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Kristang language

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Title: Kristang language  
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Subject: Macanese Patois, Temuan language, Sarawak Malay, Portuguese language, Borneo–Philippine languages
Collection: Languages of Malaysia, Languages of Singapore, Portuguese-Based Pidgins and Creoles
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Kristang language

Papia Kristang
Malaccan Creole Portuguese
Native to Malaysia, Singapore
Native speakers
2,200  (2007)[1]
Portuguese Creole
  • Malayo-Portuguese Creole
    • Papia Kristang
Language codes
ISO 639-3 mcm
Glottolog mala1533[2]
Linguasphere 51-AAC-aha

Papia Kristang ("Christian language"), or just Kristang, is a creole language. It is spoken by the Kristang, a community of people of mixed Portuguese and Asian ancestry, chiefly in Malacca (Malaysia) and Singapore.

The language is also called Cristão or Cristan ("Christian"), Portugues di Malaka ("Malacca Portuguese"), Linggu Mai ("Mother Tongue") or simply Papia. However, locals and most of the Kristang community refer to the language as simply "Portuguese/Portugis".


  • Distribution 1
  • History 2
  • Features 3
  • Grammar 4
  • Vocabulary 5
  • Writing system 6
  • Examples 7
    • Common phrases 7.1
    • Poem of Malacca 7.2
  • See also 8
  • References 9
  • External links 10


The language has about 5,000 speakers in Malacca and another 400 in Singapore. About 80% of the older Kristang people in Malacca regularly speak it. There are also a few speakers in Kuala Lumpur due to migration.

Kristang is also spoken by some immigrants and their descendants in the United Kingdom, where some settled after Malaysian independence, and also in Australia, in particular the city of Perth, which is a popular destination for retirees from this community.

In Pulau Tikus, there were more speakers in 1997 than in 1987.


The Kristang language originated after the conquest of Malacca (Malaysia) in 1511 by the Portuguese. The community of speakers descends mainly from marriages between Portuguese settlers and locals, as well as a certain number of migrants from Goa, themselves of mixed Indian and Portuguese ancestry.

Kristang had a substantial influence on Macanese, the creole language spoken in Macau, due to substantial migration from Malacca after its takeover by the Dutch.

Even after Portugal lost Malacca and almost all contact in 1641, the Kristang community largely preserved its language. The language is not taught at school, although there are still some Church services in Portuguese.


Its grammatical structure is similar to that of the Malay language.

Because of its largely Portuguese vocabulary, and perhaps also as a result of migrations and cultural exchange along trade routes, Kristang has much in common with other Portuguese-based creoles, including the extinct creoles of Indonesia and East Timor.


To indicate verb tenses the following adpositions are used: jah (i.e. from the Portuguese , meaning "already") for past tenses, ta (from está, which means "is") for present continuous tenses and logu or lo (from logo, which means "soon") for the future tense. These simplified forms correspond with their equivalents in Malay sudah, sedang, and akan, respectively.


A peculiarity of the language is the pronoun yo (meaning "I") which is used in northern Portuguese dialects (pronounced as yeu) as well as Spanish and Italian/Sicilian.

The Kristang lexicon borrowed heavily from Portuguese, but often with drastic truncation; for example, Portuguese padrinho and madrinha ("godfather" and "godmother") became inyu and inya in Kristang.

Metathesis was common: for example, Portuguese gordo "fat" gave Kristang godru. The Portuguese diphthong oi (or ancient ou) was reduced to o, e.g. dois/dous "two" → dos, à noite/à noute "tonight" → anoti/anuti.

Many Portuguese words that began with ch, pronounced [ʃ] ("sh") in modern Portuguese, have the pronunciation [tʃ] ("ch" as in "cheese") in Kristang. So, for example, Portuguese chegar "to arrive" and chuva "rain" produced Kristang chegak and chua (pronounced with [tʃ]). This could have been due to Malay influence, or it could be that Kristang preserved the original pronunciation [tʃ] of Old Portuguese. (Note that Portuguese "ch" pronounced [tʃ] occurs in Northern Portugal.)

