text: Aruba transfixed by US election

This easy-to-read text in the Aruba variety of the language (from the newspaper Diario) tells of businesses closing early, traffic disappearing from the streets, and tourists scurrying back to their hotel rooms as all the people on Aruba, residents and visitors alike, were unable to think about or do anything other than watch the results of the US presidential election on Tuesday night.


Cu Arubianonan ta hopi conciente di loke ta pasando na Merca, a keda demostra Diamars riba e isla aki. E enfoke di tur hende tabata pa mira ki rumbo e eleccion presidencial na Merca a tuma, y remarcablemente pa prome biaha esaki a worde nota hasta riba caya!

Atardi ora cu tur trahador tabata rumbo pa cas, e prome prioridad den nan mente ta pa yega y cende TV pa mira con e bataya entre Barack Obama y John McCain ta cristaliza. Turistanan na gran cantidad a keda den nan camber di Hotel pa mira tur cos na TV.

Ya for di 8'or di anochi caba, por a mira un reduccion drastico di auto coriendo rond na Aruba. Varios restaurant a cera nan porta trempan, y trahadornan ya pa 10'or tabata na cas, pa asina mira con Barack Obama a bira e President nobo di Merca.

The complete article was here. (Dead link.)


passive voice in Papiamentu

Most creoles do not have a special word or suffix to indicate the passive voice of verbs. They require you to say “somebody stole my bicycle” rather than “my bicycle was stolen.” And that’s fine; it works okay and it’s one less grammar rule to learn.

According to the sources of information at my disposal, spoken Papiamentu is the same way. The passive voice is uncommon in spontaneous conversation.

Written Papiamentu is very different, and very unusual for a creole language: it has several different ways to express the passive voice:

1) using wòrdu, which is also sometimes written as wordu, worde, wordo, etc.

E hòmber a wòrdu detené ayera.
The man was arrested yesterday.

2) using ser

Sosiedat di Kòrsou a ser transformá radikalmente ora e refineria a ser trahá.
Curaçao society was radically transformed when the refinery was opened.

The Spanish version of Goilo’s textbook gives these paradigms:

e carta ta ser skirbí : the letter is being written
e carta ta skirbí : the letter is (has been) written

3) using keda

Esaki lo keda tratá awe mainta.
This will be handled/dealt-with/addressed this morning.

In an analysis of a large body of texts, linguists have found that all three forms (wordu, ser, keda) are equally popular in Curaçao. Aruba seems to prefer wordu and ser.

Some purists such as Antoine Maduro intensely hate the wordu and ser passives, viewing them as non-creole monstruonan (monstrosities):

worde hañá – C. a worde hañá morto na Amsterdam – E redaktor akí ta skirbi barbaridat akí den su korant; ma na su kas e ta bisa: nan a haña C. morto na Amsterdam.

translation: worde hañá – C was found dead in Amsterdam – The editor writes this barbarity here in his newspaper but at home he says ‘they found C dead in Amsterdam’



more notes on Goilo's Textbook

Continuing now with a tour of E.R. Goilo's Papiamentu Textbook. Di cincu les starts with an introduction to elision/sandhi, the changes that Papiamentu makes to its words to cause them to flow more smoothly.

When the direct object of a verb is the pronoun e (he/she/it), the last vowel of the verb is often deleted and the e gets glued onto the verb. Goilo explains the system this way:

“In the case of verbs ending in a, lose a.”

Mi ta tum’é , mi ta cumpr’é

“The verbs ending in e are pronounced with stress on the last e.”

Mi ta com’é , mi ta beb’é

“The verbs ending in i retain this i.”

Mi ta skirbié , mi ta pidié

“Instead of the pronoun é, you may hear the old form ele, e.g. tum’ele, com’ele, skirbiele, etc.”

Sentences like I give it to him are handled this way:

instead of mi ta duna é é “we write and pronounce it mi ta dun’élé (both é's are stressed).”

to be continued…



mi a rabia?

While looking for examples of rabia (angry) on the web, I found this sentence: Mi a echt rabia ora mi a skucha e noticia.

