Title Page
 Typographic conventions
 Table of Contents
 Ecology of language in Carriac...
 System and contrast
 A model of reading and its...
 The history of an applied literacy...
 Biographical sketch

Title: "It have more soft words"
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Permanent Link: http://ufdc.ufl.edu/UF00090207/00001
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Title: "It have more soft words"
Series Title: "It have more soft words"
Physical Description: Book
Creator: Kephart, Ronald F.,
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Table of Contents
    Title Page
        Page i
        Page ii
        Page iii
        Page iv
        Page v
    Typographic conventions
        Page vi
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        Page ix
        Page x
        Page xi
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    Table of Contents
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    Ecology of language in Carriacou
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    System and contrast
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    A model of reading and its implications
        Page 99
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    The history of an applied literacy project
        Page 125
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    Biographical sketch
        Page 358
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Full Text







Copyright 1985


Ronald F. Kephart



I first saw Carriacou in July of 1971 as a Peace Corps

Volunteer in training making a visit to my assigned job

site. Six weeks later, I began teaching Spanish in the

newly-opened Junior Secondary School. The school was

intended specifically for those children who reached the age

of 12 years and were unable to attend high school, for

either academic or financial reasons. Previously, these

children had to remain in their primary schools, often

sitting in classes with much younger children. The hope, at

the time, was that they would be better served in a separate

junior secondary with less emphasis on academics and more

"practical" work, such as cooking, woodworking, and the


Although children at the Junior Sec were considered for

the most part less scholastically capable than those who

entered secondary school, I was soon very impressed with

their quickness in learning Spanish. I had taught for a

year at a prestigious private boys' school in the States,

where the students were highly selected for and expected to

be university material. I saw no difference between their

capacity to learn and that of my new charges. Of course,


there were big differences in the materials at our disposal.

In Carriacou there was no language lab, and there were no

textbooks; everything had to be improvised. I eventually

produced little text booklets for the children on the

school's mimeograph machine. Despite these shortcomings,

the children were enthusiastic about Spanish and several

became Spanish teachers themselves.

I was at first puzzled by the complaints of teachers in

other subjects who talked of the children's "backwardness"

in such things as history, language arts, mathematics, and

science. In some cases, the very same children who were

doing fine in Spanish were failing these other subjects.

Perhaps because I was a language teacher, I soon began

to feel the glimmerings of a possible solution to this

paradox. Although Peace Corps had offered no serious

insight into the language of Carriacou I began to realize

that the language the children and others in Carriacou spoke

was very different from the English I had grown up with. I

began to see patterns in both phonology and grammar, and

although I did not realize it at the time I began

unconsciously internalizing a good deal of Carriacou Creole


At the same time, I knew that my method of teaching

Spanish, the "direct" method, made as little use as possible

of any language other than the target. Objects, drawings on

the chalkboard, and in-class situations served to get the

meaning across rather than lengthy explanations in English.

Of course, in the children's other classes, this was not the

case; there English was the medium through which the

children were expected to learn. I began to feel that this

was one of the major stumbling blocks to the children's

in-school learning, although at the time I did not have the

knowledge of linguistics and anthropology to understand the

situation fully.

In 1979, after five years away from Carriacou, I found

myself a student of anthropological linguistics at the

University of Florida. Quite by chance I discovered in the

library Bernadette Farquhar's grammar of Antiguan Creole

(Farquhar 1974). Reading the grammar, I recognized some

patterns as similar to those I remembered for Carracou

Speech, while others seemed very different. I received a

grant from the Inter-American Foundation to return to

Carriacou and produce a grammar of the Creole English spoken

there (Kephart 1980). In the course of this work, I found

that the differences between Carriacou Creole and English

were even greater than I had originally thought.

The research reported in this dissertation is a direct

outgrowth of both my experience in the Peace Corps and my

attempt at writing a grammar of Carriacou speech. The basic

idea was to give a group of Carriacou children access to

literacy through their native language, using an orthography

developed as part of my grammar. At the same time, the

children were periodically tested in English to test the

hypothesis that learning to read their own speech would help

them in their reading of English. The research eventually

took on the informal name "Carriacou Literacy Project" and

in this dissertation it will be referred to as such, or as

simply "the Project," for ease of reference.

Typographic Conventions

Texts in Carriacou Creole have been written in the

orthography used in the literacy project. This facilitates

the printing of the dissertation and makes it more

accessible to non-linguists, who might be intimidated by

phonemic symbols. These texts have been enclosed in slant

lines (/.../) as a reminder that they represent a phonemic


From time to time it has been necessary to utilize

other than phonemic representation. In these cases, the

traditional linguistic symbols have been used:

[...] indicates phonetic notation.

/.../ indicates phonemic notation.

[...] indicates morphemic notation.

Articulatory phonetic symbols used are from the

American adaptation of the International Phonetic

Association's symbols (see e.g. Pike 1976).

In several places I have given long texts in

traditional English orthography to make the content more

accessible to those not familiar with Carriacou Creole.


Language Variety

One term notable for its absence from this dissertation

is "dialect." I have avoided this term because of the

negative connotations which it carries in the West Indies,

as well as the difficulty even dialectologists have in

defining it and using it consistently. Instead, following

Hudson (1980), I have preferred the term "variety." In

addition to lacking negative undertones, the notion of

"varieties of language" conveys more realistically what

actually happens in human language. Varieties of language

can be designated at all levels, thus while all humans speak

a variety of Human Language, English is a variety of

Germanic, General North American is a variety of English,

and Southern Appalachian is a variety of North American


Carriacou Creole English

I have used this term to refer to the language used by

most people in most unmarked social interactions in

Carriacou. This language is not as "deep" or "basilectal"

as, say, rural Jamaican Creole. Nevertheless, it is

certainly closely related to other varieties of Caribbean

and West African Creole English. Typologically, it is a

variety of Lesser Antillean Creole English with some

syntactic patterns similar to Sierra Leone Krio. In

this work Carriacou Creole English is abbreviated CC.



In general usage, the term literacy covers at least

three different concepts (Pattison 1984:119):

1. The mechanical skills of reading and writing at least one


2. The ability to use the skills of reading and writing to

get along in a cultural context ("functional literacy");

3. The use of reading and writing in maintaining a

relationship with the intellectual life of a particular

culture. It is this third concept of literacy, which might

be called "critical" literacy, that is most difficult to

attain in a non-native language. This difficulty is

increased when access to and information about the target

language is controlled by the elite and no alternative

outlet for self expression in the native language is


For the most part in this dissertation I have tried to

stick to the terms reading and writing when only the

mechanical skills are meant, reserving literacy to refer to

the last two domains.

Export English 2

The term "Export English" or EE is used in place of the

more usual terms "standard English" and "Internationally

Accepted English." The term "export" is used here to refer

to the highly idealized, prestige variety of a language


which is usually presented to the world outside the

metropole, as well as to those within, as the "standard"


No one actually has Export English as their native

language. Its closest spoken realization occurs only in the

most circumscribed contexts, as for example the language

used by announcers or "readers" on the BBC. The ideal form

of Export English, however, is print, because print is not

dependent on individual speakers' variations. Also, it is

possible and even customary for syntactic structures which

rarely if ever occur in normal speech to occur frequently in

print. In the form of print, Export English includes the

prescriptive rules of spelling and "grammar" which apply

only to print, such as the difference between cats and



First of all, I'have to acknowledge the patience and

willingness to endure economic hardship of my wife Willy and

our son Tommy, both of whom accompanied me during most of my

sojourn in Carriacou. Willy's main contribution to the

project was to keep me fed and healthy in mind and body--a

full-time job if ever there was one. Nevertheless, she

found time to do voluntary teaching at Bishop's College and

to participate in the life of the community. Tommy spent a

full school year away from his best friends, but he made

many new ones and rapidly became a fluent speaker of CC.

Secondly, I have to acknowledge the contribution of the

Carriacou Junior Secondary School students who participated

in the Project: Godwin Adams, Laurine Ashby, Agnes Bibby,

Brian Brooks, Jane Cornwall, Godwin Coy, Kester Douglas,

Jefferson Hector, Joseph James, Dennis John, Brian Joseph,

Jeffrey Joseph, Dexter Lambert, Israel Lendore, Bernice

McFarlane, Roy Newton, Fitzroy Noel, Louise Noel, Sherma

Noel, Album Patrice, Susan Phillip, Roderick Prime, Stanley

Quashie, Francis Reece, Anastasia Simon, Beverley Teka,

Anthony Thomas, Shane Thomas, and Lincoln Vesprey. I

believe these young people have added significantly to

knowledge about literacy and education in the West Indies.

Mr. Patrick Compton, the school Principal, readily

accepted me into the school's routine, made many

suggestions, and willingly adapted to my sometimes

inconvenient requests. The teachers, some of whom were my

students in Peace Corps days, were always accepting and

willing to allow me to observe and tape their classes.

One teacher in particular made a spectacular

contribution: Beverley Bartholomew. Normally the home

economics teacher, she enjoyed reading the materials I had

prepared for the children and willingly gave up her off-duty

time to work with the class, freeing me to observe more


Of course, the Project never could have been undertaken

without the cooperation and support of the Grenada Ministry

of Education. The Education Minister, Jacquelyn Creft, gave

permission for the Project and ensured the cooperation of

the Curriculum Development Unit of the National In-Service

Teacher Education Programme. Two members of the Unit, Merle

Hodge and Janice Hamilton, spent time discussing the Project

with me. While they did not always agree with my methods,

their criticisms and suggestions helped. Another Ministry

official, Carlyle John, discussed the work with me on

several occasions and offered very useful insights and


Victor Ashby, an old friend from Peace Corps days,

provided room, board, and comradeship on the shortest

possible notice whenever I made the trip to Grenada. As

Headmaster of Grenada Boys' Secondary School, he is acutely

aware of the problems I was researching and we spent many

hours sitting on his veranda drinking Carib beer and

discussing the pros and cons of letting children read Creole

English. He was a most effective devil's advocate and only

the members of my committee have grilled me harder on the

theoretical underpinnings of the Project.

In a similar way, Judith Hemming and Michael Simons,

both educators from Great Britain, forced me through their

criticism to look carefully at some aspects of my work.

Again, it is important to note that disagreement can be far

more productive than agreement.

On a more personal level, I have to thank the people of

Carriacou who have always made me feel "homely" and who just

might be the friendliest people on Earth. In particular,

our neighbors the Edmunds shared much friendship and food

across the fence. Roy Benjamin arranged a very fine house

for us and later taught me how to fish on the rocks; as a

teacher, he was also interested in the Project and discussed

it with me often. His uncle, Mr. Peter Benjamin, another

old friend, provided us with land for a garden and taught me

a great deal about Creole French and life in Carriacou in

the early,1900s; we also spent many hours playing music

together. Sydney Cudjoe, a former colleague at the Junior

Sec, provided many hours of conversation and comradeship

strong enough to survive the clash of born-again

Christianity with secular humanism. Others who deserve

special mention for various reasons include the Bethel

family of Windward, Flossie Fleary, Euthan Samuel, the

Daniels, Alfred George, the Bullens, Aimee McDonald, Dolly

Fortune. All these people, and others too numerous to

mention, make Carriacou a place I always feel homesick for.

At the University of Florida, I have to thank

especially Dr. M. J. Hardman who introduced me to

anthropological linguistics and has guided me through the

rigors of both my master's and doctoral research. She and

the other members of my committee, Allan Burns and Jerrie

Scott, have been willing to read and criticize the

dissertation in pieces as it was written, which I think

makes for a stronger and more useful final product. Others

at Florida who have been especially helpful are professors


Terry McCoy, Helen Safa, Russell Bernard, Paul Doughty, Gary

Miller, Robert Lawless, Norman Markel, and Doreen Ross.

Outside the University of Florida, a number of

professors have been very helpful in various ways.

Johnnetta Cole of the University of Massachussetts helped me

get in touch with then Education Minister Jacquelyn Creft

and later gave advice and guidance during a visit to

Carriacou. Don Hill, State College of New York at Oneonta,

has corresponded with encouragement and enthusiasm.

