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Falamu (native: falámu [fɑlɑ́ˑmʊ]) is a Portuguese creole language with a high degree of Somali influence.

Boka Falamu
Pronunciation[bɔ́ˑkɑ fɑlɑ́ˑmʊ]
Created byShariifka
Native toEast Africa



From Portuguese falamos "we speak".



Note: In this article, the regular phonetic script is used with accents added for clarity. These accents are normally omitted in writing.


Letter IPA Remarks
' ʔ Not used word-initially since words written with an initial vowel always have a preceding glottal stop.
b b May be pronounced /β/ between vowels.
d d ~ ð /ð/ between vowels or after /h/.
dh ɖ Somewhat implosive.
f f
g ɡ May be pronounced /ɣ/ between vowels.
h h
j dʒ ~ tʃ Free variation
k k
l l
m m
n n ~ ŋ /ŋ/ syllable finally, /n/ otherwise.
nh ɲ ~ j̃ Free variation
q ɢ May be pronounced /ʁ/ between vowels.
r r
s s
t t
w w
x ʃ
y j

The consonants m, n, l, g, r, d, b can be geminated between vowels, which is indicated by doubling them.

The voiceless stops t, k are always aspirated.


Monophthong vowels
Letter IPA Remarks
"Front" "Back"
a æ ɑ
e e ɛ
i i ɪ
o ɞ ɔ
u ʉ ʊ
Diphthong vowels
Letter IPA Remarks
"Front" "Back"
ay æi ɑɪ
aw æʉ ɑʊ
ey ei ɛɪ
oy ɞi No "back" variant.
ow ɞʉ ɔʊ

Accented vowels are often partially lengthened in the following situations:

  • Monophthong vowels in open syllables;
  • Monophthong vowels in word-final syllables;
  • Word-final diphthong vowels.

There are also true long vowels indicated by doubling the vowel letter of a monophthong (e.g. aa) or the nucleus of a diphthong (e.g. aay). If a word contains a true long vowel, any other accented short vowel in the same word is not lengthened.

A word cannot begin in a vowel. Instead, a word written with an initial vowel is pronounced with a preceding glottal stop.

Each vowel has a "front" and "back" variety. This is the basis of vowel harmony.

In this article, a circumflex accent is used for accented "front" vowels, while an acute accent is used for accented "back" vowels. Accented vowels of indeterminate frontness/backness are represented with a grave accent.

Etymological script

Regular script ES equivalent Remarks
' '
b b; p
d d
dh dh
f f
g g
gw gu
h h
j ch; dj; dg¹
k c; qu¹
kuw qu
l l
m m
n n; m²
nh nh
q k
r r
s s; ss; z; c¹; sc¹; sç
t t
w u
x x; j; g¹
y y; i; ∅ Written i after vowels except when after another i or before a stressed i, in which case it is not written. Otherwise written y.
CVrV CVrV; CrV When an "echo vowel" is inserted to break a consonant cluster ending in a liquid, the "echo vowel" is not written. The first vowel may also be dropped in writing in some words, even when etymological, provided that it is identical to the second vowel.


¹ Before front vowels

² Word-finally

Vowels are the same as the regular script, except diphthongs end in i and u instead of y and w respectively.



  • Pitch accent



  • Syllable structure: CV(C) - where V is a vowel or diphthong
  • No consonant clusters except at syllable boundaries.


Phonological history

Phonological correspondences between Portuguese and Falamu
Portuguese Falamu Remarks
Grapheme Environment
ch all j
j initial or after consonant
g initial or after consonant before e/i
di unstressed before vowels Sometimes maintained as d(i).
ti Sometimes maintained as t(i).
x as /ʃ/ x
j after vowels
g after vowels before e/i
u as semivowel w
gu word-initial; as /ɡw/ between vowels Sometimes maintained as g(w)
v initial before non-rounded vowel Sometimes becomes b when w is expected or vice versa, and sometimes becomes f.
non-initial; initial before rounded vowel b
p all
s all s
c before e/i
lh surrounded by non-front vowels dh These are the general tendencies, but individual words may break these guidelines.
preceded or followed by stressed /e/ y
preceded by stressed /i/ and followed by non-front vowel j
preceded by stressed /i/ and followed by front vowel l
-ão from earlier -an or -ano -an
from earlier -on -on



Personal pronouns

Personal pronouns
Person, Number Independent Clitic Possessive Remarks
Strong Weak Strong Weak
1S amî mi kimî -mi
2S abô bu kibô -bu
3SM êl êl li kisû -su
3SF él él li kisú -su
1PI anô nu kinô -nu
1PE anôs nôs nus kinôs -nus
2P abôs bôs bus kibôs -bus
3P êlis êlis lis kisûs -sus
Reflexive/reciprocal méski + poss. mes When used independently, takes the definite article and a possessive - e.g. méskimi "myself"; méski kimî "I myself".
Impersonal si Used to form pseudopassive.

