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The Jamaican Language Unit
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Population: 23,000 in Suriname (1995 SIL). Population includes 1,000 Matawari. Population total all countries: 26,000.
Region: Central, along Saramacca and upper Suriname rivers. Refugees are in Paramaribo. Also spoken in French Guiana.
Dialect: Matawari (Matawai, Matuari, Matoewari).
Classification: Creole, English based. Ian Hancock classifies it as Portuguese based rather than English based. Linguistic influences from Kongo (Hancock 1988). 20% or more of the lexicon has an African component.  The language development Literacy rate in first language: below 1%. Literacy rate in second language: 15% to 25%.
Comment: A Bush Negro ethnic group with background similar to the Ndyuka. Tonal, one tone per vowel. Traditional religion (SIL)
The Saramaccan Society
This is a language of an estimated 23,000 Saramaccan, the largest Maroon group in Suriname. Descendants of late 17th century runaway African slaves from plantations in Suriname, the Saramaccan Maroons speak a Creole language with a vocabulary which shows influence from English, Portuguese and West African languages. They occupy areas along the middle and upper reaches of the Suriname River. This was land ceded to them by way of a peace treaty with the Dutch in 1762, after several decades of war. The Saramacca have managed to maintain their language as well as their distinctive traditional life style centred around farming, fishing and hunting.
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