Mauritian Creole

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search
Mauritian Creole
kreol morisien
Pronunciation[kʁeol moʁisjɛ̃, -moʁiʃɛ̃]
Native toMauritius
Native speakers
1,090,000 (2012 UNSD)[1]
1,335,000 total speakers
L2 speakers: 200,000 (2016)
Official status
Regulated byAkademi Kreol Morisien
(Academy of the Mauritian Creole)
Language codes
ISO 639-3mfe
Linguasphere51-AAC-cec (to 51-AAC-cee)
A sign post written in Mauritian Creole.

Mauritian Creole or Morisien or formerly Morisyen (Morisyen: kreol morisien [kʁeol moʁisjɛ̃, -moʁiʃɛ̃]) is a French-based creole language spoken in Mauritius. In addition to the French base of the language, there are also a number of words from English and from the many African and Asian languages that have been spoken on the island.

Mauritian Creole is the lingua franca and de facto language of Mauritius, formerly a British colony, which has kept both English and French as its core languages, even though English is used mostly for administration and educational purposes and French for media and as a second language for speaking.

Mauritians tend to speak Mauritian Creole at home and French in the workplace. French and English are spoken in schools. Though most Mauritians are of a mixed race. Mauritian Creole has gradually replaced the ancestral French & other languages, as the mother tongue. Over generations, Mauritians of French, African, Indian European and Chinese descents created the current creole language with Mauritius being the meeting place of peoples from different continents who together founded a nation with its own culture and history. Today, around 1.3 million people speak the language.


Mauritian Creole is a French-based creole language, closely related to the Seychellois, Rodriguan and Chagossian Creoles. Its relationship to other French-based creole languages is controversial. Robert Chaudenson (2001) and Henri Wittmann (1972, 1987, etc.) have argued that Mauritian Creole is closely related to Réunion Creole, but Philip Baker and Chris Corne (1982) have argued that Réunionnais influence on Mauritian was minimal and that the two languages are barely more similar to each other than they are to other French-based creoles.


Although the Portuguese were the first Europeans to visit Mauritius, they did not settle there. Rather, the small Portuguese element in the vocabulary of Mauritian derives from the Portuguese element in European maritime jargon (such as the Mediterranean Lingua Franca) or from enslaved Africans or Asians who came from areas in which Portuguese was used as a trade language. Similarly, while the Dutch had a colony on Mauritius between 1638 and 1710, all the Dutch settlers evacuated the island to Réunion, leaving behind only a few runaway slaves who would have no discernible impact on Mauritian. The French then claimed Mauritius and first settled it between 1715 and 1721.

As they had done on Réunion and in the West Indies, the French created on Mauritius a plantation economy, based on slave labour. Slaves became a majority of the population of Mauritius by 1730 and were 85% of the population by 1777. They came from West Africa, East Africa and Madagascar.[2]

Given the resulting linguistic fragmentation, French became the lingua franca among the slaves. However, the small size of the native French population on the island, their aloofness from most of their slaves, and the lack of formal education for slaves ensured that the slaves' French developed in very different directions from the slave owners' French. In the generally agreed upon genesis of creole languages, this pidgin language learned by new slaves as the language for daily communication with people from varying linguistic backgrounds eventually became the native language of children born in these communities, and this is the point where a pidgin language evolves into a creole language, with the complexity and completeness of a language required for young children to use it as their mother tongue.

Historical documents from as early as 1773 note the "creole language" that the slaves spoke.

The British took over Mauritius during the Napoleonic era, but few English speakers ever settled there and Mauritian Creole had already been firmly entrenched.

The abolition of slavery in the 1830s made many leave the plantations, and Indian indentured workers replaced them after they had been brought in by plantation owners. These indentured labourers' linguistic background mirrored that of the West African, East African and Malagasy enslaved labourers whose linguistic backgrounds were so varied and diverse that no native language or even group of closely related native languages was dominant enough or widely intelligible enough to become the basis for a shared language of inter-ethnic communication. Though the Indians soon became the majority on the island, and they remain the majority to this day, their own linguistic fragmentation, as well as their alienation from the English- and French-speaking plantation owners led them to take up Mauritian Creole as their main lingua franca.

English and French have long enjoyed greater social status and dominated government, business, education, and the media, but Mauritian Creole's popularity in most informal domains has persisted, with around 85% of the population speaking the language as their mother tongue.


