ISSN 0008 6495
U OF F
VOLUME 28 No. 4
Copyright reserved and reproduction without permission strictly forbidden.
1 Language and Survival: Will Sranan Tongo, Suriname's Lingua Franca,
Become the Official Language? by Joy Gleason Carew
17 Social History of Dread Talk by Velma Pollard
41 Language Maintenance and Language Shift in Dominica
by Pauline Christie
52 Language Maintenance and Language Death in the Caribbean
by Mervyn Alleyne and Beverley Hall-Alleyne
60 Samuel Selvon's Linguistic Extravaganza: Moses Ascending
by Maureen Warner-Lewis
70 Historical Grammar by Victor Casaus translated by Fragano Ledgister
72 Gwo Piton Piti Piton by Morgan Dalphinis
73 Claire Lefebvre, H. Magloire-Holly, Nanie Piou, Syntaxe de l'Haitien,
reviewed by Mervyn Alleyne
75 Mervyn C. Alleyne: Comparative Afro-American: An historical-compa-
rative study of some Afro-American dialects in the New World
reviewed by Lawrence D. Carrington.
78 Notes on Contributors
79 Notes for Contributors
80 Books received
UNIVERSITY OF THE WEST INDIES
Hon. R.M. Nettleford, O.M., Professor of Extra-Mural Studies (Editor)
Lloyd Brathwaite, Pro Vice-Chancellor, St. Augustine, Trinidad
Sir Sidney Martin, Pro Vice-Chancellor, Cave Hill, Barbados
Roy Augier, Pro Vice-Chancellor, Mona, Jamaica
G.A.O. Alleyne, Professor, Department of Medicine, Mona
Lloyd Coke, Department of Botany, Mona
Neville McMorris, Department of Physics, Mona
Janet Liu Terry, Associate Editor
All correspondence and contributions should be addressed to:
Department of Extra-Mural Studies,
University of the West Indies,
Mona, Kingston 7, Jamaica.
We invite readers to submit manuscripts or recommend subjects which they
would like to see discussed in Caribbean Quarterly. Articles of Caribbean relevancy
will be gratefully received. Authors should refer to the section on Information for
Contributors for guidelines.
Eastern Caribbean J$28.00
United Kingdom UK9.00
U.S.A., Canada and other countries US$22.00
Exchanges are conducted by the Gifts and Exchanges Section, Library, University
of the West Indies, Mona, Kingston 7, Jamaica.
Information for back volumes supplied on request. Volumes 1-18 of Caribbean
Quarterly are available in microfilm from Xerox University Microfilms and in book
form from Kraus-Thomson Reprint Ltd.
Subscription orders may be forwarded to the Editor or the Resident Tutor at the
University Centre in any West Indian Territory served by this University.
t is well established that the Caribbean region is a rich laboratory for the study of
reole languages and more importantly for the actual process of language formation in
contemporaryy experience. To the pure linguists this is in some ways a gift from heaven
)ut others would view the socio-political dimensions of the process of no less importance
n understanding the role and function of language per se.
So a point which keeps asserting itself in this issue is the politics of language. It
appears that how we speak and what we speak is not merely left to the chance of birth,
lace and class. It is the outcome of who governs whom.
In her article, Language and Survival: Will Sranan Tongo, Suriname's Lingua Franca,
become the Official Language? Joy Gleason Carew argues that Sranan Tongo the
language of the Surinamese majority should be made the official language and cannot be
elegated because prejudice claims that it has no grammar, or that Suriname is too small.
n response to comments that "Sranan Tongo has not got the kind of vocabulary to
handle twentieth century matters" Dr Carew counters that all languages have mechanisms
or making up and adding new words to the vocabulary. This process of making up and
dding new words to the language is the dynamic thrust of the Rastafarians who did not
vait on sociologues or linguists to point the way. In her article, the second to be pub-
ished in Caribbean Quarterly on the topic, The Social History of Dread Talk, Velma
'ollard continues to categorize and document the talk of the Dreads and points out that
he earliest expression (of Dread Talk) was within the closed group and available only to
hose who shared the particular beliefs but that today Dread Talk functions far beyond
he boundaries of the closed group for which it designed itself. Youth and music helped
o popularize the use of DT but Pollard states that "the language of the Rastafarians
thich was/is in fact Jamaica Creole 'stepped up' to accommodate certain philosophical
positions was ready and in place as a vehicle to convey the urgent message of protest".
Pauline Christie in Language Maintenance and Language Shift in Dominica says that
'The survival of a language which finds itself in competition with another depends on a
complex of factors. In extreme cases, one of them disappears leaving little trace". How-
ver, in Dominica "the French-lexicon Creole has survived approximately two centuries
if English influence. The factors which account for its resilience are partly political,
partly economic and partly socio-cultural, the importance of any one of these varying
rom one period to another". She also reminds us that "linguistic usage cannot be
Itered merely by official decree..." so that those who wish parliaments around the
'aribbean to declare creoless" official languages may wish to pause and ponder. Pro-
essor Mervyn Alleyne and Beverley Hall-Alleyne, in Language Maintenance and Language
)eath in the Caribbean examine the causes of language death in the Jamaica situation and
ell us that among the Maroons their language 'is dying, but not dead', and that it serves
ttle or no referential function. First of all, it seems never to be used spontaneously, it;
ordinary every-day communicative contexts. When asked to, Scott's Hall and Moore
own Maroons can carry on conversations in the old language, using fixed stylised ex-
ressions; but all creativity seems to be lost". The Rastafarian situation in reverse.
The question which must be posed is, do the national languages of the Caribbea]
need to be officialized? The answer may be no because they are official already and th
point is proven so well by Maureen Warner-Lewis in her contribution, Samuel Selvon'
Linguistic Extravaganza: Moses Ascending, which resorts to a calypso technique of th
Selvon may also have recaptured the exuberance and eclecticism of the Carniva
pageant in the linguistic manipulation exhibited in Moses Ascending, whose verbal vir
tuousity recalls the extravaganza of a pretty mas. Through linguistic hybridization anm
extravaganza, Selvon betrays and underscores the marginal status of the migrant. Warner
Lewis goes on to say that "the ironic metaphor of rise and decline which Selvon manipu
lates on a situational level is masterfully paralleled on the linguistics plane. .. (achieving
satiric effect by the swiftness of transition in language register.. ." Selvon employs all thi
particularities of Trinidadian, to give the language its proper name, by the use of Trinidac
English idioms, Trinidadian proverbial expressions, basilectal Trinidad English, including
the lack of subject-verb concord, formal non-differentiation of past and present tense, the
invariant singular for plural noun designation, etc. In fact "The real-life situation o
diglossia which obtains in the language performance of the majority of Trinidadians", i:
reflected in the work.
The two poems "Gramatica Historica" and "Gwo Piton Piti Piton" appropriately
round off this issue.
LANGUAGE AND SURVIVAL: WILL SRANAN TONGO, SURNAME'S
LINGUA FRANCA, BECOME THE OFFICIAL LANGUAGE?
JOY GLEASON CAREW
After two and half centuries of Dutch rule, Suriname. a multiracial and multilingual
society, independent since November 25, 1975. continues to use Dutch as the official
language. At the same time, Sranan Tongo. Suriname's lingua franca, after two and a
half centuries, continues to be used by the majority of the population. This linguistic
schizophrenia is the result of an elitest colonial educational programme that produced
a group of bilingual speakers' whose status depended on proficiency in the Dutch
language, and set a class stigma on the use of Sranan Tongo. Today, the usage of the two
languages is so clearly defined that should one be used out of place, a whole set of social
and linguistic traditions are disrupted. The sharper national awareness accompanying
Independence has inspired a new look at these languages, but because of their separate
distinctions, the underlying social questions are still to be resolved.
Sranan Tongo and the era of slavery are inextricably bound together in the social
history of Suriname. for slavery was the crucible in which this oral language was created.
A part of the Afro-Portuguese pidgin2 that developed in and around the Portuguese
slave factories and trading posts along the west African littoral, it came with the slaves to
the New World. For them, it was not only a means of communicating with overseers,
but more importantly a means of communicating with one another. The design of the
colonial overseers to separate tribal members, and therefore cut down on the slaves'
ability to communicate with one another, furthered the use of this lingua franca.3
The English ruled Suriname4 from 1651 to 1667 when they exchanged this colony for
Nieu Amsterdam and environs (New York). Although the Dutch gained control of the
colony, they nevertheless encouraged the English settlers to remain. It was not a question
of settler's rights, but of economics since the Dutch themselves had had little experience
in plantation agriculture and didn't want their new colony to founder. In spite of the
various inducements, they were successful only until 1678, by which time, most of the
English colonists had left for Barbados and Jamaica.
The English were the first colonists to bring slaves to Suriname, a fact which left an
indelible mark on the slaves' language for, during the period of English presence in the
colony, roughly twenty-five years, the Afro-Portuguese pidgin was relexified5 with
English as more and more words were replaced by English ones. An interesting factor
is that the subsequent Dutch tenure left Sranan Tongo (then called 'Creole') basically
intact. The Dutch colonial rule so severely restricted the slaves and their contact with the
Dutch population, that it abruptly stopped the growth of the language in the direction
of the colonizers'. Slaves were forbidden to learn Dutch or study any aspect of Dutch
culture, Creole being reserved for all communication with and among them. As
Voorhoeve writes in his article "Church Creole." "The Society tried hard to keep both
groups as distinct as possible."6 The general populace was to use Creole, while only a
privileged few would use Dutch. The East Indian and Javanese immigrants7 brought
in to work on the sugar and cocoa plantations abandoned by the Blacks after emancipa
tion were also inducted into this linguistic division. The combination of their low socio
economic status plus their isolation in rural communities meant that Sranan Tongo wa
the sole viable language for communication in Suriname. The reality of their day-to-da
existence and the interaction with vendors, other labourers, and repairmen, for whon
Sranan Tongo was the only language, underlined this. Educational opportunities, theo
rectically compulsory since 18738, would not have included them. The indenture(
labourer was brought in specifically to work, not get an education. Child labour, while
initially condoned, was finally outlawed, but the plantation system was such that enforce
ment of these laws was practically impossible. When the crops were ready for harvesting
the children were taken out of school to join the labour force; family survival depended
The knowledge of Dutch, as was true in all colonial societies, had traditionally been
equated with an elite status. The person skilled in the colonizer's language has tradition-
ally been rewarded with greater opportunities in life. It could take him not only out of
his village, or back street, but also to the 'mother' country, the ultimate land of promise.
Since the time of an established European presence on the African continent, there have
been local interpreters, persons who saw the value of excelling in the language of the
colonizer so that they, themselves, might serve as colonial surrogates. This position,
an enviable one, would have attracted new claimants and created models. It would have
set a linguistic precedent in that these skills automatically set the speaker apart in the
society not only in the eyes of the slave master, but also in the eyes of his peers.
Language played a vital role in the development of elites for, with the greater com-
petence, be it in Dutch, in Portuguese, in Spanish, in English, or in French, the speaker
was able to leave the ranks of the illiterate.
In Suriname, Creoles9, East Indians, Javanese, Chinese, Amerindians, Maroons 10, and
other ethnic groups are of necessity bilingual. Many, in fact, are tri- and quadrilingual.
They retain their native languages for use within their ethnic groups and use Sranan
Tongo or Dutch, or both, for communication with persons outside of their groups. Both
languages serve to cross the linguistics barriers of the multi-ethnic society, but only one is
available to the educated class, the other being the domain of the general populace.
Sranan Tongo had traditionally been linked with slaves, immigrants, the working class,
and the 'blue collar' labourer. Seeking a position at the 'white collar' level, the applicant
must have completed a certain level of education and, of course, know Dutch. Often, his
efforts are accompanied by a change of social class, and, he must change his linguistic
habits to suit his new lifestyle. In his attempts to ignore, or deny, the heritage of the
language, and perhaps of himself, he then relegates it to a narrow set of 'proper' usages,
allowing it to surface under prescribed conditions. His tenuous foothold now requires
that he carefully assess each linguistic interaction, i.e. to know if the other person is of
the same ethnic group, or if he is of the same class, or determine the intimacy of the
situation for, only by a strict adherence to the 'correct' language at the correct time does
he retain his social prestige.
As a determining factor, ethnicity is not so much a racial matter as one of religion
and age. For example, the East Indians of the Hindustani and Moslem religionsI retain
Hindi and Arabic as an integral part of their lives and it is not uncommon for an older
generation East Indian to speak only his ethnic language, and, perhaps, Sranan Tongo.12
Depending on the intimacy of the interaction, the bilingual speaker might use one of
these languages rather than Dutch. (Some parents demand that their children use only
Dutch for all communication, even when they, themselves, may not understand it.)
Hindi and Arabic, however, are not so bound to class stigma as is Sranan Tongo, by virtue
of their religious orientation.13 The slaves were zealously deprived of their cultural norms
including their religions, thus, to continue their worship, their indigenous religion had to
go underground. On the other hand, efforts to restrict the culture of the more recent
immigrants were not so harsh, and their religious worship was condoned.
Class is a decisive contributor to language choice. Many bilingual speakers continue to
use Dutch even when they know that the listener does not speak this language. As Eersel
writes in his article, "Prestige in Choice of Language," "The new elite, not having other
means of demonstrating their position colour of skin does not serve have to take
refuge in Dutch...." 14Dutch is a way of gaining prestige in Suriname society. Only when
the bilingual speaker feels secure in his social status, that is, if his prestige would not be
diminished by his use of a language other than Dutch, would he use that language.
Questions have been raised about making Sranan Tongo the official language of
Suriname. With Independence, the new government is seeking to highlight the country's
unique heritage. Sranan Tongo is one of these cultural features having been created in
Suriname. For the monolingual speaker 15, Sranan Tongo is a fact of his existence. He
may state his preference of Dutch for official matters, although he does not understand
it, and even expresses a lack of confidence in his own language. Still, his life is tied to the
use of Sranan Tongo, and he uses it for the majority of his communicatory needs. The
bilingual speaker, though, is generally disturbed by the prospect of Sranan Tongo
becoming the official language for, he has taken great pains to excel in the use of Dutch.
He actively strives to keep Sranan Tongo in its 'place' and points to its 'shortcomings',
declaring that it 'has no grammar', or that 'it has not got the kind of vocabulary to handle
twentieth century matters', or that 'it is only spoken in Suriname'. All of these com-
ments show a kind of intellectual and emotional myopia.
When the bilingual speaker states that the language 'has no grammar', he means that it
does not conform to the syntactical rules of the language used as a measuring stick, in
this case Dutch. Rather, Sranan Tongo appears to be a hodge-podge of sounds and words
that eventually have some meaning. The more typical example cited is the verbal system.
In Sranan Tongo, the verb is invariable. Tense is shown by the addition of particles, such
as: ben (past marker), sa (future marker), and e (present progressive or immediate future
marker) A no ben sabi. "He didn't know." Dan wi sa njan prisiri. "Then we shall
celebrate (eat with pleasure)." Mi e go loekoe mi mama. "I'm going to see (my)
mother." The verb's position in terms of other verbs, e.g. go bai "going to buy"
designates its function as an infinitive bai "to buy". Because the verbs are not conju-
gated as in Dutch, they are then considered somehow deficient in conveying meaning.
The Surinamer's opinions are based on social prejudice, not linguistic fact. It is the same
sort of ignorance that had American linguists believe the Chinese could not think logically
- since the Chinese language did not follow the 'logical' patterns of Indo-European
grammar. China's role as a major world power whose people have built roads, dams,
nuclear reactors and other items that Western technology is so proud of certainly does
not coincide with this theory. In the words of Sommerfelt, in his article, "The Inter-
relationship Between Language and Culture,"
It seems clear to me that language imposes on us a certain view of our surround-
ings and behaviour. We distinguish between actor, acts and objects because our
languages do so. Grammatical relations, whether expressed by inflected forms
or through syntactic distribution, imply a classification of the phenomena which
surrounds us. The problem is now: do these grammatical relations just consti-
tute different ways of rending an identical manner of seeing the world or do
they imply different categories of perception and judgement. Personally, I
think that those who maintain the latter point of view have serious reason in
favour of some of their assumptions. But that does not mean that the funda-
mental principles of logic are different.16
Up to the present time, there has been no standardization of Sranan Tongo ortho-
graphy. Small treatises have been presented, but their audience has largely been linguists
and other scholars. For artists and advertisers, using Sranan Tongo in written form, the
orthography has been of their own invention basically conforming to Dutch phonolo-
gical transcription, although, on occasion, using a form of the International Phonetics
Alphabet. For example, the sound [u] has variously been written oe (oema [uma]
"woman") and u (luku [luku] 'look"), With standardization, such occurrences as deleted
syllables or reduced vowels would also have to be considered. The decision whether
"grandmother" (pronounced [granmma]) should be written granmama or granma is one
that would have to be based on the etymology of the word, plus the specification of a
grammatical rule (repeated syllables of the variety [CVCV] are contracted by dropping
the first vowel, the two syllables become one, and the consonant length is doubled.)
This is also seen in words, such as: wowojo [wwojo] "market" and papa mama
[paamma] "father's mother". Furthermore, a rule would have to be specified that verbs,
such as taki "talk" preceding words en "to him, to her" or dati "that" drop the final [-i],
and with vowel initial words, an elision is formed, e.g. [takenI.
Surinamers on the whole find Sranan Tongo difficult to read. Those for whom the
language is the principle one have not had much contact with the written word, since
most of them have had a limited education. The bilingual Surinamer, who has had quite
a few years of education and is acquainted with written texts, also finds it too difficult to
read. For the former, it is a matter of too little education, for the latter, too much. The
bilingual speaker is conditioned to reading Dutch, and 'real' languages. He has been
influenced by the social pressure against Sranan Tongo. While he may be able to use it
freely in oral form on the street, he can only read it with difficulty.
In response to comments that 'Sranan Tongo has not got the kind of vocabulary to
handle twentieth century matters', it might be well to note that a good many of the
developing countries making such statements have, themselves, only just entered the
twentieth century. Largely shunted away by the colonial rulers, their only link with the
outside world has been the country of the colonizer. In the case of Suriname, contact
with other South American and Caribbean countries has been sorely lacking, and only
since Independence has it begun to make a conscious effort to explore ties with other
countries in the Western Hemisphere.
All languages have mechanisms for making up and adding new words to the vocabu-
lary. Loaned and borrowed words are a common feature of a language's development.
For those nationalists who insist that Sranan Tongo be kept 'pure', Sranan Tongo, like
any other language, has the internal tools for devising vocabulary to describe new items,
e.g. singi dosoe "radio" or konroe dosoe "telephone". However, one should not disdain
borrowed words. In response to a questionnaire 17 on Sranan Tongo. one respondent
listed the words televisie and wasmachien as being Dutch words used in Sranan Tongo.
The fact is that these words were borrowed from English by the Dutch language.
