Sentence Comparison

This chart shows similarities in vocabulary and syntax (word order) for some Maroon and non-Maroon creole languages. The English sentence "She pounded the corn with a pestle" is rendered in the following languages as "She took pestle [mortar-stick] pound corn."

Language she [past tense marker] take mortar-stick pound corn
Saramaka (Suriname) a bi téi tatí fon asogila
Ndjuka (Suriname) a be teke tikimata fon anso
Aluku (French Guiana) a be teki mata tiki fon kalu
Windward Maroon (Jamaica) o min teke maata tiki fom kaan
Jamaican Creole im ben tek maata tik fom kaan
Seminole Maroon (Gullah)
(U.S. and Mexico)
I bin tek pesl fo beat korn

Adapted from a chart by Ian Hancock, professor of linguistics, The University of Texas at Austin


Recorders of this type have replaced the tutu (side-blown horn) once used by the Aluku and other Guianese Maroons to communicate messages.

Papa Tobu, an Aluku elder and village leader, reproducing Aluku speech patterns on a plastic recorder or "talking flute," Komontibo, French Guiana, 1991.
Photograph by Diana Baird N’Diaye

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Made by wives as gifts for their husbands, these kamisa (men’s breechcloths) have community sayings and stories embroidered into patterns and designs.

Papa Topo, an Aluku kabiten, displaying gift clothes from his wife, Ma Asuma, Maripasoula, French Guiana, 1992.
Photograph by Diana Baird N’Diaye






Detail of textile with embroidery relating to community gossip, Maripasoula, French Guiana, 1992.
Courtesy of Diana Baird N'Diaye

"The older people would talk Seminole when they didn’t want us to understand what they were saying."

— Izola Raspberry, Seminole Maroon community leader, Brackettville, Texas, 1992


[Illustration from MATO: Contes aloukous, p. 26, and translation of text on p. 27]

In this story, Tiger, king of the jungle, almost catches the animals by pretending to be dead. The moral of the story is that you have to learn how to defend yourself and not be easily fooled.

Translation of text accompanying illustration: "— Run, Everybody! If [Tiger] were really dead, he would not have farted! They [the animals] all saved themselves. Tiger got back up as fast as he could, but — too late! Ananchi was already gone, because he is very cunning. Since that time, when Tiger walks in the forest, he keeps his muzzle to the ground, because he is still looking for Ananchi."

From a folktale recounted by Aluku storyteller Serge Anelli in Mato: Contes aloukous, published by Mi Wani Sabi (I Want to Know), an Aluku community organization, and Apelguy-Les Deux Fleuves, Cayenne, French Guiana, 1991
Courtesy of Diana Baird N'Diaye



A board game brought from Africa, awali is traditionally played only by men during the mourning period for a deceased community member.

Ndjuka men conversing over a game of awali, Diitabiki, Suriname, 1991.
Photograph by Diana Baird N’Diaye



Maroon oratory is highly stylized.

Saramaka elders speaking in the kuutu osu (council house), Asindóópo, Suriname, 1991.
Photograph by Diana Baird N’Diaye