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Asian Migration and Linguistic Presence. Parts I & II. General Aims . To examine the history of the migration of Asians to the Caribbean. What did the slaves and the planters do when slavery was abolished and how did this affect interaction/language?

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general aims
General Aims
  • To examine the history of the migration of Asians to the Caribbean.
    • What did the slaves and the planters do when slavery was abolished and how did this affect interaction/language?
    • How did the arrival of substitute labour from (largely) Asia affect the linguistic picture of the Caribbean?
  • To examine their mark on the linguistic situation on countries such as Guyana, Jamaica and Trinidad and Tobago, and Suriname (to a lesser extent Cuba).
asian migration background
Asian Migration -- Background
  • British Colonies at the time
    • Jamaica, Antigua, Dominica, St. Lucia, Barbados, St. Vincent, Grenada, Trinidad, Guyana
  • Jamaica, Trinidad, Guyana -- large territories
  • Antigua, Dominica, St. Lucia, Barbados, St. Vincent, Grenada – small territories
asian migration background1
Asian Migration --Background
  • Spanish - Cuba
  • Dutch - Suriname
  • French - Martinique, Guadeloupe
  • Some territories had no immigration
    • Haiti, Santo Domingo, Puerto Rico & Barbados
asian migration background2
Asian Migration -- Background
  • The Apprenticeship system ended in 1838.
    • Mass exodus from the plantations on the larger islands (this will help to inform us why different colonies had different numbers of Asians).
    • Labour shortage on larger plantations.
asian migration background3
Asian Migration - Background
  • Marshall (in Beckles and Shepherd 1996) outlines three views of what Africans did upon emancipation.
    • They were so horrified by slavery they left the plantations (where they could) and set up small villages in the interiors of territories (the Jamaican experience being the typical example)
asian migration background4
Asian Migration - Background
  • In general, they stayed on plantations but many left eventually when wages/working conditions did not prove favorable (typically Barbados)
  • Africans so acculturated to forced labour they vowed never to do arduous work of any type.
asian migration background5
Asian Migration - Background
  • In Cuba abolition did not trigger a flight of labour.
      • Many slaves became waged labourers, often in similar conditions to the life under slavery –in barracks, genders typically separated but a growing reconstitution of family life around the provision grounds.
      • Others joined “caudrillas” or work gangs who hired themselves out to plantations and who moved depending on the terms of employment.
asian migration background6
Asian Migration - Background
  • Situation seemed to be similar for the French colonies. Eric Williams reports the following: -
    • 1846 1856

34,530 (h.c) 32,000 (h.c.) Martinique

43,500 (wkrs) 43,794 (wkrs)

45,000 (h.c.) 32,000 (h.c.) Guadeloupe

51,522 (wkrs) 51,659 (wkrs)

asian migration background7
Asian Migration --Background
  • In Jamaica and Guyana substantial numbers of ex-slaves remained as waged workers.
    • Hall (1996)

Golden Grove Estate

1838 500 workers

1842 400 workers

asian migration background8
Asian Migration -- Background
  • Labour began to leave the plantations (where they could) when planters began to charge rent for provision grounds and housing and when wages became uncompetitive (this is in a context of falling sugar prices and general economic problems).
asian migration background9
Asian Migration --background
  • In the colonies of Barbados, Antigua and St. Kitts – so called high density colonies– where arable land was scarce because of the geography and the scope of the estates, labour was plentiful.
asian migration background10
Asian Migration - Background
  • The West Indian planters pressed for liberal immigration policies to solve their labour problems. A number of immigration schemes were tried.
    • West African
      • Phased out in 1865/1870 for grater reliance on Indian immigrants
    • European (poor English and Scots, French, German,
asian migration background11
Asian Migration --Background
  • Portuguese from Madeira
  • North America
asian migrants why were they brought to the caribbean
Asian Migrants – Why were they brought to the Caribbean?
  • All other schemes were unproductive. They came chiefly to solve labour problems i.e. to satisfy the labour shortage on the plantations.
      • Planters required cheap consistent labour. “The indenture system was a purely economic undertaking, and no attention was paid to the possible implications of introducing one more ethnic component into the West Indies” (Black et al 1976:53)
asian migrants who came from where
Asian Migrants—Who came from where?
  • Two main Asian groups came to the Caribbean.
  • Chinese
  • Indians
    • Asians, by far, dominated numerically.
asian migration who came from where
Asian Migration – Who came from Where?
  • As early as 1806 efforts were made to import people from Hong Kong (China) , Singapore (Malaysia) and Calcutta (India) to settle as peasant farmers and to replace Negro domestic slaves in Trinidad.
asian migration china
Asian Migration -- China
  • Chinese were recruited mainly from Canton. They were generally Hakka/Cantonese
  • After the mid 19th Century a large number came to the West Indies as contract labourers, but they tended to drift into towns, where they acted as brokers and distributors of food and small shopkeepers.
asian migration china1
Asian Migration -- China

