Linguistic Features of Jamaican Creole Communication One
Introduction • In this presentation we will discuss the Jamaican Language Continuum and the features of Jamaican Creole in terms of the linguistic components it possesses in common with all other languages. • These linguistic features are: • Phonology • Lexicon • Grammar • syntax
Each country has its idiosyncrasies regarding the languages used within its borders and Jamaica is no exception. The Jamaican Language situation is referred to as a continuum. • It depicts the range of languages and language dialects spoken in Jamaica. (Indeed there are a few other Caribbean territories which are described in a similar manner.) This range is represented as a continuum because: • Not every point on the continuum is a separate language • Jamaicans will switch from one to the other continuously in conversation and in different situations andAccording to some linguists, the Creole is continuously changing and becoming more like English. (Decreolisation)
BASILECT is the form of Creole with more African derived features than other forms and is said to be the first point on the continuum. It is most often spoken in rural areas and by uneducated persons. • MESOLECT is the form of Creole with more English derived features than the basilect and is said to be the point on the continuum next to the basilect. It is most often spoken by urban and educated persons.
ACROLECT is the Jamaican Standard English and it is the last point on the continuum. It is most often spoken in formal situations. • Undoubtedly this notion that each form is most often spoken by particular persons is debatable as the increased accessibility of new technological mediums of communication throughout the country has enabled Jamaicans to choose even more freely any variety they wish to use along the continuum.
Lexicon • The lexicon of a language refers to its vocabulary. In the case of Caribbean Creole English the vast majority of lexical items are derived from English but, there are many other lexical items that are derived from other languages (Europe, Africa and Asia). Also, there are some English words, that the usage and meanings of which are inconsistent with traditional English usage. Some creole words are not recognized to be English words but they do not mean the same thing as they do in English.
Lexical Features cont’d. • In Jamaican Creole English, some English words have been compounded to create nouns, adjectives and verbs which do not exist in English. Many of these compound nouns refer to body parts. • For eg., ‘eye-water’(tears), ‘hand-middle’ (palm), ‘nose-hole’ (nostrils), ‘neck-back’, (nape), ‘arm-hole’ (armpit), ‘head-top’ (crown), and ‘foot-bottom’ (sole). • Compound adjectives formed in creole are: ‘hard-ears’ (stubborn), ‘sweet-mouth’ (flatter), ‘bad-mouth’ (to discourage by destructive critcism), ‘force-ripe’ which means forward or precocious and ‘red-eye’ (envious).
Lexical Features cont’d. • Creole words are also formed by reduplication (base words are repeated to form new words). • For example: ‘frenifreni’ (very friendly), ‘chati-chati’ (talk excessively or out of turn)
Phonological Features • The sound system or phonology of Caribbean Creole English is not identical to that of English. For eg, the English word ‘this’ is pronounced as ‘dis’, the word ‘with’ is pronounced ‘wid’ and ‘these’ is pronounced as ‘dese’.
Phonological Features cont’d. • Final consonance clusters tend to be devoiced for some words in Caribbean Creole English. So ‘becomes’ is pronounced ‘become’ and ‘reduced’ is pronounced ‘reduce.’ Sometimes the final consonant sound is deleted. • ‘child’ pronounced ‘chil’ • ‘last’ pronounced ‘las’ • ‘respect’ pronounced ‘respek’
Phonological Features • Colloquial aphesis (Alleyne, 1980) is a tendency to omit unstressed syllables in pronunciation. • Kaazn- because • Gainst- against • Kaal- call • Dawta- daughter
Grammatical Features • In English, possession is signaled by the addition of the apostrophe ‘s’ to nouns. In Creole English this is not so. Instead the word ‘fi’ is used.
Grammatical Features cont’d. • Pluralization In English, plurals are signaled by the addition of a suffix to regular nouns or by the changing of the noun form as is the case with irregular verbs. • In JC, plurals are signaled by the addition of the word ‘dem’ to the noun phrase. • De by dem- the boys • De two book dem- the two books • Mary dem want to come- Mary and her friends want to come.
Grammatical Features cont’d. • ‘Dem’ is also multifunctional and not soley restricted to marking plurals of count nouns. It can be used as a pronoun. • Dem a come- They are coming. • Misidem a come- I see them come. • Dem boy de ready now- Those boys are ready now.
Grammatical Features cont’d. Copula Verb Construction • In English a copula links the subject of a sentence to the predicate. It is derived from the verb ‘to be’. Creole English, in contrast, can have a zero copula structure. • In English you would say ‘I am happy.” • In creole it would be expressed “mi happy” or “I happy”.
Grammatical Features cont’d. The Past Tense • Verb forms do not change in Caribbean Creole to signal the past tense. • “mi drive de van yesterday” • Him did see mi at the beach las Sunday.
Syntax • In Creole English the ordering and placemen t of phrases and sentences are used to highlight and emphasize different aspects of meaning in a sentence. • Is Pam eat de mango. In this sentence, the focus is on the doer. • Is yesterday pam eat de mango. • Is eat Pam eat de mango?
Let’s see what you’ve learnt! • List five compound words that exist in the Creole English spoken in your territory which are derived from English words but with non- English meaning. • Identify the feature(s) of Caribbean Creole English that is/are present in the following sentences. • Mi big sister dark yu see but mi younger sister id de opposite, she have belly aready. • Di house ketch fiya an de brigade had to out out it. • Mi vex wid de boy dem. • Fi wi team play football like dem fool fool.