Lawrence Carrington, Richard Allsopp, and Dennis Craig, all

of the University of the West Indies, offered interest and

encouragement. Ian Hancock, University of Texas, has

corresponded extensively and read my preliminary report on

the project at a conference on education in societies

without a written tradition in London. Robert Calfee,

Stanford, discussed the Project during a chance encounter on

a plane flight. John Honey, Syracuse University, questioned

me at length in Carriacou on the theoretical basis of the


A number of fellow graduate students at UF have also

helped either by example or by their willingness to discuss

various aspects of the research: Lawrence Carpenter, Shoko

Saito Hamano, Kofi Akwabe Ameyaw, Jim McKay, Dale Stratford,

Monica Lowder, Jane Collins, Mike Painter, Dan Cring, Tom

Jacoby, Jean Gearing.

The research reported here was funded by an

Inter-American Foundation Doctoral Fellowship. I would like


to thank Elizabeth Veatch, Mel Asterken, and the members of

the fellowship selection committee, all of whom provided

immeasurable support and guidance during the period of the

fellowship. It is worth noting here that the basic research

on the language of Carriacou, without which this research

would have been impossible, was also supported by the

Inter-American Foundation. When the Project was interrupted

by the political events of October-November 1983, and

additional funding was needed for a return visit in the

summer of 1984, the Inter-American Foundation, the

University of Florida Graduate School, and the Florida

Foundation all contributed.

Despite all this excellent help, I have to claim full

credit for any errors contained herein.

Permission to Reproduce

Permission is hereby given by the author to educators

in Grenada, Carriacou, and Petit Martinique, and other

officially English speaking areas of the Caribbean Basin, to

reproduce any part of this dissertation for use in

furthering the understanding of language, culture, and

education in these areas.



1. Personal communication from Ian Hancock.

2. The term "Export English" was first suggested by Dr. M.
J. Hardman. The concept grew out of our discussions about
my Peace Corps experience and later linguistic fieldwork in
Carriacou. See Hardman and Kephart (forthcoming) for a more
complete discussion.



PREFACE . . . . . .

Background . . .
Typographic Conventions
Terminology . . .
Acknowledgements . .
Permission to Reproduce
Notes . . . .

ABSTRACT . . . . . .



The Problem . . . . .
Project Goals . . . .
Research Design . .
Why Anthropology? . . ...
Orthography . . . . .
Carriacou: The Land and People
Education in Carriacou .
The Junior Secondary School
Notes . . . . .

. . . . . 1

. 1
. 11
. 13
. 14
. 17
. 20
. 33


Classification . . . . . . .
Mythology of Afro-American Language . .
Origins of Afro-American Language . .
Contributing Languages . . . . .
Context of Language Use . . . . .
Glottopolitics: "Nostalgia as Repression"
Notes . . . . . . .. .


Phonolgy . . . . . . . .
Morpho-Syntax: Noun Phrase . . .
Morpho-Syntax: Verb Phrase . . . .
Some More Syntax . . . . . .

. . 34

. 34
. 35
. 39
. 43
. 51
. 57
. 61

. . 62

. . 62
. . 71
. . 75
. . 86


. . . . . iii


. xix


EE vs. CC: Some Areas of Contrast . .
Notes . . . . . . . . .


. . 91
* . 98

* . 99

A Model of Readin
Language Variatio:
The Importance of
Implications for
Two Other Ways

g . . . .
n and Reading . .
Orthography . .
the Carriacou Projec
. . . . . .

Notes . . . . . . . .


September-December 1982: . . .
January-March 1983 . . . . .
May-July 1983 . . . . .
September-November 1983 . . .
The Final Session . . . . .
Four Children . . . . .
Notes . . . . . . .

VI CONCLUSION . . . . . .

Results . . . . . . .
Limitations and Further Research .
Implications . . . .

REFERENCES . . . . . . . .


A FIRST PRETEST . . . . . .

B SECOND PRETEST . . . . . .

C THE PRIMER . . . . . . .





H FIRST READER . . . . . .

I FIRST POSTTEST . . . . . .





. . . 99
S. . 104
. . . 107
: . . 116
. . . 120
. . . 124

)JECT . 125

. 125
S . . 138
. . * 158
. . .. 176
* 185
. . . 196
. 203

* . . 204

. . . 204
. . . 219
. . . 220

. . . 223

.* . 232

. . 236

. . . 239

* . 255

. . 258

EXT) . 260

. . 263

. . 264

. . 279

.* 282

S. . 284

L SECOND POSTTEST . . . . . . .


N SECOND READER . . . . . . . .


P TEST ON /DI GOT/ . . . . . . .

Q TEST ON /WAN GREN A FIG/ . . . . .


S THIRD READER . . . . . . . .

T FOURTH READER . . . . . . .

U THIRD POSTTEST . . . . . . .



X CASSETTE . . . . . . . . .



. 287

. 291

. 292

. 306

. 312

. 314

. 316

. 317

. 332

. 348

. 352

. 356

. 357

. 358

Abstract of Dissertation Presented to the Graduate School
of the University of Florida in Partial Fulfillment of the
Requirements for the Degree of Doctor of Philosophy



Ronald F. Kephart

August 1985

Chair: M.J. Hardman-de-Bautista, Ph.D
Major Department: Anthropology

Children in the officially English speaking West Indies

have two major problems in learning to read. They must

adjust to the multiple patternings and irregularities of

traditional English orthography, a hurdle they share with

all people learning to read English. They must also deal

with a grammar which differs significantly from their native

Creole English. This makes it difficult to develop an

internal model of the reading process. The result is that

few West Indian children attain true literacy in English.

Since the skill of reading is not language-specific, a

possible solution is to give children access to literacy

first through Creole English. In 1982-84 this was attempted

with a small group of twelve year olds who had failed to

learn to read competently. A phonemic orthography was used

to represent the children's speech. Reading materials were


based on stories, anecdotes, etc. contributed by the

children. The children were tested at regular intervals in

English and these results were compared with a control


The research showed that reading Creole English neither

confused nor impaired the children's reading of English, as

predicted by some educators. While it was not possible to

prove conclusively that reading Creole English helped the

target population's reading of English, the enjoyment and

enthusiasm displayed by all children in reading the Creole

materials strongly imply that West Indian children should be

allowed to read and write Creole as part of their language

arts programs. Other children and adults who were already

relatively literate were able to read the materials with no

difficulty. Finally, the reading materials were prepared at

very low cost with technology available to most schools,

refuting the claim that provision of materials in minority

languages such as Creole English is too expensive.


The Problem

Children in the officially English speaking West Indies

have a double burden in learning to read. First, as do all

English speakers, they face a spelling system which was not

designed for English but rather adopted piecemeal from a

variety of sources, with the result that native Anglo Saxon

words are spelled with one system, Latinate borrowings with

a second, etc. (Pitman 1966). English speaking children

have to learn, in effect, which words of the language are

spelled in which system, and how each system operates, with

the added complication that none of the subsystems

efficiently represents the phonology or morpho-phonology of'

modern English. This is no simple matter and the time it

takes children to learn to read and the overriding concern

in the English speaking world with spelling tests as an

important part of the educational process testify to this


The second hurdle many West Indian children have.to

overcome is the fact that the language they speak does not

have the same underlying grammatical structure as the

language they are trying to learn to read. It is true that

much is shared: lexical cognates, SVO word order, and

predominance of pre-positional marking in both NP and VP.

These surface similarities mask and make it easy to minimize

underlying differences. As an example, note the following


They go in the store.

In Export English (see Preface) this sentence is an answer

to a question like "Where do they go / What do they do (on

Saturdays)" The sentence is non-past in tense and habitual

in aspect. In Carriacou Creole, the meaning is quite

different. The non-stative verb go is unmarked; therefore

aspect is punctual and tense is simple: the process has

begun but is not yet completed, and the sentence glosses as

"They went into the store and they haven't come out yet."

Quite a difference, despite the apparent equality of the

surface morphemes and syntax.

The teaching of English in the West Indies has

generally followed a deficit model rather than a contrastive

one. That is, rather than teach children the differences

between their speech and English, the usual policy is to

consider them deficient in language and in need of being

filled up with "proper" English. Even specialists in

language education are, in my experience, unaware of the

depth at which West Indians' speech differs from EE. Little

or no provision is made for making use of the children's

native language skills. Some children are adept at picking

up on the differences between their speech and EE but most

are just normal children. They don't know why they have

such a hard time learning to read, but they are very soon

(sometimes at age 5 or 6!) labelled "dunce" and left to

their own devices while teacher concentrates on the "bright"

children. As one boy in the Treatment group put it,

"/d6 giv yu a buk an d6 tel yu tray an rid it an

d6 liv yu an g6/" ('they give you a book and they

tell you to try to read it and then they go off and leave

you'). It is no coincidence that the "bright" children are,

as a group, better dressed, come to school with all the

proper tools, and arrive on time, all signs that they come

from a household which is better off economically and

probably get more exposure to EE (cf. Scott & Smitherman


It is possible to glimpse quantitatively the extent of

the reading problem in the West Indies by looking at how

students perform on English Language exams. The "Ordinary

Level" ("O-Level") exams are set at British universities

such as Cambridge or the University of London. Until

recently these exams were virtually the only criteria for

student achievement in high school. In addition, a "pass"

in English Language is a minimal requirement, like a high

school diploma in the United States, for all but the most

menial work. Craig (1969:1) states that the failure rate

for the English speaking Caribbean in general "fluctuates

between 70 per cent and 80 per cent." The actual figures

for Trinidad and Tobago appear to confirm this statement:



1974 6905 1402 20%
1975 5685 1480 26%
1976 6517 1476 23%
1977 7185 1333 19%
1978 8889 2077 23%

TOTAL 35181 7768 22%

(Republic of Trinidad & Tobago 1978)

As Craig points out, the problem is actually worse than even

these figures show, for these represent the elite, the 10

per cent or so who made it to high school and spent at least

four years there before attempting the exam, all the while

attending classes whose sole purpose is to prepare them for

the exam. So perhaps 2 or 3 per cent of the total population

passes the exams.

The explanation for this is that West Indian children

enter school at age five or so having, as their native

language, some variety of Creole English. As we shall see,

West Indian Creole English differs from the official

language, Export English, at all levels: phonology,

morphology, syntax, lexicon, sociolinguistics. These

language differences result not from a lack of knowledge of

Export English (deficit model) but rather from the existence

of a separate, fully developed, natural language system

inside the heads of the children (difference model). This

rich natural resource, which all children carry with them to


school, is at best ignored in Carriacou and other parts of

the West Indies. At worst, it is actively repressed.

Since formal schooling takes place in Export English,

children are asked to learn the language of instruction and

the content of instruction at the same time, with little or

no effective teaching of Export English as a foreign or even

quasi-foreign language. The problem is particularly acute

in the area of reading. Fluent reading is a holistic

psycholinguistic process which depends heavily on the match

between what is on the page and what is inside the heads of

readers (see Chapter IV). Because of this, the reading

process, which has been shown to be essentially the same

across languages, is more easily and efficiently acquired in

the readers' native language. The mis-match between Creole

English, such as that spoken in Carriacou, and Export

English is great enough to impair the acquisition of this


The introduction of the Marryshow Readers into the

Grenadian primary schools in 1983 was an attempt to deal

with this problem. The Readers will be discussed in greater

detail in Chapters IV and V. For now, it can be said that

the main problem with the Readers was that although they

were a radical departure from previous language arts methods

and materials, their goal was still the introduction of

Export English as soon as possible. The children's own

language was to be left behind as quickly as possible. The

feeling of educators working on this program seemed to be

that time not spent in moving toward EE was time lost.

Project Goals

In contrast, the goal of the present research project

was to test whether learning to read Creole English, using

materials designed not for transfer to EE but rather for

making the children feel comfortable with their own

language, would assist them in reading EE.

This goal is in direct conflict with the usual goal of

"literacy and development" projects, which is the

acquisition of mechanical and functional literacy in the

superordinate language. This reflects the fact that

literacy programs are usually designed and carried out by

the dominant class in a society and have as their unstated

but nevertheless very real goal a society in which most

people can function i.e. work in a way that supports the

dominant class without rocking the boat. I feel that this

is true whether the society in question be socialist Cuba or

the capitalist United States. There is little or no

interest here in "type three literacy," the critical

literacy, which is generally learned only by the elite in

special institutions (see Pattison 1984). This explains the

sometimes almost rabid desire to avoid people's native

language in literacy and development projects: if we allow

people to experience education through their native language

for too long, too many of them will take control of their

own self-expression and the stability of the stratified

state will be threatened.

