Liberian English

Liberian English refers to the varieties of English spoken in Liberia. There are five such varieties:

Normally, Liberians use these terms to refer to all such varieties simply as "English". Additionally, the term "Liberian English" is sometimes used for all varieties except the standard.

Standard Liberian English

Standard Liberian English is the language of those people whose African-American ancestors from the United States and the Caribbean islands immigrated to Liberia in the nineteenth century. This variety is a transplanted variety of African American Vernacular English from the southern part of the United States. It is most distinctive in isolated settlements such as Louisiana, Lexington, and Bluntsville, small communities upriver from Greenville in Sinoe County. According to 1993 statistics, approximately 69,000 people, or 2.5% of the population, spoke Standard Liberian English as a first language.

The vowel system is more elaborate than in other West African variants; Standard Liberian English distinguishes [i] from [ɪ], and [u] from [ʊ], and uses the diphthongs [aɪ], [aʊ], and [əɪ]. Vowels can be nasalized. The final vowel of happy is [ɛ]. It favors open syllables, usually omitting syllable-final [t], [d], or a fricative. The interdental fricatives [θ, ð] appear as [t, d] in syllable-initial position, and as [f, v] finally. The glottal fricative [h] is preserved, as is the voiceless labio-velar fricative [ʍ] (in such words as whit and which in contrast to voiced [w] in wit and wish). Affricates have lost their stop component, thus [tʃ] > [ʃ]. Between vowels, [t] may be flapped (>[ɾ]) as in North American English. Liquids are lost at the end of words or before consonants, making Standard Liberian English a non-rhotic dialect.[1]

Kru Pidgin English

Kru Pidgin English is a moribund variety that was spoken historically by Krumen. These were individuals, most often from the Klao Madingoes and Grebo ethnic groups, who worked as sailors on ships along the West African coast and also as migrant workers and domestics in such British colonies as the Gold Coast (Ghana) and Nigeria. The Krumen tradition dates back to the end of the eighteenth century. With the end of the British colonial presence in West Africa in the mid-twentieth century, however, the tradition came to an end, and with it the ongoing use of Kru Pidgin English.

Liberian Kreyol language

Liberian Kreyol language (Vernacular Liberian English), or Liberian creole the most common variety, developed from Liberian Interior Pidgin English, the Liberian version of West African Pidgin English though it has been significantly influenced by the Americo-Liberian and the Caribbean slaves Settler English. Its phonology owes much to Liberia's Kru languages. Vernacular Liberian English has been analysed having a post-creole continuum. As such, rather than being a pidgin wholly distinct from English, it is a range of varieties that extend from the Caribbean English to the highly pidginized Americo-Liberian English and African American Vernacular English to one that shows many similarities to English as spoken elsewhere in West Africa.


  1. ^ Brinton, Lauren and Leslie Arnovick. The English Language: A Linguistic History. Oxford University Press: Canada, 2006


  • Singler, John Victor (1986), "Copula Variation in Liberian Settler English and American Black English", in Smitherman, Geneva (ed.), Talkin and Testifyin: The Language of Black America, Wayne State University Press, pp. 129–164, ISBN 0-8143-1805-3
  • d'Azevedo, Warren (1979), Gold, Michael (ed.), Some Terms from Liberian Speech, Cornell University
  • Singler, John Victor (2000), "Optimality Theory, the Minimal-Word Constraint, and the Historical Sequencing of Substrate Influence in Pidgin/Creole Genesis", in McWhorter, John (ed.), Language Change and Language Contact in Pidgins and Creoles, John Benjamins Publishing Company, pp. 335–354, ISBN 90-272-5243-2

Americo-Liberians, or Congo people or Congau people in Liberian English, are a Liberian ethnic group of African American, Afro-Caribbean and Liberated African descent. The sister ethnic group of Americo-Liberians are the Sierra Leone Creole people, who shared similar ancestry and related culture. Americo-Liberians trace their ancestry to free-born and formerly enslaved African Americans who emigrated in the 19th century to become the founders of the state of Liberia. They identified there as Americo-Liberians. (Some African Americans – in the more common sense of the term – following resettlement in Canada also participated as founding settlers in Sierra Leone and present-day Côte d'Ivoire.) Although the terms "Americo-Liberian" and "Congo" had distinct definitions in the nineteenth century, they are currently interchangeable and refer to an ethnic group composed of the descendants of the various free and ex-slave African American, Caribbean, Recaptive, and Sierra Leone Creoles who settled in Liberia from 1822.