Is that correct Papiamentu? Seems like that first a be tabata instead???

I know, there's no point in posting questions here because nobody will answer them. (sigh) update: Thanks to acireisrebo for the great response.



intermediate reading: Dutch language in education

Part of a news item from the Radio Netherlands website.

denter : within
ensañansa : education
hulandes : Dutch language
keda : remain, stay
mihó : better

Hulandes mester keda é idioma di instrukshon den enseñansa denter di Reino. Minister Plasterk enkargá ku Enseñansa, Kultura i Siensa ta haña ku ta un eksihensia pa studiantenan antiano ta mihó prepará pa kuminsa un estudio na Hulanda.

durante : during
enkuentro : encounter
estudionan : studies
práktika : practice

Minister Plasterk a tene su defensa pa idioma hulandes durante un enkuentro dje asosashon Vereniging Antilliaans Netwerk. “Riba término kòrtiku tin hopi hende na Antia ku ke sigui enseñansa haltu na Hulanda. Esaki ta algu bon, pero estudionan ta pa gran parti na hulandes. A resultá awor den práktika ku dominio di hulandes por ta difísil”, segun Plasterk.

fiha : fixed
ròl : role
serkania : area, neighborhood, region
sostené : sustain, support

Riba término largu tambe Plasterk ta wak ku idioma ta un medio pa sostené e konekshon mutuo den Reino: “Den e sentimentu ku 'nos tin algu ku otro den Reino', idioma ta hunga un ròl importante. E sentimentu ei por eroshoná si mas i mas hende dje paisnan (sur-)amérikano den serkania establesé nan mes na e islanan antiano òf e islanan bai fiha nan mes mas riba e paisnan den serkania. Esaki mi ta haña un punto di preokupashon, pasobra e sentimentu di konekshon ta bisa ménos.”



laga nos (let's)

Some examples of laga nos ("let us...") found on the web.

laga nos kuminsa na e komienso.
let's begin at the beginning

laga nos ta realístiko
laga nos ta honesto ku nos mes
laga nos sa kon nos por yuda bo
laga nos hasi uso di e oportinidat aki
Laga nos pone énfasis na lokual el a hasi bon pa nos isla.
Laga nos sa kiko bo ta pensa di e informashonnan ku bo ta haña riba nos wèpsait.



blood pressure continued

vocabulary for the following text:

baha : lower, reduce, descend
deskuido : carelessness
dòkter di kas : family doctor
drop salu or dròp salu : unknown; only found one example of the phrase on the web
drumi : sleep
fungi : to act, function
kouteloso : cautious
lema : theme, motto
mayoria biaha : majority of iterations; most often, most times
remedi : medicine, medications
para : stop, stand
pinda : peanuts or peanut butter
salu : salt
sea : be (imperative)
tuma na serio : take it seriously

and now the conclusion of the text:


Mayoria biaha dòkter ta duna e pashènt remedi i tambe un dieta.

E remedinan ta fungi pa baha e preshon di sanger ora e pashènt ta drumi òf para.

Tin diferente sorto di remedi ku ta baha preshon i kada un tin su afekto. Laga bo dòkter di kas duna bo splikashon.

“Baha man na uzo di salu.” Esaki ta e lema di e dieta. Esaki sigur no ta algu fásil pa hasi, espesialmente si bo ta un hende ku gusta pone hopi salu den i riba sierto kosnan ku bo ta kome, bo gusta drop salu, pinda ku salu, èts èts.

Sea kouteloso, preshon di sanger altu ta algu ku bo mester tuma na serio i no hasi deskuido ku bo remedi ni ku bo dieta.

Equipped with all the vocabulary we've picked up this week, we can read most of the up-to-date blood pressure brochure available under this link (PDF file). update: The link is dead, but there is similar material at kurason.com


more notes on Goilo's Textbook

Di tres les (the third lesson) of Goilo's book covers several important topics.

Verbs that do not use ta to indicate the present tense: tin, por, sa, konosé, ke, mester, and verbs that might or might not use ta: debe, gusta, kosta, bal, stima, etc.

