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Encyclopedia of Language & Linguistics (Second Edition)

2006, Pages 88-90

Jamaica: Language Situation

Author links open overlay panelP.L.Patrick [doi.org]Get rights and content

Jamaica's main vernacular language is the English-lexified Jamaican Creole called Patwa, a language of ethnic/national identification, largely unintelligible to non-Jamaicans. Patwa, which comprises the basilect and mesolect of a Creole continuum, is not genetically descended from its English or African input languages. The acrolect, Standard Jamaican English, is used in literacy, education, and print media; it is a regional standard dialect of English. Patwa has made significant inroads into broadcast media. Patwa's long subordination to Standard English resulted in the Creole continuum and the demographic dominance of the mesolect, a systematic but variable Creole grammar incorporating elements of English structure.

Akan Bantu British Black English Caribbean language Creole continuum English dialects genetic linguistics Kwa language contact linguistic variation Pidgin Creole languages Twi

Peter L Patrick is a native speaker of American English (born in lower Manhattan), and a near-native speaker of Jamaican Patwa (from age 5). He studied Chinese and medieval history at the University of Georgia (B.A., 1982), and linguistics at the University of Pennsylvania under Gillian Sankoff and William Labov (Ph.D., 1992), and conducted a sociolinguistic survey of Kingston, Jamaica for his doctoral thesis. He has taught sociolinguistics at Georgetown University and the University of Essex, and applied sociolinguistics to nonacademic problems via forensic testimony in the United States and the United Kingdom, and studies of clinical communication in Jamaica. He publishes in the areas of language variation and change, sociolinguistic methods, pidgin and creole studies, urban dialectology, and languages of the African diaspora. He has a special interest in the language, culture, and life of Jamaica and the English-speaking Caribbean, and maintains websites on African-American English, Jamaican Creole, and Language and Human Rights.

Copyright © 2006 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.

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