Later in Liberia, these African Americans integrated 5,000 liberated Africans called Congos (former slaves from the Congo Basin, who were freed by British and Americans from slave ships after the prohibition of the African slave trade) and 500 Barbadian immigrants into the hegemony. Americo-Liberians rarely intermarried with indigenous West Africans.Although Western literature and discourse in the United States and United Kingdom use the term "Americo-Liberians", this term is outdated and in common parlance the majority of Liberians (including the Americo-Liberian people themselves) and neighbouring West Africans such as Sierra Leoneans refer to the Americo-Liberian people as "Congo" or "Congau" people.The colonists and their descendants led the political, social, cultural and economic sectors of the country; they ruled the new nation from 19th century until 1980 as a dominant minority. From 1878 to 1980, the Republic of Liberia was a de facto one-party state ruled by both the indigenous and Americo-Liberian-dominated True Whig Party and Masonic Order of Liberia.


Bandelє (Bandela, Bandele, Bandeleh) is a village Garwula District, Grand Cape Mount, in north-west Liberia.

As of January 2006 the population was approximately 1,165. The area was settled by the Bande clan of the Mende people. Residents speak a dialect of the Mende language (Mєnde yia) called Bandi. However, the language of school instruction and local administration is Liberian English. The area contains several abandoned small scale mines. Bandelє sometimes serves as an informal trading post due to its proximity to the Sierra Leone border and the major road to Sierra Leone's diamond mining region. The area suffered during both the Liberian Civil War and the Sierra Leone Civil War. Currently, the United Nations Mission in Liberia (UNMIL) provides most security and other basic services.

Caribbean English

Caribbean English dialects of the English language are spoken in the Caribbean and Liberia, most countries on the Caribbean coast of Central America, and Guyana and Suriname on the coast of South America. Caribbean English is influenced by the English-based Creole varieties spoken in the region, but they are not the same. In the Caribbean, there is a great deal of variation in the way English is spoken. Scholars generally agree that although the dialects themselves vary significantly in each of these countries, they primarily have roots in British English and West African languages. Caribbean English in countries with a majority Indian population like Trinidad and Tobago and Guyana has been influenced by Hindustani and other South Asian languages in addition to British English and West African languages.

Gio people

The Gio people is an ethnic group in north-eastern Liberia and in Côte d'Ivoire. There are approximately 350,000 members of the group, Neighboring peoples include the Guere, Guro and Mano.

Grand Kru County

Grand Kru County is a county in the southeastern portion of Liberia. One of 15 counties that comprise the first-level of administrative division in the nation, it has eighteen districts. Organized in 1984, its capital is Barclayville. The area of the county measures 3,895 square kilometres (1,504 sq mi). As of the 2008 Census, it had a population of 57,106, making it the least populous county in Liberia.Grand Kru's County Superintendent is Rosalind Sneh. The county is bordered by River Gee County to the northeast, Sinoe County to the northwest, and Maryland County to the southeast. The southern part of Grand Kru borders the Atlantic Ocean.

Hipco (genre)

Hipco, also referred to as HipCo or co, is a genre of hip hop from Liberia. It has been described by The Guardian as Liberia's "unique musical style" using "vernacular speech and political messages."

Kru people

The Kru or Kroo are a West African ethnic group who originated in eastern Liberia and migrated and settled along various points of the West African coast, notably Freetown, Sierra Leone, but also the Ivorian and Nigerian coasts. The Kru were famous for their skills in navigating and sailing the Atlantic. Their maritime expertise evolved along the west coast of Africa as they made livings as fishermen and traders. Knowing the in-shore waters of the western coast of Africa, and having nautical experience, they were employed as sailors, navigators and interpreters aboard slave ships, as well as American and British warships used against the slave trade.Kru people were more valuable as traders and sailors on slave ships than as slave labor. To ensure their status as “freemen,” they initiated the practice of tattooing their foreheads and the bridge of their nose with indigo dye to distinguish them from slave labor.Their history is one marked by a strong sense of ethnicity and resistance to occupation. In 1856 when part of Liberia was still known as the independent Republic of Maryland, the Kru along with the Grebo resisted Maryland settlers' efforts to control their trade. They were also infamous amongst early European slave raiders as being especially averse to capture.