There were three other questions which I hoped the

project might be able to address. One was whether Creole

speaking children would or would not find it difficult to

read their own language. It had often been expressed to me

that the children would have trouble learning to read a new

spelling system, and some educators expressed concern that

attempting to do so would "confuse" them. My own feeling

was that there is no good reason why people should have

trouble reading their native language, provided that the

writing system used was designed for the language, and I

wanted to collect data on this question.1

Another problem involves provision of materials. One

of the most widespread arguments against using non-official

languages in education is that the cost of providing

materials in languages spoken by relatively small numbers of

people is too great (see e.g. Bull 1964). My intention was

to show that materials could be prepared locally in the

schools, by teachers themselves, using machines such as the

Gestetner mimeograph which are generally available in

schools throughout most of the West Indies.

A third problem is the question of whether or not

children can learn the content of school subjects through

Creole. The linguistic design feature of openness (Hockett

1960) makes this possible, but at least one West Indian

educator told me that Creole was suitable only for folk


tales and songs. For reasons that will become apparent

later, I was able to investigate this question only to a

limited extent.

Research Design

To investigate the various questions that I was

interested in, a year-long project was undertaken in the

Carriacou Junior Secondary School. This school was chosen

because I had taught there in the early 1970s and I knew the

Principal and many of the teachers. A group of 29

twelve-year-olds who, in the judgement of teachers, were in

the bottom third of their age-group was chosen as the

treatment group. For these children, part of the regular

language arts program was replaced two to three times a week

by sessions in which they were given access to reading

through their native language. An eclectic "language

experience" approach was used with some phonics instruction

but with an emphasis on reading texts. Most of the texts

were contributed by the children themselves, in the form of

personal anecdotes, folk tales, etc. These were either

taped and later transcribed, or dictated by the children in

class. A few of these texts were constructed by me with the

aid of other teachers; this was done to test their reading

of previously unknown material.

To test their reading of EE, a simple reading inventory

was devised. I did not feel it was desirable to use one of

the standardized reading tests since these tests are

designed for middle class North Americans, and comparison of

Carriacou children with such a population would be

pointless. The inventory contained three different types of

tasks: word recognition, sentence completion, and passage

comprehension. No writing was required; in each case, the

children responded by simply circling the answer of their

choice. The treatment group was pretested twice to check

reliability of the inventory, and then posttested at the end

of each 13-week school term. For each testing, question

items were chosen randomly from a bank of similar items.

Due to the small size of classes in the school, and the

nature of the school timetable, it was not possible to

obtain a control group identical in all particulars to the

treatment group. I decided to use children in the bottom

third of the 13 and 14 year age-groups as the "controls."

At the beginning of the Project there were 22 children in

the 13 year old group and 24 in the 14 year old group. This

introduced age as a possible variable, but the alternatives

were having a treatment group of only about 12 children or

trying to compare children across ability groups, both of

which seemed less likely to produce meaningful results. The

controls followed the regular language arts program, and

they were tested each time the treatment group was tested.

Performances of the treatment and control groups were

compared, using standard statistical formulas (Hatch &

Farhady 1982).

Following is a summary of the Treatment and Control

groups at the start of the Project:



(IC) 12.5 9 20 29

(2C) 13.6 12 10 22
(3C) 14.6 4 20 24

*As of December 1982

The original intention of the research project was to

involve children just entering primary school. The design

was changed at the request of the Minister of Education, who

was concerned that taking children out of the new Marryshow

Readers program would be detrimental to them. In fact, I

was specifically asked to work instead with poor readers in

the Junior Secondary school, to see whether my approach

would help them. This change in the treatment population

introduced another significant variable, namely the fact

that the children I was working with had been failures in

the school system for about six to seven years. It also

showed that, even in a revolutionary setting, children

classified as "failures" may be considered more expendable

than those who have "succeeded" in the system.

Why Anthropology?

There is nothing that we as anthropologists do
that is not better done, more thoroughly, in more
specialized detail in some other department, except
integrate. What gives our studies greater value
than, say, an equivalent study by a sociologist, is
precisely that we are under the obligation to see the
area under study not just from the social point of
view, but also to be able, consciously or simply as
part of our own cognitive framework, to bring to bear
the linguistic, historical, and physical aspects that
may be relevant--and to know whether such are relevant
or not. Not, as is the wont of normal narrow
specialists, dismissing any such relevance out of
ignorance. (Hardman 1982:3)

There are, indeed, aspects of this study that might

have been done more thoroughly, or at least differently, by

specialists in education. For example, such specialists

might have preferred to use one of the standardized reading

tests and they might have insisted on a strictly matched

control group for comparison. I believe, however, that the

perspective which anthropology brings to the study more than

compensates for these possible shortcomings. Anthropology

insists on bringing holistic, cross-cultural, and

evolutionary perspectives to bear on any given problem.

These perspectives have enriched the present research in a

number of ways.

Perhaps the most glaring problem with much of the

literature on reading is its emphasis on the reading of

English. Traditional English orthography presents special

problems for people acquiring literacy--these problems will

be discussed much more fully in later sections. The point

to make here is that an anthropological linguistic

perspective allows me to freely consider Afro-American

varieties of language as we would any other previously

unwritten language. At the same time, I can bring in

findings on reading in other languages which shed light on

the problem I am trying to address.

Another problem is the influence of the

transformational-generative model of grammar on some reading

theorists. It happens that one aspect of this model, the

elimination of the phonemic level of representation, is

critical for the design of alphabets. For this reason, I

have preferred an eclectic structural approach to language.

This-approach allows me to use aspects of generative grammar

when they are appropriate, i.e. when they most economically

account for what is going on in the language without doing

violence to the language itself. But it does not commit me

to forcing the data into a TG model, or any other model. In

this approach structure is extracted from the data, not

imposed on it.

Another important perspective gained from

anthropological linguistics is the notion that all natural

human languages are equally adequate for the purposes of

education, and by extension worthy of study and respect.

This runs counter to the language-deficit model, which holds

that some languages are not "developed" or "elaborated"

enough to serve as vehicles for the concepts required in

education (see e.g. Bernstein 1964). While this model has

lost ground in recent years with the entry of

anthropological linguists into the educational sphere, it

has by no means disappeared completely (for a good example,

see Morse 1980).


A full explanation of and justification for the

spelling system I used in the Project will be presented in

later sections (see Chapters III and IV). The spelling

system is given here for convenience, so that examples of

Carriacou Creole can be read more easily. Readers are

reminded that the system is phonemic, not phonetic; i.e.

it provides sufficient information for native speakers and

others who have learned the language to reconstitute it into


The system is given in "alphabetical" order:


a f 1 p v
b g m r w
ch h n s y
d i ng sh z
e j o t zh
6 k 6 u


As a very rough guide, the symbols /a, 6, i, 6, u/

represent phonemes corresponding approximately to those

represented in Spanish by /a, e, i, o, u/. The symbol /e/

represents a vowel like the vowel in English set. The

symbol /o/ represents a vowel something like that in the

British pronunciation of caught but slightly more open and

with lips less rounded. The symbol /j/ represents an

affricate similar to English jump. The symbol /zh/

represents a fricative like the middle consonant of English

measure. The symbol /r/ represents a retroflex, not a

flap. The other symbols have approximately their

traditional values.

Carriacou: The Land and People

The island of Carriacou is the largest in the

Grenadines, a series of rocks and cays that stretches

between Grenada to the south and St. Vincent to the north.

Climate is maritime tropical. Slopes are often steep, but

there is not enough land mass nor altitude to affect oceanic

weather patterns. The result is that, with virtually no

springs and no freely running water, plant, animal, and

human inhabitants of these tiny islands are dependent on

chance rainfall for the fresh water they need. Otherwise,

the islands are relatively benign: the only dangerous (land)

animals are centipedes and scorpions.

Carriacou itself has an area of about 13 square miles,

all but the steepest parts of which were cleared and planted

in export crops during the 17th, 18th, and 19th centuries.

Today much of this is second-growth forest, mostly

/pika-tri/ (Acacia farnesiana?) and other hardy species.

Some particularly vulnerable areas on the windward side are

heavily eroded and support only patches of /rachet/

(prickly-pear cactus) and other plants that can withstand

the dessicating effects of the almost ever-present northeast


The people of Carriacou are descendants, for the most

part, of slaves brought from West Africa and other parts of

the West Indies in the 17th and 18th centuries. About 1,000

people live in or around the only town, Hillsborough. The

rest live in five less densely populated areas called

"villages." Most families have some land which they use

for subsistence crops and for pasturing sheep, goats, and

cattle, which are raised for food and for sale in Grenada

and Trinidad. Until about 1975, many also raised cotton and

limes as cash crops, but the cotton and lime factories are

no longer operating. When rain falls well the volcanic soil

is very fertile, and a great deal of food in the form of

maize, peas, squash, root crops such as sweet potatoes,

cassava, yams, /dashin/, etc. is produced. This is

supplemented by fish, many species of which abound in the

Grenadines, as well as wild protein in the form of land

crabs, iguana, and /maniku/ (opossum).

Despite this abundance in good times, it is never

possible to be totally self-sufficient in Carriacou, given

the metropolitan notions of life-style and consumption that

prevail. Certain items, which are defined as necessities,

can not be produced in Carriacou and must be bought with

cash. These include salt, kerosene, rice, sugar, matches,

cooking oil, wheat flour, powdered milk, tinned meats, and

canned milk. Carriacou people, therefore, must supplement

their subsistence activities with cash-earning activities

such as driving a truck or taxi, day labouring, working on a

boat or in a shop, teaching, working for the civil service,

or perhaps raising minor cash crops such as lettuce,

watermelon, tomatoes, and pumpkin, which can be sold

locally. In addition, most depend heavily on remittances

from family members working overseas.

Since 1838, Carriacou people have relied heavily on

their ability to migrate to places both within and outside

of the West Indies to work for cash. This migration has led

them to such disparate places as New York, London, Cuba, the

Venezuelan oilfields, the Panama Canal, and Ascension

Island. Until relatively recently, most migration has been

by men, who typically worked overseas long enough to earn

the money to buy land, build a house or boat, or perhaps

open a shop. Through the years, migration has been a major

safety valve, considering the limited possibilities for wage

labour in Carriacou itself (For more details on the

ethnography of Carriacou see Smith 1962 and Hill 1977).

Education in Carriacou

Historical Background

Education has a long tradition in Carriacou. During

the early French plantation period this took the form of

religious instruction. The French Catholic priests were,

apparently, more concerned about the spiritual well-being of

the slaves than were their English Anglican counterparts.

They instructed the slaves in Catholicism, encouraged the

metropolitan forms of marriage and the family, and

discouraged promiscuity (Devas 1964:160). This tradition

was evidently strong enough to continue after the island

became British. A visitor in 1833 remarked on the high

incidences of marriage and stable families and reported that

a school, located in Hillsborough, was serving about 100

children (cited in Smith 1962:23-24). After Emancipation

(1838) the Catholic and Anglican churches continued to

operate schools on the island, and by 1897 the Grenada

government had a primary school there (Smith 1962:37).

Mr. Peter Benjamin, who went through primary school in

Harvey Vale during the years between 1900 and World War I,

remembers some aspects of schooling at that time:

Well, the school building is a very large house. A
very large house a large house with one room. It
haven't got no apartment. One room which inhabited all
the pupils all the children. . There wasn't no
wash-room. They only have a basin stand and a towel
where only the head teacher and the teachers generally
goes to wash their hands and so on according to their
work. . They have . two latrines. One for
male and one for female. . There was no kitchen
at that school, no cooking there.

. there was no decoration but, one picture they
used to have. The picture of the king and queen. .
The old queen [Victoria]. And Edward the Fifth, King
George the Fifth, and King George the Sixth.

You see now at that time they had a big Union Jack, the
English flag, when it hoist we know it ten o'clock. We
know when we are late, because they don't hoist until
ten o'clock. And we go, we off for lunch at one
o'clock, and call in two, two o'clock. And we dismiss
at four in the afternoon. See? So the school used to
run before.

We used to read the first book [ The Royal Readers ],
all the lessons been singing, but what I can remember a
lesson in the first book, first standard, called "One
fine day in summer, a very little boy was sent to
school by his mother." See? . Now when they have
to sing this lesson they say "o-n-e one o-n-e one." The
teacher say "next word." "F-i-n-e fine f-i-n-e fine."
You see that is the way they sing the lesson. "Day:
d-a-y day d-a-y day. In: i-n in i-n in. Summer: s-u-m
sum m-e-r mer s-u-m sum m-e-r mer summer." That is the
way. And then the teacher ask them to read "one fine
day in summer a very little boy was -
sent to school by his mother." And so on.
You see? So therefore, by singing the lesson they take
up the lesson faster.

