There is a word "guénti" /'gɛn ti/ in the Santiago dialect of Cape Verdean Creole, which is used to mean "people" or "you people/you all". It clearly comes from the Portuguese word "gente", which has about the same meaning, as most words in Cape Verdean Creole come from Portuguese. However, the Portuguese "gente" (along with the Barlavento Creole dialects' "gente" /'ʒɛnt(ɨ)/) has a soft g [ʒ] instead of a hard g [g].

This mirrors the history of these sounds, as in Classical Latin "ge" was pronounced with a hard "g", but the timing is wrong for this to be related to its Latin roots. From what I could find, this sound change happened long before Portuguese was proclaimed as a distinct language in 1290, while Cape Verde was first inhabited in 1462.

Is anything known about where the hard "g" sound came from in gúenti? It's easy to speculate, but I wonder if anything is known more definitely. Cape Verdean Creole, while increasingly written, has in years past been mainly used orally, with the education system focused on European Portuguese instead. In most words in the Santiago dialect which have cognates with the [ʒ] sound, [dʒ] or [ʒ] are the sounds used. This is the only one I've come across with [g] instead.

  • 1
    What about Spanish “gente”?
    – Yellow Sky
    Aug 28, 2020 at 16:43
  • 1
    @YellowSky that's the Spanish cognate, and it too has a soft g ([x] or [h]). There's a long list of Romance language family cognates. I haven't found any yet with a hard g.
    – Dan Getz
    Aug 28, 2020 at 16:46
  • (OK Wiktionary is telling me that a number of Latin-inspired constructed languages do, but I don't believe they're much used on the island of Santiago.)
    – Dan Getz
    Aug 28, 2020 at 18:22
  • Doesn't development [x]/[ɣ] > [g] seem plausible and possible?
    – Yellow Sky
    Aug 28, 2020 at 20:41
  • 1
    @YellowSky Why would Cape Verdean Creole borrow à Spanish word, though? Apart from the time when it was a colony of the Iberian Union for a couple of generations and thus technically under a Spanish monarch, Cape Verde has never, as far as I know, had much contact with Spain. Plus, close and obvious cognates from neighbouring languages often tend to be borrowed by ‘fixing’ non-existing phonemes back into their local cognate value, so if Spanish gente were borrowed, it would likely end up as /ˈʒɛntɛ/ or /ˈʒɛnti/ anyway. Aug 29, 2020 at 8:32


Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.