Languages Of French Guiana

The Kali'na people speak Kali'na, an Amerindian language in French Guiana.
The Kali'na people speak Kali'na, an Amerindian language in French Guiana.

French Guiana is a region and an overseas department of France located in South America. Brazil lies to the south and east of Guiana and Suriname to the west. The country occupies a total area of 83,534 square km. The country has a population of 244,118 (2013) and a low population density of only three residents per square km. More than 50% of the country’s inhabitants live in Cayenne, the capital of the country.

The French Guiana was originally inhabited by Native Americans who spoke various indigenous Amerindian languages. Later, the Europeans arrived in the region and popularized European languages in Guiana. The long French rule made French the most important and official language of French Guiana. The Europeans also brought African slaves with them who spoke the Maroon languages. Laborers from Asia and Hmong refugees from Laos also settled in the country.

Official Language Of French Guiana

French is the official language of French Guiana and is spoken by the majority of the population of the country. The language is used in government administration, imparting education in schools, and universities, and is also the language used by the media.

The important position of French in this South American nation is attributed to the political and historical influence of the French in French Guiana. The country was discovered in 1496 by the Spanish who displaced the indigenous inhabitants and took control of the region. Later, the French arrived in French Guiana. Power shifts between the French, the Dutch, and other European nations took place in French Guiana. Ultimately, it was confirmed to be a French territory in 1817 and in 1946 was formally designated as a French Overseas Department. Thus, the long years of French control of French Guiana displaced the indigenous languages of the region, and the French language became the official language of French Guiana.

Regional Languages Of French Guiana

The regional languages spoken in French Guiana include both the native languages in the country as well as variants of the French language. Six Amerindian languages, four Maroon Creole languages, the Hmong Njua, and French Guianese Creole are the regional languages of French Guiana.

French Guianese Creole

A French-lexified Creole language, the French Guianese Creole resembles Antillean Creole is distinguished from the same by some grammatical and lexical differences.

Amerindian Languages

Wayana, Emerillon, Palijur, Arawak, Wayampi, and Kali'na are the six Amerindian (indigenous languages of the Americas) spoken in French Guiana.

Maroon Creole Languages

Maroons were Africans who escaped slavery at the hands of the Europeans in the Americas and set up independent settlements. The Maroon Creole languages are spoken by these Maroons. Aluku, Saramaka, Ndyuka, and Paramaccan are the Maroon Creole languages spoken in French Guiana.

Foreign Languages Of French Guiana

English, Dutch, Portuguese, Spanish are some of the foreign languages spoken in French Guiana. The brief periods of rule of the various European colonial powers in the history of French Guiana left their traces behind in the form of these foreign languages. Hakka, Haitian Creole are the other foreign languages of French Guiana.


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