This article may be in need of reorganization to comply with Wikipedia's layout guidelines. Please help by editing the article to make improvements to the overall structure. (June 2022) (Learn how and when to remove this template message)
Saban English
Early forms
Language codes
ISO 639-3
This article contains IPA phonetic symbols. Without proper rendering support, you may see question marks, boxes, or other symbols instead of Unicode characters. For an introductory guide on IPA symbols, see Help:IPA.

Saban English is the local dialect of English spoken on Saba, an island in the Dutch Caribbean. It belongs to the group of Caribbean English varieties, and has been classified as a decreolized form of Virgin Islands Creole English.[1] There is one published dictionary of Saban English, A Lee Chip, authored by Theodore R. Johnson.[2]



The Saban dialect is not purely rhotic nor non-rhotic.[3] Post-vocalic /r/ is absent in unstressed syllables or following front vowels, but pronounced in stressed syllables and following back vowels, with the exception of the words more and farm. Phrase initially, /r/ is pronounced as [ɹ].

H-dropping is common in Saban dialects. [θ] becomes [ʔ] intervocalically and phrase finally, math is pronounced like /maʔ/. T-glottalization is also common intervocally, phrase finally and in clusters: water, hospital, bet and ate are pronounced like [wɒʔa], [haspɪʔl], [bɛ:ʔ] and [ɛ:ʔ].[3]

There is poor distinction between the [v] and [w] sounds in Saban English. The contrast is often neutralized or merged into [v], [w] or [β], so village sounds like [wɪlɪdʒ], [vɪlɪdʒ] or [βɪlɪdʒ]. This also happens in the Vincentian, Bermudian, Bahamian English and other Caribbean Englishes. This results in the word seventh being pronounced as [sɛβənʔ].

Metathesis is a common feature of Saban English and results in words like "ask" sounding like [æks]. Nasal backing is common in Saban English: "Town" sounds like [taʊŋ] and "ground" sounds like [graʊŋ]. Consonant cluster are often reduced.[3]


The realization of vowels in Saban English is as follows.[3] The vowels below are named by the lexical set they belong to:


Ain't ([ɛ̃ː], [ɛn] or [ɛnt]) is frequently used in negations and can be used in the place of words like didn’t or haven’t. Saban English also makes extensive use of the expression “for to” as in the sentence: This is ready for to come ripe.


  1. ^ Peter Trudgill and Jane Hannah. 2017. "The Handbook of World Englishes". 6th ed. pg 115.
  2. ^ Johnson, Theodore R. (2016). A Lee Chip. Language & Life Project.
  3. ^ a b c d Williams, Jeffrey P., and Caroline Myrick. “Saban English.” In Further Studies in the Lesser-Known Varieties of English, edited by J. P. Williams & P. Trudgill. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, pp. 144-64.