
us: why do creole language that have never been in contact with one another have so
many grammatical structures in common? What is the source of these affinities?

In fact, it was the first book-length study of Chabacano –Keith Whinnom’s
Spanish Contact Vernaculars in the Philippine Islands (1956)– that began the modern
debate on this topic that led to the monogenetic theory, the hypothesis that all of the
world’s creoles based on European languages are derived from 15th and 16th-century
Pidgin Portuguese (and ultimately the Mediterranean’s Lingua Franca, which goes
back a thousand years to the Crusades) –via relexification, or word-for-word
translation into other languages. This theory is ultimately unprovable and was largely
abandoned in the 1970s, but there is still a convincing case to be made for the
relexification of the language that became modern Chabacano from Portuguese to
Spanish vocabulary. A good case for relexification can also be made for the only two
other creoles based on Spanish, which are found in the Caribbean area: Papiamentu
in the Netherlands Antilles, and Palenquero in northern Colombia.

What I would like to do today is to compare these three creole languages that
have drawn their lexicons from Spanish to see what they do and do not have in
common in both their historical development and their modern linguistic structure.
To do that, I’ll draw on my own research on their development (Holm, 1988–1989)
and that of three linguists I worked with when they were doctoral students
participating in a research project on comparative creole syntax that I organized when
I was at the City University of New York: Katherine Green, who studied Palenquero
from written sources and fieldwork in Colombia; Abigail Michel, who studied her
native language, Papiamentu; and Salvatore Santoro, who studied Zamboangueño,
the variety of Chabacano described in his primary source of data, Forman (1972), as
well as that of a native-speaker informant, Ms. Neile Martinez, whose contributions
are indicated below as personal communications (henceforth ‘p.c.’). This paper
would not have been possible without the conscientious scholarship of these three

First we’ll look at the historical events that led up to the emergence of these three
languages, and then we’ll compare their modern structure.

2. Chabacano: Its sociolinguistic history

In the 16th century Spain claimed both the Philippines and the spice-rich
Molucca Islands in what is now eastern Indonesia by virtue of their discovery during
Magellan’s expedition in 1521, but they fell within the half of the earth assigned to
Portugal by Papal bull. Because of this, Spanish ships could approach these islands
only by sailing west from Spanish America across the Pacific, a costly inconvenience
that led to their neglect and isolation until the end of the 18th century. However, in
the 16th century interest in the spice trade led to the Spanish control of the
Philippines by the 1570s. The Portuguese had earlier gained control of the source of
much of the spice being traded: in 1522 they built a fort on Ternate, one of the small
islands off the western coast of Halmahera in the Moluccas, where clove trees grew
wild. Under the protection of a Portuguese garrison, the sultans of Ternate extended
their control throughout the Moluccas until 1574, when an intrigue led them to expel
the Portuguese. After the union of Spain and Portugal in 1580, their fleets tried to
regain Ternate, whose sultan was receiving the support of the Dutch in their attempt
to extend their empire in the East Indies. The Spanish held Ternate from 1606 to
1663; the Dutch managed to destroy the clove trees in a 1655 raid, and finally the
Spanish garrison was removed to Manila to defend the Philippines from attacking
Chinese pirates.

At this time some 200 families were also brought from Ternate to Manila. This
Christian community had resulted from the intermarriage of local women with
Portuguese and later Spanish soldiers. It seems likely that this community originally
used the Malayo-Portuguese Pidgin that had spread throughout the East Indies in the
16th century, eventually creolizing it. The 17th century Spanish troops evidently
married into this community, beginning a relexification process that brought about
the adjustment –often minimal– of Portuguese vocabulary to Spanish.

Unlike Spain’s American colonies, the Philippines never saw a shift to Spanish
among the general population. It remained confined to the relatively few Spanish
colonists and their mixed progeny, who spoke a non-creolized variety (Lipski, 1986:
44), while Spanish missionaries dealt with the inhabitants in their own languages.
However, there was a clear identification with the Spanish among the creole-speaking
community from the Moluccas, who named their new settlement on Manila
Bay after their home island of Ternate and later spread to Cavite and Ermita. Their
descendants spoke Tagalog as a second language, which influenced their creole, as
did contact with non-creolized Spanish. They often joined the Spanish navy, which
included Mexicans and other Spanish Americans until the independence of Spain’s
American colonies in the 19th century. It seems likely that there developed a military
pidgin influenced by the creole alongside a more general pidgin used in trade.
Schuchardt (1883: 113-114) noted that Spanish-speakers in the Philippines “use this
‘Kitchen Spanish’ and accommodate themselves to an intermediate manner of

The military pidgin –or possibly a vernacular variety of Spanish heavily
influenced by local languages (Lipski, 1992)– may have been independently
creolized after 1719, when a mixed Spanish ga rrison was re-established at
Zamboanga (where an earlier fort had been built in 1636) to fend off attacks from
Muslims on the southern island of Mindanao.

The garrison consisted, until Mexico became independent, of Spanish-speaking
American Indians or mestizos married to Filipino women. Of the 11,600 inhabitants
of the province about 1870, no less than 7,400 spoke Spanish; and the schools were
conducted in that language. (Reinecke, 1937: 820)

Today the Zamboangueño creole is flourishing; it is used in primary instruction,
broadcasting, and to a limited extent in the press, functioning as a lingua franca in the
region (Reinecke et al., 1975: 210). Unlike the northern dialects, Zamboangueño has
also been influenced by the local Visayan language, which –along with Tagalog– is
the source of nearly 20% of its lexicon (Frake, 1971: 228-229). However, all of the
creole dialects are “quite easily mutually intelligible” (Molony, 1977: 153).
Zamboangueño has spread south to the islands of Basilan and Jolo, and northwest
along the peninsula to Cotabato and Davao (Baxter, 1984; Lipski, 1986: 44). The
Cotobato community began in the 1870s when Jesuits ransomed some 100 Muslim
children from the local slave market in order to educate them to become “exemplary
Catholic men and women who would win the Muslims to the Faith by sheer force of
good example” (Riego de Dios, 1979: 276). The children lived in an orphanage where
priests from Spain taught them Spanish, but it was noted that the children spoke a
mixed language, probably from contact with children from Zamboanga who had been
orphaned in a cholera epidemic. During the confusion of the Spanish-American war
the entire community retreated to Zamboanga, but some returned afterwards, re-establishing
the present creole-speaking community.

