Gullah

The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.

Gullah

Gullah (gŭl´ə), a creole language formerly spoken by the Gullah, an African-American community of the Sea Islands and the Middle Atlantic coast of the United States. The word is probably a corruption of the African Gola or Gora, names of African tribes living in Liberia, but it may also be derived from Angola, whence many of the Gullahs' ancestors came. The Gullah dialect, spoken now by only a few hundred people, is a mixture of 17th- and 18th-century English and of a number of West African languages (among them Hausa, Igbo, and Yoruba). The African influence on Gullah can be seen in the phonology, vocabulary, and grammar. Some African words in Gullah have entered American English, including goober ( "peanut" ), gumbo ( "okra" ), and voodoo ( "witchcraft" ). Du Bose Heyward's novel Porgy (1925), upon which Gershwin's opera is based, was written in the Gullah dialect.

See M. Crum, Gullah (1940); L. D. Turner, Africanisms in the Gullah Dialect (1973).

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