Structure dataset 3: Saramaccan

This language is described more fully in survey chapter 3.

Saramaccan is one of the maroon creole languages of Surinam. It is spoken by the Saramaccan and Matawai tribes. The sociolinguistic situation of Saramaccan at the present is unclear, as a significant part of the population has moved away from the original maroon settlements on the Suriname River to the following three main locations for different reasons: Paramaribo, the capital of Surinam, for reasons of employment, and as a refuge from the civil war; French Guiana also as a refuge because of the war; and the Netherlands as an emigrant destination. The total number of speakers (in Surinam and in the diaspora) has been estimated as up to 50.000. Little detailed work has been done on internal variation in Saramaccan. Upriver (líbase) and downriver (básuse) dialects can be distinguished, as well as a separate Matawai dialect spoken on the Saramacca River. The default lect chosen for the description in APiCS is roughly the Básuse-dialect, due to the fact that the authors have first-hand experience with this variety.

No. Feature Value Details Source
No. Feature Value Details Source


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 k  g 
Sibilant affricate t͡ʃ d͡ʒ
Non-sibilant affricate
Sibilant fricative s z
Non-sibilant fricative f v h 
Approximant l j
Flap or tap
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 nasalized high front unrounded vowel uhigh back rounded vowel long high back rounded vowel nasalized high back rounded vowel ehigher mid front unrounded vowel long higher mid front unrounded vowel nasalized higher mid front unrounded vowel ohigher mid back rounded vowel long higher mid back rounded vowel nasalized higher mid back rounded vowel ɛlower mid front unrounded vowel ɛːlong lower mid front unrounded vowel ɛ̃nasalized lower mid front unrounded vowel ɔlower mid back rounded vowel ɔːlong lower mid back rounded vowel ɔ̃nasalized lower mid back rounded vowel alow central unrounded vowel long low central unrounded vowel nasalized low central unrounded vowel

Special segments

Other segments
 ɓ  voiced bilabial implosive plosive
 w  voiced labial-velar glide
 ɗ  voiced dental/alveolar implosive plosive
 k͡p  voiceless labial-velar plosive
 g͡b  voiced labial-velar plosive


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