3. Palenquero: Its sociolinguistic history

Palenquero is a variety of creolized Spanish spoken by the older members of
2,500 people living in an isolated village called El Palenque de San Basilio, located
south of the city of Cartagena on the Caribbean coast of Colombia. It is descended
from the language spoken by slaves employed in building the fortifications of
Cartagena during the late 16th and early 17th century. According to Sandoval
(1956[1627]), that language may well have been based on the restru c t u r e d
Portuguese of the Gulf of Guinea islands; Megenney (1982) has pointed out
Palenquero’s lexical remnants from Portuguese despite its centuries of contact with
local Spanish. In 1603 Domingo Bioho, said to have been a king in Africa, led some
thirty escaped slaves into the swamps and jungles, where they built a fortified village
or palenque (in reference to the sharpened palings of the stockade). Like maroon
strongholds elsewhere, San Basilio became a refuge for other fugitive slaves and a
base for raids on the European colonists. After more than a hundred years of
intermittent fighting, the Spanish recognized the palenque’s right to govern itself in
exchange for an end to the raids and harboring of fugitives. A document of 1772
describes the Palenqueros as using a particular language among themselves but
speaking Spanish fluently (quoted by Bickerton & Escalante, 1970: 255), suggesting
that the community’s current diglossia dates from at least this period. However, the
Palenqueros remained fairly isolated from the surrounding Hispanic culture until the
beginning of the 20th century, when they were drawn to work on sugar or banana
plantations or even the Panama Canal. The village could be reached only by foot or
horseback until 1967, when an unpaved road was constructed, leading to the
discovery that its language was a creole (De Granda, 1968). Its primary school is
taught only in Spanish, the language that younger people speak among themselves as
well as with outsiders. While many understand the creole or even use it as a secret
language outside their community, it is usually only older people who use it among
themselves, suggesting that the creole is unlikely to survive many more generations.

4. Papiamentu: Its sociolinguistic history

Papiamentu is spoken on several islands of the Netherlands Antilles just north of
Venezuela: Curaçao, A ruba, and Bonaire. T h ey were originally inhabited by
Amerindians who spoke an Arawakan language. Curaçao was settled in 1527 by
some 25 Spaniards, who set about raising cattle. Over the next century the several
hundred Indians on Curaçao probably learned Spanish from them and missionaries
from the mainland, but the use of this language was disrupted in 1634 when the
Dutch seized Curaçao and Bonaire. The Spanish retreated to the mainland, leaving all
but 75 of their Indian allies on Curaçao (Goodman, 1987). The 400 Dutchmen who
settled the island kept some 23 of these Indians as servants, and other Indians
remained on Bonaire and Aruba after the latter was taken by the Dutch in 1638. It is
unclear what language the Dutch used for contact with the Indians during this early
period; having broken away from the Spanish empire in 1581 (recently united with
that of Portugal), the Dutch often understood Spanish and Portuguese and used
creoles based on the latter as the lingua franca in the Asian colonies they seized from
Portugal in the early 17th century. They probably also used restructured Portuguese
for contact in the part of northeastern Brazil that they seized in 1630. There they
found allies in the Sephardic Jews who had fled the Inquisition in Spain and Portugal;
the Dutch, more tolerant than the Portuguese, allowed them to revert openly to
Judaism. When the Portuguese regained this part of Brazil in 1654, the Dutch and
their Jewish allies had to leave. Some resettled in Curaçao, which the Dutch had
started using as an entrepôt for their trade in African slaves. Although it is unclear
what the contact language of this trade was in the 1650s, it is clear that the Iberian
languages of the Sephardim (whether Portuguese or Spanish or Judeo-Portuguese or
Judeo-Spanish or Galician or other regional varieties –all of which were largely
mutually intelligible) played an increasingly important role in the slave trade on
Curaçao during the second half of the 17th century. Since the Dutch had captured
many of the Portuguese trading posts in West Africa, the Spanish granted them an
asiento or monopoly in supplying their American colonies with slaves, which lasted
until 1713. The Brazilian Jews, joined by other Sephardim from Amsterdam who also
spoke Iberian languages, played a major role in the administration of the slave camps
on Curaçao (Goodman, 1987). The slave trade was economically much more
important than plantation agriculture, which was carried out mainly to provision the
camps since the dry soil was unsuitable for raising sugar.

The restructured Portuguese that the Jews had probably used in Brazil seems
likely to have been extended to use in contact with the new slaves arriving from
Africa (Maurer, 1998), some of whom probably knew pidgin Portuguese from its use
as a lingua franca there. However, as Spanish-speaking mainlanders came to Curaçao
in increasing numbers to purchase slaves, there probably arose a makeshift trade
koine based largely on common Iberian lexicon, not unlike what Brazilians often use
today in dealing with Spanish Americans. This seems likely to have drawn the
language of Curaçao in the direction of Spanish from this early period onwards. In
1704 a Spanish-speaking priest described the language of the island’s slaves as “un
español chapurreado” or ‘bad Spanish’(Van Wijk, 1958: 169). Although most of the
slaves arriving from Africa were sent on to Spanish colonies, those remaining on
Curaçao came to equal the white population in number by the 1680s (Maurer, 1986);
of the 2,400 slaves, only a quarter worked on plantations while the rest did domestic
work (including work in the camps). The whites apparently learned the emerging
creole for contact, beginning a long tradition of bilingualism; about half were from
the Netherlands and maintained Dutch as their home language, while the other half
of the white population consisted of Jews. It is unclear what the latter’s home
language was, but their congregation used Portuguese until they changed to Spanish
in the 19th century. The creole spoken on Curaçao apparently stabilized by around
1700, when it spread to Bonaire and then to Aruba. The unusually high degree of
European influence on the creole, which is evident in the modern grammar, probably
stems in part from the long tradition of bilingualism in the creole among Europeans
(leading to the transfer of language features) and closer contact between them and
slaves than on the sugar islands of the English and French.