Between 1853 and 1879, British Guiana imported more than 14,000 Chinese workers, with a few going to some of the other colonies

  • The Chinese languages brought to the Caribbean were
    • Cantonese
    • Mandarin?? (to the extent that standard speakers migrated to the West Indies)
asian migration india
Asian Migration -- India
  • In July 1844 the British government gave permission for West Indian colonies to import labour from India chiefly at their own expense (minor imperial assistance).
  • Calcutta and Madras were designated as ports of embarkation in India.
asian migration india1
Asian Migration -- India
  • Recruiting agents were paid bounties (per head).
  • Indians were recruited from the cities and the depressed areas of the Granges Valley.
  • In 1846 the first shipload of 226 Indians arrived in Trinidad from Calcutta.
asian migration india china
Asian Migration – India & China
  • According to the rules, they(Indians) were to be
    • Allotted to estates in parties of 20-25 or 50 under a headman or sidar.
    • Given medical care, housing, provision grounds, monthly food rations, yearly allotments of clothing and free return passage after their contracts expired.
asian migration india china1
Asian Migration –India & China
  • Contracts were for five years; nine hours per day; six days per week
  • Immigrants were bound to reside on the plantations which indentured them.
  • Land grants (among other more dishonorable tactics) were used to induce immigrants to remain on plantations after their contracts ended
asian migration india2
Asian Migration -- India
  • The Indian indentureship system was abolished in1917.
  • Between 1838 and 1917, nearly half a million East Indians (from British India) came to work on the British West Indian sugar plantations, the majority going to the new sugar producers with fertile lands. Trinidad imported 145,000; Jamaica, 21,500; Grenada, 2,570; St. Vincent, 1,820; and St. Lucia, 1,550.
asian migration cont d
Asian Migration cont’d
  • Chinese were the main immigrants to Cuba. By 1877 Cuba had 54,000 Chinese. (Indentureship in Cuba abolished in 1921)
  • Jamaica
    • 37, 000 Indians up to 1921, 4, 500 Chinese up to 1946)
  • Guyana 1838 – 1900
    • 165,000 Indians, 13,000 Chinese, 12,000 Portuguese
asian migration cont d1
Asian Migration cont’d
  • Guadeloupe
    • Indians 42,500, Africans 6,500, Chinese 500, Madeira, 413, Japanese 500
  • Suriname
    • 22,000 Javanese (1890- 1939). By 1971 the Surinamese Javanese community numbered 60,000, comprising 16% of the population of the colony. 34,000 Indians (1873-1916)
asian migration cont d2
Asian Migration cont’d
  • Trinidad (1845-1916)
    • 145,000 Indians, & 4,000 Chinese
indian languages which were brought to the caribbean
Indian languages which were brought to the Caribbean
  • Bhojpuri speakers were not the first Indian indentured labourers to be brought to the Caribbean. For the first 15 years of organized emigration most recruits came from Chhota Nagpur, the Calcutta hinerland and Calcutta itself.
  • These people were native speakers of Bengali, Oraon, Mundari and Santali and Tamil (recruits brought from the Port in Madras)
indian languages cont d
Indian languages cont’d
  • Of these first language only Tamil took root in tiny pockets for almost a century in Trinidad.
  • By 1860 recruiting concentrated on Bihar where regional dialects of Bhojpuri, Maithili and Maghi were spoken and later on Uttar Pradash where Western Bhojpuri and the Eastern Hindi dialects, mainly Avadhi were found.
indian languages cont d1
Indian languages cont’d
  • Some labourers also came from further west and spoke dialects of Western Hindi and Braj.
  • Note---Though all labourers were Hindi speakers they actually spoke geographical varieties which were very different from each other and since labourers were uneducated they did not know Standard Hindi or Urdu.
linguistic impact of asian migration
Linguistic impact of Asian Migration
  • Introduction of new languages into the language mosaic which already existed in the Caribbean.


