Skip to main content
Select Source:

GULLAH

GULLAH. The name of a member of a black community in the Sea Islands and coastal marshes of South Carolina, Georgia, and north-eastern Florida, and of the English-based CREOLE spoken by that community (also known as Sea Island Creole). Gullah is usually kept hidden from outsiders. It developed on 18c rice plantations after British colonists and their African slaves arrived in Charleston from Barbados in 1670, in an encounter among African languages such as Ewe, Hausa, Ibo, Mende, Twi, and Yoruba, the English of overseers from England, Ireland, and Scotland, and the maritime PIDGIN used in some West African forts and aboard slavers' ships. It shares many features with other Atlantic creoles, and is characterized by: (1) Distinctive words for tense and aspect: He bin come He came, He had come; He go come He will come, He would come; He duh come He is coming, He was coming; He done come He has come, He had come. He come may mean ‘He came’, ‘He has come’, ‘He comes’, but not ‘He will come’. (2) Pronouns more inclusive than in general English: He see um He or she saw him/her/it; also He see she He saw her, and He see we He or she saw us. A pronoun usually has the same form whether subject or possessive: He ain see he brother He hasn't seen his brother, He didn't see his brother. (3) Subordinate clauses introduced by say (Uh tell you say he done come I told you that he has/had come), and by fuh (Uh tell um fuh come I told him/her to come). Both particles can be left out: Uh tell you he done come; Uh tell um come. There is a continuum between Gullah and local varieties of AmE: for example, from He duh come and He duh comin through He comin to He's comin. English words of African origin that may have come wholly or partly through Gullah include goober peanut (compare Kimbundu nguba), and juke bawdy and disorderly (compare Bambara dzugu, wicked), as in juke house brothel or cheap roadhouse, and jukebox. See BAJAN, WEST AFRICAN PIDGIN ENGLISH.

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"GULLAH." Concise Oxford Companion to the English Language. . Encyclopedia.com. 20 Aug. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"GULLAH." Concise Oxford Companion to the English Language. . Encyclopedia.com. (August 20, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/humanities/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/gullah

"GULLAH." Concise Oxford Companion to the English Language. . Retrieved August 20, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/humanities/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/gullah

Gullah

Gullah (gŭl´ə), a creole language formerly spoken by the Gullah, an African-American community of the Sea Islands and the Middle Atlantic coast of the United States. The word is probably a corruption of the African Gola or Gora, names of African tribes living in Liberia, but it may also be derived from Angola, whence many of the Gullahs' ancestors came. The Gullah dialect, spoken now by only a few hundred people, is a mixture of 17th- and 18th-century English and of a number of West African languages (among them Hausa, Igbo, and Yoruba). The African influence on Gullah can be seen in the phonology, vocabulary, and grammar. Some African words in Gullah have entered American English, including goober ( "peanut" ), gumbo ( "okra" ), and voodoo ( "witchcraft" ). Du Bose Heyward's novel Porgy (1925), upon which Gershwin's opera is based, was written in the Gullah dialect.

See M. Crum, Gullah (1940); L. D. Turner, Africanisms in the Gullah Dialect (1973).

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"Gullah." The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.. . Encyclopedia.com. 20 Aug. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"Gullah." The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.. . Encyclopedia.com. (August 20, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/reference/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/gullah

"Gullah." The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.. . Retrieved August 20, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/reference/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/gullah

Gullah

Gul·lah / ˈgələ/ • n. 1. a member of a black people living on the coast of South Carolina and nearby islands. 2. the Creole language of this people, having an English base with elements from various West African languages. It has about 125,000 speakers. • adj. of or relating to this people or their language.

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"Gullah." The Oxford Pocket Dictionary of Current English. . Encyclopedia.com. 20 Aug. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"Gullah." The Oxford Pocket Dictionary of Current English. . Encyclopedia.com. (August 20, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/humanities/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/gullah-0

"Gullah." The Oxford Pocket Dictionary of Current English. . Retrieved August 20, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/humanities/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/gullah-0

Gullah

Gullah a member of a black people living on the coast of South Carolina and nearby islands. Also, the Creole language of this people, having an English base with elements from various West African languages. The name may come from a shortening of Angola, or from Gola, the name of an agricultural people of Liberia and Sierra Leone.

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"Gullah." The Oxford Dictionary of Phrase and Fable. . Encyclopedia.com. 20 Aug. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"Gullah." The Oxford Dictionary of Phrase and Fable. . Encyclopedia.com. (August 20, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/humanities/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/gullah

"Gullah." The Oxford Dictionary of Phrase and Fable. . Retrieved August 20, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/humanities/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/gullah