Erfolg spricht Englisch

There is a bilingual education project going on in Jamaica. Hence this discourse.

Jamaican speech
An amalgam of seventeenth century English and West African

Taken from : http://www.jumieka.com

The speech of the average Jamaican is variously described as a patois or creole, or even as bad English, depending on the degree of pride or disdain of the describer. Jamaicans' attitudes themselves are very divided over the language they all speak most, if not all, of the time. Although English is the official language of the country, and a variant known as Jamaican English is acknowledged, it is mostly heard only in formal situations, unless one wants to impress with "speaky-spoky." Common usage ranges from Jamaican English to broad patois with about three degrees of separation, often within a single speaker's conversation.

Origins of Jamaican speech

Linguists have identified "pure" Jamaican, now spoken mostly in rural areas, with regional differences, as an amalgam of seventeenth century English and West African, mostly Twi, constructions and vocabulary, with some Spanish and Portuguese thrown in for good measure. The accents and cadences have been derived from Scottish and Irish. Considering the history of Jamaica, this should not be surprising as the bulk of the population are descendants of slaves brought from West Africa, first by the Spanish, then taught English by their British owners, overseers, adventurers, and missionaries.

Current status

Potentially, five million people, the population of Jamaica including the diaspora, speak Jamaican in one form or the other. Like any other living language, it changes and continues to change over time. It must be only a few old-timers in the bush of the countryside or isolated in Brixton or Brooklyn who can still speak broad patois, or what will come to be known as Archaic or Classical Jamaican. The majority speech will fall somewhere in the middle of the spectrum. New words are always being created, like haatikal and tapanaaris, or through the ease of international travel and electronic communication, borrowed from elsewhere, like bling-bling from hip-hop. The language will change but it will never die for it absorbs new words and Jamaicanizes them. As long as Jamaicans' speech patterns do not change, they will continue to take English and turn it into their own language. No matter how much it is suppressed, this is what Jamaicans will always speak. It is so already. It is their language more than anything else that sets them apart as a people.

Jack Mandora, I choose none.

Until now, Jamaican has been an oral language passed on by word-of-mouth. The few who tried to write it used a variety of spellings, making it difficult to standardize, and therefore discouraging further writing and reading. There is no body of literature beyond Louise Bennett and a few Anancy stories. Even those are written in near-English, which do not do justice to the sound and power of the language.

Phonetic system

Two linguists named Cassidy and LePage have developed an orthography, that reproduces as closely as possible the sound of Jamaica Talk. The main departure is the use of hn to capture the soft, final "n" sound in words like ahn, dehn, hihn. By this means, it is hoped to establish an orthography to record and preserve the language for posterity before any more of it is lost.

Many ways of speaking

Jamaicans have several modes of speaking, from the Queen's English, referred to as "speaky-spoky," to broad patois. Some things are pronounced in up to five different ways, making it all the more difficult to establish an othography. There is no one correct pronunciaton; it depends on the speaker's background, upbringing and education, and the occasion how s/he says what. According to the theory of Diglossia, when two languages interact, one is given high status, written and used formally, while the other may be spoken more, not written and considered low. English would be the acrolect1 while Jamaican would be the basilect2. The two languages sometimes criss-cross and blend to give an in-between speech known as the mesolect3.


1 An acrolect is a register of a spoken language that is considered formal and high-style. In the early 1970s Derek Bickerton proposed the words acrolect, mesolect and basilect to refer to the phenomenon of code-switching used by some users of creole languages who also have some fluency in the standard language upon which the contact language is based. The words subsequently were generalized to refer to code-switching between registers within any language. In some ways an acrolect is a spoken version.

2In linguistics a basilect is a dialect of speech that has diverged so far from the standard language that in essence it has become a different language. A basilect represents the opposite end of the scale of linguistic formality from an acrolect. Basilects typically differ from the standard language in pronunciation, vocabulary and grammar and can often develop into different languages as the basilects of Vulgar Latin eventually developed into Romance languages.

3 A mesolect is a register of spoken language whose character falls somewhere between the prestige of the acrolect and the informality of the basilect. Mesolectic speech where it is distinguished from acrolectic speech is often the most widely spoken form of a language generally being used by the middle class.