  • For Indians – there were new patterns of language contact, both internal and external, resulting in many linguistic changes.
linguistic impact of indian migration cont d
Linguistic impact of Indian Migration cont’d
  • There was increased interaction among speakers of the different geographical dialects.
  • In the new environment (Caribbean) they needed linguistic unity.
  • This led to dialect levelling and dialect mixing.
linguistic impact of indian migration cont d1
Linguistic impact of Indian Migration cont’d
  • There were external contacts with Indigenous, European and Creole languages which caused large scale borrowing and some structural changes.
  • Vertovec (1996) provides an 1855 comment “when these people meet in Trinidad it strikes one as somewhat strange that they may have to point to water and rice and ask each other what they call it in their language.”
linguistic impact of indian migration cont d2
Linguistic impact of Indian migration cont’d
  • For Indians – the development of a new varieties of Hindi (Overseas Hindi) distinct from any form of Hindi in India. Each developed under similar social and historical conditions yet have been maintained in varying degrees.
overseas hindi
Overseas Hindi
  • Among the places where what is referred to as Overseas Hindi developed were Guyana, Trinidad and Suriname.
guyanese bhojpuri
Guyanese Bhojpuri
  • Indians emigrated form 1838 – 1916 (78 years).
  • Today Guyanese Bhojpuri is used only in a very limited way by members of the oldest generations in rural areas.
guyanese bhojpuri cont d
Guyanese Bhojpuri cont’d
  • Rural men and women over 60 ---bilingual in GB and Creole/English
  • Between 35 and 59 years ---passive bilinguals
  • Under 35 –monolingual in Creole/English
  • GB has very limited use in the home but is used in some folksongs.
trinidad bhojpuri
Trinidad Bhojpuri
  • Indians emigrated between 1845 and 1916.
  • Spoken by old, usually rural Indians. It has been displaced by Trinidad English Creole.
  • NB—Standard Hindi is an important ethnic language in Trinidad today.
sarnami hindi sarnami hindustani sarnami
Sarnami Hindi/Sarnami Hindustani/Sarnami
  • Between 1873 and 1916 some 34,000 Indian labourers left North India for Suriname two thirds of which settled there (Damssteegt 2002:249).
  • In 1980s there were approximately 130,000 speakers (Damsteegt 2002:251).
sarnami hindi sarnami hindustani sarnami cont d
Sarnami Hindi/Sarnami Hindustani/Sarnami cont’d
  • Although there is widespread bilingualism there has not been a significant shift to Sranan (the local Creole) or Dutch (the official language).
  • Sarnami Hindi is the only variety of Overseas Hindi which has been recognized as a language in its own rights but is not extensively used outside informal contexts.
social factors and the loss of asian vernaculars in most c bbean terr
Social factors and the loss of Asian vernaculars in most C’bbean Terr.
  • All instances of language death are the result of language shift.
  • Investigating the processes leading to language death therefore means studying language shift situations.
social factors and language loss cont d
Social factors and language loss…cont’d
  • With regard to the phenomenon of language death two levels are involved.
    • The environment –political, historical, economic and linguistic realities.
    • The speech community –patters of language use and attitudes
social factors and language loss cont d1
Social factors and language loss… cont’d.
  • Concerning the first level – the environment– factors such as status, demography, institutional support (education and employment), time and space, urbanization, occupation, contact with other groups, pragmatics, access to information, entertainment and the arts, cultural (dis) similarity are relevant.
  • These influence the second level –speech community (patters of language use and attitude)
social factors and language loss cont d2
Social factors and language loss…cont’d.
  • In terms of causal relations then, changes within the speech community very often have to be understood as reactions towards environmental changes.
  • Minority languages are the ones threatened by extinction in language shift situations.
social factors and language loss cont d3
Social factors and language loss…cont’d
  • The minority language has to be valued highly by the members of a speech community in order for it to survive a generally hostile environment.
  • Patterns of language choice reflect language attitudes.
social factors and language loss cont d4
Social factors and language loss…cont’d