The Kru are one of the many ethnic groups in Liberia, comprising 7% of the population. It is also one of the main languages spoken. The Kru are one of the three main indigenous group players in Liberia's socio-political activities along with the Krahn and Mano people.

Notable ethnic Krus include the 25th President of Liberia George Weah, who is of mixed Kru, Gbee, Mano, and Bassa heritage, as well as his predecessor, former President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf , who is of mixed Kru, Gola, and German ancestry. Soccer star William Jebor is exclusively of Kru background, as is Christian Evangelist Samuel Morris who was originally known as Kaboo. Mary Broh, the current mayor of Monrovia, is of mixed Kru and Bassa ancestry. Didwho Twe, a judge and politician, who ran for President of Liberia in 1951 was of Kru heritage.

Languages of Liberia

Liberia is a multilingual country where more than thirty languages are spoken. English is the official language. None of the languages group forms a distinctive majority. The native languages can be grouped in four language families: Mande, Kru, Mel, and the divergent language Gola.


Liberia ( (listen)), officially the Republic of Liberia, is a country on the West African coast. It is bordered by Sierra Leone to its northwest, Guinea to its north, Ivory Coast to its east, and the Atlantic Ocean to its south-southwest. It covers an area of 111,369 square kilometers (43,000 sq mi) and has a population of around 4,700,000. English is the official language and over 20 indigenous languages are spoken, representing the numerous ethnic groups who make up more than 95% of the population. The country's capital and largest city is Monrovia.

Liberia began as a settlement of the American Colonization Society (ACS), who believed black people would face better chances for freedom and prosperity in Africa than in the United States. The country declared its independence on July 26, 1847. The U.S. did not recognize Liberia's independence until February 5, 1862, during the American Civil War. Between January 7, 1822, and the American Civil War, more than 15,000 freed and free-born black people who faced legislated limits in the U.S., and 3,198 Afro-Caribbeans, relocated to the settlement. The settlers carried their culture and tradition with them. The Liberian constitution and flag were modeled after those of the U.S. On January 3, 1848, Joseph Jenkins Roberts, a wealthy, free-born African American from Virginia who settled in Liberia, was elected Liberia's first president after the people proclaimed independence.Liberia was the first African republic to proclaim its independence, and is Africa's first and oldest modern republic. It retained its independence during the Scramble for Africa. During World War II, Liberia supported the United States war efforts against Germany and in turn, the U.S. invested in considerable infrastructure in Liberia to help its war effort, which also aided the country in modernizing and improving its major air transportation facilities. In addition, President William Tubman encouraged economic changes. Internationally, Liberia was a founding member of the League of Nations, United Nations, and the Organisation of African Unity.

The Americo-Liberian settlers did not relate well to the indigenous peoples they encountered, especially those in communities of the more isolated "bush". The colonial settlements were raided by the Kru and Grebo from their inland chiefdoms. Americo-Liberians developed as a small elite that held on to political power, and indigenous tribesmen were excluded from birthright citizenship in their own land until 1904, in an echo of the United States' treatment of Native Americans. Americo-Liberians promoted religious organizations to set up missions and schools to educate the indigenous peoples.

In 1980 political tensions from the rule of William R. Tolbert resulted in a military coup during which Tolbert was killed, marking the beginning of years-long political instability. Five years of military rule by the People's Redemption Council and five years of civilian rule by the National Democratic Party of Liberia were followed by the First and Second Liberian Civil Wars. These resulted in the deaths of 250,000 people (about 8% of the population) and the displacement of many more, and shrank Liberia's economy by 90%. A peace agreement in 2003 led to democratic elections in 2005, in which Ellen Johnson Sirleaf was elected President. National infrastructure and basic social services were severely affected by the conflicts, with 83% of the population now living below the international poverty line.