The punishment that they got at school is for bad
behavior, and late coming to school. . They punish
by tamarind rod and strap. yes. When we go.to school
late, they always put you on a bench to stand and wait
for punishment. What we call licks. You see the strap
was given to the school . by the government you
know? But the tamarind rod was taken by the teachers
sending a pupil to get the tamarind rod. To lick
themselves! (Benjamin 1983)

The Present Situation

By the 1970s and 1980s some things had changed in

Carriacou, and some things remained the same. Primary

schools still were generally housed in one building with no

walls separating the different groups of children, resulting

in teachers having to shout their lessons as a matter of

course. Lessons in reading still tended to focus on the

mechanical aspects of literacy, with much emphasis on

spelling and correct punctuation. Reading materials were in

short supply, unless you count the castoffs from Canada and

England with cute stories about Euro-American people mowing

their lawns in summer and building snowpeople in winter.

The strap and tamarind rod were still liberally applied for

misbehavior, lateness, and not learning the lesson. One

teacher regretted that this was necessary but felt that it

was the only way to make the children perform as desired

given their "slave mentality."

One change was that the school day had shifted earlier.

Rather than starting at 10:00am as in the early 1900s,

primary schools now ran from 9:00am to 3:30pm. This gave

children less time in the morning to tend to the chores

typically done by Carriacou children before school: tending

animals, gathering firewood, hauling water, working in the


In 1982, when this study began, there were five primary

schools in Carriacou, serving the five principal population

centers. These schools took in children at age five,

sometimes at four if they had an infants' department.

Starting at age five in standard one, children progressed

through to the eighth standard, which they should have

reached by the age of twelve. At this point some students,

i.e. those who performed well on a nationally administered

exam called the "Common Entrance Exam," could enter

secondary school. There was one secondary school in

Carriacou, Bishop's College, with places for about 80

entering children each year. A limited number could also

attend secondary school in Grenada. But this still left a

sizeable number unable to get a place at a secondary school.

Children lucky enough to enter secondary school faced

five years of study in various subjects, including English

language, mathematics, history, biology, physics, general

science, religion (i.e. Christian dogma), Spanish, French,

etc. There were two chief limitations on the subjects

offered. First, could a teacher be found to teach it?

Second, was there an external exam (University of London,

Cambridge, CXC, etc.) that could be used to evaluate the

students' progress? If not, why bother, since internal

evaluation was not considered valid. In their fourth and

fifth years the students would sit the external exams, which

would be their sole evaluation for the previous four or five

years of study.

The Junior Secondary School


In an attempt to provide for those children who were

unable to get places in secondary schools, the Grenada

Government in 1971 opened up the first Junior Secondary

School in the nation's history in Carriacou. Along with

three other Peace Corps Volunteers, one Canadian, and about

twenty local teachers, I was a member of the original staff

of the school. The school was built with help from Great

Britain and Canada.

Previously, children who failed to get into secondary

school for one reason or another had the option of staying

in their primary school or quitting the system and looking

for work. The Junior Sec was envisioned as a means of

giving these children the opportunity to be with their age

mates and at the same providing them with "practical"

training in industrial arts, agriculture, home economics,

needlework, commercial arts, Spanish, and arts and crafts,

all of which were supposed to make it easier for them to

make a living.

The Junior Secondary School occupied one end of a

large, flat area of grassy land called "the Pasture"

(/pastya/) located in the middle of Hillsborough. It had

problems from the beginning, both geographical and

sociocultural. The school was placed at the extreme

southeast end of the Pasture so that the noise would not

disturb people whose houses ringed the other sides.

Unfortunately, this was the lowest part of the Pasture and

during prolonged rains it turned into a pond. Despite this,

no provision had been made in the school plans for water

catchment: some of the building walls were beginning to

settle and develop cracks by the night the school opened in

September 1971.

The school was conceived and built specifically to

provide "practical" education for children who could not get

into the academically oriented secondary schools. But

education in Carriacou, as in most of the Western world, was

seen as a ticket to elite status, one of the chief

characteristics of which was not having to do manual labour.

There was no well-developed concept of education for

practical life experience, the whole point of education

being to separate people from the practical side of life.

In addition, the Ministry of Education had not developed any

alternative evaluation scheme for children going through

Junior Sec. The only evaluation with any prestige attached

was still the school leaving exam, which was academically

oriented. Junior Sec children were required to take this

exam because the school was classified as a primary school

for administrative purposes. By the 1980s this led to some

of the Junior Sec children preparing for the same external

exams as the secondary school students, a clear

contradiction of the original purpose of the school.

Because recruitment to the Junior Sec was based on

negative criteria, i.e. inability to attend secondary

school, the school, pupils, and to some extent teachers as

well were held in relatively low esteem by members of the

community. The primary schools, which were all older and

played a more clearly defined role in the life of the

community, enjoyed a more favorable status and some children

preferred to remain in them, as they would have done in the

past, rather than attend the Junior Sec.

Another large problem was finding teaching materials.

Most of the materials originally given to the school were

out-dated rejects from school systems and libraries in

Canada and Great Britain. The money to buy new materials

was always short, with Government contributing only EC$0.50

(about US$0.25 in 1972) per child per year. The school was

able to add to that figure by holding a "School Fair" each

year. Several foreigners living on the island helped out

from time to time, and the Peace Corps Volunteers developed

the habit of shamelessly hitting up any tourists they

happened to run into.

In 1972 Great Britain provided the school with a

Gestetner mimeograph machine and a week long seminar in how

to use and maintain it. During the seminar, we also learned

how to design and print inexpensive booklets. My first use

for this technology was to produce my own Spanish

mini-texts, which were distributed to the children for a

small fee. Other teachers produced booklets for their math

and language arts classes, containing material directly

relevant to the children. This "guerrilla publishing"

sidesteps the issue of having to pay for expensive, usually

irrelevant, and sometimes racist educational materials

produced in the "developed" world, and I am convinced that

much more use should be made of it in places like the West

Indies. The concepts learned in this workshop led directly,

over time, to my ideas about how to provide reading

materials to children in the Literacy Project.


Children at the Junior Sec were grouped homogeneously

in two ways: by age, and by teachers' estimation of their

suitability for academic instruction. In 1982 there were

five age groups, called "forms", starting with the twelve

year old "first former" and ending with the sixteen year

old "fifth formers" Each age group was divided into

several ability groups, starting with the "bright" A's and

continuing down the alphabet. In 1971, when the school

population was around 500, there were as many as six ability

groups within some age groups; in 1982, the population was

much smaller and there no more than three.

In 1982, as in previous years, children entering the

Junior Sec from the various primary schools were given a

placement test designed by the Junior Sec teachers. This

test served to select children for the different ability

groups within the incoming age group. The top one-third

went into 1A, the middle third went into 1B, and the bottom

third became 1C.

In September 1982 the enrollment was as follows:



1A 29
1B 28
IC 29

2A 20
2B 23
2C 22

3A 24
3B 22
3C 24

4A 25
4B 20
4C 8

5 11


Of course, the children knew perfectly well what the A,

B, and C designations meant, but there was a strong feeling

among most of the teachers that it was only possible to

teach efficiently in homogeneous groups. This mind set

pervades the entire education system of Carriacou and begins

when the children first enter primary school and begin to be

sorted for more or less attention from the teachers.

There were a total of 16 teachers at the school in

September 1982. Of these, only five had more than a year or

two of experience: the Principal, the two industrial arts

teachers, the arts and crafts teacher, and one other. One

of these was the only teacher left from the original staff

in 1971, a graphic illustration of the effect of migration

on Carriacou society. The other teachers were mostly fresh

from secondary school themselves, with little or no teacher

training, although some were participating in the

Revolutionary Government's in-service training programme

(see following section).

Timetable and Curriculum

Since fairly early in its history, the Junior Sec had

run on an abbreviated schedule starting at 8:45am and

stopping at 2:00pm. This made it possible to avoid

transportation conflicts with Bishop's College, which like

Junior Sec took in children from all over the island. The

school's timetable looked like this in 1982:

8:45 9:00 Assembly
9:00 9:45 Period 1
9:45 10:30 Period 2
10:30 11:15 Period 3
11:15 11:45 Lunch Break
11:45 12:30 Period 4
12:30 1:15 Period 5
1:15 2:00 Period 6

The activity under "assembly" varied from day to day.

On Monday it was a general assembly, usually beginning with

a program led by one or two teachers followed by a talk and

announcements by the Principal. On Thursdays it was "House

Assembly" during which all children gathered in one of three

groups called houses which cut across age and status. These

houses were named for three men who played important parts

in the school's history: Fleary, the first Principal, who

died of flu on Christmas Eve 1977; Brathwaite, the Chief

Education Officer when the school was built and a

Carriacouan; and Mason, a Canadian who owned a home in

Carriacou and had helped the school in a number of ways.

Assembly on other days was used by teachers and pupils for

settling in, taking roll, etc.

Period 3 on Thursdays was set aside for "Religious

Knowledge." At this time, representatives of most of the

major religions practiced on the island came to hold what we

in North America would call "Sunday School."

One major alteration in the timetable was the

designation of Fridays as "Community School Day." On

Friday, teachers with no formal teacher training were given

classes by instructors employed by the National In-Service

Teacher Education Programme (NISTEP). This was a program

developed by the Revolutionary Government as a way of

getting training to teachers without their having to attend

Grenada Teachers College. It meant, however, that many

schools were very short-staffed on Fridays. To

counterbalance this, the Community School Day Programme

(CSDP) was born. Volunteer teachers from the community were

supposed to go to the schools on Fridays and teach the

children in whatever field of expertise they might have.

Unfortunately, enthusiasm for the program waned due to

transportation problems, lack of adequate reimbursement for

travel expenses, and misunderstandings about the real aims

of the program. The result was that Fridays tended to be

pretty chaotic, at least at the Junior Sec, since most

teachers there were in the NISTEP classes and many children

were left without direction for most of the day.

The Junior Sec was set up to offer both "academic" and

"practical" subjects to children who could not enter

secondary school. In 1982 the subjects offered were as



Language Arts Art and Craft
Mathematics Physical Education
History Music
Geography Religion
Health Science Electricity
General Science Typing
Agriculture Commercial Arts
Spanish Sewing
Current Affairs Biology
Industrial Arts
Home Economics

When the school opened in 1971, an attempt was made to

offer all subjects to all children all the time. This meant

an extremely complicated timetable, in which children were

exposed to 15 or more subjects each week with often only one

period a week for some subjects. In 1972, we tried

developing a step by step curriculum by which the children

never took more than 5 or 6 subjects at a time, but were

exposed to all subjects by the time they completed their

Junior Sec career. By 1982 this format had been abandoned

and children were again taking as many as 15 subjects at the

same time, with only language arts and mathematics getting

more than two periods per week. The schedule for the 2B

class is typical:

-=== =-------------------------------------
Language Maths Maths Compreh
Maths Grammar Composition Geography
Geography History Reading Religion
Lunch Break
- --------------------------------------------------
Sewing Comm. Arts Spanish History
Agriculture Gen. Science Arts/Crafts Music
Health Sci. Phys. Ed. Ind. Arts Comm.Arts
'' --'-------------------------------
---------, __,---------------------------

The Treatment Group

The children that the Ministry of Education asked me to

work with entered the Junior Sec from their respective

primary schools in September 1982. They were grouped by the

Junior Sec teachers into a single form, "lC", on the basis

of their performance on the placement test which was

administered in the primary schools late in the previous

school year.

