In order to understand the history of the Sranan Tongo language, the history of Suriname itself would need to be understood as well, since Sranan Tongo means “Suriname Tongue” in that creole language.
In the land settled by the Arawak, Carib, and Warraz, what would become Suriname was settled by the Dutch and their African and indigenous slaves in 1581. Alongside the Dutch, the English also settled within the same area, which was were the English influence on what would become the Sranan Tongo started to develop, until the English colonizers and their slaves decided to leave Suriname. Suriname remained a Dutch colony until 1975, though the Surinamese retain a relationship with the Netherlands.
One of those ways is linguistically, since Sranan Tongo is mainly an English-based creole, since the slave-owners in colonial Suriname spoke English and Dutch. Since the slaves originally spoke African languages, there was a need by the slave-owning class to be able to communicate with them in a common tongue, which is how a creole language enters into its beginning pidgin stage. In this way, Sranan Tongo was developed, mixing elements of European and African language components which provided the basis for the Sranan Tongo.
Because Suriname is a diverse country, it would stand to reason that Sranan Tongo would be a diverse language, drawing influence from Dutch, English, and African languages (specifically Gbe, Twi, and Kikongo) but also Portuguese, French, and the indigenous languages. Though, because of the diverse background of the language, it is difficult to determine how much of the lexicon comes from any one language. This is definitely true since creoles originally developed from these pidgin languages. So Sranan Tongo could be continuously developing.
While the explanation into this language is done in ingristongo, the language itself is quite poetic and is evidence of how well cultures can blend together.
- Curzan, Anne and Michael Adams. “How English Works: A Linguistic Introduction.” 3rd Edition. Pearson. 2012.
- Romer, Ulrike. “Sranan Tongo: An English-Based Creole In The Republic Of Suriname.” University of Leipzig. Grin Verleg. 2006.
- “Wortubuku fu Sranan Tongo: Sranan-English Dictionary.” Edited by Wilner, Roger. 5th Edition. SIL International. 2007.