It is an honor to open the series on Contact Languages, as part of the Series Grammars and Sketches of the World’s Languages, with this study on Papiamentu by Yolanda Rivera Castillo.
The series specializes in studies of contact languages, including pidgins, creoles and mixed languages. Papiamentu is the creole language widely spoken on Aruba, Bonaire and Curaçao, three islands in the Caribbean off the coast of Venezuela, as well as in the Netherlands. On the islands it is spoken by the vast majority of the population, and radio stations broadcast in it and several newspapers are published in the language. In addition, most Papiamentu speakers also speak Dutch (official language), Spanish and/or English.
In her book, Yolanda Rivera Castillo draws on the traditions of descriptive linguistics, laboratory phonetics, generative grammar and linguistic typology to produce a book with interest for descriptivists, phoneticians, typologists, and theoreticians.
The author and her team of researchers used field data collected on the islands, laboratory data and data from the written media, complementing each other. The author opted for an in-depth study of the most challenging aspects of Papiamentu, rather than a general description of the language. The choice of topics includes the tones of the language and their interaction with pitch and sentence structure, nasalization, the expression of tense-mood-aspect, word order, gender and number.
The author shows that Papiamentu is a creole language and an unexceptional language, in that it in no sense deviates from properties found in other languages of the world. Yet, it differs in a number of respects from other creole languages, for instance in its tense-mood-aspect system and its tonal system. In her study, she does not shy away from innovative ideas, such as the inclusion of a co-singular category for the -nan clitic, linking it to classifiers, and in her discussion of gender markers derived from lexemes meaning “man”, “male”, “woman”, “female”.
I like to express my gratitude to the reviewers of the book, who contributed to the quality of this study. The book will certainly have an impact on creole studies and the study of Papiamentu.
GSWL—Contact Languages Series Editor