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About the story
What’s with this “Wren” thing?
   The oldest extant version of the fable we are presenting here appeared in 1913 in the first volume of a two-volume anthology of Low Saxon folktales (Plattdeutsche Volksmärchen “Low German Folktales”) collected by Wilhelm Wisser (1843–1935). Read more ...


Port Louis, capital of Mauritius—
Here and elsewhere in this Indian Ocean nation the
only uniquely Mauritian language is used extensively
in everyday life, rarely by media and officialdom.

Language information: 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 numerous 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 Mauritian bond.
     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.
     Many Mauritians still refer to Mauritian as “Mauritian Jargon” or “Mauritian Patois” (French patois mauricien), assumedly because it has been 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’.

Genealogy: Indo-European > Romance > Italo-Western > Western > Gallo-Iberian > Gallo-Romance > Gallo-Rhaetian > Oïl > French > Colonial Creole

Historical Lowlands language contacts: English, Dutch

    Click to open the translation: [Mauritian]Click here for different versions. >

Authors: Reinhard F. Hahn and Judith Rochecouste

© 2011, Lowlands-L · ISSN 189-5582 · LCSN 96-4226 · All international rights reserved.
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