Liberian Americans

Liberian Americans are Americans of full or partial Liberian ancestry. This includes Liberians who are of African American descent. It also includes the descendants of Americo-Liberian people in America. The first wave of Liberians to the United States, after the slavery period, was after of the First Liberian Civil War in the 1980s and, then, after the Second Liberian Civil War in the early 2000s. An estimated 100,000 Liberians live in the U.S. as of this time. The diplomatic relationship between Liberia and the USA goes back over 150 years since Liberia's foundation by returning African slaves freed by abolitionist societies which set aside land for the freedmen and paved the way to its independence.

Liberian Kreyol language

Kreyol (Liberian Pidgin English, Vernacular Liberian English) is an English-based pidgin spoken in Liberia. Also known as Kolokwa, was spoken by 1,500,000 people as a second language (1984 census) which is about 70% of the population in that time. Today the knowledge of some form of English is even more widespread. It is historically and linguistically related to Merico, a creole spoken in Liberia, but is grammatically distinct from it. There are regional dialects such as the Kru Pidgin English used by the Kru fishermen.Liberian Kreyol language developed from Liberian Interior Pidgin English, the Liberian version of West African Pidgin English though it has been significantly influenced by Liberian Settler English. Its phonology owes much to Liberia's Niger–Congo languages. It has been analyzed having a post-creole continuum. As such, rather than being a pidgin wholly distinct from English, it is a range of varieties that extend from the highly pidginized to one that shows many similarities to English as spoken elsewhere in West Africa.

Kreyol originated in Liberia among the Settlers, the free English-speaking African Americans from the Southern United States who emigrated to Liberia between 1819 and 1860. It has since borrowed some words from French and from other West African languages.

Kreyol is spoken mostly as an intertribal lingua franca in the interior of Liberia.

Liberian cuisine

Liberian cuisine has been influenced by contact, trade and colonization from the United States, especially foods from the American South (Southern food), interwoven with traditional West African foods. The diet is centered on the consumption of rice and other starches, tropical fruits, vegetables, and local fish and meat. Liberia also has a tradition of baking imported from the United States that is unique in West Africa.

List of dialects of English

The following is a list of dialects of English. Dialects are linguistic varieties which may differ in pronunciation, vocabulary, spelling and grammar. For the classification of varieties of English in terms of pronunciation only, see Regional accents of English.

Dialects can be defined as "sub-forms of languages which are, in general, mutually comprehensible." English speakers from different countries and regions use a variety of different accents (systems of pronunciation), as well as various localized words and grammatical constructions; many different dialects can be identified based on these factors. Dialects can be classified at broader or narrower levels: within a broad national or regional dialect, various more localized sub-dialects can be identified, and so on. The combination of differences in pronunciation and use of local words may make some English dialects almost unintelligible to speakers from other regions.

The major native dialects of English are often divided by linguists into three general categories: the British Isles dialects, those of North America, and those of Australasia. Dialects can be associated not only with place, but also with particular social groups. Within a given English-speaking country, there will often be a form of the language considered to be Standard English – the Standard Englishes of different countries differ, and each can itself be considered a dialect. Standard English is often associated with the more educated layers of society, as well as more formal registers.

British and American English are the reference norms for English as spoken, written, and taught in the rest of the world, excluding countries where English is spoken natively such as Australia, Canada, Ireland and New Zealand. In many former British Empire countries where English is not spoken natively, British English forms are closely followed, alongside numerous AmE usages which have become widespread throughout the English-speaking world. Conversely, in many countries historically influenced by the United States where English is not spoken natively, American English forms are closely followed. Many of these countries, while retaining strong BrE or AmE influences, have developed their own unique dialects, which include Indian English and Philippine English.

Chief among other native English dialects are Canadian English and Australian English, which rank third and fourth in the number of native speakers. For the most part, Canadian English, while featuring numerous British forms alongside indigenous Canadianisms, shares vocabulary, phonology and syntax with American English, leading many to recognize North American English as an organic grouping of dialects. Australian English likewise shares many American and British English usages alongside plentiful features unique to Australia, and retains a significantly higher degree of distinctiveness from both the larger varieties than does Canadian English. South African English, New Zealand English and the Hiberno-English of Ireland are also distinctive and rank fifth, sixth and seventh in the number of native speakers.