The following table summarizes the Treatment group by

sex and age as of December 1982:

NUMBER 20 9 29
MEAN AGE 12.3 12.8 12.5

The children came from every region of Carriacou, as shown

in the following table (see map in Karyaku Wod Buk, Appendix



1. Hillsborough and surrounding areas..........14
2. L'Esterre, Harvey Vale, etc............... 3
3. Dover, Belvedere, etc.......................6
4. Top Hill, Mt. Royal, Belair, etc.............4
5. Grand Bay, Mt. Pleasant.....................1
6. Windward, Petit Carenage.....................1
--------------- ----------------------------------
Total ......................................... 29

In Carriacou children are commonly left with a

grandmother, aunt, or other relation while one or both

parents emigrate to find work. The following table

summarizes living arrangements for 19 children in the

Treatment group, as of July 1984:


Houses in Carriacou are classified in two kinds: /bod/

'frame' and /wal/ 'concrete block'. Frame houses are more

common and less likely to be wired for electricity than the

newer concrete block ones. Well over half the children in

the Treatment group lived in frame houses without

electricity, as shown in the following table:


/BOD HOWS/ 5% 58%
/WAL HAWS/ 21% 16%

Another important consideration in Carriacou is provision

for water. As mentioned before, all water for human use is

rain water which is generally caught in the form of runoff

from the roofs of buildings. Most houses in Carriacou have

some setup for collecting rain water: a concrete cistern or

an oil drum (/kyan/). There are also a number of government

built public tanks. The following table shows how the 19

Treatment group households get their water:

/KYAN/ 21

Finally, the ways in which cooking is done in the

households surveyed are presented below. "Fireside"

(/faya-sayd/) implies the use of wood gathered from bush or

forest. "Coal pot" (/k61-pat/) is an iron pot used with

charcoal, which is made locally.




On a typical school day, children in Carriacou take

care of a number of chores before going to school. These

include opening up the house2, sweeping, tending

animals, /dr6gin/ ('carrying') water, finding firewood,

washing wares, and sometimes cooking. Many walk to school,

although some live as much as three miles from Hillsborough.

Breakfast is usually some kind of hot drink or "tea" with

bread, fried bakes, rice, or left-over /kuku/.3

After the morning session at school, snack is usually a

"snow-ice" (a small bag of frozen Kool-Aid) or perhaps a

soft drink with bread and cheese; a few carry a lunch from

home, but most do not eat a meal until they return home in

the middle afternoon. From time to time, depending on the

availability of foodstuffs, lunch is prepared for children

in the school kitchen.

Back at home, there are usually more chores, such as

tending animals or perhaps weeding in the garden, and maybe

some free time to play bat or stones, or have a sea bath,

before dark begins to settle and the kerosine lamps are lit.

If there is moonlight children and adults will remain

outside, either in the yard or visiting, but if it is /dak

nayt/ 'dark night' people will be inside soon after full

dark. This is a time to read, talk quietly, perhaps write

letters or sew, before turning in for the night.


1. On the other hand, a poorly designed orthography can
create problems. Rural native speakers of Haitian Creole
are reported to have great difficulty reading with the
orthography designed by Albert Valdman (see Valdman 1970)
which is the one considered "official" oy the Haitian

2. Houses in Carriacou are usually closed up very tightly at
night to ward against night breezes, which are considered
dangerous, as well as such nighttime marauders as the
/sukuya/ and /lugaru/.

3. /Kuku/ is a baked dish made from corn meal, often with
/6kr6/ added. As a leftover, it is often fried.



The language used by most people in most kinds of

social interactions in Carriacou has generally been

considered a substandard variety of English, when any notice

of it is taken at all. Because so much of the lexicon is

shared with metropolitan varieties of English, it is easy

for British and North American visitors to the island to be

fooled into thinking they understand more of it than they

really do, since they are usually completely unaware of the

underlying grammatical differences. The U.S. Peace Corps,

in the early 1970s, told Volunteers headed for Carriacou

that the language was English; no special language training

was provided other than learning a few quaint words and


Carriacou people themselves refer to their language as

"Broken English" indicating that they are well aware that

their language has some relationship with English, and that

they have accepted (at least on the surface) the mythology

that the relationship is unequal: Carriacou speech is a

"corruption" of English. This attitude has been reinforced

by most visitors to the island over the years, sometimes in

very subtle ways (see Starbird 1979 for an example).

Until recently, a systematic analysis of Carriacou

speech did not exist. Don Hill, in his exemplary

ethnography of Carriacou, recognized Carriacou speech as a

"variant of West Indian Creole English" that is "nearly

sufficiently differentiated from standard English to be

classified as an independent language" (Hill 1977:195). My

own work (Kephart 1980) showed where the major differences

between Carriacou speech and English lie and how those

differences fit into the total grammar of Carriacou speech.

At that time, I labelled Carriacou speech as a "variety of

Lesser Antillean Creole English" following Hancock (1977).

Many arguments have raged over the years as to just how

the Afro-American languages should be classified. Is

Haitian Creole essentially a variety of French (Hall 1966)

or is it a variety of West African (Sylvain 1936)? Based on

the demonstration that modern creoles can be compared with

each other to construct a proto-creole, but can not be so

compared with English or French (Alleyne 1980), I would

suggest that a new classification such as "Afro-diasporan"

be used (Kephart 1984).

Mythology of Afro-American Language

Origin Myths

Over the centuries a number of myths about the origin

of Afro-American language have been developed, sometimes for

the purpose of justifying slavery and/or the treatment of

Africans and Afro-Americans. One such myth holds that the

speech of Afro-Americans is the result of "primitive" or

even "savage" minds trying to learn a "modern" European

language and unable to do so. Sometimes this form of the

myth deals with physical characteristics as well, e.g.

Africans can't pronounce the interdental fricatives because

they have "thick tongues."

Another form of origin myth holds that creole languages

grew out of the "grunts and gestures" used by masters to

communicate with slaves on the plantations. This particular

origin myth is very persistent: I have had

university-educated native speakers of Caribbean Creole tell

me this is how their language originated. Related to this

is the notion that European masters on the plantations

deliberately simplified their speech when talking to slaves,

and that this caretaker speech or "baby talk" was what the

slaves learned.

A third myth on the origin of Afro-American language

holds that all traces of African language and culture were

destroyed by the process of enslavement, leaving the West

Africans involved as empty vessels into which European

language and culture could be poured, no doubt with a lot of

spillage, resulting in modern-day West Indian language and


Structure Myths

As with origins, there are a number of myths regarding

the structure of Afro-American speech which heavily

influence attitudes toward them.

One such myth holds that creole languages are

"ungrammatical" i.e. not rule-governed behavior. Although

Creole French was described in the form of a grammar as

early as 1869 by John Jacob Thomas (Thomas 1969), it has

only been fairly recently that linguists have written whole

grammars of creole languages; most often, they are concerned

with small pieces of the total grammar. But even the

grammars that have been written have often not been

accessible to the non-specialist West Indian population. As

a result, the myth persists.

As an illustration of a small piece of rule-governed

behavior in Afro-American, note the "passive" rule as I have

formulated it for Carriacou Creole:

Verb(active) --> Verb(passive) /_#


/Shi sel di fish./ 'She sold the fish'

/Di fish sel./ 'The fish have been sold'

Another structural myth about creole languages is that

they are "imprecise," i.e. people can not talk "accurately"

in Creole, as they can in "standard" English. But note the


/Shi g6 in di shap./
/Shi g6 in di shap./'She went into the store'
/Shi di-g6 in di shap./

In this case, a single sentence in English has been

translated by two different sentences in Creole. The

difference is important to Creole, but not to English: is

the person still inside the store? In the first Creole

sentence she is; in the second, she is not. Here, in the

domain of verbal categories regarding completed vs.

non-completed aspect, Creole is clearly more "precise" than


This does not exhaust the mythology about Afro-American

speech. One university-educated North American, a person

very familiar with Carriacou and the West Indies in general,

told me in 1979 that people who speak creole language all

their lives suffer from deterioration of the brain cells!

Unfortunately, people who are in positions of power over

creole speakers are nearly always holders of these

pathological illusions about the nature of human language.

The work of students of Afro-American language such as

Alleyne, Bailey, Farquhar, Bickerton, Hancock, Allsopp,

Carrington, Craig, and Rickford, has provided the raw

material for the demystification of West Indians regarding

their language. Afro-American language has been shown to be

rule-governed and fully "natural" human language. The

difficulty lies in getting the information to the West

Indian public in a non-technical form.

Origins of Afro-American Language

An Origin Model

The following synthesis owes most to Alleyne (1980)

although some factors from Bickerton (1975; 1982) also enter


In West Africa, around the slave-trading departure

areas, populations of multilingual West Africans were

becoming concentrated in the 16th and 17th centuries. These

were mostly speakers of languages belonging to the

Niger-Congo family, in particular the Mande and Akan groups

(Alleyne 1980). This population needed to be able to

interact linguistically both with the Europeans and with

themselves. To accomplish this, they took the most

accessible part of the dominating European language, namely

the lexicon, and mapped it onto the broad phonological and

morpho-syntactic patterns shared by the languages of the

Mande and Akan groups. At this point, the language was a

pidgin, i.e. there were probably no native speakers and

people continued to speak their own African languages.

After transportation to the Caribbean, members of a

single ethnolinguistic group were often separated from each

other (whether by chance or design). This resulted in

"speech communities" which were too small for the

maintenance of the native West African languages. The only

common language, in many cases, would have been the Pidgin.

The first generation of children born under these

circumstances might have learned their mothers' native

language, but for interaction with their peers they would

have had to go to the Pidgin. By the next generation the

Pidgin would have acquired native speakers, i.e. become


This model leaves open the question of whether English

and French were pidginized and then creolized separately, or

whether both were later relexifications of an earlier

Portuguese Pidgin/Creole. The important point is that the

model stresses the active part which West Africans played in

the development of Afro-American language; it was they who

took the language of the European exploiters and processed

it through the structure of their own shared systems,

thereby creating an essentially new language and culture.

The Life Cycle

The label "creole" or "creolized" language implies that

the language so labeled has passed or is passing through a

particular historical process, not all parts of which are

fully understood even today. This "life-cycle" can be

summarized as follows:

Contact situation (A B C) + X -->
Pidgin X ->
Removal of (A B C) -->
Creole X ->
Decreolization (X still present) or
Stabilization of Creole X

Here A, B, and C represent native languages of the

population brought together, in this case members of the

Mande and Akan groups; X represents a politically dominant

language, such as English. "Stabilization" does not mean

that the creole will not undergo any change; the changes

will be those of natural language change, rather than

prestige attraction (decreolization).

The Post-Creole Continuum

When the language "X" is present, it is possible to

find an area of variability between the Creole X and X in

which features of X are adopted, first as surface forms with

underlying creole semantics, then with the semantics of X as

well (Bickerton 1975). The resulting set of subsystems is

known as a post-creole continuum. Members of the

post-creole speech community, depending on their exposure to

the metropolitan forms of X through formal education,

travel, etc., tend to know both the creole system and one or

more of the subsystems within the continuum.

Some writers, following Bickerton (1975), refer to X as

the acrolect and to creole as the basilect; the area within

the continuum is then called the mesolect.

The continuum for Carriacou can be illustrated with the

following, extracted from a tape of 13-year-old children

guiding each other toward creole (see Appendix X):


X My brother and I went crab-hunting.
1. My brother and I went torching.
2. Me and my brother went torching.
Cr Me and me brother di-going and torch.
(/Mi an mi broda di-g6in an toch./)

The children were instructed to talk about whatever they

wished, but to avoid "school language" and talk as they

would with friends on the road or at home. The text

occurred while a boy was trying to tell a story about crab

hunting. He started with sentence #1 ("X" represents the EE

form, which was not produced on the tape). The others

present, after admonishing him to "speak bad," proceeded to

guide him toward the Creole end of the spectrum. The first

shift was in the subject, where "my brother and I" became

"me and me brother." The second shift was.with the

predicate, from "went torching" to "di-going and torch"

(/di-g6in an toch/). This little piece of text showed

very nicely that some children (these were high academic

students) are aware of the differences between CC and EE and

know how to move consciously from one to the other; although

of course like most native speakers of a language they can

not articulate the grammatical rules involved.

It seems clear that Carriacou is a "post-creole"

community, in that the farthest people normally go from

Export English is usually the last step above. In order to

get a more "deep" creole form, I have had to specifically

ask older people to tell me how something used to be said.

For example, everyone uses the suffix /-in/.for nonpunctual

aspect nowadays. The older form was a prefix /a-/. My

consultants tell me that /A g6in./ 'I'm going' would

have been, in earlier times, /mi a-g6./. This form is

found today, so far as I can tell, only in stories where

earlier patterns of speech are being mimicked.

