Structure dataset 48: Palenquero

This language is described more fully in survey chapter 48.

Palenquero (“Lengua”) is used actively on a daily basis only in the village of Palenque (also known as San Basilio de Palenque), where it co-exists with Caribbean Spanish. Prior to its recent revival (around the year 2000), the creole was generally shunned by younger generations. Occasionally, Palenquero can also be heard in the nearby city of Cartagena, and the more distant Barranquilla, where about half of the total population of Palenqueros have been residing for many decades. To date, Palenquero remains a mostly oral language. Written Palenquero (used locally in school) has emerged during this millennium; agreed upon spelling conventions do not exist yet.

Traditionally, Palenquero tended to be confined to in-group situations, so much so that the language was generally not spoken in front of outsiders. Around the year 2000, changing local and regional attitudes began to reduce the heavy stigma once attached to Lengua, and as a result Palenqueros now feel far more comfortable speaking their local lect in front of outsiders (the recent fame of Palenque has generated a substantial amount of local academic tourism —both national and international—, which has greatly increased contact with the outside world).

As argued in Schwegler (2001), prior to the year 2000, in Palenque there used to be no apparent lectal differences (basilect, mesolect or acrolect). In this small speech community, old and young bilinguals employed a virtually identical creole grammar, that is, there was no continuum, no “in-between” in terms of lects. This situation appears to have changed since then, as some of the younger generations may be employing a somewhat restructured variety of the creole as their main lect. However, to date no extensive study of current Palenquero has been undertaken (but see Lipski 2012), and it remains to be seen whether the recent adaptations by Palenquero youths will stabilize and have a long-lasting effect. The Palenquero data collected for the APiCS (default lect) are all from the traditional (older) lect.

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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 n: ɲ ŋ
Stop p  b mb  t  d ⁿd  k   g ŋg  ʔ
Sibilant affricate d͡z t͡ʃ d͡ʒ
Non-sibilant affricate
Sibilant fricative s z
Non-sibilant fricative ɸ β f ð x ɣ 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 uhigh back rounded vowel ehigher mid front unrounded vowel ohigher mid back rounded 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