American technology developed many mechanical and scientific items which, when
spreading into the world market, were taken along with the English name. If this is a
normal procedure for Dutch, perhaps the Surinamer should not be so restrictive with
Sranan Tongo? Furthermore, to say that Sranan Tongo doesn't have the vocabulary is to
assume that it is incapable of growth. Given the opportunity of contact with other
languages no language is left unaffected. There are not more signs of linguistic influence
on Sranan Tongo because the speakers have not been a part of the changing society.
Those who participate in the twentieth century changes use Dutch as their linguistic
medium. The reality of the Sranan Tongo speaker is still in the 19th century.
Many Surinamers consider the fact that Sranan Tongo is 'only spoken in Suriname' a
weakness of the language. This is an interesting criticism given the relative sizes of
Suriname and the Netherlands. Suriname is approx. 60,230 sq. mi. in area. The Nether-
lands is about 13,433 sq. mi. which, if you add the Netherlands Antilles, comes to ap-
proximately 13.800 sq. mi. Both are bordered by countries speaking entirely different
languages. It would seem that in terms of this logic of size, the question of Dutch versus
Sranan Tongo would suggest that Dutch is the language that should be discontinued. The
Netherlands does have a larger population, but one would wonder if the numbers of
Indonesians and Surinamese that swelled the population just before and since the Inde-
pendence of each country are to be considered speakers of Dutch? Nonetheless, it is not
so much a question of physical size as political/international importance. The Nether-
lands has had many more years of experience in the world arena and has numerous
connections in world trade, etc. Developing countries, Suriname included, traditionally
have had to fight their way into this arena with serious disadvantages.
Recently, Tanzania faced the same problem of language choice. In its multilingual
society, English, the language of the colonizer, held the prestige position, and, Swahili
was considered by some people as being particularly ill-equipped as a language with which
to move into the twentieth century. The governmental decision to make Swahili the
official language was a firm one and, as a result, the means are being found to have the
language conform to the social, economic, and cultural needs of the country.18 English
has been retained, but only as an international language. This is an important precedent
for countries such as Suriname. Sranan Tongo could be recognized, as Swahili was, and
could be adjusted through vocabulary augmentation, etc. to deal with national matters.
Dutch, then, could be retained as an international language.
The opinion in Suriname appears to be that another language is needed for interna-
tional communication. Dutch is limited to the Netherlands and the Netherlands Antilles.
The contention is that if Suriname is to deal with other countries, and particularly its
neighbours Brazil and Guyana, it might be better to use a world language such as Spanish
or English. As is happening with many other countries, the Netherlands included, English
is the front-runner as it is steadily becoming the international language of diplomacy.
Programmes are underway to introduce English earlier in Surinamese schools, so that by
the end of the students' education, they will have a better command of the language.
Other than these school programmes, there are various issues which could affect
Suriname's effort to add English to its multilingual society. The infiltration of American
cultural and commercial influences are playing an important role. There have been
important contacts between the U.S. and Suriname because of the bauxite and related
industries. The U.S. has invested massive capital in Suriname's development (in 1974,
estimated at Sf 700 million (US$400 million)). 19 SURALCO, the Suriname branch of
ALCOA (Aluminum Company of America), supplies more than half of the aluminum
used in America. Within this huge company, English is the language of business at the
upper and mid-management levels, while the bauxite workers continue to use Dutch
and Sranan Tongo. In a strike for higher wages, the American management wrote to
the workers in English. Replying in Dutch, the workers demanded that the company
communicate with them in Dutch only so as to avoid misunderstanding. As is evident
by this example, English has its place in the business arena. Not, perhaps, at the 'blue
collar' level, but undoubtedly at the 'white collar' level. Those employees wishing to
move up in the company will be forced to improve their competency in English.
SURALCO is only one of the major American corporations operating in Suriname, but
the push for English is basically the same in most foreign concerns.
As far as the potential impact, the media television and cinema -- can prove most
effective. In the Caribbean, the spread of American TV has proceeded with relative
facility. Examples can be found from the Bahamas' use of American TV programming
in toto (New Providence has no television station and so viewers rely on the airwaves
across the short stretch of ocean between them and Florida) to Suriname's use of one to
two hours of American TV (offering programmes from soap operas to cop-and-robber
shows), but otherwise presenting local programmes. 21 These programmes bring English
into the home where it serves as a facile source of language learning. This does not
develop necessarily, an active ability to use the language, but it does tend to bring about
a passive capacity to comprehend it in general conversation. Coupled with the school
language programmes, children take to it easily.
The television, however, is not an all-pervasive piece of furniture in Surinamese homes.
The price of the set is such that ownership is restricted to a minimum of the middle-class
income. The lower class as a whole would not have the funds to purchase a set, hence,
would not be influenced by it. The movie house, on the other hand, is available to the
general public. A vast number of American and European films in English are brought in
for viewing. There are also many Oriental pictures which are either dubbed or sub-titled
in English. For three guilders (approx. $1.70) and lower, the viewer can hear a minimum
of two hours of English.
These films give the viewer not only a language lesson, but also a good dose of the
accompanying culture. Fashions, style of walking, and verbal expressions are often
picked up from this medium. As a case in point, a Black student from Chicago, in
Suriname on a study, was talking with a Surinamer in English. The Surinamer, a Saramac-
can 22 who was living in the city, was dressed very much like someone from an American
city. He was, in fact, complaining that other Surinamers didn't know the right kind of
"vines'"3to wear, that they had no sense of style. During the conversation, he frequently
used the expression "shit man" 24 .The American student, coming from southside
Chicago, where this expression was an essential part of the conversation, saw nothing
unusual in it. In fact, he was certain that this fellow knew English very well. After a
while, when the two were on more intimate terms, the Surinamer leaned over to him and
asked, "Hey Kwesi, what does 'shit man' mean?" This is a prime example of both cultu-
ral and linguistic borrowing for, not only did the Surinamer dress the part, he took some
of the expressions into his language and used them in the appropriate instances. Whether
or not he knew the meaning, he had picked up enough of the timing so that he knew
where and when to use the words. Needless to say, his only real contact with the Black
American would be through the films. American bauxite employees have been and con-
tinue to be virtually all white Americans; furthermore, they are largely secluded from the
mainstream of Suriname life, living in an enclave specially built for them.
It is interesting that Portuguese and English played a seminal role in the development
of Sranan Tongo, and that, with the growth of English usage in Suriname, English should
again play an important role. Sranan Tongo is considered an English creole. During that
initial twenty-five year period when the English first brought slaves to Suriname and their
Afro-Portuguese pidgin was relexified with English, a certain vital exchange was taking
place which allowed Creole to grow. There was enough linguistic interaction for the
slaves' language to adapt more words and syntactical patterns from English. The Dutch
system of locking the slaves away from both linguistic and cultural contact with them
abruptly stopped Creole from developing along English or Dutch lines. The English
influence left with the English planters and the colonial laws prevented the dissemination
of Dutch. The result was that Creole was creolised and, in fact, firmly installed. Working
with DeCamp's theory of a 'post-creole speech continuum', one could postulate that
given the same continuous English influence as in Jamaica, Creole, or Sranan Tongo, in
Suriname would have had decidedly more English characteristics. "Thus Sranan or the
French of St Lucia and Grenada have not developed a post-creole continuum, because
there is no continuing corrective pressure from standard English in Suriname or from
standard French in St Lucia and Grenada." 25
With the increased number of schools, Dutch is progressively having more influence on
one of the prime groups of Sranan Tongo speakers the children. The more contact
they have with Dutch in their instruction, the more likely they will use Dutch words in
Sranan Tongo, as well as increase their use of the language in general. For example,
Dutch oupa and ouma "grandfather (grandpa)" and "grandmother (grandma)" are often
used in place of Sranan Tongo grandpapa and granmama. Furthermore, the ratio of
Dutch to Sranan Tongo used by the bilingual child with his peers increases as he gets
older. This is particularly evident with the middle-class child as he becomes more and
more aware of the social opinions of Sranan Tongo. It is possible to find younger
children in a family using predominantly Sranan Tongo with their friends, while their
older brothers and sisters are using predominantly Dutch with theirs.
In colonial societies, the schools were first built in the urban areas, leaving the rural
communities with few educational options. The occasional school was usually poorly-
equipped to handle the multilingual community. The picture is much the same today in
Suriname with the better-equipped schools located in Paramaribo. It is not unusual to
see children travelling from the rural areas to the city rather than go to the village school.
Dutch is the language of instruction. Literacy is taught in Dutch. Many of the
students attending these institutions, however, meet Dutch as a third language, not a first
or a second. The East Indian or Javanese student often has one language he learns at
home, and continues to use there, and, as he begins to play with children outside of the
home, he learns Sranan Tongo from his friends. Before he even arrives at the school door,
he can communicate in both his ethnic language and Sranan Tongo. Now, he must learn
Dutch and Dutch cultural norms, and, do it all with the Dutch language as the medium.
This might be one of the reasons for a one-in-five and one-in-ten attendance rate for East
Indian and Javanese students, according to a census taken in the 1950s.26 To this day, the
rural population is largely East Indian and Javanese. Paramaribo contains the largest
number of Creoles (56,178 to 11,235 East Indians in the 1950 census),27 the population
swelling after emancipation. The situation for Creoles is different to that of the East
Indians and Javanese for, the language the Creole first learns in the home and that he
first learns from his peers is most likely Sranan Tongo.28 When the Creole student arrives
at the school, he comes with only one other language in his background. As is true for
other ethnic groups living in the city, lie also has the advantage of hearing Dutch on a
daily basis. He is closer to Dutch cultural norms. This could make the adjustments for
the city dweller somewhat easier. One should note, however, that at the time of the 1950
census, the attendance rate for Creoles was also one-in-live.29
New programmes have been initiated in Suriname allowing for the use of Sranan
Tongo in the classroom in the primary grades. It was seen as a means of helping the
students adjust to the school routine. The lessons were given in Dutch, but any matters
outside the scope of the studies were handled in Sranan Tongo. According to teachers
interviewed, the programme was largely unsuccessful it was just too difficult to teach
teachers to use the language. A reason cited was that the teachers had trouble switching
codes, i.e. Dutch, Sranan Tongo, under classroom conditions -although many teachers
use Sranan Tongo among themselves and even, on occasion, with individual students
during private sessions. The difficulty lies more in the social feelings or restrictions on
Sranan Tongo. The average teacher having completed his studies in Dutch, has also
graduated with the knowledge that Sranan Tongo does not go with an educated status.
His role requires that he use Dutch. As stated by the UNESCO Report of 1951:
Teachers who have themselves received their education and professional training
in a second language have real difficulty in learning to teach in the motl-er
tongue. The main reasons for this difficulty are of two kinds. First: they have
to teach subjects in a language which is not the language in which they are
accustomed to think about them: and some of what they have to teach involves
concepts which are alien to their pupils' culture and therefore have to be inter-
preted in a tongue to which they are alien....30
The social slur associated with Sranan Tongo would have to be surmounted, for this
subliminal qualm could hinder the teacher's ability to effectively use the language him-
self, much less use it in the classroom.
This diglossic 31 situation is not an unusual one for the bilingual speaker, although it
can present some serious problems for those who must act before a bilingual group. The
bilingual speaker may be required to switch codes, but because of his subconscious pre-
judices, i.e. Sranan Tongo is inappropriate for such and such matters, he may end up
speaking neither language properly. With politicians who show a nationalistic spirit
through the language, this confusion could loose them votes or support. The constituents
may point to their mismanagement of the language as a sign that the politicians are in fact
not 'one of them'.
The modern, nationalistic, bilingual speaker realizes the advantage of excelling in
Dutch, but his in-group loyalty makes him look to Sranan Tongo for that which is truly
a part of his culture. For the lower classes, fair knowledge of Dutch is enough to handle
themselves in their restricted commercial areas since their income keeps them tied to
that level, the need to excel in Dutch is decreased. The upper classes are the worst victims
of this linguistic schizophrenia, for they have made a conscious choice to display a good-to-
excellent command of Dutch. They have required it of their children. However, they are
now feeling an alienation brought on by the nationalistic resurgence of Suriname. Sranan
Tongo is the national language. Dutch still ties them to the Netherlands. The result of
this pressure is either that they renounce any connection with Suriname, and instead look
to Holland for linguistic and cultural patterns, or that they pay for the earlier purging of
Sranan Tongo. It is this group of people who wish that their children could speak Sranan
Tongo better (after they, themselves, discouraged it). There is no question that they
know the language, for they, as do their children, picked it up from their peers and the
people of the market, the street, and the countryside (when they visit it). But, being
constantly aware of the social stigma that they, themselves, helped to attach to Sranan
Tongo, only serves to reinforce their dilemma.
Is it really a dilemma, or can it be resolved by time and circumstance? Attempts are
being made to resolve this question in many areas of the world where creole languages
assume an unexpected importance in the post-Independence era. In order to adopt a
language, one must adopt the whole cultural apparatus that goes with that language.
This apparatus must then integrate itself into the wider reality of the developing society.
The decision whether Suriname should choose Dutch or Sranan Tongo or even English
as its official language must be based on a clear appreciation of each language's potential.
Social prejudice should not influence or direct language choice, rather, it is a matter of
using the language which best suits the political, social, economic, and emotional needs of
Suriname. The many ethnic languages, Hindi, Arabic, Javanese, Chinese, Syrian, Sranan
Tongo, etc., spoken within the various ethnic communities are closely tied to the
Surinamer and, in highly-charged moments, he often expresses himself in this medium
rather than Dutch.
Suriname's position is not a unique one, but the resolution of the linguistic divisions
could well have a singular importance for other developing nations faced with similar
1. Those skilled in the usage of both Dutch and Sranan Tongo.
2. See Tonkin, E., "Some Coastal Pidgins of West Africa", Social Anthropology and Language,
Ardener, E., ed.
3. This method largely depended on a vague knowledge of African tribal geography and often the
groupings of the overseers had little to do with the reality. Furthermore, many of the tribal
languages represented were from the Sudanic language family which is to say that there were
considerable phonological and grammatical similarities.
4. Suriname is used here for both Dutch Guiana and Suriname.
5. For more information, see Voorhoeve, J., "Historical Evidence in Favour of the Relexification
Theory in the Formation of Creoles", Language in Society, pp. 133-145.
6. Voorhoeve, J., "Church Creole", Pidginzation and Creolization of Languages, p. 307.
7. These two are the largest immigrant groups since the Africans. They serve to point up the con-
trasts and similarities.
8. The majority of the indentured labourers were brought in during the last quarter of 19th and
the first quarter of the 20th centuries.
9. Local term for persons of African descent, often showing some admixture with other ethnic
10. 1 use this term rather than the pejorative "Bush Negroes' for descendants of escaped slaves
living in the interior of the country.
11. Many East Indians are Christians.
12. For some East Indians, the ethnic language is Sranan Tongo, as it is for Creoles.
13. Kromanti serves as the religious language in the Suriname Creole religions.
14. Eersel, C., "Prestige in Choice of Language", Pidginization and Creolization of Languages,
15. The Surinamer who uses Sranan Tongo for general communication, rather than Dutch.
16. Sommerfelt, A.. "The Interrelationship Between Language and Culture."
17. See below.
18. See Polome, E., "Problems and Techniques of a Sociologically-Oriented Survey: The Case of
the Tanzania Survey", Language Surveys in Developing Nations, Ohannesian, Ferguson, and
Polome', eds. pp. 31-50.
19. Country Report of Surinam.
20. Some countries do not have television or make use of American programming.
21. Suriname TV (STVS) offers approx. 6 hours service beginning at 5:50 p.m. Local shows are
aired until 9:30 p.m. then American or European programmes in English are shown until
approx. 11:15 p.m.
22. A member of the largest maroon group.
24. Expression with various meanings: expletive, such as "dam"; space filler, such as "uh"; release
of tension, such as "whew".
25. DeCamp, D., "Analysis of a Post-creole Speech Continuum", Pidginization Creolization of
Languages, p. 351.
26. Hellinga, W., Language Problems in Suriname.
28. Some Creole children of the upper middle class know only Dutch as the initial language, and
then learn Sranan Tongo outside of the home.
29. Hellinga, W., Language Problems in Suriname.
30. UNESCO Meeting of Specialists, 1951, "The Use of Vernacular Language in Education",
Readings in the Sociology of Language, p. 696.
31. For more on 'diglossia', see Ferguson, C., "Diglossia", Language Structure and Language Use.
Research Methods, Sample, and Questionnaire
1) Formal and informal interviews:
Formal interviews were conducted for which the informant was specifically
requested to set aside time for the inquiry.
Informal interviews were held in casual settings when information was obtained
through general conversation.
Questionnaires were distributed in both English and Dutch among the teachers
and students of the Instituut voor de Opleiding van Leraren (Teachers Training
Attention was directed toward the media, i.e. teaching, radio, cenema, and
printed matter, as well as to conversations on the street, in home, in schools, etc.
Research was conducted in Paramaribo, the capital of Suriname; and in Zanderij,
a small settlement near the major airport, forty minutes from Paramaribo.
Fifty questionnaires were distributed and collected. The sample was composed of the
students and teachers attending three evening lectures at the Instituut voor de Opleiding
van Leraren (Teachers Training Institute), as well as a few respondents from other Univer-
sity departments. The sample was taken in late Spring of 1976.
Of the respondents, thirty-eight (38) were teachers, four (4) were unemployed, two
(2) were secretaries, two (2) were civil servants, and one, each, was a doctor (retired), a
jurist, a student, and an insurance agent. All had had college-level training, save one, a
student in senior highschool, and all have been or are professional people. The latter two
factors served as a general characteristic of the total sample which meant that all of the
informants were bilingual Dutch and Sranan Tongo. Furthermore, at least 28% of
those questioned were competent in an ethnic language other than Sranan Tongo.
The ethnic groups, as represented by the informants on the questionnaire. were:
'Creole' those of African descent with some mixture with the other ethnic groups:
'Black/Negro': 'Hindu' East Indian, irrespective of religious affiliation: 'Chinese':
'Surinamer' -those listing only the word 'Surinamer'; 'White/Dutch' those
listing 'white', 'white Surinamer', 'ned' (Netherlander) or 'hollander': 'Javanese': and
'Unknown' those who did not respond at all. Those respondents who put combina-
tions of ethnic groups, i.e. 'Creole Chinese White', were grouped into the first ethnic
classification. The author feels that the respondent's .loyalties lie more with the first
group listed, the others following as an after-thought. All the groups, save 'Javanese' will
be used in the ensuing discussion, since there was only one informant of this group. For
some parts, the 'Javanese' response will be used as additional information, but will not
be held as representative.of the whole ethnic group. Occasionally, 'Creole' and 'Black/
Negro' will be considered as a single ethnic group in view of their common ancestry.
Numerically, the sample was composed of: 'Creole' 13; 'Black/Negro' 5; 'Hindu' -8;
'Chinese' 5; 'Surinamer' 4: 'White/Dutch' 8; 'Javanese' -- 1 and 'Unknown' --6.
The age range of the informants was: 2(15-20), 9(20-25), 12(25-30), 13(30-35),
2(35-40), 4(40-45), 5(45-50), l(over 60), and 2(unknown). These were regrouped in the
calculation to: 2(15-20), 21(20-30), 15(30-40), 6(40-50), 4(over 50), and 2(unknown).
