Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Liberian English
Liberian English is the term used to describe forms of English spoken in the African country of Liberia. There are four varieties of English spoken in Liberia: Standard Liberian English, Liberian Settler English, Kru Pidgin English, and Vernacular Liberian English. These are linguists' terms, not terms used by Liberians, who ordinarily refer to all varieties of English spoken in Liberia simply as 'English.' Additionally, the term 'Liberian English' is sometimes used for all varieties except the standard.
Liberian Settler English is the language of those people whose African American ancestors immigrated to Liberia in the nineteenth century. This variety is a transplanted variety of African American English. It is at its most distinctive in isolated settlements such as Louisiana, Lexington, and Bluntsville, small communities upriver from Greenville in Sinoe County.
Kru Pidgin English is a moribund variety that was spoken historically by 'Krumen'. These were individuals, most often from the Klao and Grebo ethnic groups, who worked as sailors on ships along the West African coast and beyond 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.
Almost all Liberians who speak a form of English speak what linguists term 'Vernacular Liberian English.' It is the Liberian version of West African Pidgin English more generally, but it has been significantly influenced by Liberian Settler English. Its phonology owes much to Liberia's Niger-Congo languages. Vernacular Liberian English has been analyzed as being a continuum variety. As such, rather than being a pidgin wholly distinct from English, it is a range of varieties that extend from the highly pidginized to a variety that shows many similarities to English as spoken elsewhere in West Africa and in the world more generally.