The phonology of Mauritian Creole is very similar to that of Standard French. However, French /ʃ/ and /ʒ/ have respectively depalatalised to /s/ and /z/ in Mauritian, and the front vowels /y/ and /ø/ have respectively been unrounded to /i/ and /e/.[3]


Graffiti on Le Pouce: Pa faire nou montagne vine zot poubelle, "Do not make our mountain become your trashcan."

The language has several published dictionaries, both monolingual and bilingual, written by authors such as Philip Baker (1987), the group "Ledikasyon pu travayer," and Arnaud Carpooran (2005, 2009, 2011), among others. The number of publications is increasing steadily; however, the orthographies used in them are significantly different.

The Mauritian government began supporting an orthographic reform in 2011, with a system that generally follows French but eliminates silent letters and reduces the number of different ways in which the same sound can be written. It was codified in the Lortograf Kreol Morisien (2011) and used in the Gramer Kreol Morisien (2012) as well. It has become standard upon its adoption by the second edition of the Diksioner Morisien, which previously had been spelt as the Diksyoner Morisyen.[4]

Sample vocabulary[edit]


Examples shown are in Mauritian Creole and French only.

Number Mauritian Creole French Number Mauritian Creole French
0 Zero Zéro 20 Vin Vingt
1 Enn Un/Une 21 Vint-e-enn Vingt et un
2 De Deux 22 Vennde Vingt-deux
3 Trwa Trois 23 Venntrwa Vingt-trois
4 Kat Quatre 24 Vennkat Vingt-quatre
5 Sink Cinq 25 Vennsink Vingt-cinq
6 Sis Six 26 Vennsis Vingt-six
7 Set Sept 27 Vennset Vingt-sept
8 Wit Huit 28 Vintwit Vingt-huit
9 Nef Neuf 29 Vintnef Vingt-neuf
10 Dis Dix 30 Trant Trente
11 Onz Onze 40 Karant Quarante
12 Douz Douze 50 Sinkant Cinquante
13 Trez Treize 60 Swasant Soixante
14 Katorz Quatorze 70 Swasann-dis/Septant Soixante-dix/Septante
15 Kinz Quinze 80 Katrovin/Oktant Quatre-vingts/Octante
16 Sez Seize 90 Katrovin-dis/Nonant Quatre-vingt-dix/Nonante
17 Diset Dix-sept 100 San Cent
18 Dizwit Dix-huit 1000 Mil Mille
19 Diznef Dix-neuf 1000000 Enn milion Un million

Personal pronouns[edit]

Examples shown are in English, Mauritian Creole and French.

English Mauritian Creole French
I Mo Je
Me Mwa Moi
You (informal) To (Twa) Tu (Toi)
You (formal) Ou Vous
He/She/It Li Il/Elle/([1])
We Nou On/Nous
You (plural) Zot Vous
They (plural) Bannla/Zot Ils/Elles
Them Zot Leur/Les
His/Her/Their So/So/Zot Son/Sa/Leur
Your (informal) To (Twa) Ton (Tien)
Your (formal) Ou (Ou) Votre (Vôtre)
Our Nou (Nou) Notre (Nôtre)


English Mauritian Creole French
In front (of) Devan Devant
Before Avan Avant
Behind Deryer Derrière
Over there Laba Là-bas
Right Drwat Droite
Left Gos Gauche
(To the) right Adrwat À droite
(To the) left Agos À gauche
Above Lao Sur (là-haut)
Below Anba Sous (en-bas)
Next to Akote À côté
Outside Deor Dehors
Inside Andan Dedans

Tamil loanwords[edit]

Creole Tamil Meaning
Kali கள்ளி Kalli Cactus
Notchi நொச்சி Notchi Vitex
Mourkou முறுக்கு Muruku A type of snack
Vetiver வெட்டிவேர் Vettiver Chrysopogon zizanioides
At Atta Name of a fruit
Pipangay பீர்க்கங்காய் Peerkanggai Luffa
Mouroum முருங்கை Murungai Moringa
Patol புடோல் Pudol Trichosanthes cucumerina
Avrayka அவரைக்காய் Avaraykai Lablab purpureus
Kotaranga கொத்தவரங்காய் Kotthavarangai Guar
Kotomili கொத்துமல்லி Kottumalli Coriander
Kari-poule கருவேப்பிலை Karuvepilay Murraya koenigii
Betel வெற்றிலை Vettrilaye Betel
Pak பாக்கு Paaku Areca nut
Poutou புட்டு Puttu A rice dish
Ounde உருண்டை Urundai A sphere-shaped confection
Ayo! ஐயோ Ayyo! Alas! (exclamation)
Kaandi கரண்டி Karandi A kind of spoon or ladle
Mang மாம்பழம் Maam Palam Mango


Most words come from French but are not always used in the same way. For example, the French article le, la, les is often fused with the noun in Mauritian: French rat is Mauritian lera and French temps is Mauritian letan. The same is true for some adjectives and prepositions: French femme ("woman") and riz ("rice") are bonnfam (from bonne femme) and diri (from du riz) in Mauritian. Some words have changed their meanings altogether: Mauritian gagn ("to get" or "to obtain") is derived from French gagner ("to win" or "to earn").