The oldest surviving document in Papiamentu is a 1776 letter; the language is
very similar to the modern creole. The 1790 census reveals that nearly 60% of
Curaçao’s population of 19,500 lived in the capital of Willemstad; African slaves
made up only 47% of this urban population (with 30% whites and 23% free colored)
but 91% of the rural population (with 7% whites and 2% free colored). During the
course of the 19th century the white population decreased to 10%, apparently through
intermarriage (Reinecke, 1937: 370, 384). Although all groups speak Papiamentu
today, there is still a significant correlation between ethnic group, religion and
prestige language: Protestant whites attend services in Dutch, Jews tend to prefer
Spanish, while the black and mixed population belong largely to the Catholic church,
which uses Papiamentu (ibid.).

5. Superstrates and substrates

Before proceeding with the structural comparison of the three creoles discussed
above, it should be noted that debates on the most likely sources of the grammatical
and other features found in creoles have focused largely on their superstrates,
substrates, adstrates, universals, creole-internal developments and the convergence of
two or more of the above. It would be helpful at this point to identify each of these
in turn.

As the terms are used in creole studies, superstrate and substrate refer to the
languages that came into contact and formed the pidgin (with no native speakers) that
became the creole (with an entire community of native speakers). Usually one group
had more power (for example, the Europeans had guns) and their language, the
superstrate, became the source of most of the pidgin’s vocabulary. People with less
power tend to be more accommodating (and to do more of the work), so usually the
non-Europeans (speakers of the substrate languages) had to learn the European’s
vocabulary. But what they ended up learning was not the native language of the
Europeans, who soon gave up trying to speak it to the non-Europeans as they spoke
it among themselves. First the substrate speakers imitated the superstrate speakers’
words, but then the superstrate speakers started imitating the substrate speakers’
pronunciation and grammar to make the compromise language easier for them to
understand and use.

Obviously the superstrate language was an important source of vocabulary for
the pidgin –and the ensuing creole, if there was one. It was also an important source
of the pidgin’s sounds and grammar, although these were usually reinterpreted in
terms of the structure of the substrate languages, so they were important sources of
the pidgin’s phonology and syntax. Some substrate words also found their way into
the pidgin (and later creole), but these could not exceed a relatively small portion of
the lexicon without impairing the pidgin’s primary function as a bridge to
understanding as long as superstrate speakers were an important part of the equation.
However, there were many other ways that the substrate languages influenced the
pidgin lexicon through such language contact phenomena as loan translations or
influence on the semantic range of words whose form was taken from the superstrate
but whose range of meanings was actually that of the corresponding substrate word.
Other sources of creole linguistic features include adstrate languages, i.e. any
languages other than the superstrate or substrate that the creole later came into
contact with. Universals can refer to several different kinds of features common to
many or most of the world’s languages, but the most obvious kind of linguistic
universals (and those most likely to influence the structure of creoles) are the
strategies that most adults use when they’re trying to learn another language; for
example, there’s a strong tendency to express grammatical information in separate
words (as in “I did go”) rather than combined with another word (as in “I went”).
Creole-internal innovation is simply the tendency of creoles, like all natural
languages, to become more systematic, often through analogy (e.g. “light, lighted”
rather than “light, lit”). Of course sometimes the same creole feature could well have
come from two or more of these possible sources, in which case there is no need to
choose: we can simply point to converging influence.

To return to the question of the superstrate of these three creoles based on
Spanish (the only ones there are), it would seem obvious that their superstrate is
Spanish. Yet relexification from Portuguese seems to have been a part of the history
of each: in the case of Chabacano, developing out of what was originally Malayo-Portuguese;
in the case of Palenquero, developing out of what was originally Gulf of
Guinea pidgin Portuguese; and in the case of Papiamentu, developing out of the
restructured Portuguese used by Brazilian Jews –at least when talking to Africans.
McWhorter (1995) explains the scarcity of Spanish-based creoles in the Atlantic area
by pointing to the lack of known Spanish-based pidgins in the Americas or Africa:
since it was the Portuguese who had been given Africa by Papal bull, they supplied
the Spanish colonies in the Americas with African slaves and so it was Portuguese rather than Spanish that was pidginized in Africa. If Spanish-based creoles need to
develop from Spanish-based pidgins, this would explain why only two developed
under circumstances that were quite unusual in Spanish America: Palenquero
developed in a maroon stronghold out of restructured Portuguese that had been in
contact with Spanish, and Papiamentu developed under the Dutch out of restructured
Portuguese that was also in contact with Spanish. There were no Portuguese slavers
involved in the development of Chabacano, but there were Portuguese soldiers on
Ternate who contributed to the creation of the Malayo-Portuguese that later came into
contact with Spanish. In all three cases, it is the near mutual intelligibility of
Portuguese and Spanish that gives the theory of relexification its plausibility, to say
nothing of the most obvious evidence: the modern remnants of Portuguese in all three

As to their substrates, Whinnom (1956: 9) asserted that
the similarities in grammar and syntax, and even of vocabulary, between the Spanish
contact vernaculars in the Philippines and Indo-Portuguese are so many –and they are
not attributable to a common substratum– that we can be quite certain that Ternateño
did develop out of the common Portuguese pidgin of the Eastern Seas.
Actually Malayo-Portuguese and Philippine Creole Spanish do have related
substrates: the original languages of Malaya, Indonesia, Melanesia and the
Philippines all belong to the Austronesian family and share a number of structural
traits, which would make it difficult to assign the precise source of many of the
creoles’ substrate features with any certainty.

