Structure dataset 11: Nicaraguan Creole English

This language is described more fully in survey chapter 11.

Nicaraguan Creole English (or Miskito Coast Creole English) is spoken as a first language by several groups of people: ethnic Creoles, the Rama, Nicaraguan Garifuna, and some Miskitos, and as a second language by other Miskitos and some Mestizos. It is mainly spoken (nowadays as a minority language) in the two Nicaraguan Autonomous Regions of the Atlantic Coast but also elsewhere in Nicaragua, the United States, and other small diaspora communities. Estimates of speaker numbers vary between 35,000 and 50,000.

Nicaraguan Creole English can be considered one of the oldest English-based varieties in the Americas. Belizean Creole constitutes a direct off-shoot of Nicaraguan Creole English which, on the other hand, has undergone influence from several other Western Caribbean Creoles, obscuring the genetic relationships of the creoles of the region in question.

Speakers themselves identify at least the variants of Bluefields, the Corn Islands, Pearl Lagoon, Rama Cay, Orinoco, and Bilwi. It is commonly felt that the urban variety of Bluefields should constitute the basis for standardization. On the other hand, Spanish is much more present in Bluefields than in rural communities. Over recent years, there have been signs that the Spanish–Creole English diglossia has started to leak. Nevertheless, it has been postulated that there continue to exist separate Anglo, "costeño" (coastal) and Black identities within the Creole population and those most closely identifying with the Anglo identity are unlikely to be in favor of bilingual Creole-Spanish programs any more than they were in the 1980s. Indeed, Standard English is valued not only as an international language but also as the foundation of that particular facet of Creole identity as a cross of a class and an ethnic position.

The default lect in APiCS is constituted by data gathered in Bluefields and surrounding locations in 2006-2007. It appears quite clear that Nicaraguan Creole English constitutes a genuine instance of decreolization when compared to materials collected in the early 1970s.

Unless otherwise specified, all examples in APiCS were recorded in Nicaragua in 2006-2007 (see Nicaragua project recordings CD).

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Pulmonic Consonants
Place → Labial Coronal Dorsal Laryngeal
↓ Manner Bilabial Labio­dental Linguo­labial Dental Alveolar Palato-
Retroflex Alveolo-
Palatal Velar Uvular Pharyngeal
/ Epiglottal
Nasal m n ɲ ŋ
Stop p b t d c ɟ k g ʔ
Sibilant affricate t͡ʃ d͡ʒ
Non-sibilant affricate
Sibilant fricative s z ʃ ʒ
Non-sibilant fricative f v θ ð x h
Approximant l j
Flap or tap ɾ
Trill r
Lateral affricate
Lateral fricative
Lateral approximant
Lateral flap


Front Near-front Central Near-back Back Close Near-close Close-mid Mid Open-mid Near-open Open ihigh front unrounded vowel long high front unrounded vowel uhigh back rounded vowel long high back rounded vowel ɪlowered high front unrounded vowel ʊlowered high back rounded vowel ehigher mid front unrounded vowel ohigher mid back rounded vowel ɛlower mid front unrounded vowel ɛːlong lower mid front unrounded vowel ɔlower mid back rounded vowel ɔːlong lower mid back rounded vowel alow central unrounded vowel long low central unrounded vowel

Special segments

Other segments
 w  voiced labial-velar glide


       Exists (as a major allophone)
       Exists only as a minor allophone
       Exists only in loanwords
No. Feature Value Details Source