Contributing Languages

Amerindian Languages

The earliest inhabitants of Carriacou were immigrants

from the South American mainland: the Siboney, the Arawaks,

the Caribs, and most recently the creolized "Island Carib"

language and culture. These peoples made more cultural than

purely linguistic contributions to modern Carriacou life,

especially in the form of foods such as corn (maize),

cassava, and pumpkins. They were unable to contribute much

genetic material because, in a small place like Carriacou,

with nowhere to hide, they were especially vulnerable to the

diseases carried by the European and West African


Nevertheless, a few lexical items from Amerindian

languages have survived into modern Carriacou speech,

including (Alleyne 1973):

/tatu/ 'armadillo'

/gwana/ 'iguana'

/maniku/ 'opossum'

/zandoli/ anolee'

There are a few other items, such as /zuti/ 'nettle' and

/kongori/ millepedee' which may or not be of Amerindian


West African Languages

While the phonology and morpho-syntax of CC reflect the

underlying postulates of the African base upon which

Afro-American was built, this section is concerned mainly

with surface features. A number of lexical items of West

African origin can be found in Carriacou Creole; the

following is merely a sample:

/saraka/ 'ritual feast' (Bambara)

/juk/ 'pierce, stab' (Fula)

/b6da/ 'anus' (Bambara)

The following Asante male day-names occur as surnames:

/Kwamina/ 'Saturday'

/Kwashi/ 'Sunday'

/Koj6/ 'Monday'

In addition, the following are recognized by Carriacou

people as African "nations" which their ancestors belonged

to and from which they are descended (Benjamin 1982):

Kromanti Ib6 Kong6

Mok6 Manding Temn6

Bong6 Tramba Kwelbe

Bula Arada Juba

There are some "nations" which are not (apparently) of West

African origin, such as the /Bele/ which appears to be

related to a place name (Belair) in Carriacou, and

/Haldkod/, Creole French for 'pull rope'. Some of the

clearly African ones are modified, such as /Skach-Ib6/

'Scotch Ibo' and /Ib6-Grenad/ 'Grenadian Ibo'.

Knowledge of the African nations from which Carriacou

people descend is enshrined in the Big Drum or Nation dances

(see Pearse 1956; Hill 1977). Each nation has a particular

drumming pattern and accompanying songs. While most of

these songs are in Creole French (see below) a few are,

according to the people who know them, in African languages.

The following example is a /Kromanti/ nation song (Appendix


Anansi 6, e,

Anansi 6 sari baba.

The only recognizable word in this song is /Anansi/, the

trickster spider. The meaning of the rest of the song is

not known.

Some Carriacou people told me they had learned in

primary school that Bogles (/b6glz/), the name of a

village, was an African word for "hell hole." The village

is on the site of a former estate owned by Robert Bogles

(Fenner 1784). Perhaps the estate was a "hell hole" in

terms of the treatment of slaves, and the folk etymology

preserves a bit of ethnohistory.

Lesser Antillean Creole French

The Creole French spoken in Carriacou is most closely

related to that of Martinique and Guadeloupe. This reflects

the fact that the first Europeans to settle Carriacou were

French who came from these areas in the 17th century,

presumably with their West African slaves (Hill 1977:205).

By 1750, there were about 200 people living in 9 major

settlement areas on the island. About half of these were

free and half slaves (Brinkley 1978). If the model of

creole language origin posited earlier is correct, certainly

by this time Creole French must have been the principal

means of interaction, except when French people were

speaking French with each other. Creole French remained the

main language of Carriacou until the last part of the 18th

century, when the British acquired Carriacou and most of the

island appears to be owned by people with English, rather

than French, surnames (Fenner 1784).

Despite the official status of English since that time,

as late as 1900 Creole French or /Patwa/ as it is called by

Carriacouans was being learned either as the first language

or along with Creole English, especially in the "French"

areas of L'Esterre and Belmont:

At those time we didn't speaking /Patwa/. Is only the
big people, parents and so on. . But they speak
English to us, but with their people and so on, the
surrounding, they speak /Patwa/. . We took it for
ourselves. Who knows it, take it for themselves, by
learning, you know, the surrounding, we take the
/Patwa/. (Benjamin 1983)

The following is a fragment from a story in Creole

French about a cat and a turtle, as told by Mr. Peter

Benjamin (Appendix X):

i ka-al6 deye pu misye Shat, i pa-we misye Shat, i
kwiy6 misye Shat. Misye Shat mem pa-w6pon,
pas, i la su d6 misye Toti ka-manigw6 ko-i.
Misye Toti pa-kong si misye Shat la su d6-i. Le
i wive su Lantikwi, i tini 5 sakwi ta ki
pas6: tone, zekle, lapli, tut sa. M6 misye
Shat ka-manigw6 ko-i2la su d6 misye
Toti.(Benjamin 1979)

While /Patwa/ is not learned as a native language in

Carriacou today, it is pervasive in the language and culture

of Carriacou. It apparently influenced the phonological and

morpho-syntactic patterns of Carriacou Creole English from

the time Creole English was introduced into Carriacou. The

two languages can be written with essentially the same

orthography and many syntactic constructions of CC are

morpheme-for-morpheme replacements from /Patwa/:




Patwa: /i ni/
'there is/are'
CC: /i av/
Patwa: /fe sa ba-mw6/
'do that for me'
CC: /du dat gi-mi/

Patwa: /ka-fe sh6/
'it's hot'
CC: /mekin hat/
Patwa: /kot6 u ye?/
'where are you?'
CC: /we yu d6?/

Patwa: /mi mwe isi-a/
'here I am'
CC: /luk mi ye/
Patwa: /kuma u y6?/
'how are you?'
CC: /how yu d6?/
Patwa: /mwe la/
'I'm OK'
CC: /a d6/

Many lexical items, including words for local plants

and animals, toponyms, and surnames, are in /Patwa/:

/tet-she/ 'tree boa'

/gwagozh6/ 'brown pelican'

/gwanambafey/ 'seeds-under-leaves (plant)'

/soley/ 'bigeye fish'

/Shap6 Kar6/ 'Chapeau Carre'(toponym)

/Mon Jalu/ 'Morne Jaloux' toponymm)

/Bid6/ 'Bedeau' (surname)

It is, however, mainly in folk and Big Drum songs that

actual texts in /Patwa/ have been preserved. Quite often,

the singers of these songs do not know the meaning of what

they are singing. The following song, a /Gwa Bele/, tells

of a vessel wrecked in an area of rough sea between

Carriacou and Grenada (Appendix X):

U pa-tan Venja kule?
Venja ney6 Kikamjeni-6!
Kapten Dezbat, ay-6!3
U pa-tan Venja kule?

Creole English

Creole English was brought into Carriacou in the late

1700s with the arrival of English-speaking planters and

their African slaves. They found a society of French and

Creole French-speaking people already in place. Presumably,

the Creole English which arrived at that time would have

resembled, to some degree, the more conservative varieties

of Creole still existing in parts of Jamaica and Guyana.

Evidence for this is found in that older persons in

Carriacou, when asked how people used to speak, cite forms

such as the following:

/mi a-g6/ 'I'm going'

/ay da-g6/

/a bway/ 'a boy'

Further evidence for the nature of Old Creole English in

Carriacou can be found in some of the Big Drum songs:

/yu n6-yeri?/ 'don't you hear?'

The form /yeri/ 'hear' reflects the canonical syllable shape

of early forms of Afro-American; it survives in Jamaican

Creole, though in modern CC the form is /ye/ (Alleyne


In one folk tale told by children, a man realizes that

the child he has found on the road is the child of a

/lajables/.4 The tipoff is the linguistic interchange

between the /lajables/ and the child; /lajables/ tend to

speak in Creole French or in Old Creole:

/Deziw6, we yu a-g6?/

(Desiree, where are you going?)

/D6 s6 d6 a-bring mi a dakta-6!/

(They say they're taking me to the doctor!)

Modern Creole English of Carriacou belongs to what

Alleyne (1980) calls "Intermediate Forms of Afro-American."

That is, it is closer to Export English than the more

conservative forms, such as rural Jamaican Creole. A

detailed sketch of the grammar of modern CC is provided in

Chapter Three. Following is a brief story in CC (Appendix

X) :

Wan ivnin, wen wi waz in D6va Skul, wi bin g6in
h6m man. Wi s6 wel wi g6in an red som
tambran. S6 wen wi d6 g6in, al ov os
klaym-op di tambran tri man. Neks ting, wi si dem
tichaz komin. Wi en-n6 wat tu-du boy. Wi plan wi
s6 wi wil-klaym dong di tri, an hayd in som gini
gras. Kom dong di tri an hayd in di gini gras. I ad
som oda children komin-op, s6 wi tel dem tu-hayd.
D6 neva hayd man! D6 stand-op. Wen dem tichaz
mit dem, man, d6 s6 "wat glyu duin in pipl
gyadn?"(St. Hilaire 1979)

Export English

The other language which has had a great effect on the

historical development of language in Carriacou is Export

English (see Preface). Export English is in a sense the

ultimate target at which the decreolization process is

aimed. This process has not gone as far in Carriacou as it

has in, say, Barbados, because of the shorter time period

during which English has been official and the relative

isolation of the island.

The local oral realization of Export English is what is

sometimes referred to as Standard West Indian English. This

is the language produced on formal occasions by the literate

elite. A brief sample of Standard West Indian is found in

Appendix X.

Context of Language Use

Restricted Contexts

"African" forms of language, as found in the Big Drum

songs, clearly occur only in a highly-specialized,

ritualistic context: the performance of a Big Drum dance. A

Big Drum may be held for the purpose of calling the

ancestors to a feast and asking their blessing on some human

activity, such as a boat launching, the opening of a new

house, or a funeral. They may also be held to thank the

ancestors for good fortune, either personal or communal.

Increasingly, /Patwa/ is also being confined to a

ritual context: Big Drum and folk songs in particular.

There are, however, large communities of Creole French

speakers on the islands of St. Lucia, Dominica, Martinique,

and Guadeloupe with whom Carriacou people have frequent

contact. Creole French is the native language of most

people in these areas and shows no signs of disappearing

there; thus there is good reason to suppose that it will

continue to exist, at least marginally, in Carriacou.

Whether it will ever make a comeback, as was attempted on a

modest scale under the People's Revolutionary Government

(1979-83) remains to be seen, but my impression is that many

young people are interested in their cultural heritage and

will continue to learn it from older people in the

community, while others, especially those who travel in the

Eastern Caribbean, will continue to learn it for more

practical reasons.

Context and The Continuum

Some structural aspects of the Export <-> Creole

continuum have already been discussed (pages 7-8). In

general, all Carriacou people speak CC (Carriacou Creole

English). Many, but not all, can in addition operate within

one or more of the subsystems which connect CC, ultimately,

with Export English. The exact nature of these subsystems

as they exist in Carriacou has not yet been investigated as

thoroughly as has the system for Guyana (Bickerton 1975).

Carriacou people exploit this continuum in terms of the

context in which speech occurs. The following shows how

this can happen in a number of selected domains:


Formal Informal
Impersonal Intimate
Detachment Emotion
Unequal status Equal status
Metropolitan culture Folk culture
Written Oral
Formal schooling Enculturation
Bible Folk religion
Radio, TV, Books, etc. Local Oral Tradition

It is important to keep in mind that this does not represent

a dichotomy of speech forms, but rather a series of

interlocking subsystems within which people operate,

depending on their ability to do so. The arrows represent a

pulling effect; people are "pulled" toward one end of the

spectrum or the other depending on the context in which they

find themselves. There are some who always operate at or

near the Creole end of the spectrum; there are others who in

effect operate at any point. Only foreigners operate only

toward the Export end of the spectrum.

As an example, teachers in school are "pulled" by the

context of formal education toward the Export end of the

continuum. They do not always operate at their maximum

distance from Creole, however. At times, they choose to

speak at the Creole end, especially when talking to children

about an emotionally loaded subject such as conditions under

slavery or sex education. One teacher calls it "going back

to roots." They may also move to Creole when it s obvious

that children have not understood the point as presented in

EE. Disciplinary language is more likely to be in Creole.

Another contextual factor influencing teachers' choice

of language in Carriacou is the relative prestige of the

school. While the five primary schools are pretty much

equal in prestige, there is a great difference between the

prestigious church-supported high school and the Junior

Secondary school. The two schools have pupils age 12 to 16,

but the Junior Sec was opened in 1971 specifically for

children who did not qualify for admission to high school.

Teachers at the high school are under much more pressure to

perform in Export English, since their students will be

taking the external exams. The Junior Sec teachers appear

more willing to accommodate since their charges are for the

most part not destined to be externally evaluated. As one

teacher puts it:

I continue using standard English but I try to
correlate it with the Creole. The same meaning I try
to give them in standard English I try to show them in
the same Creole. That mean I am doing basically two
classes, one in standard English, but one side by side
in Creole so that they would understand. This would
also help them understand the difference between the
standard English and Creole.(Adams 1984)

The following is a short sample of teacher-pupil

interaction in the classroom. The teacher is a young woman

with in-service training. The pupils are 13-14 years old

and among the top academics at the Junior Secondary School.