The mean age of the sample was thirty-one years.
Seventy-six percent (76%) of the sample lived in Paramaribo, with the remaining
twenty-four percent (24%) living in near-by districts. Forty-eight percent had lived in the
area over fifteen years, and seventy-six percent (76%) had been into the interior at some
point or another.
The questionnaire was divided into four parts: Sections A. B, C. and D. Sections A
and C required the respondent to encircle the answer or to give short biographical notes.
Sections B and D requested that he make brief statements.
Section A: "Biographical information"
Respondents were asked to circle the age range closest to their actual age. Considering
that age may influence the language choice, both in relation to the possible listener and in
"terms of the informants' personal opinions about the language, this information could
then be used in later analysis.
The informants were asked to write in their ethnic group. In a plural society such as
Suriname, ethnicity can play an important part, particularly when the speaker is required
to switch from in-group to communication with other Surinamers.
Education and occupation information was requested so that this would further aid
the sorting of the questionnaires. However, the sample was restricted to persons attend-
ing three of the Instituut voor de Opleiding van Leraren (Teacher Training Institute)
evening lectures and the group was relatively homogeneous. All of the respondents had
had college training and were, or had been, professional people.
The place of residence and the length of time spent there was requested since there is
usually a difference in the speech patterns of persons living in a major city and those
living in more rural or outlying areas.
As a source of information on the respondents' mobility the group was asked if it
had travelled into the interior of the country, i.e. further than fifty (50) miles from the
Section B: "Definition of Sranan Tongo"
The informant was asked two questions on Sranan Tongo: "What is it?" and "Where
did it come from?" These were short answer questions designed to allow little time for
lengthy discussion, as well as little space for long answers. The intention was to have a
rapid-fire answer, more personal opinion than linguistic fact.
Section C: "Usage questions"
Answers were already printed in the form and the respondent was asked to encircle
one of them. Questions 1-3 allowed the answers: 'yes', 'no', and 'sometimes'. For those
persons who might use Sranan Tongo only under certain circumstances, the answer
'sometimes" was possible. In the final coding, however, these answers were grouped
along with 'yes' answers. Question 4 allowed the answers: 'pleased', 'not pleased', and
'don't care'. Only the answer 'pleased' was considered a positive response in the final
Questions 3(a-f) and 4(a-h) were purely situational; in the first instance, the respon-
dent is the initiator, in the second, he is the recipient. Questions 3(a,b,e) were designed
to put the informant in a relaxed situation ("family", "market", "parties"). Questions
3(c-d) were considered more formal ("government offices", "on the job"). Question 3f
was one showing the use of Sranan Tongo as a lingua franca for the interior. Questions
4 (a,e,f,g) were seen not only as situational but status-relevant situations where the
initiators not the respondent -were in decidedly high-status positions ("Prime
Minister", "policeman", "doctor", "teacher"). Questions 4(b,d) were seen as more
intimate, the first denoting a relationship with someone of an older generation
("mother") and the second, with someone of the younger generation ("child"). Both
factors could be important when the informant is concerned with parents who emmi-
grated from Indonesia or India or Holland, or who, themselves, might be recent arrivals
but now have children in Suriname schools. Questions 4(c,h) concerned persons who
have relatively low status in the society ("market woman", "taxi driver"), and who by
nature of their class positions would be monolingual, i.e. speakers of Sranan Tongo.
Questions 5 and 6 were 'yes and no' questions designed to find out where and when the
respondent learned Sranan Tongo. From these answers, it would be possible to know
what the respondents initial relationship with the language has been.
Section D: "Change in Sranan Tongo"
Four short answer questions requested information on change in Sranan Tongo, as
well as reasons for this change. Again, the space allowed was limited so as to keep
THIS IS A SOCIOLINGUISTIC QUESTIONNAIRE DESIGNED TO GIVE A
CONTEMPORARY PERSPECTIVE OF SRANAN TONGO. THE ANSWERS
ARE CONFIDENTIAL, NO NAME IS REQUIRED. YOUR CO-OPERATION
1. Age range, circle one:
15-20, 20-25, 25-30, 30-35, 35-40, 40-45, 45-50, 50-55, 55-60, 60-65, 65-70,
2. Ethnic group:
4. Resident of: How long?
5. Have you been into the interior? Circle one:
a) a few days b) often c) occasionally d) never.
1. What is Sranan Tongo?
2. Where did it come from?
For each of the following questions, circle one of the answers on the right-hand side
of the page.
1. Should Sranan Tongo be the official language
ofSuriname? Yes No Sometimes
2. Have you read it? Yes No Sometimes
3. Do you use it:
a) with your family Yes No Sometimes
b) at the market Yes No Sometimes
c) in government offices Yes No Sometimes
d) on the job Yes No Sometimes
e) at parties Yes No Sometimes
f) in the interior Yes No Sometimes
4. How do you feel if you hear:
a) the Prime Minister use it Pleased Not pleased Don't care
b) your mother use it Pleased Not pleased Don't care
c) a market woman use it Pleased Not pleased Don't care
d) your child use it Pleased Not pleased Don't care
e) a policeman use it Pleased Not pleased Don't care
f) a doctor use it Pleased Not pleased Don't care
g) a teacher use it Pleased Not pleased Don't care
h) a taxi driver use it Pleased Not pleased Don't care
5. Where did you learn it:
a) at home Yes No
b) from friends
1) young Yes No
2) old Yes No
c) on the job Yes No
d) in school Yes No
6. When did you learn it?
a) in childhood Yes No
b) in adulthood Yes No
c) don't know it Yes No
1. Has Sranan Tongo changed since you first learned it?
2. Do you use more Dutch words in it now? Examples.
3. Why had it changed?
4. It is now written in some books and used in advertising does this affect it?
Ardener, E., ed., Social Anthropology and Language, A.S.A. Monographs 10. London: Tavistock
Davis, Alva, ed. Culture, Class and Language Variety. Urbana: National Council of Teachers of
Essed-Fruin E. "Educational: Infant and Elementary Education" from "Children and Youth in
Fishman, Joshua. "Language Modernization and Planning in Comparison with Other Types of
National Modernization and Planning." In: Language in Society, vol. 2, no. I. London: Cam-
bridge University Press, April. 1973.
,ed. Readings in the Sociology of Language. The Hague: Mouton & Co. N.V. Publishers. 1968.
Grimes, Joseph, ed. Languages of the Guianas. University of Oklahoma: Summer Institute of
Linguistics, publication no. 35, 1972.
Hellinga, W. Gs. Language Problems in Surinam. Dutch as the Language of the Schools. Bureau for
Linguistic Research in Surinam, University of Amsterdam: North Holland Publishing Co.,
Herskovits, Melville. The Myth of The Negro Past. Boston: Beacon Press, 1958.
Hymes, Dell, ed. Pidginization and Creolization of Languages. London: Cambridge University Press,
Labov, William. Sociolinguistic Patterns. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press.
Ohannessian, S., C. Ferguson, and E. Polome, eds. Language Surveys in Developing Nations. Arlington:
Center for Applied Linguistics, 1975.
Planning Department of Suriname, Country Report of Suriname. Prepared for the UNITAR Work-
shop of Planning for Internal Migration. Paramaribo, 1975.
Price. Richard Maroon Societies. Garden City: Doubleday-Anchor, 1973.
Summerfelt. A. "The Interrelationship Between Language and Culture."
Thompson, A. "Brethren of the Bush: A Study of Runaways and Bush Negroes in Guyana, c. 1750-
1814." Department of History: University of the West Indies. mimeo.
Voorhoeve, Jan. "Historical and Linguistic Evidence in Favour of the Relexilication Theory in the
Formation of Creoles." In: Language in Society, vol. 2, no. 1. London: Cambridge University
Press, April, 1973.
THE SOCIAL HISTORY OF DREAD TALK
The notion that language should not be separated from its social context has become
a commonplace in recent linguistic research. This notion is nowhere more important
than in the study of creole languages whose very existence has been the result of histori-
cal phenomena determining certain social necessities. Dread Talk is a comparatively
recent adjustment of the lexicon of Jamaica Creole to reflect the religious, political and
philosophical positions of the believers in Rastafari.1 Its earliest expression was within
this closed group; its use highly selective (available only to those who shared the particu-
lar beliefs). The language was in fact 'organic' to this movement not only in the sense in
which Nettleford (1978) describes the movement itself but in a truly Rastafarian linguis-
tic sense that the word was the 'organ' of the movement.
Today Dread Talk functions far beyond the boundaries of the closed group for which
it designed itself. This paper looks at the process of its extension. But in order to
appreciate the language that grew out of a need for a particular expression it is necessary
to understand the social historical and philosophical contexts within which the movement
that identified the need, has developed in Jamaica.
The Rastafarians Social Context
The Rastafarian community history looks to Alexander Bedward la and to Marcus
Garvey2, as father heroes. The crowning of Ras Tafari as Emperor Haile Selassie of
Ethiopia in November 1930 served to invite 'certain Jamaicans of a Garveyite persuasion'
to try to interpret Garvey's words, 'Look to Africa, when a black king shall be crowned,
for the day of deliverance is near' and to identify a number of texts in their bibles which
seemed to point to Haile Selassie as the expected 'conquering lion of the tribe of Judah'
(Smith et al. 1960). To Alexander Bedward revivalist and healer is attributed the state-
ment: "Hell will be your portion if you do not rise up and crush the white man ... there
is a white wall and a black wall and the white wall has been closing around the black wall
but now the black wall is becoming bigger than the white and they must knock the white
wall down' (Daily Gleaner January 18953). The environment in which these heroes, the
one spiritual the other political (though the lines of demarcation are hardly clear) lived
and moved, was consistently counterpoised to the established church and its mores on the
one hand and the established socio-political order with its connotations of colour, on the
other. Both men had large followings of aggressively black, lower-class, 'downpressed'
Jamaicans. It is within this same psychological environment, this same population that
the Rastafarian faith found believers whether they functioned as part of an organized
group or as 'own-built' 3a Rastas following the philosophy on an individual level. The
physical link between the Rastafarians and their heroes may have been 'obscure' as Smith
et al (1960) suggest4 but the ideological similarities are unmistakable. On the prophetic
level, Bedward is said to have foretold the coming of Haile Selassie and there are those
of his followers who feel that the coincidence of his death with the crowning ot Haile
Selassie is not insignificant.5
Some comments from the literature on the socio-economic milieu of the movement
are to the point. The earliest of the researchers into the Rastafari belief system was
Simpson of Oberlin College, Ohio, who under the sponsorship of the Institute of Social
and Economic Research of the then University College of the West Indies carried out his
research in 1953. His is a sociological work and he places the members of the Rastafari
groups at the lowest socio-economic levels of the society:
Cult members some of whom have arrived only recently from country districts and
many of whom are unemployed or underemployed, live in crowded one or two-
room houses. The men who are employed are engaged in low-paid unskilled or
semi-skilled work. Women of the area find employment as domestic servants, street
merchants and shop-keepers. Those who are not fully employed 'scuffle' for a
living. This expressive term means: doing odd jobs, running errands, selling fire-
wood, making baskets or other craft products ... in short, doing almost anything
that enables one to keep alive. (Simpson 1970:203)
He describes the attitude of the Jamaica middle class to the Rastafari brethren as one of
'contempt and disgust' (p219). Seven years later, a three man team from the University
of the West Indies, in their study which:is a historical study indicate under 'work' a sub-
heading of 'The Doctrines of the Movement' that:
much of the psychology of the brethren is the psychology of the unemployed in
any place of the world ...
The movement is rooted in unemployment. (Simpson et al 1960:28)
Additional implications appear in the section 'The Movement's current organization':
In the dense slum areas the prevailing doctrine and ideology is now Ras Tafari:
in the equally dense and better built lower-income areas such as Jones Town,
Rose Town, Admiral Town, Trench and Denham Town the doctrine is well repre-
Their comment on the attitudes of people even very little better off is again implied:
Occasionally one finds a family, some members of which are Rastafari living in a
concrete bungalow. More commonly when young men show Ras Tafari behaviours,
their parents react sharply and the young man leaves home in disgrace. (p30)
The early history of the Ras Tafari movement then is rooted in the cultures of Revival,
Politics and Poverty. We shall see how inextricably these are bound up with protest and
protest with language.
It has been observed, in discussing the Christian religion, that the ten commandments
were not given because of a whim of the Almighty but were offered in response to certain
misdemeanours to which the Israelites had become prone. Similarly it can be said that
the Rastafarian belief system, while it may indeed be a twentieth century revelation must
also be seen as a philosophy in response to the Jamaican situation and to all that the
establishment has represented historically for the sons of slaves growing up in what a
recent researcher labels a 'pigmentocracy' in which 'blackness became equated with
lowliness and servility, whiteness with power and godliness' (Albuquerque 1977: 136).
So that the acceptance of a black monarch must be seen against the rejection of the
traditional English monarchy (particularly the Queens Elizabeth I and II who are said to
be whores); the acceptance of an African heaven on earth (Ethiopia) whose black God is
the king, against the Christian paradise in the sky where white God reigns with white
angels (the Pope as the white devil in Revelation on the sacred side, and the head of the
Mafia on the secular side falls somewhere within this response); the 'natural' physical
image of unshaved head and face and in the case of woman the unadorned body against
the local established ideal of clean-shaven man and painted woman; and the forceful
creative turn of words against English, the language used by the oppressor to 'increase
Researchers in the social sciences tend to require a framework, a model into which
to fit phenomena they study. As a result, the Rastafarian community has been described
as a 'political cult' (Simpson 1955); a 'messianic movement' (Barrett 1968); a 'millena-
rian movement' (Albuquerque 1977) a 'politico-religious protest cult' (Kitzinger 1969)
among other labels6. But as the researchers move into the details of their descriptions,
all present in one form or another the content of 'Protest' in the belief system of the
It is to the social history of Jamaica however, that one must look to understand the
depth and the breath of the protest that the Rastafarian belief system represents and of
which the Rastafarian in all his complexity, is a symbol. The Rastafarian Movement is
what Nettleford (1978) refining his own earlier definition (In Owen 1976) describes as
one of Plantation America's 'most authentic expressions of organic revolt in appropriate
if anguished response to some of the deepest social forces that have shaped and still deter-
mine the discrepancies of our Caribbean society' (p188, my emphasis). The operative
terms here are surely 'revolt' and 'organic'. Lanternari(1963), looking briefly at Rastafa-
rianism as one religion of the oppressed, describes it as a 'typically escapist movement
rather than a revolutionary force' (p163). His definition of revolution must differ signifi-
cantly from Nettleford's and as we shall see, the revolution is on, although it might not
be in the traditional and expected forms. The key is 'organic' which suggests that what
was/is happening is moving in the only way that it could move if it springs from the soil
of this Jamaica which the social historians are aware of.
It is Nettleford (1978) who, quoting Theodor Adorno, puts this paper's interest in the
revolution in perspective:
Social protest manifests itself in language change. For defiance of society includes
defiance of its language (p 18 note 29)
and who defends the Rastafarian's implied rejection of 'the impulsive semantic urge
simply to call old social categories by new and fashionable borrowings ...' and the crea-
tion of a 'battery of "I-words" as part of their 'small but pointedly relevant lexicon of
normative-descriptive word-symbols.' (p201)
In an earlier paper (Pollard 1979), 1 described Dread Talk (DT) as an example of
'lexical expansion within a creole system' (in this case Jamaica Creole) where the lexicon
changes to reflect the philosophical position of the speaker. I set up three categories
within which to examine the lexicon of DT:
Category I In which known items bear new meanings
e.g. chalice = pipe for smoking ganja
Category II In which words bear the weight of their phonological implications
e.g. 'downpress' for oppress
Category III /ai/ words
i. Pronominal function e.g. I, I-man for (I; me)
ii. Initial syllable6a replacement e.g. I-la lu (calaloo)
It will be necessary to make reference to these categories as we look at the history of
Chevannes (1979) attributes to the Youth Black Faith, a Rastafari camp of young men
who came together about 1949, the 'jargon presently attributed to the Rastafari as a
whole' (p189). While this group may indeed have initiated DT it is also possible that the
same phenomenon appeared in different Rasta camps to different degrees over a period
of time. Let us look at some reactions in the literature on Rastafari.
The fact that Simpson (1956) does not isolate it for special attention and that Smith
et al (1960) mention it only as part of a point on violence7 need not indicate the absence
of Dread Talk in the speech of the early Rastafarians with whom they came in contact.
What is included in any study depends on the focus of the researcher. Besides, not all
Rastas use the language (though most use at least the Category III words); those who do,
do not use it at all times and perhaps most important, Rastafarians code-switch with the
same facility as other Jamaican Creole speakers. Barrett (1977) who seemed to ignore it
in his early research does, in his later research, take account of DT and comments:
... it is a religious language of a strange type. Few outsiders can make sense of what
the average cultist says. In the first place it is ungrammatical when spoken by the
uneducated; secondly it is Jamaican dialect used on the philosophic level, a burden
which it was not created to bear;8 and finally the Rastafarian speech is almost
devoid of subject-object opposition as well as without verbs. Students of Rastafa-
rianism must be prepared to translate the material into English, or to do research
only among the most educated brethren ... (p143)
As you see, most of Barrett's comments could equally have been made about JC itself.
What is reinforced here is the fact that the researchers can hardly help us in terms of the
timing of the appearance of DT as it is known today and while Chevannes (1979) suggests
a time for its appearance we know nothing about how general its use became and how
soon. It is only when we come to the sixties that there is concrete evidence for what we
Chevannes (1979) in talking about the language of the Rastafari in the fifties is careful
to quote Martha Beckwith's remark concerning the facility with which Jamaicans pun;
what she calls the 'easy loquacity' of the Jamaican peasant; and he sees the Youth Black
Faith's linguistic input as merely 'carrying the tradition further' (p189). While this
remark becomes important when we look at the spread of DT outside of the Rastafarian
community, it relates only to Category II of DT words. This might lead us to suggest
that this was the only feature (apart from the violent Biblical language) that emerged in
the fifties. It could of course be that Chevannes, a sociologist, is speaking as loosely as
Barrett was in the quotation above. He also suffers the disadvantage of having to recon-
struct information about the fifties, collected from oral sources in the seventies.
The feature that most identifies Dread Talk today however is neither the Biblical turn
of phrase nor the punning per se but the 'I-ance', what Nettleford (1978) calls the
'battery of "I-words" (my Category Ill). The next in order is what he describes as the
'small but pointedly relevant lexicon of normative descriptive word-symbols' (my
Category I and II). It is in these categories that the stance of protest, of revolt in word, is
evident. Yawney (1972) commenting on the importance of these creative words says:
To the Rastas, words are seals of the mind, words have power and they must not be
abused but rather used with awareness (p30)9.
She gives this rationale for DT:
The Rastas have always resented English as the language of Colonialism and have
developed their own based on its bastardization (p32).
