Author Information

Melissa Oquendo


Cape Verde is a West African country located in the Atlantic Ocean, off the coast of Senegal. The archipelago is composed of 10 islands, 9 of which are populated (Santo Antão, São Vicente, São Nicolau, Sal, Boa Vista, Maio, Santiago, Fogo, and Brava). Santa Luzia is the only uninhabited island. Cape Verde was colonized by the Portuguese and therefore includes a rich mix of Portuguese and African cultures.

Because today’s Cape Verdeans are descendants of both the Portuguese and West Africans, there are elements of both in their languages, traditions, history, and development as a nation. These Portuguese and West African influences are seen on a daily basis in Cape Verdeans’ choice of languages. This paper focuses on the linguistic situation of Cape Verde, where two closely related languages or dialects are used by the same linguistic community. This particular linguistic situation is called diglossia, a term coined by Ferguson in 1959. Later, Bright (1964), Fishman (1967) and Gigloli (1972) elaborated on what sociolinguists mean by the term, explaining that a diglossic situation occurs where there are strong differences in form and function between the formal and informal styles of a language. In the case of Cape Verde, the diglossic situation includes Portuguese, the official language, and Cape Verdean Creole (or Kriolu, as expressed by its speakers), which is the “national language,” also known to Cape Verdeans as “the language of the heart” or the “mother tongue.” These languages exist side by side in the community, each playing a linguistic role in the way Cape Verdean society functions and reflecting Cape Verdeans’ cultural identity. The official language of Portuguese is used by the government and taught in schools. The national language of Cape Verdean Creole is the language used informally by the community (Ardilo & Ramos, 2007).

Note on the Author

Melissa Oquendo is a senior majoring in Sociology. Her research on the languages of Cape Verde began during the winter of her junior year when she traveled to Cape Verde as a part of the Language Study Tour with Dr. Fernanda Ferreira (Foreign Languages) and six other students. Melissa researched the sociolinguistic situation of Cape Verde to gain perspective on Cape Verdean cultural identity.

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