Monday, April 30, 2018


The official language of Suriname is Dutch. However, an English-based creole is widely spoken in the country. To understand why, we need a little history. In the seventeenth century, as European countries began to colonize the Caribbean, the English traded in this area of South America, establishing sugar plantations worked by slaves from different parts of the world. An English-based creole emerged among them which became known as Sranantongo. During the Second Anglo-Dutch War, a Dutch fleet captured Suriname and the Dutch were allowed to keep it by the Treaty of Breda in 1667 (the English had to settle for Nieuw Amsterdam, which became New York!). Sranantongo continued to be used on the sugar plantations during Dutch rule, but through language contact it gradually incorporated many Dutch loanwords. According to the Dutch etymologist, Nicoline van der Sijs, Sranantongo now includes some 2,400 loanwords, such as sukrupatu ('sugar pot' Dutch suikerpot) and postkantoor (post office, the same in Dutch). Although not an official language of Suriname, in 1987 the orthography of Sranantongo was officially authorized.

Further reading and additional resources:

Nicoline van der Sijs, Nederlandse Woorden Wereldwijd (The Hague: SDU, 2010), pp. 120-121.

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