But her terminology betrays her vantage point. For the Rastafarian himself sees his
'doctoring' of the language in quite a different light. Chevannes' Youth Black Faith
informant sees it as 'stepping up' the language and Bongo Jerry (1970) sees it as taking
the unfortunate 'double meaning' out of English which he describes as 'crossword speak-
ing ... word rearranging/ringing rings of roses, pocket full of poses' (p15). 'Double
meaning' here is perhaps a bit of a misnomer for what is conceived of as a kind of in-
accuracy on the phonological level (as in OPpress for an activity that is in fact DOWN-
Double meaning is in fact a tenn that could be used to describe the punning of which
Beckwith spoke and to which Chevannes makes reference. It forms the most hilarious
though not the most protesting category of DT word usage. Observe how it works with
Category III in the following comment by a Rasta spokesman in which he compares the
lack of awareness of Babylon (the establishment) with the awareness of the Rasta man:
But eyes have they and see not, only Fari could see ... (RMA 1976:3)0.
Perhaps a comment on the importance of seeingg' as understanding in the DT usage is to
the point here. Yawney (1972) underlining the fact that 'great significance is attached
to seeing', comments that 'SEE' appears at the beginning and the end of Selassie's name
because he is the beginning and the end. (Note that he is also frequently referred to as
Alpha and Omega) and that 'Selassie I' becomes Selassie eye. It is hardly coincidental
that the rejoinder to indicate understanding to any matter is /siin/ 'seen'. So that the
Rastaman 'reasoning' with a group will frequently interrupt himself with this interjec-
tion, and his listeners on the other hand, are allowed to use the same sound to mean 'yes I
understand'. The following extract from a session of reasoning should illustrate that
feature as well as some of the others mentioned earlier:
yu nuo av silasi ai/yu nuo av im/ yu nuo av im/
av silasi ai/ sista we aks di kwestyan/
(well I ...)
nuo/nuo a miin/ mii/ ai baan aa gruo iina jamieka/ luk ier no/ ai baan aa gruo iina
jamieka/ which iz rofli nain hondred an ad mailz ferda fram afrika/ ferda fram
(no, no I I know about Selassi ...)
luk/ luk ier/ a nat ofendid bai/ fers ting a waa yu nuo/se a nat ofendid bai di riiznin/
dat iz di fers ting/ so yu kyan jos kuul/siin/wel wat a waa aks yu nou/yu nuo moch
wel iz wa/ yu nuo iz riili bad/ far az a blak person nou/ yu av sertn piipl/ nat iivn az a
blak person/ as a sitizn av dis werl/ far ai nuo se dem piipl ier nuo a sobstanshal
amount about empara iel silasi fers/ yu no siit/ jos bikaa dem piipl si tu it se dem
nuo waa gwaan iina ert/ (Bongo Jerry 1969)
Do you know of Selassi I? Do you know of him? Do you know of him?
Of Selassi I, the sister who asked the question.
(Well I ... I ...)
No, no I mean, me, I was born and grew up in Jamaica. Look here. I was born and
grew up in Jamaica which is roughly nine hundred and more miles away from
Africa, away from Ethiopia.
(No, no, no, I know about Selassi ...)
Look, look here, I am not offended by ... first thing I want you to know, that I am
not offended by the reasoning; that is the first thing. So you can just be cool.
Well what I want to ask you now, do you know much of him?
Well its what ... you know ... that is really bad for as a black person now ... you
have certain people ... not even as a black person, as a citizen of this world ... for I
know that these people here know a substantial amount about Emperor Haile
Selassi first; don't you see? Just because these people see to it that they know what
is going on the world.
This is an excerpt from a reasoning of the late sixties after the word of Rastafari had
started its spread through the music which was expressive of much that was happening in
the society then.
The Sixties Protest Music and Language
'The sixties were turbulent and confusing times in Jamaicall as depressed economic
conditions, burgeoning urban unemployment and reverberations of the Black Power
movement in the USA converged. An important reflection of the pressure of the times
was the music that emerged from the depressed areas a compound of traditional Jamaica
folk music, American pop and Rastafari drums. Gordon Rohlehr (1969) writing of this
period says that the musicians 'effected a transformation of a variety of external and local
music into a particularly Jamaican sound ...' and comments 'I believe that this trans-
formation was partly due to the increasing pressure of life in Kingston during the sixties
and the musician's increasing awareness of these pressures ...'
This musical explosion cannot be overemphasized since the music became the one
element common to all parts of a society of 'almost obscene economic extremes' and of
strikingly contrasting philosophical poses. In what seemed like the twinkling of an eye all
classes of Jamaica were moving to music that had been reserved for lower class dance
halls; and drawing rooms resounded with a beat that shouted for loin movement to tunes
from which parents had protected their children's ears a decade earlier. The music was
in protest of the establishment but the establishment was accepting the music. Such was
the paradox of the Jamaican overwhelming acceptance of the Ska, later of the Rock
Steady and finally of the Reggae. Such was to be their overwhelming internalization of
the language of the lyrics that were developing. In the Jamaica of the late twenties, the
lines of demarcation between Garvey's political protest and Bedward's revivalist protest
were by no means clear. In the Jamaica of the sixties the lines between violent youth
protest (represented by the 'Rudies' or 'Rude Boys'12 ) against the system and poor
economic conditions, Black Power protest and Rastafari protest were equally blurred.
Kitzinger (1967), researching at that time, described the Rastafari as being '... in opposi-
tion to whatever Jamaica Government happened] to be in power' (p27). An excerpt
from a Black Power speech of the time could easily have been made by a Rastafarian
spokesman given a few linguistic changes:
...Whites have dominated us both mentally and physically ... The most profound
revelation of the sickness of the question of race is our respect for all the white
symbols ... (Rodney 1969:31-32)
Compare it with an excerpt from a Rastafari speech if of a later date:
...Jamaica indulges in an inferior complex a pretentious class system, so it
becomes a hypocritical, segregated society ... (RMA 1976)
What I am suggesting here is that the common political anguish belonged to a whole
cross section of the society exclusive of its religious or philosophical affiliation/non-
affiliation. Common musical forms sprung up out of the protest against the economic
and political situation:
The compositions of ska and its offspring, the rock steady and reggae, were to
serve as a common mode of artistic expression among a wide cross section of the
youth of Jamaica. (Nettleford 1970:98)
The language of the Rastafarians which was/is in fact Jamaica Creole 'stepped up'
to accommodate certain philosophical positions was ready and in place as a vehicle to
convey the urgent message of protest 12a Chevannes' comment on the natural way in
which the Jamaica peasant language puns must be repeated here to emphasize how easily
the Rastafarian speech was adapted though not merely in its punning propensity, as a
means of expressing deep anti-establishment feelings no matter from whose lips. The
'Rude-boy', anxious to describe the unfairness of the system of justice/injustice could
write a tune called 'Judge Dread' using a very significant item of the Rastafari lexicon 13.
A popular singer wanting to record what Rohlehr (1969) speaks of as 'the common man's
growing frustration with his lot' could wail 'Poor me Israelites' 14 There were as well
songs predicting large scale political castastroplie: 'Look ya now Pharoah house crash',
'Babylon Burnin', 'What a Fire' and while Pharoah is not recognizable as a popular
Rastafarian butt. Babylon certainly is and the Fire is part of the same apocalyptic
language that the researchers picked up as part of an aura of violence. As the sixties
gave way to the seventies. Reggae took over as the popular musical form. And Reggae
has employed almost exclusively, the language of the Rastafarians. Count Ossie (of
blessed memory) in an interview in the early seventies speaking of the role of Rasta said:
We were fighting colonialism and oppression but not with gun and bayonet, but
wordically. culturally. (Swing Sept./Oct. 1972)
Perhaps this is the 'organic' revolt of which Nettleford (1978) speaks.
The Seventies: Reggae Music and Message
Count Ossie's statement becomes more meaningful if we understand the place that the
message takes in the Rastafarian scheme of things. One spokesman describes it in this
The Rastafarian shamanizes his cultural values in music and Arts and confounds
the Reggaematics which is a message from and to the King, as it is written Sing
unto God praises of his name (RMA 1976:3).
Another spokesman from a different group comments not only on the place of music
but comments as well on the lack of awareness of Babylon who hears it:
kaa yu nuo/ aal i muzik pan i rieydyo we riili a se eniting a rasta/ a jos muuzik
tu dem/ sed ting ya/ yu no siit/ (Bongo Jerry 1969)
Because all the music on the radio that is really saying anything is Rasta music.
It is just music to them (Babylon), that's the thing don't you see?
A foreign popular commentator sees the raggae musicians as 'Jamaica's prophets, social
commentators and shamans' (Davis and Simon 1977). Brodber and Greene (1979)
sociologist and political scientist discussing the song 'as a communicative device', explain
that one of the characteristics of the theocratic world government which all Rastafarian
sects see as the next phase of social and political evolution, is that the 'singers as well as
the players of instruments shall be there' (Ps. 87. V.7) and comment:
... There is divine sanction therefore for the existence of singers and other musi-
cians. The Rastafarian singers accordingly view their role as a social and religious
But to understand the impact of the song on the non-Rastafarian public that receives
it, it is necessary to appreciate the place of popular music in the Jamaican society.
Mention has already been made of the enthusiastic reception of the musical explosion of
the sixties. Brodber and Greene put the reaction in a wider perspective when they see
the Jamaican society as an example of a diaspora society and comment on the response
to music common among such people:
Dispersed Africans given similar conditions in the New World, and given as well the
new and urgent need to communicate from day to day in public places without
being understood by the enemy, continued to use this form of communication ..
They quote the words of a fictional diaspora man Manuel, in Jacques Romain's Masters of
... I enjoyed myself like a real negro. When the drum beats, I feel it in the pit of my
stomach. I feel an itch in my loins and an electric current in my legs, and I've got
to join the dance.
And perhaps Ras Daniel Hartman (1972) speaks not only for Rastafari but for all Jamaica
when he puts it succinctly thus:
Music is I, and I am music, for man is music and music alone shall live through man.
So that the fanatical response of the Jamaica public, specifically the Jamaican youth to
each new disc that hits the market and the disproportionate popularity of the disc jockey
(DeeJay) is perhaps part of an inheritance. The music is heard constantly on the corner
or coming over the hills from the sound systems and it is heard at home on expensive
stereophonic sets of middle and high income families.6 'The words of the singers have
penetrated the class barrier through the disc ...' comment Brodber and Greene whose
concern is for the message of the word and its possible impact on the hearers. Our own
concern is for the word itself.
Dread Talk The Language of Youth
We have seen how the sons of Babylon have come to hear the word not merely from
the Rasta man in the streets but from message-bearers coming in on the airwaves in their
homes. It is in this way, I think, that the language has come to be separated from the
burden of the message it bears. For Dread Talk today is no longer exclusively speech
representing a certain section of the Jamaica society, a certain philosophy within the
society. It has become a general way of speaking. Today DT is used for identifying -
one youth man with another.
Albuquerque, commenting on the Rastafarian movement in general and on language
in particular, says:
Clearly the movement's contributions to Jamaican society were/are remarkable.
The net effect has been Rastafarianization of Jamaica and while certain phrases and
expressions have evolved from Rasta youth, their distribution in the general popula-
tion is widespread. (p302)
The language no longer (necessarily) connotes commitment to the problems of the
'sufferer' or to Rastafari. The language no longer walks hand in hand with the beard, the
short drop strut and the sometimes visionary eyes of the traditional Rasta man. The
middleclass parent who yesteryear sweated and prayed lest yet another son might be
'turning Rasta' when his language suggests it, protests now on aesthetic and pseudo-
educational grounds; or frequently does not bat an eyelid when his son answers the
telephone not with the traditional falsetto 'Hi!' but with the low drum /airi/ I-ri! a mere
comma after conversing with him in Standard Jamaican English.
And Rasta has become the unit of Jamaican man. In the talk of the young people
'Yes Rasta' is frequently heard where 'Yes man' was used before. And everywhere for
assent or merely as an indication of attention, one hears /siin/ 'seen' or /siin aiya/ 'seen
I-yah'. It remains for me to illustrate how Dread Talk functions within the Jamaica Talk
of some young people in our society. We shall examine excerpts from samples of school-
boy discussions and I will present a list of 'new' Jamaican words and expressions put
together by a group of young people in an English language workshop 14a
The excerpts from recordings of in-class discussions taped in a sixth form (Grade 13)
class in a Jamaican High School for boys. The Rastafari movement is very strongly male
oriented (Owens 1976). It is understandable therefore, that the linguistic influence is
most pronounced in the speech of young men. The boys whose speech is here recorded
represent 'educated' youth and given the democratization of our educational system in
the late fifties, should represent at least the middle and lower socio-economic levels of
our society (though the reality is that the very poor hardly reach high school and when
they do, rarely reach the sixth form). The in-class situation is chosen to illustrate the
extent to which Dread Talk, particularly a few key expressions, has penetrated even the
formal situation that is the classroom in this case the General (English) Paper preparation
(This discussion is about Rastafarianism)
... briekin fram di oul
rastafieran a di fers man dat
staat gyaadn plaantin/ rait
nou dem se bwai dem naa dipen
paa no man/ dem naa dipen paa
no big man fi get chruu/ dem
jos a do a likl aam/
selfrilians yu nuo/ dem a go
plant op vegitebl/ ailalu an
aal den ting de ...
lisn mi nou mis/ about dis huol/
ruul an ting dem a taak bout/
bai dem nuo se/ bai bai wierbai
rasta man liv/ bot mis/ ai a
wanda/ simpl/di biesik ting wid
dem rasta man tingz is lov/
siin/ so dat ef yu jos liv mis/
wid lov az yu gaidlain/ a duo si
ou/ yu duo riili niid no riili
ruul an ting/ ... tek di simple
kansep av lov mis/ yu riili si
ow sertn tingz mos bi rang/ laik
waar/ envyos an den ting de/ no
mos bi rang/ yu no siit
... breaking from the old
plantation system the
Rastafarian is the first man that
started) garden planting; right
now they said boy they are not
depending on any man not depending
on any big man to get through; they
are just doing a little
self-reliance you know, they are
going to plant up vegetables,
calalu and all those things ...
Listen to me now Miss. about this
whole rule and thing they are
talking about. Because they know
that by, by, whereby Rasta man
live but Miss. I am wondering,
simply, the basic thing with those
Rasta men's things is love; see?
So that if you just live Miss,
with love as your guideline, I
don't see how ... you don't really
need any really rule and thing ...
take the simple concept of love
Miss, you really see how certain
things must be wrong: like war,
envious (envy?) and things like
those must be wrong.
1 have written elsewhere (Pollard 1979) on the extent to which Dread Talk is Jamaica
Creole with certain adjustments. On the phonological level I have singled out the /a/
which is the counterpart of the English /3/ sound and which, noticeable in JC, is exag-
gerated in DT as if this symbol of true creole must be stressed and must be perfected for
identification. It is this sound that alters the Rastafarian reading of a chapter of the
bible to such an extent that the casual listener is not sure he is in fact hearing the ac-
customed words. This is the vowel in words like /fram/ and /plantieshan/ from excerpt
On the lexical level in this same excerpt note that /ailalu/ is preferred to the creole
/kalalu/ observing the initial syllable replacement with /ai/ of my Category III words. In
excerpt lb this /ai/ occurs in its pronominal function where it is regularly substituted for
the JC /mi/ as in /ai a wanda/. Of course it could be argued here that this is an instance
of the English first person subject pronoun. But if this had been the case one would
expect the auxiliary form 'am' + 'ing': thus a possible 'I am wondering'. I am suggesting
that the /ai/ used here is the DT form which alternates with /aiman/ and /aianai/. Note
in this excerpt the use of /siin/ and /yu no siit/, alternate forms of the rhetorical device
which in DT is more than a spacefiller since the idea of seeing (mentioned earlier) is so
I would like to report here an exchange between the class teacher and a pupil,
recorded at the end of the discussion of which these two excerpts are fragments:
Teacher: I want to comment on the language ... you are not conscious of it. You
are not conscious of the words; how many were/are in the Jamaican
language which is English and how many are Rasta language. You will
find that more than fifty percent of your speech is Rasta language. I
was just thinking of our education and how we are going to extricate
or release ourselves from that er language.
Pupil: So why we have to release ourself from it Miss?
Teacher: Because we are writing an exam that is also foreign ...
Excerpts II(a) and (b) which follow were taped a week after that exchange:
(This discussion is about a forthcoming political demonstration)
now mai viuz an di ting dier Now my views on the thing there
mis/ di demanstrieshan/ fers Miss, the demonstration; first thing
ting/ ai am simpatetik tu di I am sympathetic to the demonstration
demanstrieshan/ bot ai am nat but I am not for it because you see
far it bikaa yu si/ wen yu luk when you look on it Miss I don't
an it mis/ a duon si ow riili see how really and truly people
an chuuli piipl benifit fram it/ benefit from it.
Teacher: wiet wiet/ clarifai Teacher: Wait wait. Clarify
something agen/ a duon onderstan/ something again; I don't understand.
yu ar simpathetik bot yu not for
Yie mis/ a miin di riizn far
di demanstrieshan/ a miin wel di
praisiz kaina hai an riili an
chuuli dred/ siin/ an dem waa
fi mek it nuon se wel rait now
bwai it dred aa wi kyaa riili
bier it/ bot a miin di
demanstrieshan we dem want/
bai klouzin shap aa piipl nat
going tu werk/ a kyaa agrii
... dis prais inkries/ iz/ fa
dat riizn/ ... rait/ laik tek
kaam biif. dala nainti trii/
bap/ gaan skai hai/ man kudn
afuod/aam/ fi bai an ting/ yu
no siit/ aa yuuz im bred an im
kaan biif/ yu si dat gaan outa
im riich nou/ so im afi kaina
tink a sopm/ a sopm els/ flowa
gaan op tu/ so im afi tink a kasaada
an aal den ting de/ so iz still
a huol heepa/ a miin/ planin fi
di likl man/ sait/ an i still
afek di skuul children an di
You are sympathetic but you are not
Yes miss. I mean the reason for
the demonstration; I mean well the
prices are kind of high and really
and truly dread: seen? and they
want to make it known that well
right now boy it dread and we cant
really bear it. But the demonstra-
tion that they want by closing
shop and people not going to work,
I cant agree with it.
this price increase is. for that
reason ... right ... like take corned
beef a dollar ninety three bap!
gone sky high. Man couldn't afford
... to buy rice and thing, don't
you see? and use his bread and his
corned beef you see that is gone
out of his reach now so he has to
think of something else ...
something else ... flour gone up
to so he has to think of cassava
and all those things so it's still
a whole heap of I mean planning for
the little man. Sight. And it
still affects the school children
on the whole ...
Judging from this sample, the class teacher's estimate of fifty percent of the words
being DT is a wild overstatement of the case. Indeed the examples of lexical items that
are from DT can be singled out in IIa as the use of the word 'dread' in two different ways
and of the interjection 'seen' once. In lIb there are 'seen' and its alternate 'sight' and the
form 'man' unmarked by an article. It is however the overall effect that prevents her
from analysing accurately what is happening. When the /a/ is frequent and 'seen' is inter-
jected there is no need for much else, to identify speech as DT. In fact it is true to say
that any one trait of DT can throw language over the border from JC to DT. This happens:
frequently with the use of the 'I-words' so dreaded by those who consider Rasta
One may well question the absence of the well used 'l-man' from the excerpts here
presented but these are taken from discussions which are to some extent formal. An
aside in the same class in which excerpts la and lb were taped runs:
aiman nuo wai yu laaf/ di brejrin de ...