Using esta to form exclamations:

Esta un cas grandi : What a big house!
Esta un homber loco : What a crazy fellow!

Goilo gives some examples of using por, ke, mester in the past tense. I'm not sure his explanation is entirely clear. He gives both mi tabata sa mi les and mi a sa mi les as equivalents for "I knew my lesson." Is there a difference in meaning? In my own studies I have noticed that tabata sa is much more common than a sa.

Goilo also mentions that cu (ku) is used instead of i to conjoin personal pronouns: nan cu nos rather than nan i nos.



blood pressure continued

vocabulary for the following text:

haña : find, get, receive
mayó : major, greater; eldest
nir : kidney
okashoná : to induce, cause, bring about
perde : lose
sangramentu : bleeding
seleber or serebro : brain
smal : narrow, small
supel : supple? (not listed in either of the dictionaries I have, but I did find it on a few Papiamentu web pages)
biramentu di kabes : I think this means dizziness/vertigo (not listed in dictionaries)

The text continues…

• bo benanan chikitu a bira mas smal i e sanger ta pasa ku difikultat.

• anemia (“sanger abou”).

• bo nir no ta funshoná bon.

• e bena mayó di bo kurason (“aorta”) no ta funshoná manera mester ta.

Preshon di sanger altu ta okashoná ku bo

• benanan ta perde nan elastisidat i bira menos supel.

• kurason mester bati ku mas forsa.

• ta haña doló di kabes, biramentu di kabes.

• ta haña komplikashonnan na bo selebernan; sangramentu den seleber.

• nirnan no ta funshoná bon, nan no ta limpia bo sanger manera mester ta i bo ta haña “uremie”.

to be continued…


easy reading: blood pressure

Preshon di sanger ta e preshon ku bo sanger hasi riba bo bena ora e ta pasa aden.

Preshon di sanger ta algu ku ta varia entre dos baluashon.

Na momentu ku bo kurason kontraé e preshon ta mas altu ("systolische druk").

Ora bo kurason rilèks e preshon ta mas abou ("diastolische druk").

Normalmente e "systolische druk" ta mas o menos 160 mm i e "diastolische druk" mas o menos 95 mm.

Algun faktor ku tin influensia riba bo preshon di sanger:

• Un faktor ku ta hasi hopi influensia ta e kantidat di sanger ku ta pasa den bo bena den un minüt ("hartminuutvolume")

bena : vein
aden : within; inside
(you can figure out the rest)

To be continued.
source: Salú Korsou 1988



possible 3rd use for "ta"

Obviously ta is the copula and the present tense marker for other verbs. I think there may be a third usage: at the beginning of a phrase it may be some kind of emphatic particle or signal of “fronting.” Something like this:

Kiko bo ta hasi? What are you doing?
Ta kiko bo ta hasi? WHAT are you doing!?

Djis un teoria. Mi ta buska konfirmashon.



vocabulary expansion (re: birds)

para : bird
hala : wing
piku : beak
nèshi : nest
webu : egg
bula : to fly

Chuchubi probablemente ta e para mas konosí riba e islanan.
The Chuchubi is probably the best known bird on the islands.

Unda ku bo bai bo por tende su kanto.
Wherever you go you can hear its song.

See also a Chuchubi webpage. (dead link)

See the Papiamentu Wikipedia page about chuchubi.



Goilo notes continued

One more thing about the pronunciation section. Goilo says v is sometimes pronounced as "a soft b in words of Spanish origin, e.g. vence… venenu… varios." I assume "soft b" refers to the bilabial fricative of Spanish, written as [β] in the International Phonetic Alphabet. I wonder if this phoneme really exists in all Papiamento/u or if it is only used by a few individuals.

Linguist Philippe Maurer makes no mention of the bilabial fricative in the various articles he's published about Papiamento (for example, Die Verschriftung des Papiamentu, published in the book Zum Stand der Kodifizierung romanischer Kleinsprachen.) I'm in the process of obtaining some other books written by linguists; I'll have to remember to search for any allusions to the bilabial fricative.

notes on Goilo's Textbook part 1

E.R. Goilo's Papiamentu Textbook was written in 1962. It has been reprinted several times and is still in print. (Currently there are several used copies available on amazon.com; just go there and do a search on "papiamentu textbook").

