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The Portuguese language on the Gold Coast, 1471-1807

MEK Dakubu


It is well known that a vehicular variety of Portuguese served as the principal language of communication between Africans and Europeans from soon after the first appearance of the Portuguese on the Gold Coast towards the end of the fifteenth century until the demise of the trans-Atlantic slave trade in the nineteenth. This paper seeks to reconstruct the circumstances of its establishment and spread and the range of its use. It is argued that it was not “merely” a trade language but was used in a wide variety of situations, and that the label “pidgin” as usually defined is not particularly applicable. In the absence of written documents it is difficult to establish its grammatical features, but a range of historical sources and the evidence of the languages spoken on the coast today make it possible to construct a glossary of well over 100 words in common use.

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eISSN: 2026-6596