I know why you laugh: the fellow there ...
and an informal exchange between boys in another group at the same academic level
1st boy: yes man 'widout lovl4b bad/aiman wuda bai it/
2nd boy: yes rasta
I commented earlier, but only in passing, on the low tonal level of DT as in the greet-
ings aitss/ and /airi/. I have found however that while speech recorded among Rastafa-
rians indicate the ability to maintain this tone over long periods, the school-boy samples
do not reflect it to the same extent whether because they are unable to maintain it or
whether because they see it as less important of the image of identity than the other
traits, is hard to tell.
The notion that Dread Talk and Jamaica Talk are hardly distinguishable is a threaten-
ing notion to those who are suspicious of what Rastafari means in the Jamaican context.
But in actual usage among the young, the one is slowly being 'colonized' by the other.
Below are words extracted from a list of 'new' Jamaica words and expressions put to-
gether by a group of employees at one of our local radio stations in an English Language
Workshop. It calls itself a 'Preliminary List of "Jamaicanisms" in Use Since the Publica-
tion of Cassidy and LePage Dictionary of Jamaican English'. Of the 307 words and ex-
pressions listed, 148 are recognizably from the lexicon of DT.'5 I have retained the
glosses given by the compilers but I have placed these words into categories in terms of
my Categories I, II and III and have added a Category IV to accommodate those words
which I consider genuine 'creations' in that they have been applied to phenomena with
little reverence for (reference to) the English or Creole meanings of the root words:
Category I In which known items bear new meanings
Babylon Police; policeman; soldier or people who are called
wicked by the Rastafarian; place of wickedness;
oppressors: to do with an unprincipled way of life
usually in reference to the white man's culture.
bald head person not dealing with Rasta; non-believer of the
dread culture; person who has not got his hair in
locks; person who does not believe in Rastafarian
bredda (a, or one) a boy
male friends) holding same beliefs as the speaker.
colly; colly weed
see; look for; visit; to befriend the opposite sex.
keep; take; look after
alright; at ease
ride; cycle; erratic movements done while riding
bike; to ride zigzag on a bike or bicycle; manoeuvre
on motorcycle ridden mainly by ghetto youth.
girlfriend; girl; woman; female companion; wife;
name given to any young woman.
true Rasta man; Rasta; one who believes in Rasta
religion; bad; terrible.
Hail! a greeting
good piece of Reggae instrumental; flip side of
Reggae 45; musical version of song usually with little
or no lyrics; a rhythmic and visceral beat played
mainly with drums, bass guitar, and one or two
great pain; hardship or death
move; go; leave
make a move
an expression of gratitude for life or some kind of
lick (weed; a cup;
love; one love
ranking; top ranking
continue; move along; phrase of approval advising
continuation like 'right on'.
king, bully, a person who is tops in what he does;
toughest; best; ruthless person.
May God (Jah) go with you
greetings; salutation on meeting or saying goodbye.
kidding; joking, playing around; not sincere not
smoke ganja; chillum pipe
the strands of a Rasta's hair
business turned sour
later; see you
a person with locks; a rastafarian; unkempt hair;
admire; search for truth
Rasta's wife or sweetheart, wife or girlfriend;
a man's female companion (commonly used in
person who is OK
high on ganja or drugs; angry
seen; seen? seen!
sight; sight up
sound: block a
seal up the
step inna earth
(struggle with a structure)
lively reggae music; local music with heavy rhythm;
hard driving reggae rhythm; new name for reggae.
from the earth; down to earth; original; a greetings.
take a seat
understand; understanding; to comprehend or over-
stand; understand? yes!
bike; motorbike (I man a step on I skate
I am about to leave i.e.
ride my bike)
girl, woman (I man would bite of that skeef I
would make love to that girl).
friend; platonic friend
leave; move on
to leave; go away
make a move
the human body; girl; woman
make love to a girl
poor; ghetto liver 16
leave; walk; move away
instrumental side of reggae record
weed of wisdom ganja
wooden suit coffin
Category II In which words bear the weight of their phonological implications
Jamdown; Jamdung Ja
Category III I-Words and Y-Words
I AAN YA
I AN I A KNACKA
INI,I AN I
IDREN, IDREN, IDREN
;hteous (author's gloss)
I am here
my heart is good
me; I; we; mine; myself
my friend; male or female friend holding same
beliefs as speaker; colleague brother (friend).
I-LY. ILE. ILEY. HIGHLY
INEY, INIE, INNEY
IN THE STRONG
IRIE, IREY, IRE
- greetings; nice; pleasing; good
- annually; continually
- next week
-alright; good; appreciation of; pleasing; a saluta-
- yes, friend
ITAL, I-TAL, ITOL
- vital; pure natural; organic; food cooked without
salt; Rasta food.
- river bath
girl or young miss
yudd; yude; yudde food
(The reason for hyphenation of some 'I-words' and not others is not clear.)
Category IV New Items
bongoniah (Bungo Niah)
Red Stripe Beer
- deserve (author's gloss)
- incense; ganja
deaders; deadahs; deddas meat
dunny; dunney; dunza money
sata; satta relax; stay where you are: keep calm; stay on: stay
put; rest; quiet.
While these lists are not presented as a complete lexicon of Rastafari words or even
of Dread Talk words in Jamaica Creole, certain tendencies emerge that are worthy of
comment. Lists in Categories I and 11 are long compared with those in Categories II and
IV. I believe that this discrepancy is not the result of the non-rastafari nature of the
compilers (and therefore implied ignorance) but does in fact represent the proportions
not only in DT as used by Rastafarians but in DT as it has been captured by the wider
community. Words in Category II are obviously easy to create. That list is therefore
potentially the longest and the frequency of the occurrence of these words in any speech
act will depend on the commitment of the speaker to the style of speech.
On the level of meaning, it is worthy of note that several of the words which are
recognizable but now bear different meanings (Category I), have to do with music and
with the smoking of ganja, two activities in which the society regards the Rastaman as the
major participant. It is in these areas where he functions most that he must most make/
re-make words. And among the coinages note how the Rastafarian way of life affects the
choice of term assigned to articles. The man who can label 'meat' DEADahs, is hardly a
man who eats it. The serious Rastafarian rejects meat and eats only I-tal food which
consists chiefly of vegetables. Pork, despised beyond the level of other meat becomes
'dat' (that) a thing to point at, not to touch.
What this list is meant to illustrate however, is merely that these words and phrases
are among those isolated by some Jamaicans as 'Jamaicanisms' and that they are in fact
words from the lexicon of Dread Talk.
While it is not possible to isolate any one reason for the easy spread of the Rastafarian
lexicon, it is possible and necessary to look at some of the circumstances attendant on its
popularity. The Rastafarian culture, had by the seventies, pervaded many aspects of the
aesthetic life of the society as a whole and while the influence of the music was most
powerful because it came on the airways many hours each day, the more visual aspects of
the culture were supportive.
The Rastafarians are in fact an extremely creative company of people. One cannot
be sure whether this is because creative people are attracted to Rasta or because the
contemplative Rasta philosophy encourages creativity or (from an economic and philoso-
phical standpoint) because Rasta needs to make money to live and must find tasks that
are not dependent on Babylon. But Rasta art, and art influenced by Rasta, and Rasta
influence on Jamaican popular as well as Jamaica creative dance16a is nowhere in doubt.
Davis and Simon (1977) comment that:
... although they are widely thought of as pariah outcasts who reject the material
world, the Rastas have been the prevailing cultural force for twenty years, and are
the major influence over young Jamaica these days ... (my emphases p63)
The language of their description of societal reaction to Rasta is perhaps too strong for
the eighties and somewhat more like the fifties but their perception of the point under
review here is accurate. And Nettleford (1978) looking at Rasta as an appropriate res-
ponse to the forces that have shaped our society says:
'Small wonder that Rastafarianism now boasts great cultural clout among a groping
generation of Jamaican and Commonwealth Caribbean youths in search of them-
selves and of a just society which they have been taught to expect but which is yet
to be in their grasp. It is as though the Rasta-man is prophet, priest, and advocate
in short the society's cultural conscience.' (p188)
The language then is only the most obvious manifestation of a very general and complex
The philosophy of Rasta has been moving south in the Caribbean7 and has spread as
well to areas in the metropolitan countries where blacks proliferate. In other Carib-
bean territories Dread Talk will come in contact with creoles that are different from
Jamaica Creole in varying degrees. It will be interesting to see whether Dread Talk will
affect these creoles in any way or whether we will be forced to see this as a phenomenon
that grew up because of the particular linguistic situation in Jamaica; whether this talk is
in fact 'organic' to this country.
1. Simpson (1970:IV) sums up the doctrines of the Movement as follows:
Six doctrines stand out in the Ras Tafari belief system. The first is that black men, rein-
carnations of the ancient Israelites, were exiled to the West Indies because of their trans-
gressions. Second, the wicked white man is inferior to the black man. Third, the Jamaican
situation is a hopeless Hell; Ethiopia is Heaven. Fourth, Haile Selassie is the Living God.
Fifth, the invincible Emperor of Abyssinia will soon arrange for expatriated persons of
African descent to return to the Homeland. Sixth, in the near future black men will get
revenge by compelling white men to serve them.
Smith et al (1960) See the fourth of these as the only doctrine common to all the Brethren
and comments 'Beyond this point the religious beliefs of Ras Tafari brethren diverge widely. ..
la. Jamaican Revivalist of the nineteen twenties. For detailed report and comment see Chevannes
(1971) and Elkins (1977).
2. One of Jamaica's National Heroes. For a 'factual exposition' on Garvey see Edwards(1967).
3. This report verbatim from The Daily Gleaner (In Elkins 1977) differs from the report verbatim
from the Post (In Chevannes 1971). It is likely that both represent approximations to
Bedward's speech as reported by English officials.
3a. 'Own-blunt' not attached to any particular group.
4. Subsequent research suggests that the link was not really obscure. Howell, one of the earliest
exponents of Rastafarian theology (Haille Selassie as God) is said, to have appealed to those of
the Garvey ites who were 'poorest and most exploited' as apposed to the 'better-off black' and
'lower status brown' ones. (Post 1970) Robert Hinds, Howell's chief assistant is said to have
been a Bedwardite.
5. The implication is that Bedward could die in peace in November 1930 because Haille Selassie
was crowned then; the black Saviour of the world, had come (Interview with Roman Henry
6. Yawney (1976) admits that 'Rastafarianism is a complex phenomenon which cannot be
analysed easily in terms of strictly traditional models of utopian or millenarian movements. .
In Jamaica . Rastafarianism takes on the added dimension of a popular front in a cultural and
6a. Initial syllable is the more accurate replacement for my 'initial consonant' of 1979.
7. 'The language of the movement is violent. This is because it is the language of the Bible, and
especially of the Old Testament. It is apocalyptic language, in which sinners are consumed
with fire; sheep are separated from goats, oppressors are smitten and kings and empires are
8. In rebuttal of this point by Barrett I bring to your attention Rohlehr's (1971) article specific-
ally his explication of the lyrics of the song 'Bongo Nyah'.
9. Note in this connection that Brathwaite (1974) sees the emphasis on the word and its import-
ance as an African survival in the creole context/complex. He writes:
'The process of transformation. . has its roots in a certain kind of concern for and attitude
to the word, the atomic core of language. This something that is very much present in all
folk cultures, all pre-literate, pre-industrial societies. Within such cultures, language was
and is a creative act in itself. Think of our love for the politician or the word of tile
See also his 'Nametracks' from Mother Poem (1977)
Note that the Rastafarian sees himself as a particularly African brother.
10. Understand 'far (seeing) eye' pun on 'fari'.
11. For a detailed commentary on the political and literary ferment that was the time see
12. For comments on this phenomenon see Nettleford (1970) and White (1967).
12a. I believe that Rohlehr saw this but cheifly as a phenomenon within one man Don Drummond
the genius trombonist of the early sixties. See his 'Sounds and Pressure' for example.
13. Chevannes (1979) sees the early concept of Dread as almost synonymous with 'mystic'; Owryns'
book (1976) illustrates the word in its variety of latter day meanings.
14. Rohlehr sees this as an implied comparison with the experience of the Jews 'a comparison
common among blacks', But in the Jamaican context where the Rastafarians have identified
themselves as the 'true' Israelites, I would think that the choice of term reflects their influence
rather than any less narrow view.
14a Thanks are due to Mrs. Kathryn Shields for permission to use her tapes and to Miss Olive
Senior who kindly offered reading material including the list here mentioned. Thanks also to
the members of Miss Senior's group who compiled the list.
14b. A popular record.
15. this recognition is purely subjective and depends entirely on my own acquaintance with the
lexicon of DT.
15a. The question 'What is a Chalice?' posed to a group of upper-school teenagers received answers
like 'a pipe', 'a kind of pipe' until one seeing the anxiety on an attending adult's face admitted
'it is a thing in the church ...'
16. Note that 'liver' in Jamaica Creole can mean 'one who lives'.
16a. Note for example some titles of pieces from the repertoire of the National Dance Theatre: Two
Drums for Babylon; Court of Jah; and Tribute to Cliff (based on Jimmy Cliff's music).
17. Craig (1980) quoting Black Stalion, calypsonian, has this to say:
Di Federation done dead
CARICOM going to bed
But di Rasta Cult spreading) throughout di Caribbean
You have Rasta now in Grenada
You have Rasta now in St Lucia
But to run CARIFTA we having) pressure
Now if the Rasta movement spreading)
And CARICOM dying slow
Yes, is something Rasta know
that politician don(t) know.
ALBUQUERQUE, Klaus de. 1977. Millenarian Movements and the Politics of Liberation: The Rasta-
farians of Jamaica. Unpublished Dissertation, Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State
BARRETT, Leonard E. 1968. A Study in Messianic Cultism in Jamaica,.Caribbean Monograph Series
No. 6 Rio Piedras, Institute of Caribbean Studies, University of Puerto Rico.
1977. The Rastafarians: Sounds of Cultural Dissonance. Boston: Beacon Press.
BRATHWAITE, Edward Kamau. 1974. The African Presence in Caribbean Literature' Daedalus
Vol. 103, No. 2, of the Proceedings. American Academic of Arts and Sciences. 73-109.
1977. Mother Poem. London: Oxford University Press.
1977(b). The Love Axe/I: Developing a Caribbean Aesthetic 1962-1964. Bim Vol.
16, No. 61.
BONGO JERRY. 1969. Taped recording of a 'reasoning' and poetry reading session at University
of the West Indies: From the collection of Edward Brathwaite.
1970. Mabrak. Savacou No. 3/4 Journal of the Caribbean Artists Movements, 13-16.
BRODBER, Erna and J. Edward Greene. 1979. Roots and Reggae-Ideological Tendencies in the
Recent History of Afro-Jamaica. Paper presented at Conference on Human Development
Models in Action; Fanon Research Centre; Mogadishu, Somalia June 1979.
CHEVANNES, Alston. 1971. Jamaica Lower Class Religion: Struggles Against Oppression, Un-
published Thesis; University of the West Indies.
1979. Social Origins of the Rastafari Movement. Mimeographed.
COUNT OSSIE. 1972. In Thomas, Elean: Grounation-Count Ossie and the MRR; Swing: Sept./
Oct. 1972, 10-11.
CRAIG, Dennis R. 1980. Language, Society and Education in the West Indies. Caribbean Journal
of Education, Vol. 7, Nos. 1 & 2.
DAVIS, Stephen and Peter Simon. 1977. Reggae Bloodlines. New York: Anchor Press.
EDWARDS, Adolph. 1967. Marcus Garvey. London: New Beacon Publishers.
ELKINS, W. F. 1977. Street Preachers, Faith Healers and Herb Doctors in Jamaica. New York:
KITZINGER, Shiela. 1969. Protest and Mysticism: The Rastafari Cult of Jamaica. Journal for
the Scientific Study of Religion, Vol. VIII, No. 2, 240-262.
LANTERNARI, V. 1963. The Religions of the Oppressed. Translated from the Italian by Lisa Sergio,
London: McGibbon Kee.
NETTLEFORD, Rex M. 1970. Mirror Mirror: Identity Race and Protest in Jamaica. Jamaica: Collins
1978. Caribbean Cultural Identity: The Case of Jamaica: Institute of Jamaica.
OWENS, Joseph. 1976. Dread The Rastafarians of Jamaica. Kingston: Sangster.
POLLARD, Velma 1979. Dread Talk: The Speech of the Rastafarians of Jamaica Intervention
presented at the Conference on Theoretical Orientations in Creole Studies. St. Thomas, Virgin
Islands, 1-10; Caribbean Quarterly, Vol. 26, No. 4, 1980.
POST, Ken. 1970. The Bible as Ideology: Ethopianism in Jamaica, 1930-1938 African Perspectives,
C. H. Alien and W. Johnson eds. C.U.P. 185-207.
RAS DANIEL HARTMAN. 1972. Interview with Ras Daniel Hartman: Swing May 1972, 35.
RASTAFARI MOVEMENT ASSOCIATION. 1976. Rastafari: A Modern Antique Kingston:
Rastafari Movement Association.
RODNEY, Walter. 1969. The Groundings with my Brothers. London: Bogle-L'Ouverture Publica-
ROHLEHR, F. Gordon. 1969. Sounds and Pressure: Jamaica Blues. Moko No. 16 and 17.
1971. Some problems of Assessment: A look at New Expressions in the Arts of the
Contemporary Caribbean. Caribbean Quarterly, Vol. 17, No. 3 & 4 Sept./Dec. 1971, 72-113.
SIMPSON, G. E. 1970. Religious Cults of the Caribbean. Institute of Caribbean Studies; University
of Puerto Rico, Rio Piedras. III The Rastafari Movement Political Cultism in West Kingston,
Jamaica. Reprinted by permission of the Institute of Social and Economic Research from
Social & Economic Studies Vol. 4, No. 2, (June 1955). IV The Ras Tafari Movement in
Jamaica in its Millennial Aspect. Reprinted by permission of Cambridge University Press from
Millennial Dreams in Action: Essays in Comparative Study.
LANGUAGE MAINTENANCE AND LANGUAGE SHIFT IN DOMINICA
The survival of a language which finds itself in competition with another depends on a
complex of factors. In extreme cases, one of them disappears leaving little trace. In
others, the two may co-exist for centuries, even where one carries higher social prestige
and is associated with education and modernization in general, as well as being a language
of wider communication, whereas the other has none of these advantages. Co-existence
with a prestigious language is the normal lot of Creoles. Where there is a shared lexical
base, as in Jamaica, the two languages approach each other, so that the dividing line is
sometimes blurred even though the extremes remain distinct. In other circumstances,
however, the original prestigious model has been replaced by another, as happened in a
number of islands in the Eastern Caribbean where British rule followed a period of
French settlement and the establishment of a French-lexicon Creole. In some cases, as in
St. Vincent and Grenada and to a lesser extent Trinidad, the French-lexicon Creole has
all but disappeared before the onslaught of English and English-lexicon Creole. In
Dominica and St. Lucia, on the other hand, the French-lexicon Creole has survived
approximately two centuries of English influence. The factors which account for its
resilience are partly political, partly economic and partly socio-cultural, the importance
of any one of these varying from one period to another.