Interrogative pronouns

  • kôs, árguké: what
  • úndi, rugálké: where
  • móké: how
  • kén, bisówké: who
  • wêskê: when
  • : what/which
    • Less generic than kôs.
  • kâl: which
    • More specific than .

When used in a sentence, interrogative pronouns are followed by the focus particle éki, with optional contraction.


  • Kôs éki bu tá komê? / Kosêbu tá komê? "What are you eating?"
  • Kén éki li mirába? / Kenhéli mirába? "Who did (s)he see?"
  • Wêskê éki lis bîn? / Weskêlis bîn? "When are they coming?"
  • Úndi éki lis nu mirába? / Undélis nu mirába? "Where did they see us?"

Demonstrative pronouns

  • kês: "this/these" (near)
    • Explicit plural: kêsis "these"
  • kêl: "that/those" (far)
    • Explicit plural: kêlis "those"
  • kulá: "that/those over there" (far emphatic)
    • Explicit plural: kulás "those over there"
    • Used in opposition to kêl.

Definite pronouns

  • ki: "that, the one"
  • : "that, the one (anaphoric)"



The plural of nouns is regularly formed by adding -s (after a vowel or diphthong) or -is (after a consonant). Word-final -n becomes -nh- when -is is added.


  • ôdhu "eye" -> ôdhus "eyes"
  • dêd "finger, toe" -> dêdis "fingers, toes"
  • mán "hand, arm" -> mánhis "hands, arms"

Some nouns have irregular plurals.


  • beni'aâdan "human" -> aadâmi "humanity"
    • This is a collective noun, meaning it takes singular agreement. Colloquially, it may instead take plural agreement.
  • bisów "person" -> jênti "people"
    • Collective (as aadâmi).
  • mûslin "Muslim" -> muslimîn "Muslims"

Nouns are generally used in the singular when used with numerals.


Verb stems

Verb stems
Form Formation Examples Remarks
Infinitive Base stem with final accent falá "(to) speak"
Present Base stem with penultimate accent fála "speak(s)" The accent is final in monosyllabic verbs.
Past Infinitive + -ba falába "spoke" Some irregular verbs instead drop their final vowel and add -èra.

Irregular verbs:

Irregular verbs
Infinitive Present stem Past stem Meaning Remarks
é ~ sê éra "to be" When é is used as the present in main clauses, it falls before the complement and no clitic subject pronouns or focus particles are used.
E.g. él é muyêr.muyêr éki li sê.kôs li sê muyêr. "she is a woman."
When used adjectivally, is used.
E.g. muyêr awtór sê "a woman who is an author

Additionally, there are a class of verbs (many of which end in -u) that form their past in -èra. These generally correspond to adjectives in other languages - e.g. altú "to be high"; áltu "(is) high"; altéra "was high".

Verb tenses

Form Formation Examples Remarks
Present 1 Present stem é li fála "(s)he speaks"; fála! "speak!"; bisów fála "a person who speaks" Used for present simple affirmative (which may have a habitual or stative meaning depending on the verb), adjectival present simple affirmative, and imperative affirmative.
Present 2 Infinitive é mi falá "I'll speak"; ba mi falá "that I speak"; ná mi falá "I do not speak"; ná falá! "do not speak!" Used for present prospective, present subordinate (but not adjectival), present negative and imperative negative.
Present progressive tá + infinitive é bu tá falá "you (sg.) are speaking"
Past simple Past stem é nus falába "we (excl.) spoke"
Past progressive tá + past é nu tá falába "we (incl.) were speaking"
Jussive ád + Infinitive mi ád falá "I should speak; let me speak", li ád falá "let him/her speak", li ád ná falá "let him/her not speak"


Pseudopassive is formed with the impersonal subject pronoun si.

Derived verbs

  • Middle: add -se to stem - e.g. labá "to wash" -> labasé "to wash oneself, to wash for oneself"
  • Causative 1: add -fa to stem - e.g. durmî "to sleep" -> durmifâ "to put to sleep"
    • Usually used with intransitive verbs.
    • This can be combined with the middle to form -fase - e.g. kosê "to cook (intr.)" -> kosefâ "to cook (tr.)" -> kosefasê "to cook for oneself"
  • Causitive 2: add -(d)da to stem - e.g. komê "to eat" -> komeddâ "to give to eat"
    • The -d- is geminated after vowels.
    • Usually used with transitive verbs, and often when someone is being "caused" to do something.
    • This can be combined with the middle to form -(d)dase.
  • Inchoative: add -eya to the stem (minus any final vowel).
    • This is mostly used with verbs that form their past in -èra (other than , which instead becomes fiká) - e.g. altú "to be high" (past: altéra) -> alteyá "to become high". It may also be added directly to nouns - e.g. bôs "voice, vote" -> boseyâ "to vote".
    • Other verbal suffixes can be added on top of it, in which case the final -a is dropped - e.g. alteyá "to become high" -> alteyfá "to make high". Note that, depending on the verb, adding the middle suffix on its own may not always change the meaning - e.g. alteyá "to become high" -> alteysé "to become high"