Starting with the Preface which covers pronunciation. Here are the items that seemed interesting or questionable.

e is like i in fix in exacto, examen, extremo (Interesting.)

Goilo says i is pronounced like the i in fix in words of Dutch origin such as mik (to aim) and bril (spectacles). But according to Betty Ratzlaff-Henriquez' dictionary these words have become mek and brel. Maybe that only applies to the Curaçao dialect. Jossy Mansur's dictionary of the Aruba dialect lists mik and bril.

As of the 9th edition Goilo does not even mention the letter ü. I suppose that symbol was not being used when he wrote the book and none of the revisers and reprinters since then have added it. His description of u seems to include all of the sounds that are now spelled u, ù and ü.

Goilo says d at the end of a word sometimes sounds like t as in berdad and birtud. Those d's have been changed to t's in the modern Curaçao orthography. Likewise where he mentions that si sounds like sh in words such as siete, there is a trend in Curaçao toward spelling these words the way they sound, shete and so forth.



word of the day: wandu

wandu is a word of unknown origin. According to Antoine Maduro* some lexicographers viewed it as an indigenous Carib word, others as a word of African source.

Wandu ta un sorto di bonchi. Wandu is a kind of bean.

Wandu is a species of plant in the legume family. "Pigeon pea" appears to be the English name; the scientific name is Cajanus cajan. It makes seeds that can be cooked and eaten. Roasted seeds can make a sort of coffee that was used for medicinal purposes (according to one list of home remedies that I found on the web).

Photos of the plant and its seeds are visible in Wikipedia. About 200 ways to use the plant's seeds, leaves and stems are described in a webpage at purdue.edu

*Procedencia di palabranan papiamentu i otro anotacionnan, Corsou 1966



easy reading: a text about broadcasting

In late 2001 this text was on the Radio Netherlands website:

Radio Nederland Wereldomroep, e emisora internashonal di Ulanda, e aña aki ta selebrá su di sinkuenta aniversario. Na kabamentu di añanan 50 Radio Nederland a kuminsá transmití programanan speshalmente pa Antia i Aruba. Te dia di awe Radio Nederland diariamente ta traha programanan di notisia na Hulandes speshalmente pa Antia i Aruba. Antiano i Arubanonan renombrá ku a traha pa Radio Nederland ta Stella Priest, Eugenie Herlaar, Yvette Ecury, Sonia Garmers, Reyna Joe, Robby Schouten, Ivy Doorstam i Marielle Capello.

Na yuni 1995 Radio Nederland a kuminsá transmiti notisia na Papiamentu diariamente. Di djaluna te djasabra Radio Nederland ta transmití un boletin di notisia i resumen di korantnan Hulandes na Papiamentu. Un redakshon di kuater traduktor/lokutor ku ta konsistí di Désirée Martis, Chicho Jesurun, Sharon Tellers - Cicilia, Scarlet Windster ta enkargá ku e transmishonnan na Papiamentu.


e aña aki : this year
aniversario : anniversary
boletin : bulletin
diariamente : daily
emisora : radio station (or TV station)
internashonal : international
kabamentu : completion, finish
konsistí di : consist of
korant : newspaper
kuminsá : begin, commence
lokutor : announcer
notisia : news
programa : program
redakshon : editorship, redaction
renombrá : famous, renowned (thanks to Red Crow for the tip)
resúmen : summary
selebrá : celebrate
speshalmente or spesialmente : especially
traduktor : translator
traha : to work, labor; make, build
transmishon : transmission
transmití : transmit
yüni : June


Follow-up written in 2016: Unfortunately the Papiamentu service of Radio Nederlands ended in 2012.


vocabulary expansion via poetry

bai : go
ta bayendo : is going, are going

biento or bientu : wind
bòter : bottle
den : in, within
kènter : tilt, slant
kontra when used as a preposition means against
nan : they, them, their
nort or nòrt : north
obstrukshon : obstruction
para : stop
tempo or tempu : time

ku is a word of many functions; sometimes it translates into English as with.