CC forms, whether grammatical or lexical, are underlined

when they contrast with EE forms.

T: Now suppose, this morning this child came in,

Melvin, and he didn't knock at the door he came

straight inside. And what did he, uh, what

Vaira did? What did Vaira did?

P: She complain. She tell him go back.

T: What did she do? She what?

P: She complain.

T: She complain. What did she say, can anybody


P: You just walk in the class and you en-knockin.

T: "You just walked into the class and you en-knockin."

That's what? A sentence, a question, a comment,

or what?

P: A comment.

T: She made a comment. He went outside...

P: ...and he stood up.

T: And he stood up. And what he did after?

P: He knock on the door.

T: He knocked on the door. By knocking at the door

what what what, what did he, what did you get from

that by knocking? When somebody knock at the door

what are they doing?

P: They /aksin/ to come in.

T: They /ak-/ asking to come in. And when you

asking something you are doing what?

You asking a...

P: Question.

In this sample of classroom speech, the only lexical

contrast is "stood up" which in CC means 'stand in one

place'. Interestingly, the children used the EE past tense

form for the CC form /stan-op/ which in this context need

not be marked for tense (see Chapter Three). The other

underlined verb phrases contrast with EE because they are

marked correctly for CC tense and aspect, but they would be

considered grammatically incorrect if judged as though they

were EE forms. The one exception is "What did Vaira did?"

in the teacher's first speech, which is a performance error

that fits neither EE nor CC, although a good case could be

made that it was caused by interference between EE and CC

syntactic patterns.

The following table provides a summary of teacher and

pupil performance in this discourse sample:

EE VP'S 14 U
CC VP'S 10 8
---- ---TOTALS 2 --5 8

It is worth noting that this teacher is relatively

self-conscious about language and, as the teacher of the

most "advanced" 13-year-olds, tries to speak EE as much as

possible: "If I am doing English language with my class, I

try to speak correctly so that the children would adopt that

style" (Simon 1984). Still, 40% of her verb phrases are in

CC. The data on the pupils speak for themselves.

Glottopolitics: "Nostalgia as Repression"

Language and race have been, historically, the two most

visible markers by which people in the West Indies have been

sorted for exploitation by the metropole. The culture of

the West Indies is pervaded with the mythology about these

two domains of human existence, and the parallels between

the two sets of mythologies are striking. The notion of

"standard language" as a real entity parallels that of "pure

race." Like "intelligence," these are reifications which do

not exist apart from the ideology about them, and yet vast

social, political, economic, and ideological systems have

been built on the assumption that they are in fact real

entities (Gould 1981).

While "race" can not be used openly as a criterion for

discrimination any more, "language" is so used.

Specifically, mastery of "standard English" as defined by

performance on exams sent out from the Metropole, such as

the O-level exams set in London and Cambridge, is the single

most important criterion for educational, economic, and

social advancement in the anglophone Caribbean. Until very

recently, these exams contained little or nothing of West

Indian cultural content; now that similar exams are being

set in Jamaica by the Caribbean Examinations Council, there

is more West Indian cultural focus. However, the exams

continue to stress prescriptivist "standard English"

grammatical patterns, making no allowance for the fact that

these patterns often contrast sharply with Afro-American

grammatical patterns. The exams presume that Export

English, i.e. the language of the exams, is the native

language of the population taking the exam. Sometimes, the

questions are likely to be confusing, especially to children

under the stress of the testing situation. Note the

following question from the CXC basic level English Language

sample examination paper. Students have to choose which

replacement for the underlined phrase is correct:

Some of the great writers of which we talk today,
had no idea they would be important to us.

(a) OK
(b) who we talking about
(c) about which we talk
(d) about whom we talk

(Caribbean Examinations Council 1983?)

Any test-taker who happens to be thinking in Creole when

they hit this question may well choose (b), since that is in

fact the correct answer for Afro-American speech in general.

The "correct" answer from the prescriptivist viewpoint, (d),

would hardly ever be uttered, even by native speakers of

varieties of English closest to EE. This question, then,

hits Afro-American speakers doubly hard since it not only

offers them an answer which is correct according to their

speech patterns, it also tests them on a speech pattern few

native speakers of English would ever use, except under

duress. Put another way, "prescriptive grammar in our day

is nostalgia as repression" (Pattison 1984:162).

It is important to keep in mind that at no time in

their school career have the people taking this exam been

given instruction in English as a second language. It is

nearly always assumed that deviation in their speech from

Export English represents a lack of grammatical knowledge

about EE, rather than use of a native-language system.

Hence language arts in school is largely a matter of filling

an empty reservoir, a reflex of the deficit model of

Afro-American language and culture. In most of the West

Indies, little effort is made to meet children where they

are and capitalize on their already-acquired knowledge, even

when the home language and school language are as different

as Creole French and Export English.

Even well-meaning educators from the metropole often

accept the deficit mythology and regard teaching children

about their own language as likely to "confuse" them,

despite the fact that native language patterns continuously

turn up in attempts to write or speak Export English. These

people, in my opinion, underestimate the intelligence of the

children they claim to be so concerned about. My experience

in Carriacou has been that even specialists in language arts

usually do not know anything about the linguistic system of

Afro-American speech. A visiting teacher from Great Britain

was genuinely surprised to find that "They go in the shop"

as spoken by Carriacouan high school students means that the

party is still inside and is not simply an "ungrammatical"

utterance. The same teacher was also surprised to find

children in my project not "confused" by learning to read CC

in a phonemic orthography.

By denying children access to knowledge about and

respect for their native language and culture, West Indian

educational systems deprive them of the psychological base

they need to build the rest of their educational experience.

Hence they tend to be limited to mechanical and functional

literacy. This is beneficial to the metropole in at least

two ways. First, a population is maintained which can read

and write just well enough to sell their labor at cheaper

than the going rate in the metropole. Second, a society is

maintained which looks to the metropole for linguistic and

cultural norms at all levels. In this way (among others)

the exploitation of the former colonies by the metropole



1. Anthropology graduate student Kofi Akwabe Ameyaw, an
Asante speaker from Ghana, listened to the tape and was able
to identify only /anansi/.

2. "He looked for Mr. Cat, he didn't see Mr. Cat, he called
Mr. Cat. Mr. Cat did not answer, because he was maintaining
himself on Mr. Turtle's back. Mr. Turtle didn't know that
Mr. Cat was on his back. When he arrived over the Atlantic,
there was a terrible weather passing over: thunder,
lightning, rain, everything. But Mr. Cat kept himself right
there on Mr. Turtle's back." (Told by Mr. Peter Benjamin in

3. Haven't you heard Venture has sunk?
Venture drowned in Kikamjeni!
Oh, Captain Desbart,
Haven't you heard Venture has sunk?

4. The /lajables/ is a beautiful woman always dressed in a
long dress to hide the fact that she has one human foot and
one cow's foot. She plays many tricks on people, such as
riding the mailboat and paying for her passage in money
which later turns into /kaka pul/ 'chicken manure' or
/g6t mes/ 'goat shit'. People who talk to her are led
away into the bush, where their minds are addled. She can
be frightened off by the light from a car or cigarette.

5. "One afternoon, when we were attending Dover School, we
were on the way home. We decided to steal some tamarind.
So while we were on the way, we all climbed the tambran
tree. Then, we saw.those teachers approaching. We didn't
know what to do. We decided we would climb down the tree
and hide in some guinea grass. Come out of the tree and
hide in the guinea grass. There were some other children
approaching, so we told them to hide. They didn't hide at
all! They stayed right there! When the teachers got to
them, they said 'what are you doing in these people's
garden?'" (Story told by Maria St. Hilaire in 1979)


In previous sections, the claim has been made that

children in Carriacou speak a language which has been

labeled Carriacou Creole English or CC, which is

fundamentally different from Export English in its

underlying grammar. The purpose of this section is to

outline, as concisely as possible and in one place, the most

important patterns of CC grammar to provide a clearer idea

of the basis for the claim of underlying difference. It

should be kept in mind that this is intended as a sketch

only, and not to be confused with a complete grammar of the


Because the orthography used in the Project reflects as

closely as possible the phonological system of CC, some

discussion of how the orthography was designed will be

offered. At the end of the chapter, some comments on the

contrast between CC and EE will be given, especially in

reference to reading and writing.


Phonemic Inventory

CC has a basic vowel system consisting of seven vowel

phonemes as follows:

i U

e o


In addition, there are three glides, two front and one back:

ay 3Y 3W

Because of the close historical connection between CC

and Creole French (/Patwa/) there are many lexical items

shared by the two languages. CC speakers, even those who do

not speak /Patwa/, tend to retain the /Patwa/ pronunciation

of these items, some of which contain contrasts not found in

CC, in particular the nasalized vowels and a front glide

/y/. Therefore, a complete phonological description of CC

must include these:

a &


The CC consonant phonemes are as follows:

p t k

b d 9 g

f s s h

v z

m n

1 3

w y


The problem of writing down a creole language is not,

from a linguistic viewpoint, different from that of

providing a writing system for any previously unwritten

language. The complications arise from the fact that most

of the world is controlled by a superliterate elite with a

heavy emotional investment in whichever metropolitan or

export language happens to be the "official" language of the

area in question. This emotion is invested not just in the

language itself, but in the writing system as well.

Compounding this is the deficit mythology which generally

surrounds both creole and non-creole subordinate languages.

The end result is a tendency to metropolitanize the folk

language in writing, usually distorting it in the process

(see Layme 1980 for a discussion of the Aymara situation in

officially Spanish Bolivia; see also Valdman 1970 on the

struggle for an orthography for Haitian Creole).

A number of linguists have directly addressed the issue

of providing orthographies for unwritten languages (see

especially Pike 1976; Hall 1966; Hardman and Hamano 1984).

A common theme in these discussions is the need to balance

the practical limitations of typewriters and type fonts

available in the area with the desirability of a one phoneme

= one grapheme correspondence. Further discussion of the

advantage of phonemic orthographies will be given in Chapter

IV. For now, it is sufficient to state that a phonemic

approach was chosen for the Project.

In using a phonemic approach, the burning questions are

what symbols to use and how to assign phonological values to

them. The IPA symbols, which are recognized

internationally, are impractical for everyday use. Symbols

can be invented, as was done for UNIFON (Culkin 1981), but

this leaves open the question of ease of transfer to the

official language. For the Carriacou Project an

ethnophonemic system was used (Hall 1966:41) in which so far

as possible only symbols found on a standard English

typewriter were used. At the same time, an attempt was made

to assign values to the symbols which corresponded, when

such correspondence existed, to approximate values in EE, in

order to assist in transfer. However, I did not feel that

transfer was worth distorting the structure of CC,

especially as transfer of process rather than detail was the

goal (see Chapter IV).

It was most difficult to handle the vowels both because

they represent an extreme contrast with the EE system and

because there are only five vowel symbols on the standard

English typewriter. The problem is in the contrast between

mid and mid-low vowels, both front and back. I tried /ei,

ie, ee, ey/ for the phoneme /e/ and /ou, uo, oo, ow/ for

/o/. None of these was satisfactory, because all imply a

glide when what is represented is a simple vowel. I finally

settled on the acute accent to mark the higher member of

each pair of mid vowels. Of course, most typewriters do not

carry an acute accent (lingocentrism is inescapable) but

later, with the help of the children, I found that a bar

(raised hyphen) was just as good. This gives the following

alternative vowel representations:



i u i u
6 6 e o
e o e o
a a

For ease in printing, Format A will be used throughout this

dissertation, except when copies of materials produced with

Format B are being illustrated.

The glides appear as:


ay oy ow

The phonemes from /Patwa/ can be written as follows.

Note that although few English typewriters have the tilde it

is rarely needed.



Some examples of words in which these occur are:

/tetshe/ 'tree boa'

/sukuy2/ 'vampire'

/kokosa/ 'one-sided'

/soley/ 'bigeye fish'

The consonants are treated in CC orthography as:


p t ch k
b d j g
f s sh h
v z zh
m n ng
1 r
w y

The only "new" symbol is /zh/; all others share at least

their (approximate) CC values with EE, although most have

additional values in EE as well.

