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What’s with this “Wren” thing?
The oldest extant version of the fable
are presenting here appeared in 1913 in the first volume of a two-volume anthology
Saxon folktales (Plattdeutsche
Volksmärchen “Low German Folktales”)
collected by Wilhelm Wisser (1843–1935). Read
Louis, capital of Mauritius—
Here and elsewhere in this Indian Ocean nation the
only uniquely Mauritian language is used
in everyday life, rarely by media and
Mauritian (or “Mauritian Creole”) is used primarily in the island republic
of Mauritius which is located east of Madagascar and north of the French-administered
island of Réunion in the Indian Ocean. It is also used among Mauritians elsewhere,
especially in Australia, Britain, France and Madagascar. It has
about one million native speakers (ca. 80% of the country’s population) and
second-language speakers. Although English and French are the official languages
of Mauritius and as such dominate in the media and in public affairs, Mauritian
is a widely used lingua franca in everyday life.
Mauritian is a French-based Creole language (i.e. a pidgin language that has
become a native language), closely related to the creoles of Réunion (Bourbonnais)
and the Seychelles (Seselwa). Most of its vocabulary is derived from French,
though there are some loanwords from African languages, Arabic, Malagasy (Madagascar),
English, Portuguese, and South Asian languages. As with most creole languages,
the grammatical structure is heavily influenced by a substratum, in this case
of African origin. Mauritian is uniquely adapted to life in Mauritius whose population
is derived from numerous ethnic and linguistic origins and remains culturally,
linguistically and spiritually diverse, although held together by a uniquely
Mauritius has no
indigenous population. It was a visiting base for Arabic and Malay sailors and,
beginning in 1505, a visiting base for Portuguese sailors.
In 1589, the Netherlands’ Second Fleet to the Spice Islands named it after Prince
Maurice of Nassau (Maurits van Nassau), Prince of Orange (1567–1625). In 1638
it became a supposedly permanent Dutch settlement but was abandoned in 1710 for
a number of climatic and social reasons. French settlement began in 1721 with
employees of the French East India Company from Réunion. From 1762, large numbers
of slaves were brought from Africa to work in the sugar cane fields. France held
sway over Mauritius throughout the 18th century, at which time the official
name of the island was Isle de France (Island of France). Britain gained control
of Mauritius and neighboring Rodrigues in 1810, along with the Chagos Archipelago
(which in 1964 came to be split off as the British Indian Ocean Territories for
strategic purposes of Britain and the United States of America,
and whose Ilois population was expelled at that time). Mauritius attained political
independence from Britain in 1968 and became a republic in 1993. Lately, Mauritius
has been striving to establish itself as a tourist destination and as an international
financial services hub.
The population of
Mauritius is very diverse. The majority of Mauritians are of South Asian descent,
and Bhojpuri, Gujarati, Hindi, Marathi, Panjabi, Telugu,
Urdu and Tamil are still used widely in this section of the population which
is descended from the indentured laborers brought to Mauritius after the abolition
of slavery. The term “Creole” is used to refer to the section of the population
that is of African descent.
A very small percentage of the population is French.
still refer to Mauritian as “Mauritian Jargon” or “Mauritian Patois” (French patois mauricien), assumedly
traditionally considered inferior to “pure” and “real” (i.e. “superior”) French.
However, this appears to be gradually changing as several writers and activists
strive to promote the language as a source of national identity and pride, and
as a uniquely Mauritian medium of expression.
Mauritian is now written “phonetically,” rather than with a French-based spelling
system, using the so-called “modern orthography” or système
n/nn, Mauritian is
still frequently written with a more French orthography.
The language is
of considerable interest to linguists in that it treats French-derived vocabulary
in new ways, especially morphologically. For example, it uses no articles
as such, but many French words have been adopted complete with their French definite
articles (much like the Arabic article al- came to be attached to Spanish words
of Arabic origin) where the French phonological rule of liaison applies across
word boundaries, for instance zwazo ‘a/the bird(s)’ (from French les oiseaux ‘the birds’), zanfan ‘a/the child(ren)’ (from French les enfants ‘the children’)
and liver ‘(a/the) winter(s)’ (from French l’hiver ‘the winter’). In some cases
this includes originally partitive de as well, for instance in dilo ‘(the) water’
(from French de l’eau ‘of the water’, ‘some water’). A striking phonological
feature is the loss of rounding among front vowels, namely /y/ > i,
/ø/ > e, /œ/ > e; e.g. jusqu’à > ziska ‘up to the’, les yeux ‘the eyes’ > lisie ‘a/the eye(s)’, un > enn ‘one’, ‘a’.