Writing system

Since Kristang was never taught officially in schools, it was largely an oral language. The first proposal for a standard orthography was made in the late 1980s, with the publication of a thesis, “A Grammar of Kristang”, by Alan N. Baxter, in which he emphasizes the use of the Malay orthography.[3]

The vowel e is usually pronounced [i] when followed by a syllable with /i/; so, for example, penitensia ("penitence") is pronounced [piniˈteɲsia].

In the 1990s, Joan Marbeck's book "Ungua Andanza" was published, with the orthography written in a Luso-Malay context.


Common phrases

Thank You: Mutu Merseh (Port. Muitas mercês)
How Are You?, Teng Bong? (Port. Estás bom?, lit. Têm bom?)
What's your name?, Ki bos sa numi? (Port. Qual é o seu nome?, lit. Quê vosso nome?)
Good Morning, Bong Pamiang (Port. Boa Manhã)
Good Afternoon: Bong Midia (Port. Bom Meio-dia)
Good Evening: Bong Atadi (Port. Boa Tarde)
Good Night: Bong Anuti (Port. Boa Noite)
Me: yo (Port. eu)
You (singular): bos (Port. vós)
You (plural): bolotudu/bolotu (Port. vós todos')
Mother: mai (Port. mãe)
Father: pai (Port. pai)
Wife: muleh (Port. mulher)
Husband: maridu (Port. marido)
Old Woman: bela (Port. velha)
Old Man: belu (Port. velho)
Little one: Quenino or Keninu (Port. Pequenino)
Mouth: boka (Port. boca)
Fat: godru (Port. gordo)
Beautiful: Bonitu (Port. bonito)
Party: festa (Port. festa)
one, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, nine, ten: ungua/ngua, dos, tres, katru, singku, sez, seti, oitu, nubi, des (Port. um, dois, três, quatro, cinco, seis, sete, oito, nove, dez)

Poem of Malacca

Keng teng fortuna fikah na Malaka,
Nang kereh partih bai otru tera.
Pra ki tudu jenti teng amizadi,
Kontu partih logu fikah saudadi.
Oh Malaka, tera di San Francisku,
Nteh otru tera ki yo kereh.
Oh Malaka undi teng sempri fresku,
Yo kereh fikah ateh mureh.

Portuguese translation:

Quem tem fortuna fica em Malaca,
Não quer partir para outra terra.
Por aqui toda a gente tem amizade,
Quando tu partes logo fica a saudade.
Ó Malaca, terra de São Francisco,
Não tem outra terra que eu queira.
Ó Malaca, onde tem sempre frescura,
Eu quero ficar até morrer.

English translation:

Who is lucky stays in Malacca,
Doesn't want to go to another land.
In here everyone has friendship,
When one leaves soon has saudade.
Oh Malacca, land of Saint Francis,
There is no other land that I want.
Oh Malacca, where there's always freshness,
I want to stay here until I die.

See also


  1. ^ Papia Kristang at Ethnologue (17th ed., 2013)
  2. ^ Nordhoff, Sebastian; Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin, eds. (2013). "Malaccan Creole Portuguese". Glottolog 2.2. Leipzig: Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology. 
  3. ^ A grammar of Kristang: (Malacca Creole Portuguese), Alan N. Baxter, Dept. of Linguistics, Research School of Pacific Studies, Australian National University, 1988

External links

  • Papia, Relijang e Tradisang, The Portuguese Eurasians in Malaysia
  • Malacca Portuguese Eurasian Association
  • Malacca Portuguese Settlement
  • Singapore Eurasian Association Kristang Page
  • Joan Marbeck's homepage
  • Jingkli Nona - a Kristang viewpoint
  • The Theseira family
  • The Shepherdson family
  • The Peranakan Association Singapore
  • The Eurasian Company of the Singapore Volunteer Corps
  • Pasar Malam Besar festival in Holland
  • Malaysian Eurasian food
  • All Portuguese Language Meetup Groups
  • Portuguese people speaking society
  • Endangered Languages
  • Speak Portuguese
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