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Jamaican English or Jamaican Standard English is a dialect of English encompassing in a unique way, parts and mergers of both American

English and British English dialects. Typically it uses British English spellings but does not reject American English spellings. Although the distinction between the two is best described as a continuum rather than a solid line, it is not to be confused with what linguists call Jamaican Creole, nor with the vocabulary and language approach of the Rastafarian movement. ("Patois" is a French term referring to broken or "improper" French but in Jamaica it refers to Jamaican Creole, which Jamaicans have traditionally seen as "broken" or incorrect Standard English). Jamaican is generally considered to be a Creole language. Many modern linguists hold the view that Creoles are full languages.


1 Grammar 2 Vocabulary 3 Pronunciation

4 Language Use: Standard Versus Creole [edit]

Jamaican Standard English is grammatically similar to British Standard English (see British English). Recently, however, due to Jamaica's proximity to the United States and the resulting close economic ties and high rates of migration (as well as the ubiquity of American cultural/entertainment products such as movies, cable television and popular music) the influence of American English has been increasing steadily. As a result, structures like "I don't have" or "you don't need" are almost universally preferred over "I haven't got" or "you needn't". [edit]

Recent American influence is even more obvious in the lexicon (babies sleep in "cribs" and wear "diapers" [or "pampers"]; some people live in "apartments" or "townhouses", for example). Generally, older vocabulary tends to be British ("nappies" mean cloth diapers; cars have "bonnets" and "windscreens"; children study "maths", use "rubbers" to erase their mistakes and wish they were on "holiday"), while newer phenomena are typically "imported" together with their American names. An interesting use of mixed British and American vocabulary is with automobiles, where the American term "trunk" is almost universally used instead of the British term "boot", while the engine covering is always referred to by the British term "bonnet". This is probably because the

American term, "hood", is used in Jamaica as a vulgar slang for the male member, probably as an abbreviation of "manhood". Naturally, Jamaican Standard also uses many local words borrowed from Jamaican Creole (such as "duppy" for "ghost"; "higgler" for "informal vendor"; and of course lots of words referring to local produce and food items - "ackee", "callaloo", "guinep", "bammy"). [edit]

Main article: phonemic differentiation. The most noticeable aspect of Jamaican English for speakers of other varieties of English is the pronunciation or "accent". In many ways, the accent bears great resemblance to that of southern Ireland, particularly Cork, which is possibly a result of the historical influx of Irish immigrants to Jamaica when both were British colonies. Jamaican Standard pronunciation, while it differs greatly from Jamaican Creole pronunciation, is nevertheless recognizably Caribbean. Giveaway features include the characteristic pronunciation of the diphthong in words like "cow", which is more closed and rounded than in Standard British or American English; the pronunciation of the "but" vowel (again, more closed than the SB or AE version, though not as closed as in the Creole); semirhoticity, i.e. the dropping of the "-r" in words like "water" (at the end of unstressed syllables) and "market" (before a consonant); but not in words like "car" or "dare" (stressed syllables at the end of the word). Merger of the diphthongs in "fair" and "fear" takes place both in Jamaican Standard and Jamaican Creole, resulting in those two words (and many others, like "bear" and "beer") becoming homophones. (Standard speakers typically pronounce both closer to "air", while Creole speakers render them as "ear"). The short "a" sound (man, hat) is very open, similar to its Irish or Scottish versions. [edit]

Language Use: Standard Versus Creole

Jamaican Standard and Jamaican Creole exist side by side in the island in a typical diglossic pattern (see diglossia). Creole is used by most people for everyday, informal situations - it's the language most Jamaicans use at home and are most familiar with (and is closest to their hearts); it's also the language of most local popular music. Standard, on the other hand, is the language of education, high culture, government, the media and official/formal communications. It's also the native language of a small minority of Jamaicans (typically upper class and upper/traditional middle class). Most Creole-dominant speakers have a fair command of Standard English, through schooling and exposure to official culture and mass media; their receptive skills (understanding of Standard English) are typically much better than their productive skills (their own intended Standard English statements often show signs of Creole interference).

Most writing in Jamaica is done in Standard English (including private notes and correspondence). Jamaican Creole has no standardized spelling and is not taught at school. As a result, the majority of Jamaicans can read and write Standard English only, and have trouble deciphering written dialect (in which the writer tries to reflect characteristic structures and pronunciations to differing degrees, without compromising readability). Written Creole appears mostly in literature, especially in folkloristic "dialect poems"; in humoristic newspaper columns; and most recently, on internet chat sites frequented by younger Jamaicans, who seem to have a more positive attitude toward their own language use than their parents. It's important to note that while for the sake of simplicity it is customary to describe Jamaican speech in terms of Standard versus Creole, that clear-cut dichotomy does not adequately describe the actual language use of most Jamaicans. Between the two extremes -"broad Patois" on one end of the spectrum, and "perfect" Standard on the other - there are various in-between varieties. This situation typically results when a Creole language is in constant contact with its standard (superstrate or lexifier language) and is called a Creole Continuum. The least prestigious (most Creole) variety is called the basilect; the Standard (or high prestige) variety the acrolect; and inbetween versions are known as mesolects. Consider, for example, the following forms: "Me a wok ova de-so" (basilect) "Im workin' ova de-so" (low mesolect) "Me is workin' over dere" or "(H)e (h)is workin' over dere", "(high mesolect)

