Structure dataset 54: Reunion Creole

This language is described more fully in survey chapter 54.

Reunion Creole is a French-based creole language spoken by about 90 percent of a population of more than 800,000 people on Reunion Island, a French Overseas Department, and by a considerable number of diaspora speakers in metropolitan France. Most speakers are bilingual in Creole and French, although some of them are ‘passive bilinguals’ who understand French, but only have a limited active command. The traditional situation of diglossia with Creole as the ‘low variety’ is gradually changing towards a “bilinguisme français–créole harmonieux”. Creole has been used by poets and novelists since the nineteenth century; in 2000 it gained official recognition as a regional language, and in 2002 it found its place in education as an optional subject in secondary schools. Reunion Creole is unique among French-based creoles in forming a continuum from basilect to acrolect, with intermediate fluctuating varieties. The default lect chosen for description in APiCS comprises basilectal varieties; variants from acrolectal varieties are occasionally mentioned. Data are taken from the Atlas linguistique et ethnographique de la Réunion (1984-1995), collected between 1975 and 1981 from mostly 40 to 80 year old speakers, as well as from recordings of extensive conversations and traditional stories made with some of the informants of the Atlas during field work.


I am very grateful to Axel Gauvin for providing detailed information on the sociolinguistic situation in Reunion and on the extremely complex lectal variation which characterizes Reunion Creole.

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 ʔ
Sibilant affricate t͡s d͡z
Non-sibilant affricate
Sibilant fricative s z ʃ ʒ
Non-sibilant fricative f v ʁ
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 yhigh front rounded vowel long high front unrounded vowel long high front rounded vowel uhigh back rounded vowel long high back rounded 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 œlower mid front rounded oral vowel ɛːlong lower mid front unrounded vowel ɛ̃nasalized lower mid front unrounded vowel œ̃nasalized lower mid front rounded vowel ɔlower mid back rounded vowel ɔːlong lower mid back rounded vowel ɔ̃nasalized lower mid back rounded vowel alow central unrounded vowel nasalized low central unrounded vowel ɑːlong low back unrounded vowel

Special segments

Other segments
 w  voiced labial-velar glide
 ɥ  voiced labiopalatal glide


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