Structure dataset 33: Guinea-Bissau Kriyol

This language is described more fully in survey chapter 33.

Guinea-Bissau Kriyol is a creole language lexically based on Portuguese which is spoken by over half the population of the Republic of Guinea-Bissau, which totaled 1,520,830 people in 2009. The creole is normally used in urban areas and in commerce in rural areas, where local languages predominate. There is a triglossic situation in which Guinea-Bissau Kriyol occupies the middle position in a pyramid between Portuguese at the top with fewer speakers but with more prestige, and with the African languages at the bottom with the greatest total number of speakers but with the least prestige. Researchers such as Alain Kihm and Jean-Louis Rougé agree that Guinea-Bissau Kriyol has regional varieties, the main ones being that of Cacheu and São Domingos in the north, that of Bissau and Bolama in the center and that of Bafatá and Geba in the east. The variety spoken in Cacheu and São Domingos seems to be the most conservative, maintaining structural features today found in the variety spoken in Casamance in Senegal (which lost contact with the superstrate in the nineteenth century; Casamancese Creole is treated as a separate APiCS language). The variety of Bissau and Bolama is the most progressive (having remained in contact with the superstrate as well as its substrate languages). Guinea-Bissau Kriyol was essentially an oral language but written texts gradually began to appear as vehicles of literature, science and religion. It is used in news programs on radio and television, in business, in daily life, and in churches and mosques. Beyond the regional varieties mentioned above, there are others varieties that have developed due to the influence of specific African languages or which reflect an individual speaker’s level of education. The variety which we have described in APiCS (default lect) is that used by speakers with a higher level of education. It is the variety used by teachers and students and it shares many more similarities with Portuguese than do the basilectal varieties spoken by people with little education. It is the variety most often heard in Bissau and the other major urban centers, characterized by Portuguese rules of agreement between elements in the noun phrase and by conjugated forms of certain frequent verb s such as ser ‘to be (permanently)’, estar ‘to be (temporarily)’, or ter ‘to have’.

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No. Feature Value lect Details Source
No. Feature Value lect 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 mb t d k g
Sibilant affricate t͡ʃ d͡ʒ
Non-sibilant affricate
Sibilant fricative s z ʃ ʒ
Non-sibilant fricative β f v
Approximant l j ʎ
Flap or tap ɾ
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 nasalized high front unrounded vowel uhigh back rounded vowel nasalized high back rounded vowel ehigher mid front unrounded vowel nasalized higher mid front unrounded vowel ohigher mid back rounded vowel nasalized higher mid back rounded vowel ɛlower mid front unrounded vowel ɔlower mid back rounded vowel ɔ̃nasalized lower mid back rounded vowel alow central unrounded vowel nasalized 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 lect Details Source