The Gullah-Krio Connection

The following story is taken from Joseph Opala's book, The Gullah: Rice, Slavery and the Sierra Leone-American Connection.

"De Fox en de Crow"

In 1923, writer Ambrose Gonzales recorded "De Fox en de Crow" for his book With Aesop along the Black Border. The Krio translation is in a system created by Sierra Leonean writer Thomas Decker, while the Gullah translation is in a spelling system Gonzales developed. As Opala points out, "The Gullah and Krio words de/di (the), ooman/uman (woman), enty/enti (not so?), tief/tif (steal), teet/tit (teeth), and yez/yeys (ears) are, in fact, pronounced almost exactly the same ways." The sentence structures and many of the grammatical elements are similar, too.

Gullah

Den, Fox staat fuh talk. E say to eself, e say,
"Dish yuh Crow duh ooman, enty?
Ef a kin suade
um fuh talk, him haffuh op'n e mout, enty?
En ef e op'n e mout, enty de meat fuh drap out?"

Fox call to de Crow: "Mawnin tittuh," e say.
"Uh so glad you tief da meat fum de buckruh,
cause him bin fuh trow-um-way pan de dog . . .
E mek me bex fuh see man do shishuh ting lukkuh dat."

Crow nebbuh crack e teet! All-time Fox duh talk,
Crow mout shet tight pan de meat, en e yez cock fuh lissin.


Sierra Leone Krio

Den, Fohx stat foh tohk. I sey to insef, i sey,
"Dis Kro ya na uman, enti?
If a kin pasweyd
am foh tohk, i get foh opin in moht, enti?
En if i opin in moht, enti di mit go fohdohm?"

Fohx kohl di Kro: "Mohnin titi," i sey.
"A so gladi you tif da mit frohm di weytman,
bikohs i bin foh trowey am to di dohg . . .
I meyk a vex foh si man du tin leke dat."
Kro nohba opin in tit! Ohl di tern Fohx dey tohk,
Kro moht set tait pan di mit, en in yeys kak foh lisin.


English

Then, Fox started to talk. He said to himself, he said,
"This here Crow is a woman, not so?
If I can persuade her to talk, she has to open her mouth, not so?
And if she opens her mouth, isn't it true the meat will drop out?"

Fox called to the Crow: "Morning girl," he said.
"I am so glad you stole that meat from the white man,
because he would have thrown it away to the dog . . .
It makes me vexed to see a man do such a thing as that."
Crow never cracked open her teeth!

All the time Fox was talking,
Crow's mouth was shut tight on the meat,
and her ears were cocked to listen.


More Gullah Words from Africanisms in the Gullah Dialect

Gullah             English Definition/Usage                  African Ethnic Origin

bɛne                sesame/benne or benny                    Wolof
bidibidi           small bird or chicken/biddy             Kongo
buckra            white man                                             Ibibio (Southem Nigeria)
guba                peanut/goober                                     Kimbundu (Angola)
gumbo            okra                                                        Tshiluba (Zaire)
jiga                  insect, chigger                                     Wolof
jogal                to rise, to cause to rise                       Wolof
                              as in jogglirg board or seesaw
jug (juke)        infamous or disorderly,                     Wolof, “to lead a disorderly
                              as in juke box                                        life”
na, nana         grandparent or elderly woman       Twi, nanā."grandparent”
                                                                                               or Temne, na “mother”