A fable is an enduring lesson in human behavior -- one that resonates with people in all cultures. And as such, a fable is a useful device in explaining the differences in cognate languages. The story of "The Fox and the Crow" is a good example.
You'll probably remember the story. A female crow has found a tasty piece of meat. She is sitting out of reach of a hungry fox, who decides to trick her into dropping the meat. He tries several methods, but she ignores his efforts. Then he praises her singing voice and she opens her beak to give him her best example of a raucous caw. Mission accomplished, along with a valuable lesson about succumbing to flattery.
The following excerpts, taken from Joseph A. Opala's website, "The Gullah: Rice, Slavery, and the Sierra Leone-American Connection," illustrate the evolution of the Gullah language. At first glance, Gullah seems to be nothing more than broken English -- the result of slaves trying to speak the language of their masters. But a closer examination shows that Gullah has changed, not only the pronunciation, but also the grammar, vocabulary, and sentence structure, of the original. And the changes reflect the slaves' original African language.
First, look at the English version. It's not quite Aesop's Fables, but rather the English language as it was spoken by the slave owners of the Low Country.
Then, Fox started to talk. He said to himself, he said, "This here Crow is a woman, not so? If I can persuade her to talk, she has to open her mouth, not so? And if she opens her mouth, isn't it true the meat will drop out?"
Fox called to the Crow: "Morning girl," he said. "I am so glad you stole that meat from the white man, because he would have thrown it away to the dog... It makes me vexed to see a man do such a thing as that."
Crow never cracked open her teeth! All the time Fox was talking, Crow's mouth was shut tight on the meat, and her ears were cocked to listen.
Now here's the Gullah version. An English speaker can understand it, especially if it is read out loud.
Den, Fox staat fuh talk. E say to eself, a say, "Dish yuh Crow duh ooman, enty? Ef a kin suade um fuh talk, him haffuh op'n e mout, enty? En ef e op'n e mout, enty de meat fuh drop out?"
Fox call to de Crow: "Mawnin tittuh, " e say. "Uh so glad you tief da meat fum de buckruh, cause him bin fuh trow-um-way pan de dog... E mek me bex fuh see man do shishuh ting lukkuh dat."
Crow nebbuh crack a teet! All-time Fox duh talk, Crow mout shet tight pan de meat, en a yez cock fuh lissin.
Where did all those changes come from? There are words here that don't look like English at all -- enty, tittuh, yez. And the prepositions are all wrong. Let's look at the same passage in the Sierra-Leone Krio language:
Den, Fohx stat foh tohk. I sey to insef, i sey, "Dis Kro ya na uman, enti? If a kin pasweyd am foh tohk; i get foh opin in moht, enti? En if i opin in moht, enti di mit go fohdohm?"
Fohx kohl di Kro: "Mohnin titi, " i sey. A so gladi you tif da mit frohm di weytman, bikohs i bin foh trowey am to di dohg... I meyk a vex foh si man du tin leke dat."
Kro nohba opin in tit! Ohl di tem Fohx dey tohlx, Kro moht set tait pan di mit, en in yeys kak foh lisin.
There are the same words -- borrowed from Krio, inserted into English, and transformed into the full, and grammatically complete, new language of Gullah. It is a stunning transformation.