Verbal focus particles

  • é: used to form main clauses.
    • Used when there is no independent object or emphasized subject.
    • Comes before subject pronoun - e.g. é mi kôme. "I eat."
    • "Independent object" refers to a direct or indirect object that is not a clitic pronoun, while "emphasized subject" refers to a subject that has extra emphasis placed upon it in such a way that English would use a copular phrase.
    • é can contract with the subject pronoun, in which case it takes the frontness/backness of the pronoun (and the verb by extension) - e.g. êmi kôme. "I eat."
    • é is not used in negative sentences - e.g. ná mi komê.' "I do not eat.".
    • Note that any explicit subject (i.e. any subject other than a clitic pronoun) is placed before the focus particle - e.g. amî é mi komêba. "[As for] me, I ate."; Úmar é li komêba. "Omar ate."
  • éki: used to form main clauses.
    • Used when the independent object or emphasized subject is placed before the verb.
    • Comes after the relevant object/subject. Note that when used with a subject, it places the verb into its subordinate form - e.g. kumîda éki mi kôme. "I eat food./Food [is what] I eat."; Úmar éki kumîda komê. "[It is] Omar [who] eats food."
    • éki can contract with a following subject pronoun (if applicable), in which case the -ki- is dropped and e- takes the frontness/backness of the verb - e.g. kumîda êmi kôme. "I eat food."
      Note that this is identical to the contraction of é.
    • éki is usually not used in negative sentences - e.g. kumîda ná mi komê. "I do not eat food.".
      However, it may be used for extra emphasis - e.g. Úmar éki kumîda ná komê. "[It is] Omar [who] does not eat food."
  • kôs: used to form main clauses.
    • Used when the independent object is placed after the verb.
    • Comes before subject pronoun - e.g. Úmar kôs li kôme kumîda. "Omar eats food."
    • kôs is usually not used in negative sentences - e.g. Úmar ná li komê kumîda. "Omar does not eat food."
      However, it may be used for extra emphasis - e.g. Úmar kôs li ná komê kumîda. "[That which] Omar does not eat [is] food."
  • kôski: used to form main clauses.
    • Used when the emphasized subject is placed after the verb.
    • Comes before verb and any clitic object pronouns - e.g. kumîda kôski kôme Úmar. "[The one who] eats food [is] Omar."
    • kôski is usually not used in negative sentences - e.g. kumîda ná li komê Úmar. "Omar does not eat food."
      However, it may be used for extra emphasis - e.g. kumîda kôski ná kôme Úmar. "[The one who] does not eat food [is] Omar."

Interrogative suffixes/clitics

  • -kè: "which/what"
    • Attaches to the word being modified (without affecting its accent) - e.g. bisówké? "what person?"
    • Alternatively, can be a separate word after a word with a definite article - e.g. bisówki ké? "what person?"
  • -kàl: "which"
    • Similar placement as .
    • Similar in meaning to , but implies a more limited set of options.

Demonstrative suffixes/clitics

These can either function as suffixes attached to the word they modified, or they can be independent words following a word with a definite article.

Suffixed forms:

  • -kes: "this/these"
  • -kel: that/those
  • -kula: that/those over there

Postclitic forms:

  • kès: "this/these"
  • kèl: "that/those"
  • kulà: "that/those over there"

Definite articles

  • -ki: "the"
  • -kì: "the (anaphoric)"
    • Does not affect ths word's accent.

Negation particles

  • : negation.
    • Comes before the clitic subject pronoun of the negated verb (if any), except when used with focus particles, in which case it comes after the clitic subject pronoun (if any). In both cases, it comes before any clitic object pronouns.
    • In summary:
      • No focus particle: + (clitic subject) + (clitic object) + verb
      • Focus particle: (clitic subject) + + (clitic object) + verb


Prepositions may be used before the modified noun phrases or, more commonly, attached to clitic pronouns after the noun phrase.

  • na: "in"
  • ku: "with"
  • da: "from"
  • ba: "to, for"
  • módi: "like"


  • i: "and" (within a clause)
  • tabên: "and" (connects clauses)
  • bos: "or"
  • nón: "or" (in questions)
  • kán: "while, when"
  • mâs: "but"
  • ê: connects modified with modifier.
    • Follows modified.
    • Used for disambiguation (i.e. when its absence can lead to potential ambiguity).
  • ba: "that" (relativizer)


Constituent order

Can be almost any order with the help of focus particles.

