Structure dataset 47: Papiamentu

This language is described more fully in survey chapter 47.

Papiamentu is the first language of more than 70% of the populations of the ABC islands (Aruba, Bonaire and Curaçao), and has communities of speakers also in the Netherlands, St. Maarten, and elsewhere. It has official language status in Aruba since 2003, alongside Dutch. In the Netherlands Antilles, Papiamentu is an official language since 2007, alongside Dutch and English. With the dissolution of the Netherlands Antilles in 2010, the official status of Papiamentu was maintained.

Although speakers insist that there are significant differences between the varieties of Aruba and Curaçao, work on these varieties has only established minor differences. Similar claims have been made by urban Curaçaoan speakers about more rural varieties, but there is really no evidence to suggest that mutual intelligibility is in any way compromised.

Where there is a significant difference is in the spelling conventions adopted in the different islands: where Aruba opted to use an etymological spelling method, Curaçao and Bonaire adopted the phonemic system developed by the late Raul Römer. As a result, texts produced in the different islands are visually very different and easily give an impression of unintelligibility. In this description of Papiamentu, the orthography of examples has been normalized to Römer’s phonemic spelling system regardless of their original spelling. Unless an explicit indication is given of the island-origin of the data, examples and their discussion are to be interpreted to represent Papiamentu as spoken in any of the ABC islands.

Glossed text (87.9KB, application/pdf)
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 ʃ ʒ
Non-sibilant fricative f v x h
Approximant l j ȷ̃
Flap or tap
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 yhigh front rounded vowel uhigh back rounded vowel ɪlowered high front unrounded vowel ehigher mid front unrounded vowel øhigher mid front rounded oral vowel ohigher mid back rounded vowel əmid central unrounded vowel ɛlower mid front unrounded vowel ɔlower mid back rounded vowel alow 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