Principense: Grammar, texts and vocabulary of the Afro-Portuguese Creole of the Island of Principe, Gulf of Guinea. By Philippe Maurer. London: Battlebridge Publications, 2009. Pp. viii, 280. ISBN 9781903292112. $34.29.

Reviewed by Peter Freeouf, Chiang Mai University

Although several Portuguese-based Creole languages are still spoken, mainly in Africa and Asia, a number of them are severely endangered. This book deals with one such variety, Principense, spoken on the island of Principe, in the Gulf of Guinea. The island of Principe is part of the Democratic Republic of São Tomé and Principe, an island state off the coast of West Africa. The language, now spoken by less than a thousand mostly older speakers, is threatened by another Portuguese-based Creole, Cape Verdean, and by the official language, Portuguese. A devastating epidemic wiped out much of the population of Principe around 1900, leading to a subsequent immigration of Cape Verdeans to the island and the decline in the local Creole language.

The book is divided into seven chapters and concludes with two appendices, a list of references, and an index. Ch. 1, ‘Introduction’ (1–6), gives background information on the history of the language and its speakers, its present situation, previous studies, and efforts to preserve it. Ch. 2, ‘Phonology’ (7–27), discusses the segmental features and the question of phonemic tone in the language. The author concludes that the language employs a system of two contrasting tones but states that more research is required to establish more precisely how the features of tone, tone sandhi, intonation, and stress function and interact in the language.

Ch. 2, ‘Morphosyntax’ (29–171), presents an analysis of nominal and verbal morphology and syntax. Other features, such as interjections, onomatopoetic expressions, reduplication, and ideophones, are dealt with in Ch. 4, ‘Miscellaneous features’ (173–77). Ch.5, ‘Texts’ (179–210), contains short texts with interlinear grammatical-lexical glosses and English translation as well as non-glossed texts with English translations in parallel columns. The next two chapters are a ‘Principense-English word list’ (211–44), and an ‘English-Principense word list’ (245–56).

The first appendix (257–60) consists of a story in three Creole languages of São Tomé and Principe (Santomense, Angolar, and Principense) and an English translation in parallel columns, followed by a short word list. The second appendix (261–73) prints the earliest description of Principense, from 1888, existing only in manuscript until its inclusion in this book. This first grammar of Principense is given in the original Portuguese with an English translation.

There are numerous photographs in the book. In the phonology section there are spectrograms of lexical items, both in isolation and in short sentences to show their pitch levels. There are also photographs of individual residents, street scenes, and natural features of the island. Two maps are included: one shows the location of the island of Principe in the Gulf of Guinea, and the other the main towns and geographical features of the island.

This detailed study is a valuable addition to recent studies of endangered Portuguese-based Creoles, and will be well received by Creolists and anyone interested in Portuguese-based Creoles.