  • In cases of language shift one has to investigate underlying changes in attitude towards the languages involved, that is the abandoned language and the target language. Additionally investigations have to be made into
social factors and language loss cont d5
Social factors and language loss… cont’d
  • Internal pressure on minority languages such as limited communication yield caused by restricted distribution of the language.
  • External pressures on minority languages such as stigmatization, exclusion from education and political participation and economic deprivation.
social factors and language loss cont d6
Social factors and language loss…cont’d
  • The actual process of abandoning a language may be observed in a decrease in
    • Number of speakers
    • Functional domains
    • Competence
social factors affecting language maintenance and shift
Social factors affecting language maintenance and shift
  • Asian vernaculars in general have had no practical value -- they have never been (widely) used in broadcasting, newspapers, information distribution or entertainment in the form of films, education, employment etc. European varieties are used for these purposes.
social factors cont d
Social factors cont’d
  • Pragmatic aspects
    • Concerns how widely the language is used and the benefits gained by its use.
    • In Guyana and Trinidad OH is dying because the oldest generation of speakers did not regard the language as having practical value, so it was not transmitted. Languages have practical value in areas such as education, employment, wider communication, access to information, entertainment etc. Situation is similar for the Chinese.
social factors cont d1
Social factors cont’d
  • Urbanization and Occupation
    • Language shift usually occurs more readily in urban areas because of the increased contact. People usually migrate to urban areas in search of greater employment opportunities.
    • Language shift from Overseas Hindi in Trinidad and Guyana is more extensive in urban areas. (In general, urbanization does not necessarily lead to widespread language shift, but when the shift begins, it may occur more rapidly among the urban population.
social factors cont d2
Social factors cont’d
  • Urbanization and Occupation cont’d
    • Maintenance of occupation promotes language maintenance. Mohan and Zabor (1986:315) report a close relationship between having been a labourer on the sugar estates and high competence in Trinidad Bhojpuri.
    • Two factors which have conditioned the near loss Trinidad and Guyanese Bhojpuri therefore are the shift in occupation and urbanization.
social factors cont d3
Social factors cont’d
  • Demography
    • Chinese were not a numerically dominant group (except in Cuba). Numerically non-dominant groups are usually under pressure to conform.
social factors affecting language maintenance and shift1
Social factors affecting language maintenance and shift
  • Size of the group is sometimes an ambivalent factor. The expectation is that the large size of the Indian communities would have encouraged language maintenance. In terms of actual numbers the country with the smallest Indian population, Suriname has one of the thriving varieties of overseas Hindi.
social factors cont d4
Social factors cont’d
  • Time and space can also be an ambivalent factor. Longer history of migration is usually a factor in language maintenance but Suriname which had the shortest years of Indian migration is the only speech community with OH thriving.
    • Trinidad (71years), Guyana (78 years) Suriname (43years).
social factors cont d5
Social factors cont’d
  • Contact with other groups.
    • Related to urbanization and occupation—less contact, the greater the chance of maintenance. Indians working and living in sugar estates in the rural areas are usually isolated from other groups (Guyana).
social factors cont d6
Social factors cont’d
  • Education and Employment
    • European languages served as official in Caribbean territories before and after independence. In Trinidad and Guyana, OH has no official place in education and employment.
    • Gambhir (1981:3) the major reason for the shift from OH has been the importance of learning English for success in education, for economic gain and for political power.
social factors cont d7
Social factors cont’d
  • Wider communication
    • No Asian vernaculars have been useful for intergroup communication. The advantage of having another language for wider communication within a country may be an important factor in language shift. (In Suriname however, Sranan is the lingua franca but there has been no shift from Sarnami --ethnicity issues)