However, the two Caribbean varieties of creole Spanish are, as one might expect,
quite different. Among the languages that made up Palenquero’s substrate, the Bantu
languages of central Africa seem likely to have predominated. Not only does
Palenquero have more words derived from Bantu than from west African languages
(Bickerton & Escalante, 1970: 261), but it also has Bantu grammatical features like
the prefix ma- to mark the plural form of nouns. Papiamentu, on the other hand, tends
to have features found in the Kwa languages of west Africa, such as the use of an
affix that also means ‘they’after nouns to indicate plurality.

To evaluate the relative importance of superstrate versus substrate influence in
the formation of creole languages, we will examine a number of syntactic features in
Chabacano and note their presence or absence in those two creoles that share its
superstrate (but not its substrate). However, we will also note the presence or absence
of these features in Tok Pisin, a restructured variety of English that is both a pidgin
and a creole, used in Papua New Guinea, a language that shares Chabacano’s
Austronesian substrate (but not its superstrate). For this information, I am indebted
to Dr. Nicholas Faraclas of the University of Papua New Guinea (Fa r a c l a s ,

6. The verb phrase

Instead of using verb endings to mark tense, creoles use particles (usually
occurring before the verb) to mark tense (i.e. the time an action occurred) or aspect
(i.e. whether the action was in progress, whether it occurred habitually, etc.).

6.1. The unmarked verb

The three Zamboangueño sentences below illustrate the possible time reference
of unmarked verbs (i.e. those with no preverbal markers), depending on whether the
verbs are stative (referring to states like ‘know’) or non-stative (referring to actions,
like ‘jump’). In (1), the stative verb puede ‘to be able’is not preceded by any marker;
it is clear from the context that the verb refers to the present or future (i.e. non-past).
In (2), it is clear from the context that the unmarked stative verb quiere does refer to
the past. No examples of unmarked non-stative verbs referring to the past were found
in the corpus (Forman, 1972). In (3), the unmarked non-stative verb anda refers to
non-past tense.

(1) Con ese gente ___ puede ele come.2
(These people he –the dragon– can eat.) (Forman, 1972: 170)
(2) Todo aquel ___ quiere anda saca con ese mujer.
(Those who wanted to go to take that woman.)
(3) ___ anda eli alli na reino.
(He goes there to the kingdom.) (Valles-Akil, p.c.)
The table below summarizes these findings and compares them with the parallel
grammatical features of the other creoles under discussion. Here, the vertical column
under ZM (for Zamboangueño) indicates whether the indicated feature is known to
be present (+), known to be absent (0), or whether its presence is rare (R) or unknown
(?). The other languages are Tok Pisin (TP), which like Zamboangueño has an
Austronesian substrate, and Palenquero (PL) and Papiamentu (PP), which like
Zamboangueño have Spanish as their superstrate. Constraints of space make it
impossible to illustrate the grammatical features of these languages with sample
sentences, but these can be found in the forthcoming book edited by Holm & Patrick.

2 Editor’s note: I have adapted the orthography of Chabacano examples to the widely followed Camins’ spelling rules,since questions of phonetics are not implied in Holm’s discussion. Forman,in his doctoral dissertation, used the phonetic conventions required by the Univ. of Cornell, and Holm’s original ms.reproduces them exactly; so, for instance, this citation is originally transcribed as Konése hénte pwéde éle komé. See also Forman’s discussion of Camins’orthography in his contribution to this volume.

6.1.1. Statives with non-past reference + + + +
6.1.2. Statives with past reference + R + 0
6.1.3. Non-stative with past reference ? + + 0
6.1.4. N o n - s t a t ives with non-past reference + R + 0

6.2. Past tense

The Zamboangueño preverbal marker ya indicates perfective aspect, which
implies past tense; its use is optional before stative verbs (4) but required before non-stative
verbs (5). There were no instances in the corpus of ya being used as a
counterfactual (indicating an action that had not occurred) or before an adjective or
locative phrase.
(4) YA puede le saca con el princesa gayot...
(He could seize the princess herself...) (Forman, 1972: 186)
(5) YA anda sila na Lamitan.
(They went to Lamitan.) (ibid.: 158)
6.2.1. Before statives with past reference + + + +
6.2.2. Before non-statives with past reference + + + +
6.2.3. Past = counterfactual ? R R +
6.2.4. Past with adjectival verb 0 + 0 0
6.2.5. Past with locative 0 + 0 0

6.3. Progressive aspect

The Zamboangueño preverbal marker ta indicates not only actions that are in
progress but also those that are habitual (6). Context usually indicates whether it
should be translated by the English present progressive or simple present tense. No
examples were found in the corpus in which it indicated the future, nor did it co-occur
with a past marker or an adjective.
(6) TA anda yo.
(I –usually– go / I am going.) (Forman, 1972: 160)
6.3.1. Indicating progressive + + + +
6.3.2. Indicating future ? 0 R +
6.3.3. Anterior plus progressive 0 + + +
6.3.4. Progressive with adjectival verb 0 + + 0

6.4. Habitual aspect

As noted above, the progressive marker ta is used to indicate that an action
occurs habitually, especially with appropriate time adverbials, but habitual aspect can
also be indicated by the unmarked verb, as in (3) above. However, Zamboangueño
has no preverbal marker that exclusively indicates habituality or one that can co-occur
with the past marker.

