Liberian English

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Liberian English refers to the varieties of English spoken in Liberia. There are five such varieties:

Normally, Liberians use these terms to refer to all such varieties simply as "English". Additionally, the term "Liberian English" is sometimes used for all varieties except the standard.

Standard Liberian English[edit]

Standard Liberian English is the language of those people whose African-American ancestors from the United States and the Caribbean islands immigrated to Liberia in the nineteenth century. This variety is a transplanted variety of African American Vernacular English from the southern part of the United States. It is most distinctive in isolated settlements such as Louisiana, Lexington, and Bluntsville, small communities upriver from Greenville in Sinoe County. According to 1993 statistics, approximately 69,000 people, or 2.5% of the population, spoke Standard Liberian English as a first language.

The vowel system is more elaborate than in other West African variants; Standard Liberian English distinguishes [i] from [ɪ], and [u] from [ʊ], and uses the diphthongs [aɪ], [aʊ], and [əɪ]. Vowels can be nasalized. The final vowel of happy is [ɛ]. It favors open syllables, usually omitting syllable-final [t], [d], or a fricative. The interdental fricatives [θ, ð] appear as [t, d] in syllable-initial position, and as [f, v] finally. The glottal fricative [h] is preserved, as is the voiceless labio-velar fricative [ʍ] (in such words as whit and which in contrast to voiced [w] in wit and wish). Affricates have lost their stop component, thus [tʃ] > [ʃ]. Between vowels, [t] may be flapped (>[ɾ]) as in North American English. Liquids are lost at the end of words or before consonants, making Standard Liberian English a non-rhotic dialect.[1]

Kru Pidgin English[edit]

Kru Pidgin English is a moribund variety that was spoken historically by Krumen. These were individuals, most often from the Klao Madingoes and Grebo ethnic groups, who worked as sailors on ships along the West African coast and also as migrant workers and domestics in such British colonies as the Gold Coast (Ghana) and Nigeria. The Krumen tradition dates back to the end of the eighteenth century. With the end of the British colonial presence in West Africa in the mid-twentieth century, however, the tradition came to an end, and with it the ongoing use of Kru Pidgin English.[citation needed]

Liberian Kreyol language[edit]

Liberian Kreyol language (Vernacular Liberian English), or Liberian creole the most common variety, developed from Liberian Interior Pidgin English, the Liberian version of West African Pidgin English though it has been significantly influenced by the Americo-Liberian and the Caribbean slaves Settler English. Its phonology owes much to Liberia's Kru languages. Vernacular Liberian English has been analysed having a post-creole continuum. As such, rather than being a pidgin wholly distinct from English, it is a range of varieties that extend from the Caribbean English to the highly pidginized Americo-Liberian English and African American Vernacular English to one that shows many similarities to English as spoken elsewhere in West Africa.[citation needed]


  1. ^ Brinton, Lauren and Leslie Arnovick. The English Language: A Linguistic History. Oxford University Press: Canada, 2006


  • Singler, John Victor (1986), "Copula Variation in Liberian Settler English and American Black English", in Smitherman, Geneva (ed.), Talkin and Testifyin: The Language of Black America, Wayne State University Press, pp. 129–164, ISBN 0-8143-1805-3
  • d'Azevedo, Warren (1979), Gold, Michael (ed.), Some Terms from Liberian Speech, Cornell University
  • Singler, John Victor (2000), "Optimality Theory, the Minimal-Word Constraint, and the Historical Sequencing of Substrate Influence in Pidgin/Creole Genesis", in McWhorter, John (ed.), Language Change and Language Contact in Pidgins and Creoles, John Benjamins Publishing Company, pp. 335–354, ISBN 90-272-5243-2