Music of Liberia

The music of Liberia uses many tribal beats and often one of the native dialects, or vernacular. Liberian music includes traditional Gbema music, as well as the popular genre Hipco.


Pickaninny (also picaninny, piccaninny or pickinniny) is, in North American usage, a racial slur which refers to a depiction of a dark-skinned child of African descent. It is a pidgin word form, which may be derived from the Portuguese pequenino (a diminutive version of the word pequeno, "little"). In modern sensibility, the term implies a caricature which can be used in a derogatory and racist sense. According to the scholar Robin Bernstein, who describes the meaning in the context of the United States, the pickaninny is characterized by three qualities: "the figure is always juvenile, always of color, and always resistant if not immune to pain".

Sundaygar Dearboy

Michael Davies (born July 20, 1972), popularly known by his stage name Sundaygar Dearboy, is a Liberian hipco singer, songwriter and record producer from District 2, Grand Bassa County. He records primarily in Bassa and Liberian English. Dearboy has released several contemporary gospel songs. He produced "Let Us Vote Ma Ellen", the official campaign song for the Unity Party. The song was released during Ellen Johnson Sirleaf's 2005 presidential campaign. Following the release of the aforementioned song, Dearboy's music career hit a political low for nearly four years. He revived his music career by releasing "Bayjay", a song endorsed by the Liberian populace. "Bayjay" won Song of the Year at the 2005 Liberian Entertainment Awards. Dearboy has released several studio albums, including See Boyee, Don’t Live With Woman (2007) and Rebirth (2012). He was named the Liberian Musician of the Year in 2005-2006, and has produced 13 albums to date.

Takun J

Jonathan Koffa (born May 14, 1981), better known by his stage name Takun J (often stylized as Takun-J), is a Liberian recording artist, songwriter and activist. He is regarded as one of the pioneers of Hipco, a politically-charged music genre sung in vernacular Liberian English. The Liberian Gender Ministry designated him as one of its anti-rape ambassadors. Takun J uses music to address socio-political issues in Liberia. He is best known for his singles "Who Make You Cry", "Policeman", "Gbagba Is Corruption" and "A Song for Hawa", as well as for his rap verse on the collaborative single "Pot Not Boiling" (Remix). Takun J released his debut studio album The Time in 2007. His second studio album My Way was released in December 2012.


Th-fronting is the pronunciation of the English "th" as "f" or "v". When th-fronting is applied, /θ/ becomes /f/ (for example, three is pronounced as free) and /ð/ becomes /v/ (for example, bathe is pronounced as bave). Unlike the fronting of /θ/ to /f/, the fronting of /ð/ to /v/ usually does not occur word-initially (for example, while bathe can be pronounced as bave, that is rarely pronounced as *vat) although this was found in the speech of South-East London in a survey completed 1990-4. Th-fronting is a prominent feature of several dialects of English, notably Cockney, Essex dialect, Estuary English, some West Country and Yorkshire dialects, Newfoundland English, African American Vernacular English, and Liberian English, as well as in many non-native English speakers (e.g. Hong Kong English, though the details differ among those accents).


Th-stopping is the realization of the dental fricatives [θ, ð] as stops—either dental or alveolar—which occurs in several dialects of English. In some accents, such as of Indian English and middle- or upper-class Irish English, they are realized as the dental stops [t̪, d̪] and as such do not merge with the alveolar stops /t, d/; thus, for example, tin ([tʰɪn] in Ireland and [ʈɪn] in India) is not a homophone of thin [t̪ʰɪn]. In other accents, such as varieties of Caribbean English, Nigerian English, Liberian English, and older, rural, or working-class Irish English, such pairs are indeed merged. Variation between both dental and alveolar forms exists in much of the working-class English speech of North America and sometimes southern England. Th-stopping occurred in all continental Germanic languages, resulting in cognates such as German die for "the" and Bruder for "brother".

Official language
Indigenous languages
Creole languages
Dialects and accents of Modern English by continent
North and

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