6.4.1. Zero marker for habitual + 0 + +
6.4.2. Progressive marker for habitual + 0 0 +
6.4.3. Marker for habitual only 0 + + +
6.4.4. Past plus habitual 0 + + +
6.5. Completive aspect
Since the past marker ya also conveys punctual and perfective meaning, it can
be used to show the completion of an action. Note that the preverbal marker ya can
co-occur with a postverbal adverb of the same form meaning ‘already’ as in (7)
below. Preverbal ya does not occur before adjectives or with any other preverbal
(7) Cuando YA subi el chongo arriba, YA olvida YA ele con el tortuga.
(When the monkey had climbed up, he had already forgotten the turtle.)
(Forman, 1972: 148)


6.5.1. Completive only (before/after verb) + + + +
6.5.2. Completive + adjectival verb ? + 0 0
6.5.3. Anterior (or other) + Completive 0 + + +

6.6. Irrealis mode

The irrealis marker ay can express future or unrealized events that are predicted
or promised (8), or –for some speakers– hypothetical (9). Other speakers, however,
could only give (9) a definite future meaning (‘they will all drown’) and would have
to use era to indicate a hypothetical situation (Valles-Akil, p.c.). The irrealis marker
cannot co-occur with the past marker to indicate either the conditional or the future
perfect, but can be used alone to convey the conditional (9) or the future in the past
(8) Muchu gente AY procura anda saca.
(A lot of people will try to go get –her.) (Valles-Akil, p.c.)
(9) AY man lumus sila todo...
(They all would have drowned...) (Forman, 1972: 46)?(10) Ya habla ele AY vene ele mañana.
(He said he would come tomorrow.) (Martinez, p.c.)
6.6.1. Future + + + +
6.6.2. Past + Irrealis = conditional 0 R + +
6.6.3. Past + Irrealis = future in the past 0 + + +
6.6.4. Past + Irrealis = future perfect 0 + 0 0
6.7. Other combinations of verbal markers
The preverbal markers ta (durative or present), ya (past, perfective) and ay
(irrealis) cannot combine with one another. The modal verbs puede ‘can’ (1), and
quiere ‘want’ (2), which are also main verbs, could be considered auxiliaries.


6.7.1. Irrealis + Progressive 0 + 0 +
6.7.2. Past + Irrealis + Pro gressive 0 0 + +
6.7.3. Other auxiliary-like elements + + + +

6.8. Negation

Zamboangueño uses different words to negate different kinds of predicates.
Equational predicates (with nouns) take the negator jendeh (11). Nuay negates
predicates that are locational or existential (12). In verbal predicates, nuay indicates
the negation of past action, replacing the affirmative preverbal past marker ya (13).
However, predications with the durative marker ta or the irrealis marker ay (or its
allomorphs) are generally negated (but not replaced) with jendeh (14). Unmarked
verbs take nunca (15) while imperatives take no (16). Unlike some creoles,
Zamboangueño has no discontinuous double negation, but like its superstrate it does
have negative concord (17).
(11) JENDEH este leyen.
(This is not a legend.) (Forman, 1972: 163)
(12) NUAY mas ele (aqui).
(He is not here anymore.) (ibid.)
(13) NUAY sila anda na Karagasan.
(They did not go to Caragasan.) (ibid.)
(14) JENDEH ele ay deja (hasta ay casa sila dos).
(He will not leave –until they two are married.) (ibid.: 164)
(15) NUNCA yo quiere convos.
(I will never love you.) (ibid.: 225)
(16) NO vos anda.
(Don’t go!) (ibid.: 164)
(17) NO sabe NINGUNO.
(No one knows.) (ibid.: 226)
6.8.1. Single negation (verbal) + + + +
6.8.2. Discontinous double negation 0 0 + 0
6.8.3. Negative concord + 0 + +
6.9. Passive
While Zamboangueño has no syntactic construction parallel to the Spanish
passive (Whinnom, 1956: 93), it does have a semantic equivalent with impersonal
‘they’ as the subject (18).
(18) Un clase de pescao ta llama SILA palit.
(A kind of fish (which) they call “palit”.) (Forman, 1972: 219)


6.9.1. Passive construction 0 0 R +
6.9.2. Passive equivalent + + + +
6.10. Adjectives and other non-verbal predicates
Unlike some Caribbean creoles, Zamboangueño does not have adjectives that
function like verbs. While Zamboangueño predicate adjectives and nouns do not take
a copula, they do not take preverbal markers either. Both are fronted and then
followed by the subject, despite Zamboangueño’s usual VSO order, as in (19) and
(20). The predicate marker talla takes the position of a copula before locative
predicates (21). Unlike some Caribbean creoles, Zamboangueño has no predicate
clefting of either adjectives or verbs. The comparison of adjectives is not
accomplished with a serial verb construction with ‘pass’, but rather with
constructions more similar to those of Spanish. The adjective compared may or may
not be preceded by the adverb mas ‘more’and the second noun may be preceded by
either que or contra in the sense of ‘than’ (cf. Spanish que only) (22, 23).
(19) ___ Daan el salaan.
COP old the strainer
(The strainer is old.) (Forman, 1972: 161)
(20) ___ Soltero el anak disuyo.
COP bachelor the son of-his
(His son is a bachelor.) (ibid.: 161)
(21) Ese dia, TALLA tamen el mujer na casa.
(That day the girl was there in the house.) (ibid.: 35)
(22) Tu el MAS bueno subi QUE conmigo.
(You climb better than I do.) (ibid.: 186)
(23) ___ Si Juan ____ alto CONTRA con el mujer.
COP EMPH John more tall than OBJ the girl
(John is taller than the girl.) (Martinez, p.c.)


6.10.1. Preverbal markers before adjectives 0 + 0 0
6.10.2. Preverbal markers before nouns 0 + 0 0
6.10.3. Preverbal markers before locatives 0 + 0 0
6.10.4. Predicate clefting: adjectives 0 + 0 +
6.10.5. Predicate clefting: (other) verbs 0 + 0 +
6.10.6. Comparison with ‘PASS’ 0 + 0 R
6.10.7. Comparison as in superstrate + + + +