Other words come from either Portuguese or Spanish. The word ziromon meaning pumpkin is from Portuguese originally from tupi.

There are also several loanwords from the languages of the African Malagasy slaves, who contributed such words as Mauritian lapang from Malagasy ampango (rice stuck to the bottom of a pot), Mauritian lafus from Malagasy hafotsa (a kind of tree), and Mauritian zahtak from Malagasy antaka (a kind of plant). In some cases, as with some of the nouns from French, the Mauritian word has fused with the French article le/la/les.

Words of East African origin include Mauritian makutu from Makua makhwatta (running sore), Mauritian matak from Swahili, and Makonde matako (buttock).

Recent loanwords tend to come from English, such as map instead of plan or carte in French (plan or kart in Mauritian Creole). English words used in Mauritian Creole retain their English spelling but should normally be written with inverted commas.

Chinese words in Mauritian Creole only number 2: these are min and malang. Min means comes from Cantonese and means "noodle". Malang means "dirty" or "poor".


Nouns do not change in the according to grammatical number. Whether a noun is singular or plural can usually be determined only by context. However, the particle bann (from bande) is often placed before a plural. French un/une corresponds to Mauritian enn but its use has slightly different rules. Mauritian has an article (la), but it is placed after the noun. Compare French un rat, ce rat, le rat, les rats, and Mauritian enn lera, lera-la and bann lera.[5]

In Mauritian, there is only one form for each plural pronoun and the third-person singular pronoun, regardless of case or gender; li can thus be translated as "he, she, it, him, his, her, hers" depending on the context.

Verbs do not change their form according to tense or person. Instead, the accompanying noun or pronoun determines who is engaging in the action, and several preverbal particles are used alone or in combination to indicate the tense: ti (from French étais) marks past tense, pe, short for the now-rare ape (from "après," as Québec French) still uses to mark the progressive aspect, (f)inn (from French fini) marks the completive or perfect, and pou or sometimes va or av (from French va) marks the future tense.

For example, li finn gagn ("he/she/it had") can also be shortened to linn gagn and pronounced as one word. The Réunion version is li té fine gagne for past, li té i gagne for past progressive, and li sava gagne for present progressive or near future.


Here is the Lord's Prayer in Mauritian Creole, French and English:

Mauritian Creole French Gallicized orthography English
Nou Papa ki dan lesiel

Fer rekonet ki to nom sain,
Fer ki to regn vini,
Fer to volonte akonpli,
Lor later kouma dan lesiel.
Donn nou azordi dipin ki nou bizin.
Pardonn nou, nou bann ofans,
Kouma nou ousi pardonn lezot ki finn ofans nou.
Pa les nou tom dan tantasion
Me tir nou depi lemal.

Notre Père, qui es aux cieux,

Que ton Nom soit sanctifié,
Que ton règne vienne,
Que ta volonté soit faite
Sur la terre comme au ciel.
Donne-nous aujourd'hui notre pain de ce jour.
Pardonne-nous nos offenses,
Comme nous pardonnons aussi à ceux qui nous ont offensés.
Et ne nous soumet pas à la tentation,
Mais délivre-nous du mal.

Nous Papa qui dans le-ciel,

Faire reconnait(re) que ton nom saint,
Faire que ton règne veine,
Faire ta volonté accompli
Sur la-terre comment dans le-ciel.
Donne-nous aujourd'hui du pain que nous besoin.
Pardonne-nous nous nos offenses,
Comment nous aussi pardonne les-aut(res) qui an offense nous.
Pas laisse nous tom(be) dans tentation,
Mais tire-nous depuis le-mal.

