July 1 - Keti Koti in Suriname

Posted on July 1, 2018

Keti Koti means "the chain is broken" in Sranantongo.

Can you guess what huge event this holiday celebrates?

If you need another hint, other names for the day include Freedom Day or Emancipation Day.

You've probably guessed by now that this is the anniversary of slavery being abolished in Suriname and the Dutch Antilles, in 1863.

Let the celebration ring out in the streets!

Suriname is located in the northern part of South America. It was ruled by the Netherlands from the late-17th til the mid-20th Centuries, and it has only been a fully independent country since 1975. It still has close ties to Dutch language and culture...

...And yet...

I was surprised to learn that Sranantongo is a Surinamese creole language that is based on English!

Apparently, the official language of the nation is (as we would totally expect) Dutch. But there are five other recognized languages, including English, languages from India and Indonesia, and two creoles.

A creole is a natural language that has developed when people who speak two or more different languages live near one another and need to communicate. In such a multi-lingual situation, people tend to simplify their grammar and use fewer distinct words, often using some words from each of the languages. In this way, a kind of pidgin language is formed. However, as children learn the pidgin language from infancy on, the pidgin becomes transformed to a more fully-formed creole language with its own full-on grammar.

Sranantongo is a creole that is used as a lingua franca. That means that most speakers have a first language other than the creole, but in order to speak to people outside of that language group (which would be most people), the speaker has also learned Sranantongo. 

About half of the people who live in Suriname speak Sranantongo, and they tend to also speak languages such as Dutch, Javanese, Hindustani, or Chinese. Some speak one of the nine regional native tongues such as Arawak-Lokono or Carib-Kari'nja.

The other creole that is widespread in Suriname is based on English, Portuguese, and West African languages.

Apparently, as huge as Dutch influence is on this nation - English is pretty influential as well?

Check out the gorgeous melting pot that is Suriname:

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