Equipped with the vocabulary above, plus words we have already encountered in this blog, we can now read the first stanza of a mysterious poem by Pedro R. Velásquez:

Nan ta bayendo nòrt
ku un bòter den nan kurason
Den nan obstrukshon di tempo
nan ta para i kènter kontra biento.



the best baseball language

Major league baseball player Jair Jurrjens, in an interview with Baseball America in the spring of '07, said Papiamentu is the best baseball language.

BA: You can speak four languages: English, Spanish, Dutch, and Papiamentu. Which of them is the best baseball language?

JJ: Well, definitely not Dutch! Papiamentu is pretty good if I’m back home, but no one here speaks it. I guess Spanish is maybe a little better than English.

Hmm. I never thought of baseball as a language oriented activity. But it's nice to have an endorsement from a major leaguer!


easy reading (advertisements)

A couple of easy-to-read advertisements.

habri tur dia : open every day.

tur djadumingo di 12 or pa 3 or : every Sunday from 12 o'clock to 3 o'clock

saka for di laman : I guess this means taken from the sea. Betty Ratzliff-Henriquez' dictionary indicates there are two verbs spelled saka, one meaning take out, remove, oust, and the other meaning vomit. I assume they are pronounced differently, tone-wise.




A few useful phrases containing tin.

Mi tin hamber.
I am hungry.

Mi tin doló di kabes.
I have a headache.

Tin hopi bientu.
It's very windy.

Mi no tin ningun duda.
I don't have any doubt.

The phrase tin ku means must, have to, got to.

Mi tin ku tuma un desishon.
I've got to make a decision.

Awor nos tin ku kambia e paradigma aki.
Now we must change this paradigm.



tricky words (a few false friends)

Many words in Papiamentu are recognizable at first sight. When you see fórmula, notabilidat or simbolismo for the first time it is not hard to figure out the meaning especially in context. But there are some words that have tricked me into making wrong guesses and now I'm starting to keep a list of these.

firma means a firm, a business, a company in German, Swedish and Dutch. But in Papiamentu it means signature or to sign one's name. (In Spanish firma can mean either signature or a firm, according to Langenscheidt's New College Dictionary.)

kontestá : I assumed this meant dispute or compete but it actually means reply.

krusada sometimes means a religious crusade (as I assumed at first glance) but it can also mean crossroad, intersection.



word of the day: loke

The English word "what" has several different translations into Papiamentu depending on whether it is an interrogative word or a relative pronoun.

"What" can also have an important but seldom-discussed linking function as in I know what you did. In these latter cases "what" can usually by replaced by "that which…" or "the thing which…" And in these cases the Papiamentu equivalent appears to be loke.

Some examples from various sources:

Ya bo sa loke bo ke.
You already know what you want.

Loke mi ke bira: bombero.
What I want to become: fireman.

No yora ora bo no por hasi loke nan sí ta hasi.
Don't weep when you cannot do what they can do.


bira = become
bombero = firefighter
hasi = do, make, engage in
ke = want
ora = when (in the linking sense of "when", not the interrogative sense)
por = be able to
sa = know
ya = already
yora = weep, cry



the anniversary of Papiamento literature

On 27 September 1905 J.S. Corsen's poem “Atardi” was published in a newspaper called La Cruz. This was, apparently, the first time a piece of secular creative writing in Papiamentu had ever rolled off a printing press.

You can read it (with a Dutch translation) under this link.

Prior to the appearance of “Atardi,” the Dutch government had denigrated Papiamentu (and it continued doing so until the riots of 1969). Children were forbidden to speak Papiamentu while at school. Dutch officials often expressed their belief that Papiamentu was a lesser form of language, unfit for use in education or official activities.

