Liberian English is a term used to refer to the varieties of English spoken in Liberia. There are four such varieties:
- Standard Liberian English or Liberian Settler English;
- Kru Pidgin English;
- Liberian Kreyol language (Vernacular Liberian English);
- Merico language (Americo-Liberian).
Normally, Liberians do not use these terms and instead refer to all such varieties simply as 'English.' Additionally, the term 'Liberian English' is sometimes used for all varieties except the standard.
Standard Liberian English
Standard Liberian English is the language of those people whose African American ancestors immigrated to Liberia in the nineteenth century. This variety is a transplanted variety of African American Vernacular English. It is most distinctive in isolated settlements such as Louisiana, Lexington, and Bluntsville, small communities upriver from Greenville in Sinoe County. According to 1993 statistics, approximately 69,000 people, or 2.5% of the population, spoke Standard Liberian English as a first language.
The vowel system is more elaborate than in other West African variants; Standard Liberian English distinguishes [i] from [Éª], and [u] from [Ê], and uses the diphthongs [aÉª], [aÊ], and [ÉÉª]. Vowels can be nasalised. The final vowel of happy is [É]. It favours open syllables, usually omitting syllable-final [t], [d], or a fricative. The interdental fricatives [Î¸, Ã°] appear as [t, d] in syllable-initial position, and as [f, v] finally. The glottal fricative [h] is preserved, as is the voiceless labio-velar fricative [Ê] (in such words as whit and which in contrast to voiced [w] in wit and wish. Affricates have lost their stop component, thus [tÊ] > [Ê]. Between vowels, [t] may be flapped (>[É¾]) as in North American English. Liquids are lost at the end of words or before consonants, making Standard Liberian English a non-rhotic dialect.
Kru Pidgin English
Kru Pidgin English is a moribund variety that was spoken historically by 'Krumen'. These were individuals, most often from the Klao and Grebo ethnic groups, who worked as sailors on ships along the West African coast and also as migrant workers and domestics in such British colonies as the Gold Coast (Ghana) and Nigeria. The 'Krumen' tradition dates back to the end of the eighteenth century. With the end of the British colonial presence in West Africa in the mid-twentieth century, however, the tradition came to an end, and with it the ongoing use of Kru Pidgin English.
Liberian Kreyol language
Liberian Kreyol language (Vernacular Liberian English), the most common variety, developed from Liberian Interior Pidgin English, the Liberian version of West African Pidgin English though it has been significantly influenced by Liberian Settler English. Its phonology owes much to Liberia's Kru languages. Vernacular Liberian English has been analysed having a post-creole continuum. As such, rather than being a pidgin wholly distinct from English, it is a range of varieties that extend from the highly pidginized to one that shows many similarities to English as spoken elsewhere in West Africa.
- Singler, John Victor (1986), "Copula Variation in Liberian Settler English and American Black English", in Smitherman, Geneva, Talkin and Testifyin: The Language of Black America, Wayne State University Press, pp.Â 129â"164, ISBNÂ 0-8143-1805-3Â
- d'Azevedo, Warren (1979), Gold, Michael, ed., Some Terms from Liberian Speech, Cornell UniversityÂ
- Singler, John Victor (2000), "Optimality Theory, the Minimal-Word Constraint, and the Historical Sequencing of Substrate Influence in Pidgin/Creole Genesis", in McWhorter, John, Language Change and Language Contact in Pidgins and Creoles, John Benjamins Publishing Company, pp.Â 335â"354, ISBNÂ 90-272-5243-2Â