Note that the ethnophonemic system, while based on the

structure of the language itself, uses symbols found in the

children's environment, with about 85% transferability to

EE. The vowels transfer less than the consonants, but they

are within the mainstream European and African orthographic

traditions, which is more than can be said for traditional

English orthography.

Allophonic Variation

Allophonic variation, i.e. non-contrastive variation in

the realization of phonemes, is relatively limited in CC.

Nevertheless, some of the places where it occurs are

interesting from a contrastive standpoint.

One way in which CC differs from most other varieties

of Afro-American is in not having a short-long or tense-lax

contrast in the area of the vowels /i a u/. Thus, in CC,

the lexical pairs ship-sheep, shit-sheet, slip-sleep, and

full-fool are homophones. Likewise there is no front-back

contrast in the region of /a/, so that and-on is also a

homophonous pair. The reason for this appears to lie partly

in the fact that Creole English as brought into Carriacou in

the late 18th Century was influenced by Creole French, which

was already present, rather than by metropolitan varieties

of English as was the case in Jamaica and Barbados.

There is some variation in the areas of /i u/. The

variation which has been observed appears to be governed

partly by environment:

/i,u/ --> [I,U] /_C

However, not all such variation is conditioned by

phonological environment, since the same speaker may realize

'shit' as [sIt] or [sit], sometimes in the same sentence.

The major allophonic variation in consonants occurs

with /t/ and /d/ as follows:

/t,d/ --> [8,5] / r

This rule applies across word boundaries, e.g.:

/bat/ 'bath' + /rum/ 'room' --> [bacrum] 'bathroom'

A striking feature of CC phonology is the effect

/g/ and /6/ have on preceding stops. /6/ is

prepalatalized, while /6/ is prerounded; in some

speakers the result is almost glidelike:

/k[k/ [kyek] 'cake'

/tep/ [tyep] 'tape player'

/k6t/ [kwot] 'coat'

/b6t/ [bwot] 'boat'

One phoneme which exhibits considerable variation in CC

is /h/. Most speakers have it clearly in contrasts such as:

/han/ 'arm' vs. /an/ 'and'

/h61/ 'hole' vs. /61/ 'old'

/h/ is often realized, however, as a glottal stop ([?]) or

as 0; the exact conditioning factors are not known to me

at this time. Hence a word such as /han/ 'arm' may have the

following phonetic realizations:

/han/ --> [han]



Further complicating the issue is the fact that /h/ may

surface in vowel-initial words which are not "supposed" to

have it, such as /heg/ for 'egg'. People in Carriacou claim

that this is a feature of people from certain parts of the

island; it is labeled "bad" speech.

In materials for the children I spelled a word with /h/

if some people regularly realize either [h] or [?] in that

word. Thus most CC words that are cognate with an EE word

that has /h/ are also spelled with /h/. The major exception

is /av/ 'have' which never has initial /h/.

Syllables and Timing

The preferred syllable shape is CV, a general feature

of all varieties of Afro-American language. All the vowels,

glides, and nasal vowels, as well as the consonants /1/ and

/n/, may occur as syllable nuclei. The CV shape asserts

itself across morpheme boundaries, e.g.:

/if a kof im/ --> /i-fa-ko-fim/

'if I hit him'

Because vowels are not reduced in unstressed position, CC is

a syllable timed language, like Spanish or French, rather

than stress timed like English. Again, this is a feature of

most varieties of Afro-American and results in the

perception, for English speakers, that West Indians speak in

a "sing-songy" way.


The pitch contours of CC are very similar to those of

Creole French. High pitch marks stress; low pitch is

non-stress. Certain elements within a sentence, such as the

nucleus of a noun or verb phrase, must carry high pitch.

Other emelents, such as the preclitics for aspect, are

nearly always unstressed.

In a noun or noun phrase of more than one syllable,

stress tends to fall on the last syllable unless the nucleus

of the last syllable is /1/, which cannot be stressed..

Note the following (stressed sylllable is in CAPS):

/man-GO/ 'mango'

/si-KYAT/ 'octopus'

/gyad-N/ 'garden'

/kom-fo-TE-bl/ 'comfortable'

/KYAN-dl/ 'candle'

Morpho-Syntax: Noun Phrase

Structure of Noun Phrase

NP --> (Prenucleic)Nucleus

Nucleus -> Noun(suffix)

Prenucleic --> Determiner


NP Marker

Unmarked Noun

Unmarked nouns are generic, that is all members of the

class are represented:

/fig/ 'bananas (in general)'

/uman/ 'women'

/maniku/ 'opossums'


Determiners mark a noun as non-generic. Indefinite and

definite articles and demonstratives may occur in the

determiner slot.



NEAR dis diz
FAR dat dem


/a fig/ 'a banana'

/di uman/ 'the (specific) woman'

/dis maniku/ 'this opossum'

/dem kyatl/ 'those cows'

There can be only one determiner per NP. Since the person

markers cannot co-occur with other determiners, they are

classed with them. When person markers occur in the

determiner slot, they mark possession.



FIRST mi wi
SECOND yu alyu
THIRD i, shi d6

Examples of the use of person markers as determiners:

/mi fig/ 'my banana'

/wi fig 'our banana'

/yu fig/ 'your banana'

/alyu fig/ 'your (pl) banana'

/shi fig/ 'her banana'


Plural is an optional category in CC; it need not be

marked inflectionally (i.e. by a suffix) if it is already

marked syntactically by a plural determiner or a quantifier.

Note the following:

/wan kyat/ 'one cat'

/dem kyat/ 'those cats'

/tu fowl/ 'two chickens'

/plenti ship/ 'lots of sheep'

The plural suffix /-andem/ carries the meaning 'the

thing marked plus other things which may or may not be the

same'. It may occur with both human and non-human nouns:

/buk-andem/ 'books'

/wi ting-andem/ 'our things'

/Kwamina-andem/ 'K plus others'

The EE plural suffix I-S] also occurs in CC. I have no

evidence that it covers a different semantic range from

/-andem/, and the two can co-occur:

/fren-z/ 'friends'

/fren-z-andem/ 'friends'

The morphophonemics of [-SI are the same as in EE:

/kyat-s/ 'cats'

/dag-z/ 'dogs'

/stich-iz/ 'stitches'

Possessive /-6n/

The suffix /-6n/ marks a noun as the possessor or

owner of something. It is obligatory for possessives in an

exposed position, i.e. when the possessed noun or NP is not


/dat iz Shoma-6n/

'that's Sherma's (something)'

Complex Noun Phrase

Complex NP's are formed when more than one noun occur

in the nucleus slot. There are two types of complex NP.

The first, and most productive, consists of noun + noun. In

this structure the first noun describes, limits, specifies,

or otherwise modifies the second noun:

/tambran tri/ 'tamarind tree'

/wata not/ 'green coconut'

/si kyat/ 'octopus'

/wal hows/ 'block house'

/dakta bod/ 'hummingbird'

/Kwamina pen/ 'K's pen'

/kow bres/ 'cow teat'

Notice that possession, which forms a separate structural

category in EE, is included in this CC structure.

The other complex NP structure takes the form noun +

/a/ + noun. The particle /a/ relates the second noun to the


/wan grin a fig/ 'a finger of banana'

/tu set a children/ 'two groups of kids'

Noun Phrase Markers

These precede the NP and mark it for location,

direction, instrumentality, goal, or separation. The most

common NP markers are illustrated below:

/in Karyaku/ intoo Carriacou'

/bay Kwamina/ 'at/to K's place'

/antap di tri/ 'up in the tree'

/wit r6p/ 'with rope'

/fo mi broda/ 'for my brother'

/ . gi mi/ '. . for me'

/sens monin/ 'since morning'

Some other NP markers are: /insayd/ 'inside of'; /from/

'from'; /bil6/ 'under'; /an/ 'on'; /bihayn/ 'in back


Morpho-Syntax: Verb Phrase

Person Markers

The person markers which occur as determiners in the NP

have already been presented. There are two other syntactic

slots in which the person markers may occur: a preverb

("subject") slot and a postverb ("object") slot, which

includes the slot after NP markers. When they occur in

these other slots, the person markers show syntactically

conditioned allomorphs, only one of which is obligatory.

The following table summarizes the person markers in all


(a) mi
i (im)
shi (a)
wi (alwi) (os)
d6 dem

The Sentence

There are two fundamentally different sentence types in

CC. One is the equational in which two NP's are tied

together by a copula. The other is predicational which

contains a subject NP and a predicate VP. The two types can

be formulated as follows:

S(Equat) --> NP Cop NP

S(Pred) -> NPVP

Equational Sentences

In this sentence type, two NP's are connected by a

copula. In modern CC, the universal copula is /iz/:

/mi fada iz a fishaman/

'my father is/was a fisherman'

/al a wi iz wan/

'we are all one people'

There is no obligatory marking for tense; however,

equationals may be marked past by /waz/:

/dat waz a lajables chayl/

'that was a witch's child'

Interestingly, there is no way to mark an equational

"future." Instead, a process verb such as /ton/ 'become'

which can take future marking must be used:

/shi g6-ton ticha/

'she will be a teacher'

The copula /iz/ contracts to /i/ in rapid speech. This

contraction is interesting because it runs counter to EE in

which the vowel rather than the consonant of the copula is

deleted. But it parallels /Patwa/ in which the full copula

/se/ contracts to /6/:

EE: That's the banana.

CC: /da i di fig/

Patwa: /sa 6 fig-la/

The explanation for this probably has to do with the fact

that EE is stress timed and reduces or loses vowels in rapid

speech, while both CC and /Patwa/ are syllable timed and

more likely to reduce or lose consonants.

Predicational Sentences

These sentences, unlike equationals, are marked for

tense, mode, and aspect. They contain a verb, which is

defined as the minimal occupier of the nucleus slot in the


S(pred) --> NPVP

VP -> (Preclitic)Nucleus(Compl)

Nucleus --> Verb(Suffix)

Suffix /-in/

Preclitic --> Aspect




The co-occurence of elements of the VP is summarized in the

following table:

ASPECT +/- + +/-
TENSE +/- + +/-
MODE +/- +
---------------------------------------------~~ ~ Z Z 9 Z

Non-Punctual /-in/

All CC verbs can be classified into two cryptotypes

(Whorf 1979) depending on whether or not they can occur with

the non-punctual aspect suffix /-in/. Those which cannot

occur with /-in/ are called statives; those which can take

/-in/ are non-statives (cf. Bickerton 1982). Statives are

inherently non-punctual in aspect:

/i d6 in di ka/ 'it's in the car'

/a veks/ 'I'm angry'

/yu n6 dat/ 'you know that'

Non-statives are inherently punctual in aspect:

/Kwamina skr6p fish/ 'K cleaned fish'

/Kwamina g6 in tong/ 'K went to town'

Punctuality and non-punctuality in CC refer to whether

an action, state, or process is viewed as a point in time

(punctual) or as spread out in time (non-punctual).

Non-stative verbs, which are inherently punctual, can be

marked non-punctual; the reverse is not true, as shown in

the following table:




Examples of use of /-in/:

/Kwamina skr6pin fish/ 'K is/was cleaning fish'

/Kwamina g6in in tong/ 'K is/was going to town'

Apparently the suffix /-in/, which is clearly a

borrowing from EE, has replaced an earlier prefix /a-/ or

/da-/ which is attested now only in folk tales or examples

of the way people in Carriacou used to talk (see Chapter


Verbal Preclitics

At one point in the history of CC, all TMA markers were

preclitics. At some point, the earlier non-punctual markers

/a-/, /da-/ were replaced by the suffix /-in/, which is

clearly a borrowing from EE. The remaining preclitics

superficially resemble EE auxilliaries, but function very

differently. They can not occur in exposed position, and

with two exceptions they are all unstressed.

Iterative /doz-/ All verbs may be marked iterative,

i.e. the action, state, or process is viewed as occurring

regularly or habitually. With attributive verbs., /doz-/ -->


/a doz-d6 al di taym/ 'I'm regularly present'

/shi doz-g6 in tong/ 'she goes to town


/ayskrim dozbi-nays/ 'ice cream is tasty'

Iterative and non-punctual aspect marking may co-occur, as

in the following:

/Kwamina dozbi-skrepin fish/

'K is regularly engaged in cleaning fish'

The anterior iterative marker /yustu-/, presumably from

EE "used to", occurs in many people's speech although it is

not obligatory: /doz-/ and /dozbi-/ may also refer to past


/d6 yustu-sel dem/ 'they used to sell them'

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