“If we have a creole language, but no social or linguistic information whatsoever about its period of origin, will its linguistic features provide clues to its genesis route?” (Thomason, 2002: 265)
This paper provides a positive response to this question by offering a plausible scenario for the development of the two most distinct varieties of Cape Verdean Creole spoken on the islands of Santiago and São Vicente. These two varieties are consistently viewed as being in opposition to each other on historical, linguistic, political and cultural grounds. Linguistically, for the past 120 years (de Paula Brito, 1888), these two varieties have been traditionally described as being at opposite sides of the creole continuum, the Santiago variety being portrayed as basilectal and the São Vicente variety as acrolectal.
With regard to the first assumption, we demonstrate that acrolectal features are readily identifiable in some grammatical domains of the Santiago variety, the supposed basilectal variety. The two core domains that are examined are gender agreement and specific markers conveying Tense, Modality and Aspect. This will bring in plain view the inadequacy of the labeling of basilect versus acrolect and challenge the erroneous assumptions regarding the status of the Santiago variety on the creole continuum.
This paper subsequently attempts to trace back some of the linguistic features examined in the Santiago variety to the language that the first Portuguese settlers brought to the island of Santiago. Based on the assumption that the first European settlers came from Portugal and from Madeira (Andrade,1996; Barros,1944; Carreira, 1972), we elaborate on the exact identity of these Portuguese using evidence from Serels (1997), Green (2006) and Jacobs (2009) and the language they spoke. We show that this information obviously has some bearing on the linguistic properties observed in Santiago. Based on these findings, we offer to explore the relevance of Mufwene’s (1996) Founder Principle and redefine the concept of basilectal within the creole continuum