Words R Us
- Liberian English (lir)
Liberian English (Kolokwa) is the dialect of English spoken in Liberia. It is linguistically close to
and Ebonics. These three languages share a common heritage. Grammar and pronunciation are similar although vocabulary differs between the three.
In recent years in America, African American Vernacular English (AAVE) or Ebonics has gained recognition as its own language. While some people see this dialect as a sign of limited education or sophistication, others actually praise it explicitly.
Gullah developed on the Sea Islands off the coast of the Carolinas, Georgia, and Florida throughout the 18th and 19th centuries among slaves and escapees from the coastal plantations. They developed a language that combined grammatical, phonological, and lexical features of the non-standard English varieties spoken by white slaveholders and farmers in that region of the United States along with those from numerous Western and Central African languages. The vocabulary of Gullah comes primarily from English, but there are numerous words of African origin.
In the 1830's an initiative of the U.S. Government sent thousands of former slaves back to Liberia, thus re-introducing many terms into the language now known as Kolokwa (from Colloquial) or Liberian English.
While there are now just a handful of people who speak Gullah, there are several million speakers of Kolokwa and Ebonics which up until recently have been strictly oral languages. We are working to document Kolokwa using the resources which are available for Gullah and Ebonics.
Several things have recently happened in Liberia which are serving to promote the usage of Kolokwa. The civil war in Liberia in the 1980's and 90's displaced many people groups and forced them to adopt a common language. The ebola crisis further forced people to be able to communicate and the rise of Liberian music groups which use Kolokwa is serving to standardize words and ideas.