6.11. The copula

As noted above, there is no copula before a predicate consisting of an adjective
(19) or a noun (20). Locative and existential predicates require the copula-like talla
(24), which occurs in the initial verbal position. Existence is indicated by tiene (cf.
Spanish tiene ‘(it) has’(25). A nonverbal predicator is also used to indicate existence
in abundance: mucho (< Spanish mucho ‘much’) (26). Zamboangueño has nothing
comparable to the highlighter found in some Caribbean creoles before question
words and other structures.
(24) Ese dia, TALLA tamen el mujer na casa.
that day COP PREF DET girl in house
(That day the girl was there at the house.) (Forman, 1972: 35)
(25) TIENE buruju.
(There are witches.) (ibid.: 162)
(26) MUCHO comida.
(There is a lot of food.) (ibid.: 162)
6.11.1. Equative copula (before NP) 0 0 + +
6.11.2. Different locative copula (before place)? + + + 0
6.11.3. Zero copula before adjectives? + + R 0
6.11.4. Existential (‘have’= ‘there is’) + + + +
6.11.5. Highlighter with question words 0 + + +
6.11.6. Highlighter with other structures 0 + + +

6.12. Serial verbs

Zamboangueño can have sequences of up to five verbs in a single clause; only
the first takes preverbal markers. Although Zamboangueño does not have some of the
serial verb constructions typical of Caribbean creoles (e.g. ‘give’meaning ‘to’, ‘for’;
‘say’ meaning ‘that’, ‘pass’ meaning ‘more than’, or even directional constructions
with ‘come’), it does have constructions with ‘go’ (27), although these are more
purposive (cf. English go get) than directional. Constructions with three serial verbs
are not uncommon (8), and ones with four or five verbs occur (28).
(27) ANDA sila SAKA con ese.
go 3p get OBJ that
(They go to get that.) (Forman, 1972: 206)
(28) NECESITA MANDAANDA PRUBA SAKA el cart dituyo hermana.
Need tell go try get DET card of-your sister
(It is necessary to tell [someone] to go try to get your sister’s card.)
(ibid.: 205)
6.12.1. Directional with ‘go’ + + 0 +
6.12.2. Directional with ‘come’ 0 + 0 +
6.12.3. Serial ‘give’meaning ‘to, for’ 0 + 0 +
6.12.4. Serial ‘say’meaning ‘that’ 0 0 0 0
6.12.5. Serial ‘pass’meaning ‘more than’ 0 + 0 +
6.12.6. Three serial verb construction + + 0 +
6.12.7. Four + serial verbs + + 0 +

7. The noun phrase

7.1. Nouns and modifiers

Bare nouns without an article have generic reference to the entire category (29).
The Zamboangueño definite article has only one form, el (from the Spanish
masculine singular equivalent, rather than a demonstrative); similarly, the indefinite
article un is invariable for gender and number (30). Zamboangueño nouns and
adjectives have no plural inflections either; instead, nouns form the plural with a
preceding plural marker maga or mana, except after numbers (31). This plural marker
can be used with surnames to indicate the entire family (32).
Demonstratives have three syntactically-determined forms: an el-type (e.g. este,
usually a subject), a di-type (e.g. de este, usually a possessive), and a con-type (e.g.
con este, usually an object). There is also a na-type (e.g. aqui, which can substitute
locative NPs) (Forman, 1972: 108). These function as both demonstrative adjectives
and pronouns; they are not marked for number or gender (33, 34). Unlike some
Caribbean creoles, the Zamboangueño definite article or pluralizer does not mark the
end of a noun phrase (including any modifying relative clauses). Adjectives can occur
either before or after the noun they modify, but as in Spanish, placing certain
adjectives before the noun can signal a metaphorical rather than literal meaning (35).
Adjectives are not inflected for gender or number and are generally derived from the
Spanish masculine singular form (36).
(29) Jendeh yo ta come ___ GENTE.
(I do not eat people.) (Forman, 1972: 153)
(30) Yo UN dalaga.
(I am a young girl.) (ibid.: 196)
(31) MAGA criminal.
(Criminals.) (ibid.: 112)
(32) El MAGA reyes.
(The Reyes family.)
(33) ESE princesa no puede sale.
(That princess couldn’t leave.) (ibid.: 146)
(34) ...desde el primer dia ya mira le CON ESE.
(...since the first day he saw her.) (ibid.: 146)
(35) El mujer POBRE. El POBRE mujer.
(The poor woman.) (The poor woman.)
(without wealth) (arousing pity) (Martinez, p.c.)
(36) El NUEVO luna.
(The new moon.) (Forman, 1972: 220)
7.1.1. Bare nouns (generic?) + + + +
7.1.2. Indefinite article + + + +
7.1.3. Definite art. (from superstrate deictic?) 0 + 0 +
7.1.4. Plural marker (=‘they’?) 0 + 0 +
7.1.5. Personal nouns plus plural marker + + 0 +
7.1.6. Demonstratives + + + +
7.1.7. Demonstrative plus definite or plural 0 + + +
7.1.8. Rel. clauses + definite or plural marker 0 + 0 0
7.1.9. Prenominal adjective + + + +
7.1.10. Postnominal adjective + + + +
7.1.11. Gender agreement? 0 0 0 0

7.2. Possession

Zamboangueño does not indicate a possessive relationship between two nouns
through juxtaposition [possessor + possessed] or with a possessive adjective
[possessor HIS possessed] like some other creoles. Instead, like its superstrate, it uses
a preposition [possessed OF possessor]. Note that di ‘of ’ can combine with following
determiners, pronouns and demonstratives to yield forms such as del ‘of the’ [di + el]
(37). Possessive adjectives are formed by prefixing di to the personal pronouns. One
set of forms can occur either before or after the noun they modify (38), while a
second set can occur only before (39). Possessive pronouns take the form of the first
set of possessive adjectives and occur without a noun, often as predicates (40).
Zamboangueño possessive pronouns cannot be used as emphatic possessive
adjectives, as in some Caribbean creoles.
(37) Ya vira le oleh na CASA DEL MUJER.
(He returned again to the woman’s house.) (Forman, 1972: 216)
(38) El DISUYO profesion.
(His profession.)
(39) El DISU nombre.
(His name.) (ibid.: 182)
(40) Ese perro DIATON.
(That dog is ours.) (Martinez, p.c.)
7.2.1. Nouns: juxtaposition (possessor + possessed) 0 + 0 0
7.2.2. Nouns: preposition (possessed OF possessor) + + + +
7.2.3. Nouns: poss. adj. (possessor HIS possessed) 0 0 0 +
7.2.4. Possessive adjectives: prenominal? + + 0 +
7.2.5. Possessive pronouns: different form? + 0 + +
7.2.6. Poss. pronouns as emphatic poss. adjectives 0 0 + +