In the case of Dominica, at least one visitor to the island at the turn of the century,
the Englishman Symington Grieve, predicted the disappearance of the Creole "in a
generation or so". His remarks were prompted mainly by his observation of the fact that
English was the medium of education in-local schools. Besides there had only recently
been a marked decline in the size and importance of the French population with which
the Creole was to a certain extent associated. It was the French who had been responsi-
ble, not only for the earliest and most significant European settlement on the island,
but also for the importation of the vast majority of the Negro slaves who formed the first
generations of Creole speakers. Despite Grieve's prediction, however, and the loss of
direct contact with French, Dominican Creole appears well set to outlast the twentieth
If it had disappeared as forecast, the experience would not have been unprecedented
on the island. For the language of the Caribs, its original inhabitants, had been
gradually replaced by the French-lexicon Creole during the course of the nineteenth
century, the last native speakers dying out about the year 1920 (Taylor, 1977:24).
Today, a few words only are recalled by the older members of the group. It is particular-
ly relevant, therefore, that the factors which have contributed to the survival of the
Creole despite the odds against it should be examined and set against the background
of the disappearance of Island-Carib.
Official policy first threatened Dominican Creole indirectly when, on the take-over
of the island by the British in 1763, English replaced French as the 'official' language.
The English, of course, had never recognized French claims on the island, but in fact the
French had long settled there and theirs was the language that had been used for such
administration is existed prior to 1763. They had owned slaves, some of whom had
brought the French-lexicon Creole with them from the neighboring French islands of
Martinique and Guadeloupe. One of the first Acts passed under the new dispensation
included a statement to the effect that
..... from and immediately after the publication of this Act, all deeds, Conveyances
and other instruments of writing whatsoever (save and except wills and testaments)
shall be wrote in the English language.
A proclamation issued in 1771 authorized the change of certain place-names from French
to English. But, as has often been demonstrated elsewhere, linguistic usage cannot be
altered merely by official decree and, for the most part, those of the proposed new names
which stuck were those used mainly by officials, especially the names of administrative
divisions. On the other hand, the towns and villages listed have retained their original
names to this day. Even Portsmouth, an apparent exception, is still unofficially known as
Gwantans (Grande Anse).
Demographic and economic factors played an important part in the resistance to
English in the early days and even for some time afterwards. For at least a hundred
years after the arrival of the English, the French planters remained numerically and
economically superior. This is attested to by several writers of the period, among them
one who signed himself/herself simply as A Resident and who wrote as follows:
In Dominica which was first settled by the French, many of the coffee planters are
still Frenchmen or their descendants, speaking the French language, and being
French in manners and habits, as are also their slaves, though living in a British
colony. (1828: 222-223)
Half-a-century later, J. J. Froude (1887) still thought it necessary to comment on the
strength of French influence, saying among other things that the island was English
in name only.
These eye-witness reports are supported by a study of nineteenth century newspapers.
It is not unusual to find in them both French and English versions of an article or
advertisement. Others appeared in French, as did the occasional Letter to the Editor or
poem. A further indication of the situation is given by the following preface to an
article on cholera written by a French physician in his native tongue and published in the
New Dominican newspaper on December 6, 1865:
As the generality of our readers read and understand French, we make no apologies
for not having translated it.
The prolonged use of French in public life sometimes occasioned comment from those
officials who were concerned with the propagation of English. One Inspector of Schools
complained in 1869 that there was no incentive to learn English since it was not needed
for the conduct of business or in the law-courts or in the Church, for French was still
used to some extent in all these domains. The vast majority of Dominicans were, as they
still are, Roman Catholics and the priests have traditionally been recruited via Martinique.
They were nearly all, therefore, French-speaking. Even the Wesleyan missionaries sent
out from England in the early 1800s had, as often as not, to resort to French for their
preaching. Creole, too, received some recognition in the Church. A version of St. Mark's
Gospel, translated into Dominican Creole by a physician, J. Numa Rat, was published by
the British and Foreign Bible Society in London in the year 1894.
The main hope for English lay in the spread of education, but this proceeded slowly
for various reasons. In the years following the Emancipation in 1838, the ex-slaves and
their descendants not only had little incentive to learn English; many of them had little
opportunity to do so even of they wished. Nearly all spoke the French-lexicon creole
only. With the setting up of schools, the Creole was seen as an obstacle. Indeed, the
few schools which had been started by missionaries before 1838 had been located, not
on the plantations owned by the French, but rather on the comparatively few English
ones and in the towns of Roseau and Portsmouth where the language barrier was con-
sidered less formidable.
After the abolition of slavery, a number of government schools were set up. Reference
to the problems encountered by those trying to teach, through the medium of English,
pupils whose mother-tongue was Creole, was a regular feature of the Reports of the
Inspectors of Schools. In 1890, C.P. Lucas who had visited the island wrote as follows:
In Dominica, English education meets with a special difficulty, for a century and
a quarter of British occupation has not removed the traces of French settlement
and the ordinary language is a patois more or less French. (1890: 166)
There appear to have been teachers who did not hesitate to use the Creole in the
classroom to ensure comprehension although this was sometimes frowned on in official
circles. Thus in a letter to the Beacon newspaper in 1875 a correspondent suggested that
a certain school had not been recommended for special aid because the Inspector had
discovered that the teacher spoke Creole to the children. Yet in the Report for 1869 the
then Inspector recommended the practice of using Creole for explanations and the
utility of the Creole as a stepping-stone to English had been favourably commented on
in 1873 when the Inspector reported that
the practice of getting the children to render sentences of French patois into
English conversationally is answering well in some cases.
The slow development of education as reflected in the relatively high incidence of
monolingualism in Creole even as late as 1946 is illustrated by a newspaper report in the
Dominica Tribune some time in October of that year that at the opening of a Junior
School at a village in the extreme north of the island, the Inspector of Schools, realizing
that many of those present understood little English, repeated the gist of his speech in
Creole. At that time, according to the Report of the Census taken in that year, mono-
lingual speakers of Creole still accounted for nearly a quarter of the population.
The continuance of French in many areas of public life and the linguistic problems
faced by those who were trying to introduce English to Creole speakers were not, how-
ever, the only factors favouring the survival of the Creole. Another was the lack of
proper roads which made communication between one part of the island and another
very difficult. This was partly due to the mountainous nature of the island. Although
most of the villages as well as the few towns are located on or near the coast, communi-
cation between them has been fairly restricted. Travel between Roseau, the capital, and
the other towns and villages has traditionally been largely by sea. Only since the end
of World War 11 had it been possible to go all the way by road from Portsmouth, the
second town in the north, to Roseau. A coast road linking the two towns was opened
as recently as 1973, enabling travellers at long last to avoid the long and tedious journey
through the relatively undeveloped interior and opening up villages along the coast.
Because of the traditional difficulty in getting from place to place, internal migration
has been fairly limited. In 1960, according to the Census Report. approximately 79%
of the population still lived in the parish of their birth and three-quarters of the residents
of Roseau had in fact been born there.
Even if internal communication between town and country had been better, however,
it is doubtful whether the current linguistic situation would have been very different.
For in Roseau itself, outside of public life, there is relatively little pressure to speak
English, at least as far as adults are concerned. Those who use only English at home or
with close friends do so because of their geographical origins as much as for reasons of
social prestige. Many of them or their parents came from the Marigot-Wesley area of the
north-east where the French-lexicon Creole was never firmly established. Roseau was
a comparatively modest town even before its recent devastation by Hurricane David,
though it accounts for roughly a quarter of the island's total population of 80,000.
Many of its inhabitants have life-styles little different from those of their brothers and
sisters in the rural areas. Nor has there been any significant immigration comparable to
that of, for example, Chinese and Indians into other parts of the Caribbean.
It is, however, true that in recent years there has been a slight but noticeable trend
towards monolingualism in English among the younger members of the urban middle
class. This has so far made little impression on the island as a whole, being still mainly
confined to a fairly restricted segment of the population.
External communication links have been, and still are, no better than those within the
island. The most direct links are with the neighboring French islands. Not only is
French-lexicon creole spoken in these islands too, but the variety found in Dominica
was originally imported from Martinique and Guadeloupe, especially the former. Two-
way communication between Dominica and these sister-islands of hers is today facilitated
by air links, but contact by sea has been going on for centuries. Before the abolition of
slavery in the French islands, Dominica was a refuge for runaways. Free French forces
were stationed on Dominica during World War II. Much more recently, after the devasta-
ting hurricane of 1979, school-children from Dominica were temporarily evacuated to
the French islands. Such contacts, past and present, have naturally played an important
part in the survival of Dominican Creole.
Within the island, even before the end of the nineteenth century, the contest had
begun to be between English and Creole rather than between English and French. For
aspirants to public office, for example, one official criterion has always been a know-
ledge of English, but the practical utility of the Creole has been unofficially recognized
since at least as far back as 1864 when one candidate was reported to have circulated his
manifesto in English and in Creole. Of course, the use of Creole in that case would
have facilitated only those who could read French since the spelling used was based on
French orthography. The same candidate was reported as having made use of Creole in
a speech. Another report in The People newspaper (March 4, 1880) consisted of a
complaint about the fact that two candidates for public office had been passed over
despite their knowledge of the Creole which, in the opinion of the writer, should have
given them the edge over the Europeans who had evidently been appointed instead.
A visitor to the island, J. Spencer Churchill, observed in a pamphlet dated 1897 that
government officials, at that time mainly expatriates, were
seldom able to acquire any knowledge of the patois, and the necessity for inter-
pretation in the courts and inability to hold converse with the people at all times
interpose an almost impassable barrier between them and the bulk of the popula-
The most important factor influencing the survival of the Creole during the present
century, however, has been the attitude of the speakers themselves. It is true that the
Creole is still largely associated in the public mind with illiteracy and backwardness and
with old country people, whereas English is considered the language of the relatively
sophisticated and educated urban dwellers. Not only is this an over-generalization of the
situation, but it also represents only one of the prevailing attitudes. The other may be
held by the same people. It is a feeling of pride in the Creole seen as a symbol of the
solidarity of Dominicans as a people, as the language in which they can express their
innermost feelings more satisfactorily than in English. The view expressed by Midgett
(1970:160) that hostility to the Creole in St. Lucia is more publicly stated than privately
felt is equally applicable to Dominica. He added the also highly relevant comment
.... in private conversation St. Lucians of all levels celebrate the patois with their
peers, while decrying it publicly and to visiting English monolinguals.
For some the Creole evokes a feeling of nostalgia for the French association of past
centuries. These may be a declining number but they are still articulate. The view was
summed up in the response by the Editor of the Herald newspaper to the announce-
ment in 1965 of a competition among contourss'. He wrote as follows:
No constituent of this (i.e. cultural and ethnic) heritage has resisted the erosive
march of time or the rivalry of other contesting elements such as those associated
with 160 years of British rule more than the composite Patois dialect. None has
proved more evocative of our historic association with the French. or to a lesser
extent with the Caribs whom Columbus found here... (October 23, 1965)
If this sense of loyalty to the French, surpassing that felt to the Caribs, is now
confined mainly to older members of the bourgeoisie, pride in the Creole, especially on
the part of younger people, is now very much a part of the developing national conscious-
ness which preceded and has followed the coming of political independence in 1978.
Dominica's national motto, Apres Bondie C'est la Ter ( After God. it's the Land ),
adopted long before that date, was the earliest sign of official recognition of the Creole.
The feeling which its adoption illustrates is one which relates to national movements
elsewhere in the Caribbean as well, and one which is likely to grow. What the result
will be can only be a source of speculation at present, though a look at the current
linguistic situation might give some indication of its implications for the future survival
of the Creole.
The Creole is still very much alive and is still the primary language of the majority of
Dominicans. In recent years, however, the number of bilinguals has greatly increased.
The proportion must now greatly exceed the 68% estimated in 1946, the last date for
which estimates are available. Even if one accepts that many so-called bilinguals can
barely express themselves in English understandable to a native speaker of that language,
the increase may still be considered significant. It is very likely, too, that many of the
younger bilinguals are English-dominant. Adults, especially in the towns, tend to speak
English to their small children at home even while speaking Creole among themselves.
They are oftensurprised to discover how well the youngsters have picked up the verna-
With regard to language use at the present time, the population may be roughly
grouped into five broad categories, each of which might be typified by given communi-
ties, as follows:
1. Those in which one might still find a number of Creole monolinguals, though
these are elderly people, most of the rest of the population being Creole-dominant
2. Those in which the majority, regardless of age, could be classified as Creole-
3. Those in which most adults are Creole-dominant bilinguals, but young people
under twenty are either Creole-dominant bilinguals or English-dominant bilinguals.
4. Those in which Creole-dominant adults and English-dominant adults are both
fairly common, but where most of those under twenty are either English-dominant
bilinguals or English ronolinguals.
5. Those in which the majority are either English-dominant bilinguals or English
Creole-dominant bilinguals are those who use mainly or exclusively Creole at work
and/or at home, while English-dominant bilinguals use English exclusively at home
and/or at work. The above categories suggest a kind of progression from the most remote
to the least remote areas, with some possible exceptions. Category 1 describes the
position in villages such as Vieille Case in the extreme north and Colihaut which, though
much closer to Roseau and, like the latter situated on the west coast, has been linked to
it by road only since 1973. It would also include the Carib Reserve where ethnic atti-
tudes as well as poor communication have hampered the spread of English-lexicon
varieties. Into Category 2 would come other villages such as La Plaine and Grand Bay
which are thickly populated and relatively prosperous. Category 3 would include villages
closer to Roseau such as Pointe Michel. Roseau and possibly Portsmouth, the second
town, are likely to be the sole representatives of Category 4, while Marigot and Wesley in
the 'English' sector would come into Category 5. It should be noted that the situation is
far from static. For example, whereas monolingualism in English is slowly gorwing in
Roseau, it is gradually declining in the Marigot-Wesley area.
Widespread bilingualism within a stable community is usually a temporary pheno-
menon, except where diglossia exists. If one extends the meaning of that term to include
the functional distribution of non-related varieties, then diglossia has traditionally charac-
terized the Dominican situation. English has always been used wherever written language
was required and it has been associated with public behaviour on formal occasions.
Creole, on the other hand, has been associated with the home and with those aspects of
life linked to the folk, such as the popular contest' the folk-tales still told at wakes for
the dead. However, English is spreading to domains formerly considered the prerogative
of the Creole; for example, it is being more widely used than formerly in the home and in
popular songs composed locally. The Creole, too, has extended its functions in recent
years and has come to be used in some radio broadcasting, for example. Now that more
and more people are becoming bilingual, the use of Creole no longer brands the stranger
as illiterate to the extent that it once did. He/she is now seen as exercising a choice, the
factors that determine that choice on a given occasion being quite complex. Code-
switching, i.e. the unpredictable use of a phrase or a sentence from one language where
the other would have been expected in view of the discourse as a whole, is exceedingly
frequent and difficult to account for in most cases. There appears to be relatively little
resistance to it in some areas and, indeed, little awareness of it on the part of the speakers
themselves. For although it may be sometimes the case that the speaker is merely
showing off his/her knowledge of English in the presence of a stranger, there are also
numerous occasions when code-switching takes place in informal conversation between
close friends when there is no stranger present or when the participants think they are
alone. Such unconscious code-switching is illustrated by a comment from a small boy
playing in the street and listening to commentary on a cricket match on the radio in a
house nearby. He was addressing no one in particular except perhaps the player miles
away when he said,
u ke fe onli fuo ronz (you'll make only four runs).
On another occasion, a woman, asked in Creole by a close friend how her son was, was
heard to reply,
Jan byen; i hav tuu children ('John (is) well; he has two children').
In both the above examples, code-switching involved the presentation of new informa-
tion. Fairly, often, however, speakers repeat in English information they have only
just given in Creole. This again is not limited to occasions when there are strangers
present, though it is more likely than the above to be consciously motivated. The
sequence is itself significant. If these were the only available examples of code-switching,
or if they were relatively very frequent, the fate of the Creole might be considered
sealed. This is not yet the case, however.
Though the Creole has survived as a recognizably separate entity, it has not survived
unscathed. Its lexicon is becoming more and more modified by borrowings from English.
These loanwords can be considered integrated in that they are used by monolinguals as
well as others. As is to be expected, many of them refer to administration and things
associated with it. Others, however, belong to fields where their presence is not so
easily accounted for, since they often do not fill a semantic gap and two or more variants
co-exist in common use in some of these cases. One examples is wede ede ende help.
They also include a high proportion of adverbs and conjunctions such as so, too, because.
The English verbs try and enjoy have apparently replaced their counterparts of French
origin. The phonology of the Creole has been affected, too, for example, by the intro-
duction of sounds such as /r/ which occur in words borrowed from English and no others.
Another effect seems to be the weakening of vowel nasalization among English-dominant
bilingual speakers, especially those from urban areas. Despite the sporadic use of English
bound forms by the odd speaker, the grammatical structure of the Creole has not really
so far been affected by borrowing from English. It is rather the local varieties of English
which show the marked influence of Creole syntax, though not all the shared features
necessarily originated in borrowing. Apart from obvious loan-translations from Creole,
there is the occasional word or phrase of French origin which has become part of the
local code generally, being used by Dominicans of all linguistic backgrounds, some
of whom may not even be conscious of their origin. Such include fawin (cassava flour),
vep (something free often a ride in a car), a fos (to such an extent), among others.
Such integrated loans contrast with cases where a speaker with little competence in
English introduces a word of Creole origin on the spur of the moment into his/her
'English' conversation simply because he/she lacks the required English vocabulary. Thus,
one informant, describing a yam vine in her yard, produced the following:
it bujeing again now (it has buds again now).
attaching the English bound suffix -ing to the Creole verb buje (bud).
However, the English and the French-lexicon Creole in Dominica are still viewed as
separate codes by the speakers themselves and they still evoke different emotional
responses. As long as this remains the case, Dominican Creole will survive even if its
actual form becomes more influenced by local varieties of English and vice versa. Its
death will come about only if the majority of speakers are no longer conscious ol a
difference between the two or if they deliberately abandon the one for the other. Social
and linguistic trends at present point to a possible eventual merger, involving in large
measure the relexification of the Creole rather than its abandonment. This is more or
less what happened earlier in the century in Grenada. In other words, present indications
are that Dominican Creole is not about to follow in the footsteps of Island Carib. The
two cases, though similar in many respects, are not at all parallel.
The Carib language did not in any way merge with the Creole that succeeded it but
was, rather, gradually abandoned by a rapidly dwindling population. Between 1647 and
1713 the Caribs had reportedly been reduced to one-tenth of their former number
(Borome, 1972). By the year 1730 they had already withdrawn to the north-east section
of the island, a portion of which was officially designated the Carib Reserve in 1903.