He is working over there." (acrolect) (As noted above, the "r" in "over" is not pronounced in any variety, the one in "dere" or "there" is.) Jamaicans choose from the varieties available to them according to the situation. A Creoledominant speaker will choose a higher variety for formal occasions like official business or a wedding speech, and a lower one for relating to friends; a Standard-dominant speaker is likely to employ a lower variety when shopping at the market than at her workplace. Code-switching can also be metaphoric (e.g. a Standard-dominant speaker switching to a lower variety for humoristic purposes, or to express solidarity). Retrieved from ""

Contrast between SJE and JC - Grammar 1) The pronominal system

- The pronominal system of SE has a three-way distinction of person, singular/plural and gender. Compared to JC there are a lot of differences. Singular 1 mi 2 yu 3 im(s/he) i(it) - gender is lacked; except for a distinction between common and neuter in 3rd person - SE pronouns are marked for case; there must be distinguished between I and me, him/her from he/she, they from them - These distinctions do not exist in the JC system; im can be translated he/him/she/her wi can be translated us dem can be translated they/them - possessive pronouns like my, your, his, her, its, our, their are lacking in JC - simple pronouns like shown above function as possessive pronouns Plural wi unu dem

mi buk my book yu buk your book dem buk their book

2) Tense and aspect marking

- in SE past tense is either marked with the suffix -ed or -t, by a sound change like sing sang or are identical with the present form like put or hit - aspect refers to it's (tense) completion or non-completion;i.e. I am walking (imperfective, non complete); I have walked (perfective, complete) - aspect is expressed by using auxiliary verbs like be or have - tense/aspect system of JC is fundamentally unlike that of English - there are 2 preverbial particles: en and a

- they are no verbs; they are simply invariant particles which cannot stand alone like the English to be - their functions differs also from the English en is called a tense indicator a is called the aspect marker - there are no morphological marked past tense forms corresponding to English Mi ron I run (habitually); I ran Mi a ron I am running Mi ena (en+a) ron I was running Mi en ron I have run; I had run

3) Plural Marking
- plural in English is marked on most nouns, except of personal names and nouns refering to uncountable masses - JC doesn't mark the plural of nouns, except of animate nouns; those are followed by the affix -dem di wumanthe women dem di tiicha-dem the teachers

4) Use of the copula

the JC particle a is required the JC equative verb is also a

e.g.: Mi a rait I am writing e.g.: Mi a di tiicha I am a teacher e.g.: Wi de a London We are in London

JC has a separate locative verb de

with true adjectives in JC no copula is needed; adjectives are a special class of


e.g.: Mi taiad nou I am tired now

5) Negation
- JC negator no used in present Wi no de a London We are not in London Mi naa (no +a) ron Im not running - neba or neva used only in past Mi neba nuo dat I didnt know that Nobadi neva sii im Nobody never saw him

6) Prepositions

- JC uses the preposition a where English would often use in, at or to Mi de a yaad I am in the yard Im de a skuul He is at school Im waant to go a skuul He wants to go to school

- Orthography Max an Marris - Two rude bway Seven diffrant badness weh dem do Lissen now, som pickney bad: Two bway rude so tell dem mad! All me talk a suo-so truut: Max an Marris in dem yout neva stody, troble teacha, neva pay no mine to preacha. Dem so fiesty in dem ways fi-dem mout should wash wid Jeyes. Coke-nat saafa dan dem head; school mean notten to de dread. Was'e a time fi stody book when a rudeness yuh a look. School an church a ignarange

when mango-time bring you chance. Climb tree tief aringe an plom bot in school dem deaf an bomb. vowel length in intervocalic JC - SE sth. manifested position written Examples by double as dd/tt : vowels: d,t th fedda dem gaan - gone feather them wid notten - nothing aaf - off with tree three o(//) troble -trouble waata - water caad - card yaad - yard , but also talk,all,small (in JC)

simplification of idiosyncratic final consonants: (special) spelling:

an - and roun - round secan - second

* of long vowels : laud - lord yuh - you , but also rude, school, piece, tease (in JC) * of other words : wuss - worse tun -turn gal - girl ketch - catch lissen - listen dung - down respeck - respect

truut - truth stody - study a sarrow sorrow cack - cock bady - body fram - from

- ties to SE are broken completely in no case - native speakers are aware of the linguistic difference between JC and SE (they write JC and are ready for a radical departure from SE by e.g. special forms of spelling - Creoles in the whole Caribic differ only a few