After “Atardi” appeared, more and more Papiamentu speakers began to realize the beauty and potential of their language. The number of poems, songs, plays and stories published in Papiamentu began to gradually increase, year after year.


web navigation phrases

Pa bira miembro klik aki.
To become a member, click here.

Klik aki pa mas informashon.
Click here for more information.

primi riba e konopi "send"
Press the "send" button.

kambia kontraseña
change password



a fragment of poetry

I spent a great deal of time last night trying to understand a fragment of a Pierre Lauffer poem that I found online. I'm just a beginning student so I really should not be tackling poetry yet; it's way over my head. But I was in the mood for a challenge. Here is the fragment:

Kaminda chapi kai for di mi man,
i sigui bòltu tera gordo,
planta, kuida, kosechá
e lenga dardu di nos mama.

Alongside this fragment was a Dutch translation which I ran through Google's automated translator to serve as a starting point. I'm not sure what lant’é means in this context. The Dutch version has pak ’m op which Google translates as get 'em. Maybe the meaning in this situation is "pick it up"?

There are other uncertainties here: the meaning of tera gordo, the combination sigui bòltu, and the meaning of the last line. The Dutch translation contains onze dartele moedertaal. So, my tentative understanding of this fragment at this point is:

Where the hoe falls from my hand,
and turn over the fat (potent?) earth,
plant and tend and harvest
the language unruly of our mother. (Our rowdy mother-tongue?)

Hopefully I will be able to look at this a year from now and understand it better.



Here's some vocabulary from a fragment of a poem that I was trying to read last night.

for di = out of, from, away from
kai = to fall
kaminda = where, in the place which...
man = hand
sigui = to follow
tera = earth

sigui gives us the adjective siguiente meaning "following, consecutive." I suppose siguiente is sometimes a good translation for the English word "next."

Some examples of siguiente found on the web:

anto e siguiente luna
before the following month

bo por sa e kontesta riba e kuater siguiente preguntanan
you can know the answers to the four following questions

E dia siguiente nos a bishita "la escuela de maestro".
The next day we visited la escuela de maestro.



sintibo liber

I became curious about the phrase sintibo liber, "feel free (to)," so I googled it. Here are four sentences containing the phrase. See if you can read them without any help. My attempts to translate them into English are down at the bottom of this blog entry.

Note: the first sentence uses the Aruban spelling expresa instead of the Curaçaoan ekspresá.

1. Sintibo liber pa expresa bo mes.

2. Sintibo liber pa duna bo opinion.

3. I si bo ke pa hasi kontakto personal, sintibo liber.

4. Sintibo liber pa kombersa kwalkier topiko interesante na Papiamentu.


spoiler space



1. Feel free to express yourself.

2. Feel free to give your opinion.

3. And if you want to make personal contact, feel free.

4. Feel free to converse (about) any interesting topic in Papiamentu.



some introductory phrases

When introducing a friend to a third party, someone might say:

Pèrmiti-mi presentá mi amigu Mario.

If one were introducing a colleague one could say:

Pèrmiti-mi presentá mi kolega, señor Martin Erikson.

The third party might say something like:

Ta un plaser. or Muchu gustu.

(roughly equivalent to English nice to meet you or it's a pleasure). A more formal response would be

Kontentu di sera konosí ku señor Erikson.

(based on information in Basiscursus Papiaments)

Well then, we have a few more words for the vocabulary.

kontentu : glad, contented
plaser : pleasure
pèrmiti-mi : allow me to
presentá : to present
amigu : friend
kolega : colleague, co-worker

Papiamentu has a few nouns that change their final vowel to indicate a person's gender. Amigu is a male friend and amiga is a female friend. But kolega is a colleague of either gender.

muchu gustu : "much enjoyment" or "very happy to be doing (whatever)". Another example: Ku muchu gustu nos ta presentá e promé edishon. "We are very pleased to present the first edition."

The examples of muchu gustu that I've seen to date give the impression that it is mainly used when meeting or introducing people or presenting things to an audience; but I could be wrong about that.

sera konosí : "become acquainted with." Another example: laga nan sera konosí ku su naturalesa i historia, "let them get acquainted with its nature and history."