Despite their relative isolation, however, they had been in contact with some of the
Negro population, certain members of which had long lived among them, with the result
that there was much interbreeding. This facilitated the spread of the Creole especially
as many of the newcomers were probably female, since Carib women who 'married'
outsiders were expected to leave the community whereas the same did not apply to
Carib men. According to Taylor (1972:7), at least three-quarters of the residents of the
Reserve by the time lie was writing were of mixed blood.
The lessening of their ethnic separateness, however, is only one of the factors respon-
sible for the giving up of their language. Their cultural decline had begun long before.
As early as the middle of the seventeenth century, French missionaries had gone among
them, the only Europeans to whom they permitted entry in the early days. One of
these, Fr. Breton, published a Carib-French Dictionary and a Grammar in 1665. Taylor
(1977:24) stated that it was not until nearly two hundred years later, however, that
another French priest finally succeeded in converting them to the Faith. By then, never-
theless, they had already lost much of their culture and had almost forgotten their
language. Spanish words for domestic animals as well as for the weapons and instruments
introduced by the Europeans were already a part of their language when Fr. Breton
compiled his dictionary, a fact that suggests closer contact with the Spanish than was
indicated above. The parallel with, for example, Maya in Belize is clear. Maya is a
dying language in that country today and its decline, too, began in the immediate post-
E.P. Banks, a visitor to the Carib Reserve in Dominica, noted in 1956 that apart
from a few characteristic crafts and customs, the Caribs at that time lived in much the
same way as their Negro neighbours in the rest of the island. They still tend to identify
more closely with French than English culture. The close proximity of the Reserve to
the island of Marie Galante, a dependency of Guadeloupe, favours considerable traffic
between the two. Sir Harry Luke reported (1950) that before their own church was
built, the Caribs of the Reserve would even sail across to the French island to hear Mass
and have their children baptized. It is not surprising, therefore, that there is still a rela-
tively high incidence of monolingualism in Creole among them.
Dominican Creole speakers of all racial origins are very conscious of the fact that they
share a cultural heritage with the people of the neighboring French islands. Most are
well aware, too, that this shared heritage is more deeply African than French, though it is
embodied in their common language the lexicon of which is drawn mainly from French.
At the same time, they are not unmindful of similar links with the rest of the 'anglo-
phone' Caribbean, links which, too, are reflected in common aspects of their vernaculars,
even if less obviously so. On the other hand, the later generations of Caribs had been
isolated in the Caribbean both geographically and culturally after the coming of the
white man. From having been in control of most of the Lesser Antilles, they found
themselves restricted to Dominica and St. Vincent by the middle of the eighteenth
century. Even so, those on St. Vincent, the even then racially mixed 'BlackCaribs',
were deported to Central America before the end of the century.
The Africans lost much if their original culture including their language upon being
transplanted to the New World as slaves and their descendants had no choice but to find
a new one for themselves. Some of this was borrowed from the Europeans, consciously
or otherwise, but even what was borrowed was infused with much that was their own,
whether derived from Africa or otherwise. This is nowhere more noticeable than in
the Creole languages which, despite their largely European lexical base, bear the clear
stamp of Africa on their morphology, syntax, semantics and phonology. Though the
Caribs are said to have evolved a means of communicating with Europeans which
apparently included elements from Spanish, Portuguese and French among others, at
least as far as its vocabulary was concerned, they later abandoned this. Unlike the
African slaves, they had not been forced to give up their own languages and had kept on
speaking these within the tribe, one language used by the men, the other by the Arawak
women who had been captured as brides. As they found themselves hopelessly out-
numbered by the fast increasing Creole-speaking population, however, they gradually
lost whatever feeling of security had remained after their contact with Europeans. The
gradual loss of faith in their own culture, threatened as it appeared to be, together with
the rapid decline in their number, led to the gradual adoption of the language of the
majority and this, in turn, hastened the loss of their own. Towards the end, the dis-
tinction between the men's and women's languages had already become blurred, partly
from lack of new input on the women's side. The fact that the Creole shared with Island-
Carib certain morphological features (Taylor, 1945) despite the general typological
differences between them, might have facilitated the shift. The relatively little influence
that Carib has had on the Creole reflects the sociological picture. This influence has
apparently been confined to restricted areas of the lexicon which are associated with the
Carib way of life, such as the names of certain plants and animals. There remain, of
course, several place-names of Carib origin. Taylor, writing of the Dominican Caribs,
stated that with the final disappearance of their language, they lost the last significant
part of their culture. In his own words,
.... with the last Carib speaker there doubtless disappeared many cultural links
with the past that can never be replaced. The use of a common idicn leads inevit-
ably to a community of notions and mental attitudes, (1972 :7)
Thus, whereas the Caribs irretrievably lost their brigirnal culture, the dreoles have
gradually recognized one of their owti, blending those of their..African forefathers with
those of the Europeans. The consciousness of their own statulshas come before it was
too late to save the Creole from imminent extinction and probably also from virtual
disappearance at any stage. It is naturally more difficult to predict what the future holds
for Dominican Creole than to account for its resilience so far. The contest, for some time
now, has been, not between European and African, but rather between Dominican and
Dominican. Thus, it is with local varieties of English and/or an English-lexicon Creole
that the French-lexicon Creole will now have to do battle. This could, in the absence of
conscious resistance, lead to its almost complete relexification in the long run, but for
the foreseeable future, Dominican Creole is alive and well.
Banks E. P. 1956 'A Carib Village in Dominica' in Social and Economic
*Studies, UCWI, v/2
BoromeJ. 1972 'How Crown Colony Government Came to Dominica
by 1898' in Aspects of Dominican History, Govern-
ment Printing Division, Roseau, 120-50.
Churchill J. Spencer 1897 'Dominica' a pamphlet published in Leeward Is. Notes
1, Royal Commonwealth Society. London.
Dominica Government 1771 Proclamation re Change of Place-Names (available in
Public Record Office, London).
Froude J. J. 1897 The English in the West Indies, London.
1906 Notes upon the Island of Dominica, London.
Lucas C. P. 1890 A Historical Geography of the British Colonies, Vol.
Luke Harry 1950 Caribbean Circuit, London.
Midgelt D. 1970 'Bilingualism and Linguistic Change in St. Lucia' in
Anthropological Linguistics 12/5, 158-170.
A Resident 1828 Sketches and Recollections of the West Indies, London
Taylor D. 1949 'Certain Carib Morphological Influences on Creole' in
International Journal of American Linguistics II.
1972 a) 'Columbus saw them first' in Aspects of Dominican
History, Government Printing Division, Roseau,
b) 'The Island Caribs of Dominica, BWI' in op. cit. 61-66.
1977 Languages of the West Indies, Johns Hopkins, Balti-
more and London.
LANGUAGE MAINTENANCE AND LANGUAGE DEATH
IN THE CARIBBEAN
MERVYN C. ALLEYNE AND
The purpose of this paper is to present an aspect of Caribbean linguistic history which
has not been given the attention it deserves. It deserves attention as a specific and im-
portant aspect of Caribbean linguistic history which is also of great significance for Carib-
bean general history and ethnography. It also deserves attention for the contribution it
might make to sociolinguistic theory that deals with language change (i.e. sociolinguistic
theory that is linguistically oriented) and that which deals with language function (i.e.
sociologically oriented sociolinguistics or the sociology of language).
Language death is one aspect of language change and in so far as death of inner form is
related to death in functions, it is also one aspect of the Sociology of language which
deals with language maintenance.
Caribbean linguistics has been interested in language change as well as in language
function. It has sometimes deluded itself that it is dealing with loss or reduction of inner
form when it has dealt with the development of so-called creole languages; and within
the perspective of the sociology of language, Caribbean linguistics has sometimes indulged
in speculations about the functional inadequacy of these languages and about the likeli-
hood of their continued existence, that is to say possibilities of their death. I wish to
suggest that those of us who are interested in language change leading to language death
and with the non-maintenance of a language in its communicative functions would do
much better to look at the developments of African languages in the New World from the
perspective of language maintenance and language death.
Needless to say, this question of the maintenance vis-a-vis death of African languages
in the New World, like all other instances of language maintenance and language death,
has to be looked at within the perspective of bi- or multilingualism, which of course is
another reason if another reason is needed why the framework of language change
arising out of bi- or multilingual contact is the most fruitful framework in which to
examine Caribbean language phenomena historically. This framework not only allows us
to deal with African languages in the Caribbean beyond trite and in some cases erroneous
statements about their multiplicity and diversity and about slaves being systematically
distributed so they could not speak their native tongues, but allows us also to deal with
all the other language phenomena as well.
Bilingual or multilingual situations have been looked at from several angles, including
domain configurations, who says what to whom when (and maybe why as well) in the
Fishman formula, function distribution, to name a few. These are descriptive models
and require similar longitudinal studies to give us an idea of how bilingual situations
develop. These models do not allow us to predict how bilingual situations will develop
nor do they explain why bilingual situations are as they are at any given stage. We would
have to look elsewhere if we wish to have a model that would allow us to answer
questions such as why a certain language is maintained and others are surrendered and
undergo atrophy and sometimes death, why certain languages are learned as second
languages and others not, why there are different rates of surrender, what is the whole
dynamic process by which a language dies, if 'die' and 'death' are the best terms in which
to couch our conceptualisation of what is going on.
Without pretending to be able to supply such a model. I should like to mention very
briefly some of the factors in a bilingual situation which seem to be most significant in
providing answers to the questions I have posed; and to examine African languages in the
West Indies and particularly in Jamaica in this light. Since I am dealing with only one of
the many possible ways in which a bilingual situation may evolve, it will not be necessary
to deal with all the other factors which explain other Caribbean language phenomena
such as so-called creole languages, language continue, and the sort of dialects that have
emerged in Barbados, and the Spanish-speaking islands.
In cases of societal bi- or multilingual contact, the distribution of power is the chief
general factor that determines the direction, nature and intensity of culture change and
language change. In one case, power is the control by one society over the life and death
of individuals of the other, and the best known examples of this are some forms of
slavery. In another case, for example, power may manifest itself as the control of capital
and the means of production by one group, leaving the other group generally dis-
possessed. The uneven matching in power of the two societies as represented by the
former case leads to massive culture change in the subject group, as it is forced, or sees it
necessary in the interests of survival, to adopt, in some way, some of the cultural forms
of the dominant society.
Another significant factor in bilingual contact situations is the nature and degree of
interaction between the groups. Again there is a wide range of possibilities with an
equally wide range of results as far as culture and language change is concerned. Some
interaction is presumably necessary for change to take place. But interaction may range
from total accessibility enjoyed by all members of both groups to all the institutions and
activities that exist, right down to only very limited accessibility (such as in a situation of
slavery). The former extreme may only be theoretically possible, since members of one
group may not wish to participate in the institutions and activities of the other group.
This inability or unwillingness to participate in some institutions may lead to the preser-
vation of native institutions in the context of an otherwise general acculturation.
One aspect of the greater or lesser participation in institutions is the degree or density
of interaction among individuals of the groups in contact. This may be expressed in
terms of a greater or lesser density of in-group interaction as against out-group interac-
tion. High densities of in-group interaction will lead to the maintenance of the culture
and language of the group, while high densities of out-group interaction will lead to
culture and language change (more of course in the subordinate than in the dominant
One aspect of this acculturation process that concerns this paper is that the native
subject culture (or some aspects of it) may continue to be practised by some individuals
in a virtually intact form. These individuals may remain cut off from the general accultu-
rative process; or they may be involved in it, manifesting thereby a duality of cultural
behaviour. For example, some individuals may continue the use of a native language
while at the same time embarking on the acculturative process. Similarly native religion
may continue to be practiced by some persons who also simultaneously begin to manifest
acculturative religious forms. Given however a situation of extreme unevenness in the
matching of the two cultures, such as characterized, for example, the contact between
Europeans and Africans in the New World, the native culture may be said to begin to
undergo a progressive movement towards loss or decay.
The loss or decay of the subject native culture is rapid but it is gradual. There is decay
both in the inner form and in the practice of cultural forms and institutions. Thus, as far
as language, for example, is concerned, there is gradual decay of the native language, i.e.
decay in its inner form and decay in the external circumstances of its use. There is gra-
dual loss of vocabulary, either net and final or else made up for by replacements from the
second language; as well as loss at other levels of structure. This is related to loss in the
external circumstances of its use, in so far as loss in inner form is really loss of com-
petence or loss of recall on the part of speakers, this itself resulting from limitations in
the domains in which the language is used and the functions for which it is used. The
native language progressively loses speakers (as they become monolingual in the new
language) until it is spoken only by a few specialised groups (old folk, religious leaders),
or preserved in a few specialised functions and media (religion, folk songs). 'Finally the
last "speakers" recall only a few items of vocabulary or a few expressions, and when these
persons pass away, the language becomes fully extinct unless there is some cultural revival
which resuscitates it and gives it a new life. This has been the fate of African languages
in Jamaica. This also, mutatis mutandis, has been the fate of African religions in Jamaica.
In looking at language, the distribution of power manifests itself in the form of
language dominance. In Jamaica, English may be considered to have been the dominant
language by virtue of representing the military force that kept the society together. Note
that language dominance here, unlike in other sociolinguistic works, refers to the role
which its speakers play in the society rather than to the relative number of domains or
functions in which a particular language may be used. The dominance of the English
language in Jamaica led inevitably to major changes affecting African languages while the
English language itself underwent little or no change in the form used by its native
Speakers of the lower (subject) African languages) not only find themselves obliged
to attempt to learn the dominant language but also surrender the use of their own native
languages) in favour of the acquisition of the dominant language, the swiftness and com-
pleteness of such surrender being relative to the degree of uneveness in the matching of
the cultures in contact. The linguistic result is that the lower languages) undergo(es)
quite drastic change
(a) either due to borrowings from the dominant language or
(b) due to losses in inner form resulting from reduction in use
(a) the dominant language undergoes little or no change when spoken by its native
(b) drastic change when acquired as a second language by speakers of the lower
languages) (which leads to so-called creole languages).
The question of dominance has also to be examined with regard to African languages
used within the community of Africans. Bilingualism or multilingualism was already
common in pre-colonial Africa and there must have been a number of polyglots among
the enslaved Africans in Jamaica. It is quite likely that Twi-Asante was also learned as a
second (or third) language by Africans in Jamaica. Certain linguistic facts support the
relative importance of Twi-Asante (both as language and ethnic group) in the early
period. First of all, the Maroon language of Jamaica (as well as of Surinam) is based
predominantly on Twi-Asante. Quite obviously, slaves belonging to ethnic groups other
than Twi-Asante joined the ranks of the Maroons. They then evidently learned the Twi
language while surrendering their own. Secondly the vast majority of lexical items of
African origin in the Jamaican language come specifically from Twi-Asante. This suggests
the acceptance of that language, or at least its lexicon, by Africans of other linguistic
groups interacting in Jamaica. Dallas (1703:p. 31-33) mentions specifically a group
which joined Kojo's maroon band, "distinct in figure, character, language and country.
Some of the old people remember that their parents spoke in their own families, a
language entirely different from that spoken by the rest of the negroes with whom they
had incorporated. They recollected many of the words for things in common use, and
declared that in their early years they spoke their mother-tongue. The Coromantee
language, however, superceded the others, and became in time the general one in use".
This is an observation of enormous significance. Given the dominance of Twi-Asante
(Coromantee) over the other African languages, the same processes which I have been
discussing with regard to the English/African languages) contact also affect these
African languages in the inter-African contact. That is to say undirectional acculturation
and language learning (in favour of Twi-Asante), the other "lower" African languages
progressively but rapidly undergoing loss and decay until they disappear
completely. Twi-Asante on the other hand undergoes relatively little influence coming
from these other African languages. So that when Dallas observed them (end of 18thC.),
these other African languages were on the point of extinction (just as Twi-Asante, in rela-
tion to English, is today at the point of extinction). And the process which Dallas gives
is typical of the general process of language death: reduction in domains until it is spoken
only "in their own families" by parents, recollection by subsequent generations of
"words for things in common use".
These minor African languages have left, as their only specifically identifiable traces,
a number of vocabulary items in both Twi-Asante of the Maroons and in the general
Jamaican language. Twi-Asante at the present time contains words from Temne and
Limba, languages of Sierra Leone):
opung "you dead" cf. Temne opong "he is finished,
kategbe ? (apparently uttered in attempt to pacify man in trance) cf.
Temne kategbe "calm(ly)"
kategbe yanu ? (shouted angrily in response to the above), cf. Temne kategbe
kayi-'no "there's no peace here"
akote "dog" cf. Limba kuteng "dog" (by denasalisation).
As I said earlier, the evolution of African languages in Jamaica has further to be con-
sidered within the different institutional and social contexts in which they were used.
These different contexts give rise to different evolutionary paths followed by African
languages in Jamaica. Only two of these contexts will be discussed here, and they lead
basically to the same results:
1. Marronage: the physical isolation of Africans; freedom; independence
2. Religion: the need for esoteric means of communication.
This is one of the contexts in which the gradual process of language loss or decay
can best be observed. The fact that the Maroons set up independent communities
separate from the colonial establishment meant that language and culture contact was
much less intense in their case than in the case of other Africans living on slave planta-
tions. The fact is also that the Twi-Asante language challenged English for dominance in
so far as the Maroons challenged the military supremacy of the British. The political/
military role of this language as a rival and alternative to English, helped to establish its
use and preserve it up to today, albeit it in reduced (structural and functional) form.
It may be assumed that the Twi-Asante language was well preserved among the
Maroons during the period of slavery, but that from the time of the emancipation of
slaves, its military/political role became less significant as contracts with the rest of the
population began to increase, accelerating the loss of the African language. During
slavery, and particularly at a time when the Maroons were in a state of war with the
British, the Twi-Asante language was of considerable strategic importance as well as
symbolically representing the African-ness of the Maroons so necessary in maintaining
pride and confidence in the face of persecution by the British. Subsequently the active
role which the language had played in the establishment and maintenance of freedom and
independence became irrelevant and it became a mere symbol of independence. At the
contemporary period, even when the language has ceased to exist as a viable means of
communication, it fulfils the function of expressing the separateness of the Maroons.
As we have said, language loss or decay may be observed on two dimensions; loss of
inner form (structural) and loss of domains (functional). It is certain that Twi-Asante
was used in a fuller (inner) form and in many more domains during the early period of
the establishment of Maroon societies than it is at present. Dallas, History of the
Maroons (1803: 33, 52-53), for example, records that the "Coromantee" language was
the general language in use among the Maroons in the 18th century, and Bryan Edwards,
the 18th century historian, was no doubt referring to this same language when he spoke
of "a barbarous dissonance of the African dialects with a mixture of Spanish and Broken
English" as being the language of the Maroons. There has been a progressive reduction in
the domains in which that language has been used, culminating today in the almost
total absence of any instances of use in the referential function. In fact there is a great
deal of evidence that the final stage in the process of functional decay typical of contact
situations has now been reached in the case of Twi-Asante. There is evidence that for
many of the words and expressions remembered and cited by contemporary Maroons
there are no precise clear-cut meanings.
