On the Phonemic Inventory and Syllable Structure of Trinidadian French Creole
Trinidadian French Creole (TFC) or Patois is an endangered heritage language of Trinidad which belongs to a group of language varieties referred to as Lesser Antillean French Creole. While TFC has previously been the subject of linguistic study, there has been relatively little investigation into its phonology, thus far. Goodman's contribution to the field is important, but his study of the TFC phonemic inventory, published in 1958, almost 60 years ago, needs to be compared with present-day TFC to determine if any changes have taken place. This study verifies and updates the phonemic inventory described by Goodman. Additionally, it provides an analysis of the syllable structure of TFC, focusing on its syllable template and phonotactic constraints. Data were collected from three native speakers from the villages of Paramin and Talparo and were elicited through a word list, folklore and traditional stories and original narrations from participants. The sole noted change to the phonemic inventory of TFC was the addition of the central alveolar approximant, /ɹ/ which was attributed to English and Trinidadian English Creole influence. The syllable template was determined to be (C)(C)V(C), which indicates that TFC allows complex onsets but only permits simple codas. It was also noted that TFC does not display a tendency toward the CV syllable structure, since phonological restructuring of borrowed lexical items exhibits a pattern of creating closed syllables. These findings are significant since they provide evidence of change in the phonemic inventory of TFC, and it is vital that such change is recorded, due to TFC’s status as an endangered language. Additionally, they illustrate that the syllable structure of TFC is relatively diverse which supports the claim that Antillean French Creoles do not tend only toward a CV syllable structure.