7.3. Pronouns: Case distinctions?

The Zamboangueño personal pronouns are marked for case in that they have
three syntactically determined forms: a si-type (or nominative case for subjects,
complements, etc.) which can occur as a free form used in emphasized positions
(topic, predicate, vocative), or as a phrasally-bound form; a di-type (or genitive case
for possessives; see 7.2.), and a con-type (or oblique case for objects of verbs and
prepositions). There are three degrees of intimacy in the second person singular
pronoun: evos [intimate], tu [neutral] and uste [formal]. The third person singular
pronoun does not distinguish for gender, e.g. ele ‘he/she/it’, conele ‘him/her/it’. The
first person plural pronoun, like those in other creoles influenced by an Austronesian
substrate (e.g. Tok Pisin, Seychellois Creole French), distinguishes between two
forms of ‘we’: one excluding the person addressed (kame) and another including that
person (kita) (41). These pronouns are from Visayan, as are kamo (the neutral second
person plural pronoun, opposed to the more formal ustedes) and sila, the third person
plural pronoun.
Reflexive pronouns are formed by using the appropriate possessive adjective
with cuerpo ‘body’ (42). As for interrogative pronouns, some are bimorphemic but
not in ways parallel to those in Atlantic creoles: some are reduplications (e.g. cosa-cosa
‘what-all’) while others combine morphemes in distinctively Zamboangueño
ways (e.g. con quien ‘whom’). Some of these interrogative pronouns also serve as
relative pronouns.
(41) Ta conversa KITA.
(We –i.e., you and I– are conversing.) (Martinez, p.c.)
(42) Ya culga ele disuyo CUERPO.
(He hanged himself. / She hanged herself.) (Martinez, p.c.)


7.3.1. Personal pronouns: first person singular + 0 + 0
7.3.2. Personal pronouns: second person singular + 0 0 0
7.3.3. Personal pronouns: third person singular + + + +
7.3.4. Personal pronouns: first person plural + 0 0 0
7.3.5. Personal pronouns: second person plural + 0 0 0
7.3.6. Personal pronouns: third person plural + 0 + 0
7.3.7 Reflexive pronoun: distinct form? + + + +
7.3.8. Interrogative pronouns: some bimorphemic? + + 0 +
7.3.9. Relative pronouns + + + +

8. Other structures

8.1. Coordinating conjunctions

Unlike some Caribbean creoles, Zamboangueño uses the same conjunction (y
‘and’) to join both sentences (43) and sentence parts (44).
(43) Pronto aprende Y pronto tamen olvida.
(–I– learn quickly and also forget quickly.) (Forman, 1972: 148)
(44) Sudor Y sangre de Zamboanga.
(The sweat and blood of Zamboanga.) (ibid.: 172)?8.1. COORDINATING CONJUNCTIONS: ZM TP PL PP
8.1.1. ‘AND’ joining sentences + + + +
8.1.2. ‘AND’joining sentence parts: distinct? 0 0 + +
8.2. Prepositions
In Zamboangueño there is general locative preposition na which has a wide
range of meanings including ‘in’, ‘into’, ‘at’, ‘to’, ‘from’ and ‘out of’ (45). Unlike
some Caribbean creoles, Zamboangueño requires a preposition after verbs of motion
and expressions of place.
(45) Quiere le sale NA agua.
(He wants to get out of the water.) (Forman, 1972: 197)


8.2.1. General locative preposition + + + +
8.2.2. Zero preposition after motion verb + place 0 + + +
8.3. Complementizers
Zamboangueño, like Spanish, does not have an infinitive marker comparable to
English to (46). In Zamboangueño para ‘for, in order to’ does not behave like the
corresponding complementizer in some Caribbean creoles, i.e. it does not need to be
followed by a verb referring to an action which has been completed (47), nor can it
act like a modal or introduce a tensed clause. The Zamboangueño subordinator que
‘that’ (cf. Spanish que idem) can, with its variant forms quel and kay, be used to
introduce a subordinate clause (48). Zamboangueño has no distinct complementizer
after verbs of speaking or thinking to introduce subordinate clauses; que or its
allomorphs are used (49). In Zamboangueño some subordinate clauses can occur
without a subordinator (50).
(46) Sabe ya tu __ conversa chabacano.
(You already know how to speak Chabacano.) (Forman, 1972: 24)
(47) Quiere gayot le atraca con ese mujer PARA conoce...
want EMPH 3s approach OBJ-that girl COMP know
(He really wanted to approach that girl in order to know...) (ibid.: 33)
(48) Ya mira le QUE tiene galeh casa ese mujer.
(He saw that, surprisingly, that woman had a house.) (ibid.: 210)
(49) Ya habla el mujer QUE Fatima el disu nombre.
(The woman said that her name was Fatima.) (ibid.: 201)
(50) Mira uste ____ ay cumpra pa yo este otro clase.
(You will see that I will still buy this other kind.) (ibid.: 200)


8.3.1. No infinitive marker + + + +
8.3.2. ‘FOR’as infinitive marker + + + +
8.3.3. ‘FOR’as a (quasi-) modal 0 + 0 0
8.3.4. ‘FOR’introducing a tensed clause 0 + + +
8.3.5. Subordinator from superstrate ‘THAT’ + 0 + +
8.3.6. Distinct subord. after verb of speaking etc 0 + 0 0
8.3.7. Zero subordinator possible + + + +