Our Father in heaven,

hallowed be your name.
Your kingdom come,
your will be done,
on earth, as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread,
and forgive us our debts,
as we also have forgiven our debtors.
And lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from evil.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Mauritian Creole at Ethnologue (19th ed., 2016)
  2. ^ Auguste Toussaint, Histoire de l'île Maurice, Paris: Presses universitaires de France, 1971.
  3. ^ Baker, Philip (1972). Kreol. A description of Mauritian creole. Hurst.
  4. ^ Online edition of "Le Mauricien" on second edition of Diksioner kreol morisien (French)
  5. ^ Corne (1970, 1988), Carpooran (2007), Wittmann (1972); on the subject of the characteristic article incorporation, the agglutination to the noun of an erstwhile article (in French), see Standquist (2005), Wittmann & Fournier (1981).


  • Adone, Dany. The Acquisition of Mauritian creole. Amsterdam; Philadelphia: J. Benjamins, 1984.
  • Anonymous. Diksyoner Kreol-Angle / Prototype Mauritian creole-English Dictionary. Port Louis: L.P.T., 1985.
  • Baker, Philip and Chris Corne, Isle de France Creole: Affinities and Origins. Ann Arbor: Karoma, 1982.
  • Baker, Philip and Vinesh Y. Hookoomsing. Morisyen-English-français : diksyoner kreol morisyen (Dictionary of Mauritian creole). Paris : Harmattan, 1987.
  • Carpooran, Arnaud. Diksioner morisien [version prototip/let A–E]. Quatre Bornes, Ile Maurice : Editions Bartholdi, 2005.
  • Carpooran, Arnaud. Le Créole Mauricien de poche. Chennevières-sur-Marne : Assimil, 2007. ISBN 978-2-7005-0309-8.
  • Carpooran, Arnaud. Diksioner morisien[version integral/1e edision]. Sainte Croix, Ile Maurice : Koleksion Text Kreol, 2009, 1017pp.
  • Carpooran, Arnaud. Diksioner morisien. [version integral/2em edision]. Vacoas, Ile Maurice : Edition Le Printempss, 2011, 1200pp.
  • Chaudenson, Robert. Les créoles francais. Évreux: F. Nathan, 1979.
  • Chaudenson, Robert. Creolization of language and culture; translated and revised by Salikoko S. Mufwene, with Sheri Pargman, Sabrina Billings, and Michelle AuCoin. London ; New York : Routledge, 2001. [2]
  • Choy, Paul. Korek – A Beginners Guide To Mauritian Creole (Grand Baie, Mauritius: Pachworks 4th ed., 2014)
  • Corne, Chris. Essai de grammaire du créole mauricien, Auckland : Linguistic Society of New Zealand, 1970.
  • Corne, Chris. A contrastive analysis of Reunion and Isle de France Creole French: two typologically diverse languages. In: Isle de France Creole: affinities and origins, Philip Baker & Chris Corne, 8–129. Ann Arbor: Karoma, 1982. [3]
  • Corne, Chris. "Mauritian creole Reflexives", Journal of Pidgin and Creole Languages, Volume 3, Number 1, 1988, pp. 69–94, 1988. doi:10.1075/jpcl.3.1.03cor
  • Corne, Chris. From French to Creole, Battlebridge Publications (Westminster Creolistics), 1999.
  • Frew, Mark. Mauritian creole in seven easy lessons. 2nd ed. Port Louis, Republic of Mauritius : Ledikasyon pu Travayer, 2003.
  • Holm, John. Pidgins and Creoles, Volume II: Reference Survey. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1989.
  • Lee, Jacques K. Mauritius : its Creole language : the ultimate Creole phrase book : English-Creole dictionary. London: Nautilus Pub. Co., 1999.
  • Strandquist, Rachel Eva. Article Incorporation in Mauritian creole. M.A. thesis, University of Victoria, 2005. hdl:1828/820
  • Wittmann, Henri. Les parlers créoles des Mascareignes: une orientation. Trois-Rivières: Travaux linguistiques de l'Université du Québec à Trois-Rivières 1, 1972. [4]
  • Wittmann, Henri. « Lexical diffusion and the glottogenetics of creole French. » CreoList debate, parts I–VI, appendixes 1–9. The Linguist List, Eastern Michigan University & Wayne State University. 2001. [5]
  • Wittmann, Henri & Robert Fournier. "L'agglutination nominale en français colonial." Revue québécoise de linguistique théorique et appliquée 2:2.185–209, 1981. [6]
  • Wittmann, Henri & Robert Fournier. "Interprétation diachronique de la morphologie verbale du créole réunionnais". Revue québécoise de linguistique théorique et appliquée 6:2.137–50, 1987; in response to the hypothesis put forward by Corne (1982) in Baker and Corne (1982). [7]

External links[edit]