Noun phrase

Modifiers follow the noun they modify except for cardinal numbers, which precede the noun.

Verb phrase

Sentence phrase

Dependent clauses


Time - Têmbuki - Têmpu-qui

Greogorian months - Mêsiski milâdiki - Mêsis-qui milâdi-qui
English Falamu
January jenêru djenêru
February febrêru
March mársu márçu
April abrílu
May máyu máiu
June júnhu djúnhu
July júdhu djúdhu
August agôstu
September setêbru
October otôbru
November nobêbru
December desêbru decêbru
Days of the week - Dîyaski simánaki - Dîas-qui simána-qui
English Falamu
Sunday dimíngu
Monday sugúnda
Tuesday térsa térça
Wednesday kuwárta quárta
Thursday kínta quínta
Friday júm'a djúm'a
Saturday sábtu
Parts of the day - Bártiski dîyaki - Pártis-qui dîa-qui
English Falamu
day dîya dîa
dawn manhasé manhacé
morning manhasîn manhacîm
noon meydîya mei-dîa
afternoon tárdi
evening serán serám
dusk notisê noticê
night nôti
midnight meynôti mei-nôti
Units of time - Bártiski têmbuki - Pártis-qui têmpu-qui
English Falamu
second sugúndu
minute minútu
hour óra
day dîya dîa
week simána
month mês
year ánhu
Time adverbs -
English Falamu
now agóra
then entôn entôm
recently, a short time ago resén recém
earlier ántis
soon, shortly
later lôg
always sémber sémper
often wês jéy uêz chéi
sometimes wês-wês uêz-uêz
never núnka núnca
ever núnka núnca
still, yet înda
already djá
today ôxi ôji
tonight notîn notîm
yesterday ónti
last night
tomorrow manhá
before yesterday
two nights ago
after tomorrow
this week
last week
next week

Colours - Kôriski - Côris-qui

Colours - Kôriski - Côris-que
English Falamu
white baránku bráncu
grey sinsêntu cinzêntu
black nêgru
red werméyu uerméiu
orange laránja larándja
brown kastán castám
yellow marêl
green wêrdi uêrdi
blue asúl azúl
pink rósa
purple rôx
golden dorád

Sample Texts

Universal Declaration of Human Rights (Article 1)

Regular: Aadamiki todkisu kos li nase el e hor se nibradu taben na orra i deretis. Ilaahi kos daba menti i damir, taben e ba bisowki si we bisowki otu kuli modi irman li axi.

Phonetic: Aadâmiki tôdkisu kôs li náse êl ê hór sê nibrádu tabên na órra i derêtis. Ilaâhi kôs dába mênti i damír, tabên é ba bisówki si wê bisówki ôtu kuli módi irmán li âxi.

Portuguese-based: Aadâmi-qui tôd-qui-su côs li násce êl ê hór sê nibrádu tabêm na órra i drêtis. Ilaâhi côs dába mênti i damír, tabêm é pa pissóu-qui si uê pissóu-qui ôtu culi módi irmám li âgi.

IPA: /æːdǽmiki tɞ́dkisʉ kɞ́s lɪ nɑ́sɛ él é hɔ́r sé nɪbrɑ́dʊ tæbéŋ nɑ ʔɔ́rːɑ i derétis || ilæ̌ːhi kɞ́s dɑ́bɑ ménti ɪ dɑmɪ́r | tæbéŋ ʔɛ́ bɑ bɪsɔ́ʊkɪ si wé bɪsɔ́ʊkɪ ɞ́tʉ kʉli mɔ́dɪ ʔɪrmɑ́ŋ li ʔǽʃi/

[æːðǽmiki tɞ́ˑdkisʉ kɞ́ˑs lɪ nɑ́ˑsɛ éˑl éˑ hɔ́ˑr séˑ nɪbrɑ́ˑðʊ tæβéˑŋ nɑ ʔɔ́rːɑ i deréˑtis || ilæ̌ːhi kɞ́ˑs dɑ́ˑβɑ ménti ɪ dɑmɪ́ˑr | tæβéˑŋ ʔɛ́ˑ bɑ bɪsɔ́ʊ̯kɪ si wéˑ bɪsɔ́ʊ̯kɪ ɞ́ːtʉ kʉli mɔ́ˑðɪ ʔɪrmɑ́ˑŋ li ʔǽˑʃi]

Gloss: humanity-the all-the-3S.POSS FOC 3S.SUBJ be_born 3S.SUBJ ADJ free being being_equal and in dignity and rights. God FOC give-PST reason and conscience, and is that person-the IMP see person-the other with-3S like brother 3S.SUBJ act.PRES1.

Translation: Humanity is born free and equal in dignity and rights. God gave them reason and conscience, and the person seen must behave towards the other person like a brother.

Other resources

Swadesh list