West African Pidgin English (or WAPE
for short) is a family of English-based pidgins
spoken in a costal belt of West African nations running from Gambia
. While these languages are generally mutually intelligible, a lack of standardization means they are constantly evolving and that local variations are constantly springing up. Some of the major varieties are Gambian Pidgin English
), Sierra Leone Pidgin English
), Liberian Pidgin English
, Ghanaian Pidgin English
, Nigerian Pidgin English
, and Cameroon Pidgin English
The West African Pidgins are descended from a trade language that developed when English gold, slave, and ivory traders first arrived in the region in the 16th century. Africans used the language to trade with the English and also among themselves, since most of the tribal languages of the region were mutually unintelligible. Pidgin thus became a lingua franca of sorts, and is generally used today for the same purpose of communicating between tribes of different languages.
As a cross between African tongues and English, West African Pidgin English shares many linguistic similarities with New World pidgins and creoles such as Gullah, Bahamian, Jamaican, and Trinidadian, and the American dialect of African American Vernacular English. All these languages, sometimes referred to collectively as the "Atlantic Creoles" language group, feature English-derived nouns and verbs used within more African grammatical structures.
The most noticible difference between West African Pidgin and Standard English is its strict rules of word order and its uninflected tense and aspect markers. Keeping slight variation in mind, bin denotes the past perfect (Mary bin lef, Mary had left), de the progressive (Mary de come, Mary is coming or Mary was coming), and done the perfect (Mary done come Mary has come, Mary had come). No marker at all generally means the simple past (Mary come, Mary came). Adjectives are used without a copula when predicative (Mari sick, Mary is sick). Mary de sick would mean Mary is falling sick - the progressive de marks transition into the condition of being sick.