8.4. Dependent clauses

Non-embedded subordinate clauses in Zamboangueño can serve many
functions, setting up the temporal, hypothetical or causative conditions of the main
clause, depending on the subordinating conjunction. Among the most common are
hasta ‘but that, except’, baka ‘lest’, desde ‘since, when’, casi ‘because’, cuando
‘when’, maski(n) ‘even though’ (51), para ‘so that’, and si ‘if, whether, that’.
Embedded subordinate clauses also serve various functions; those introduced by que
(or its variants kay or quel) often function as the object of the verb of the main clause,
as in (49) above.
Relative clauses are usually introduced by the relative pronoun que or quien
‘who, whom, which, that’, which can be used as subject (52), direct object (53), or
object of a preposition (54). It can be used for both animate or inanimate objects, and
no distinction is made between restrictive and non-restrictive relative clauses. There
are also cases of relative clauses in which the pronoun has been omitted (55).
(51) MASKIN ta dormi tamen el seis cabeza, el otro seis cabeza despierto.
(Even though these six heads are asleep, the other six heads are awake.)
(Forman, 1972: 147)
(52) El mana gente QUIEN ya man tunuk na garganta...
(People who have gotten fish spines caught in their throat...) (ibid. 219)
(53) El ombre, QUE ya man encontra tu, mi hermano.
(The man [whom] you met is my brother.) (Martinez, p.c.)
(54) El persona, CON QUIEN ta conversa tu, bien bueno gayot.
(The person you are talking to is very nice indeed.) (Martinez, p.c.)
(55) Ya encontra yo uno polis ___ ta munta na bicicleta.
(I met a policeman who was riding on a bike.) (Forman, 1972: 207)

8.4.1. Subordinate clauses (non-embedded) + + + +
8.4.2. Subordinate clauses (embedded) + + + +
8.4.3. Relative clauses (relative pronoun = subject) + + + +
8.4.4. Relative clauses
(relative pronoun = direct object) + + + +
8.4.5. Relative clauses
(relative pronoun = object of preposition) + + + +
8.4.6. Relative clauses (no relative pronoun) + + 0 +

8.5. Word order

Zamboangueño generally follows a VSO word order (i.e. verb-subject-object).
Subject appear immediately after verbs, especially pronominal subjects, which can
n ever occur preve r b a l ly. Statements are made into yes/no questions through
intonation (56) or by the insertion of the question marker ba. Note that VSO word
order is also maintained in questions with interr oga t ives (57). Howeve r,
Zamboangueño “occasionally permits preverbal subjects, but only when a highly
focused reading is intended” (Lipski, 1994). Unlike some other creoles,
Zamboangueño does not have a sentence-final -o to indicate increased emotional
(56) Ya anda na pueblo?
(Did you go to the market?) (Martinez, p.c.)
(57) Cosa BA tu nombre?
(What is your name?) (Forman, 1972: 24)
8.5.1. Word order: same in questions? + + + +
8.5.2. Sentence final -o 0 R 0 +

9. Conclusions

There is a total of 97 grammatical features surveyed in the above charts. If we
count exact matches only (e.g. + = +, 0 = 0), ignoring possible matches (e.g. R = +),
we find the following:
ZM = TP: 48 (49%)
ZM = PP: 57 (59%)
ZM = PL: 62 (64%)
PL = PP: 66 (68%)

These figures point to the importance of both the superstrate and the substrate
as a source of creole grammatical features. The lowest percentage of parallel
constructions is found between Zamboangueño and Tok Pisin, which share an
Austronesian substrate but which have two different superstrates: Spanish and
English. A higher percentage of parallel features is found between Zamboangueño
and the two other Spanish-based creoles: Papiamentu on the one hand (59%) and
Palenquero on the other (64%) –although the Niger-Congo languages that form their
substrates are typolog i c a l ly quite distinct from Austronesian languages. It is
significant that the highest percentage of parallel constructions is found between
Palenquero and Papiamentu (68%) –languages that share both a superstrate and a
substrate (even though there are some typological differences between the Bantu and
West African Kwa languages within the Niger-Congo family).

It would be premature to claim that the superstrate is more important than the
substrate in determining the structure of a creole language. These are preliminary
findings and need to be reexamined in the light of many more such studies, the
methodology of which could almost certainly profit from further refinement. For
example, the emphasis in the above survey was on the features that distinguish the
Atlantic creoles from their superstrates; for historical reasons many of these are
structures ultimately influenced by the Kwa languages. The inclusion of more
features likely to have been influenced by Austronesian languages (e.g. contrasting
pronouns for inclusive versus exclusive “we” as discussed in paragraph 7.3. above)
would have yielded a higher percentage of parallel features in Zamboangueño and
Tok Pisin. Whatever its weaknesses, however, the present study does at least suggest
a promising agenda for future research, such as the structural comparison of creole
languages which have the same superstrate and exactly the same substrate, or those
which have different superstrates and exactly the same substrate.

Up to now, our methods of measuring similarity and difference among creole
languages have been either too subjective (e.g. the scores of comprehension tests of
a French-creole-speaker listening to tape recordings made by speakers of related
creoles [Graham, 1985]) or too tightly focused on lexical items (e.g. Ivens Ferraz,
1979 on percentages of cognates in the vocabularies of the Gulf of Guinea varieties
of creole Portuguese) –although such methods certainly lend themselves more readily
to measurement than anecdotal observations (e.g. that speakers of the basilectal
varieties of the restructured English of Sierra Leone and Liberia cannot understand
one another).

The methodology that has been evolving in the comparative creole syntax
project is not easy: it involves massive amounts of linguistic data and a daunting
number of judgments about the precise nature of those data. Howeve r, this
methodology is coming to grips with some of the basic problems of comparative
syntax itself and working out solutions to produce results that are highly relevant to
the development of theory in contact linguistics.

 I could not have done this study without the prior scholarship of my colleagues on 
the Comparative Creole Syntax Project: Kate Green, Nicolas Faraclas,Abigail Michel, and 
especially Salvatore Santoro. I would like to thank them and the Instituto Cervantes de Manila
for making this study possible. It has profited from the critical comments of Michael Forman,
John Lipski, Philippe Maurer and Lojean Valles-Akil, for which I am very grateful;
however,responsibility for any shortcomings that may remain is mine alone.

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