The end of the period of the referential use of Twi-Asante is not altogether clear, but
it was probably in the first decades of this century. Beckwith (1929:191-3) claims that
the Maroons whom she observed "command a secret tongue (the so-called Koromanti),
and they know old songs in this speech".
Beckwith states elsewhere that "in Moore Town they still send signals to each other by
drumbeats" and that "in Accompong the horn man calls out the name of the dead
through a conch (the Abeng), and everyone listens to the signal". The three media of
communication presented here (Twi-Asante language, talking drums, and Abeng) are all
dependent on tones (or pitches), and, once pitch is lost as an information unit in the
language, it would no longer be possible to employ talking drums or the Abeng, which
recreate the pitch patterns of the language. It is to be expected then that the three media
of communication would continue up to the same time and die simultaneously.
Katherine Dunham, Journey to Accompong (1946: 54) claims that "the Colonel (of the
Accompong Maroons) told me that the message (of the Abeng) is transmitted not by a
signal or code but by the actual pronunciation of the words and by tones which are
easily distinguishable to a trained ear. Old Galibo who died last year was the last really
A 1938 reference (J. Williams, Psychic Phenomena in Jamaica) shows general decay
everywhere, but in different degrees in different Maroon towns: "For Accompong,
Williams (1938: 385-386) reports the use of only a few words of the language in 1937
supplied by Colonel Rowe, with no one else in the town seeming to be in a better
position; but, for Moore Town, he states that 'Koromanti was in a somewhat better
position ..... the older people, of about 50 years of age, on the occasion of gatherings,
once the rum has begun to flow, vie with one another, repeating whatever Koromanti
they may remember. But strange as it may seem, this is for the most part done in poll-
parrot fashion, without any concept of what they are saying'. At Charles Town, Williams
'found that Koromanti is still a living language among them, being taught by the elders to
the children'; and similarly at Scott's Hall, he found that 'Koromanti is spoken, and
while conversing with them, I had experience of the general knowledge of the language' ".
At the present time, I can attest to the fact that the language is dying, but not dead,
and that it serves little or no referential function. First of all, it seems never to be used
spontaneously, in ordinary every-day communicative contexts. When asked to, Scott's
Hall and Moore Town Maroons can carry on conversations in the old language, using fixed
stylised expressions; but all creativity seems to be lost.
As far as structural changes are concerned, some of them merely continue tendencies
that already existed in Akan. For example, the noun class system in Akan shows a
wearing away of the prefixes when compared with other Niger-Congo languages. The
Maroons of Jamaica show many cases of further loss of these prefixes when compared
with Akan and particularly with Twi-Asante. Thus Maroon paki, Twi-Asante apaki "small
calabash, Maroon sense, Twi-Asante sense "type of fowl with ruffled feathers", Maroon
kamfo, Twi-Asante nkamfo "type of yam", Maroon brouni, Twi-Asante oburoni
"European", "white man". The Maroon language however contains a few examples of
a Noun Class prefix where the Twi-Asante cognate has lost it. Maroon aprako, Twi-
Asante prako "pig"; Maroon awisa "pepper" Twi-Asante wisa. The noun class system
must therefore have been sufficiently vibrant and productive in Jamaica as to have
established a prefix where there seems to have been none in Twi or to have maintained it
while Twi-Asante lost it. But, by and large, there has been a wearing away of the system
in the Maroon language. The system may be considered to have become inoperative at
the turn of the century (at the same time that any real active referential use of the
language ended). We have some further evidence for this in the statement by Williams
(1937: 464) reporting that Colonel Rowe of Accompong supplied him with a list of
words and expressions elicited from "an old Maroon man seventy-five years of age or
more". The list is full of noun class prefixes. At the present time, there is absolutely no
feeling for the existence of a prefix. The plural is sometimes used for the singular:
Maroon nkoko "fowl", Twi-Asante akoko; sometimes the class prefix n becomes phono-
logically remodelled by the inclusion of a vowel before it (and then it may be completely
lost): Maroon incheswa "egg" (Williams (1937: 465), Twi-Asante nkeswa (plural), (cf.
however keswa in my notes from Scott's Hall, either the use of the singular form of Akan
or else loss of the plural prefix); Maroon ishu, Twi-Asante nsu "water"; Maroon isa,
Twi-Asante nsa "alcohol".
The few syntactical structures of the modern Maroon language which have been
collected show an evolution typical of subject languages in bilingual situations. For a
basic Twi-Asante me re ko ba "I am going to come", there are four different Maroon
sentences equivalents which we can examine to demonstrate the historical evolution of
Twi-Asante in Jamaica.
1. a me re ko oba
2. ame re ko aba
3. ame re ko obaba
4. mereko me ba
First of all it seems that a Yoruba, or Ewe form of the personal pronoun is being used
(ame) in the first 3 sentences instead of the strict Twi-Asante form me (which occurs
only in the fourth). Or else we have here the appearance of the generalised Jamaican
topicaliser a ... ("it is" ...) as in a mi a go "It is I who's going". In sentences 1 and 3,
there appears to be a third person pronoun prefix (o-) attached to the verb ba, which
suggests a loss of mastery of the pronominal system and an inability to distinguish
between the pronomical prefixes. In any case it seems that in the original Twi-Asante
language it is only when the subject is a noun (rather than a pronoun) that the corres-
ponding pronoun is prefixed. Such a sentence also occurs in the Maroon language:
obroni o da bra "white man is coming". bra is the imperative form of ba "come" in
Twi-Asante, but in Maroon language it often is used as the main verbal theme.
As far as importations from English and forms without clear historical antecedents are
concerned, there is in Maroon language obroni o gaan (and obroni o goon) side by side
with obroni o ko "white man has gone", in which English gaan has replaced Twi-Asante
ko in a typical Twi-Asante sentence, da, for which there is no clear historical antecedent,
and which exists in the Jamaican language (mi (d)a go "I am going") replaces the Twi-
Asante re in progressive action sentences: obroni o da bra "white man is coming".
The third context is not unrelated to Marronage. Religion and the need for an esoteric
means of communication constitute one of the major expressions of cultural marronage.
It is the Kumina religion which best represents this in Jamaica and which served as the
matrix for the continuity of the Kongo language, apparently in the form of the Kikongo
dialect. With the kikongo language in Jamaica we find the same kind of evolutions taking
place as in Twi-Asante. Some preservation of the Noun Class system, but some perturba-
tions and displacements of prefixes. For example "cow" in Bantu kikongo is ngombe,
with n as prefix. There is another class prefix ki which occurs frequently in Jamaican
Kikongo and this spreads to ngombe to produce kinkombe. And of course many nouns
have now lost their prefix in Jamaica: zo (nzo "house"), zambi (nzambi "Supreme
Being"): others have undergone phonological remodelling as in Maroon Twi-A.ante: ngulu
becoming igulu. As in Maroon Twi-Asante. prefixes are no longer used to render the
Yoruba, another language preserved in the context of religious ritual (Etu), shows the
same kinds of developments. There is however, one very interesting feature here, and
that is the preservation of the identical tone in words like:
obi "kola nut"
SAMUEL SELVON'S LINGUISTIC EXTRAVAGANZA:
Errol Hill's suggested paradigm of Trinidad Carnival as a model for both moulding and
interpreting the Trinidad theatre, is particularly apt for appreciating certain distinguishing
artistic features of Selvon's oeuvre.1 The episodic narrative structure of Lonely
Londoners can be related to the calypso format;2 yet even in the context of a firmly con-
toured story-line in Moses Ascending,3 Selvon still resorts to another calypso technique -
that of the final, humourously ironic twist characteristic of the anecdotal kaiso. But one
can also interpret the loose thematic juxtaposition of episodes in Selvon's work as reflect-
ing the disconnected thematic units called 'bands' which together cohere to form the
macrocosmic festival, Carnival. Furthermore, Selvon may be said to have recaptured the
exuberance and eclecticism of the Carnival pageant in the linguistic manipulation exhibit-
ed in Moses Ascending. Besides, the sheer verbal virtuousity of Moses Ascending itself
recalls the extravaganza of a 'pretty mas' a costume not merely representing a thematic
motif, but "o'er picturing" reality by imaginative and decorative excesses, a flattering
Moses Ascending (1975) updates the situation and fortunes of the West Indian immi-
grant population in England. Its setting is the 1970s the Black Power era whereas
Lonely Londoners (1956), some stories in Ways of Sunlight (1956), and The Housing
Lark (1965) had chronicled in fiction the immigrant conditions of the previous decades.
The predominantly omniscient narrative voice of these sequences had emphasized the
cultural and psychological comfort afforded the economic exiles by the 'old talk' of
ballad reminiscence, by 'mamaguy', and 'picong'. By the 1970s, however, the West
Indian immigrant had become acculturated to a British life-style. The day-dreams of
physical return to roots had largely evaporated. Selvon recreates this shift of perspective.
Recurring to a thematic tradition in West Indian literature the acquisition of shelter4 -
the parameters of ambition extend here to landlordship, and the accumulation of wealth
at the expense of the new generation of Black British, both Caribbean and Asian. This
socialized immigrant culture reproduces its own parallel British caste/system: Selvon's
chief character, Moses, aspires to gentility. Himself an economic commodity in British
imperial commerce, he has come to an understanding of the economic foundations of the
gentry, that is, manipulation of the commodity markets whether human or inorganic.
He is also well aware that in the Old World artistic sensitivity is considered a necessary
refinement of the nobility. So now a landlord or rather, in his perceptions, a lord of
the manor and therefore a man of leisure Moses cultivates and displays his "immortal
longings" by committing his "memoirs" to paper.5
This theme of cultural assimilation is fashioned by Selvon's humourous and ironic
vision into a parody of the symbiotic relationship between the migrant and his host
culture, indeed between West Indian and European cultures, and at a wider level, between
the Third World and the developed metropole. Selvon caps his satiric intent by coopting
the first person narrative technique. Comedy and there's plenty of it is now not
directed at the immigrant/victim by the confident narrator or balladeer; instead, the
authorative cosmopolitan man-of-affairs and experience will tell his own story. And his
language will reflect the temptations and perils of any acculturation process through its
bizarre juxtapositions and comic excesses, through Moses' synthesis of popular and for-
mal cultures, and of his semi-literacy and book-learning. This linguistic hybridization and
extravaganza will betray and underscore the marginal status of the migrant, the outsider,
the fluctuations attendant on his tenuous social and economic position, and the psycholo-
gical confusions bred by his internalized upward class mobility.
The ironic metaphor of rise and decline which Selvon manipulates on a situational
level is masterfully paralleled on the linguistic plane, for Moses Ascending presents an
indulgent satire of the language of the social alien, the 'hurry-come-up', the 'johnny-
come-lately', the arriviste.
Selvon achieves this satiric effect by the swiftness of transition in language register,6 it-
self dependent on context:
.1 had deserted my friends, and...there Formal
was no more
pigfoot and peas and rice, Intimate (West Indian References)
nor even a cuppa, Intimate (English slang lexical
to be obtained, even if they came with Formal
gifts of myrrh and frankincense. Sacred (Biblical reference)
One register is that of the cliche:
to upset the apple cart (9)
things have come to a pretty pass (14)
make or break (14)
lock, stock, and barrel (33)
a word for the wise is sufficient (32)
live and let live (10)
hither and thither, to and yon (13)
Some of these are idiomatic in source and reflect the balance and parallelism, or the
alliteration and assonance characteristic of that format. The abundance of cliches in the
stylistic repertoire of Moses stamps him as 'the ordinary man', the 'man in the street',
the undistinguished 'man of the people', who speaks in the readymade catch phrases of
the native language exponent.
Slang expressions produce the same effect:
I got him cracking (10)
came back pissed (11)
The Black Power cultural and political context of the action in the novel justifies the
occurrence of the Afro-American "cool" (17), "way out" (17), and "rags" (16).
Another stylistic form which produces a familiarity of tone is that of limmerick-
type rhymes a technique intrinsic to poetry from Africa to England, harnessed by the
pierrot grenade masquerade of Trinidad, and now the stock-in-trade of the Jamaican dub
singer and d.j.:
a man for all seasons and reasons (51)
in the news and views (52)
the more liable, and pliable (27)
I could feel my inspiration draining away like perspiration (54)
Phrases snatched from popular music also fulfil the function of cultivating easy rap-
port with his audience. The range extends from the calypso "Last train to San Fernando"
of the 1940s to the Mighty Sparrow's "Drunk and Disorderly" of the 1970s. And Spar-
row's pillage of the Bible for the perversely applied metaphor in "Jean and Dinah" finds a
parallel here in "I earned my piece of cunt by the sweat of my brow" (107). Moses also
modifies a favourite Christmas carol in "of a cold winter's morn" (13). He further
utilizes the lyrics of popular tunes like "Cat on a Hot Tin Roof' "Happy Days Are Here
Again", "Que sera, sera", and vulgarises the "To Arms" chorus of the "Marseillaise".
Similarly, the use of Trinidad English idioms capture with verisimilitude a casual
if I lie I die (88)
I was mad to go and call (36)
mad to bust a cane in my arse (37)
every manjack (54)
he could well see (68)
we see some trouble (68)
my blood take him (10)
every Friday please God (10)
make rab (i.e. 'behave in a disorderly fashion') (81)
you best hads (35)
it have a heaven which part (i.e. 'there's a heaven where') (20)
Trinidadian proverbial expressions also convey the tenor of a speaker rooted in the
verbal lore and philosophic mainstays of his culture:
monkey smoke your pipe (74)
when you crooked you bend (73)
after we is weevil (41)
as does his recourse to the words of a school game: "I spy with my little eye" (42).
Basilectal7 Trinidad English is also evidenced in grammatical usage: the lack of Sub-
ject-Verb concord -
was my mottos (10)
men was fighting (42)
as the dogs is so well trained (55)
the formal non-differentiation of past and present tenses -
he was ... roaming through bedsitter land, picking out secondhand miscellany he
the invariant singular for plural noun designation -
woman thumping out left and right with kick and cuff (43)
the indiscriminate occurrence of "her" and "she" as Verb complement (see below);
double negation -
he would not of bought no end-of-terrace house (7)
and reliance on onomatopeia for dramatic aural effect -
bragadam, biff (76)
The real-life situation of diglossia which obtains in the language performance of the
majority of Trinidadians8 is reflected in the fact that Moses does not stick rigidly to
basilectal Trinidad English grammatical structures, but varies them with Standard
English even in semantically identical phrases, such as:
Bob pounce on she...he just grab hold of her and start to
drag she to the sofa (29)
woman was screaming, man was just thumping out left and right (43)
In addition, mesolectal9 hypercorrection10 surfaces in constructions like
the letters (103)
she must of realized (26)
But I didn't know nothing about sheeps (56)
The foregoing techniques are crucial in establishing for Moses a confidential tone.
But the I-narrator takes himself far too seriously to be content with this familiar, casual,
and no doubt to his way of thinking vulgar style. As a self made man literally on the
way up, and as a rather self-conscious artist, Moses can manipulate a formal statement-
of-fact contemporary Standard English register:
It was Sir Galahad who draw my attention to the property (7)
or the more effectively heightened register imparted by syntactic inversion:
Little did he dream (7)
He can speak too in the register of the business executive or bureaucrat:
I want a complete dossier on these Pakis...and furthermore you
had better start keeping an inventory of our stock (40-1)
Moses is also au courant with erudite words like "insubordinate", perambulatee",
"nefarious", "conundrum", "stentorian", and decimalizee"; and can even spice his
language with non-English loan words and phrases: from the French bonhomie, in lieu;
Latin bona fide, trivia; Italian flagrento (sic.) delicto; German spiel. Scots English
provides "bonny", and "wee tot".
But Selvon's artistic purpose is to frustrate any sustained gravity of tone, and so,
Moses falls into the errors of malapropism:
coop de grace (62)
peddle my own canoe11(46)
hopeful date of departure (37)
writing my Memoirs in retrospective (45)
survey you (62)
lions (for 'loins') (71)
to ditto (71)
linguistic ('capable of speech') (76)
Linked to malapropisms is the pretentiousness of his bombastic phrasing. In "a battery
of chunky signet rings, wearing them on unconventional digits" (17), Moses' hyperbolic
synonym for 'fingers' helps to achieve a snooty distance from the vulgarity of the ring-
wearer. In the following, in ill-founded snobbery emanates not only from the obvious
semantic content of the phrase, but is underscored by the hypercorrect choice of the
vague but analysis-bond lexeme "aspects" in "the respectable aspects of the meeting"
While Moses' linguistic uncertainty in 'received'12 and literary English dialectia leads
him into malapropisms, his self-perception as a writer affords him licence to create
myrading chandeliers (12)
He can also coin original images. Unfortunately for Moses' self-image however, but
fortunately for the ebullient humour of the novel, Moses does not always achieve a
thematic synchronisation of image and objective context. Bob, the Northern Englishman,
is described as standing up after a blow "swaying like a coconut tree on the beach in a
strong wind" (30), and Brenda, the black British girl after whom he lusted, in disgust
flinging her maxi skirt across the room "like one of them Mayaro fishermen casting his
net" (31).13 More appropriate, by reason of its reverse colonial resonances,14 is Moses'
account of how he had Bob "toting armchair and dumbwaiter on his back like a safari
porter" (40). Another brilliant simile is achieved when Moses coopts the ballectic masque-
rade figures of the bat-cum-imp from the 'Devil band' and at the same time exploits the
polysemy of "wings" alluding at once to the bat costume's wide wings and to stage
I leap on the platform like a bat out of hell hoping to
make an escape in the wings (103)
And his description of himself "panting and breathing like a blacksmith bellows" (107)
captures the heat and violence of the action.
But Moses continues to trip over his literary embellishments when he indulges in
semantic redundancies of the type:
I was never so happy to see somebody in my life before (44)
I begin to think that suppose (36)
But his rhetorical flights achieve a versatility of tone: that of heightened drama, as in
I was helplessly and hopelessly entangled and ensnared (78)
I mulled, I mooned, I went into a brown study (52)
or the anti-climactic:
I try the lock; it lock. (40)
They also confirm his potential for pun and oxymoron:
to augment the argument (14)
He maintain a vocal silence (46)
The overall dissonance of language register functions then as a thematic device as well
as a formal means of character delineation. In tandem with this carefully orchestrated
technique, Selvon intensifies the burlesque tenor of his work by a wide one might say,
bewildering and Eliotesque -range of literary allusions and echoes.1s By investing the
socially and linguistically mercurial Moses with "literary aspirations". Selvon is able to
orchestrate perhaps the first intentional and sustained parody of traditional European,
as well as contemporary West Indian, literatures in the history of West Indian scribal art.
Literary allusion in Moses Ascending is therefore doubly organic, operating on verbal as
well as thematic levels.
The literary echoes are overwhelmingly of vintage derivation. Moses and Bob are the
late twentieth century photo-negatives of Shakespeare's early seventeenth century Pros-
pero and Caliban. But this literary correspondence is not confined to Shakespeare; it ex-
tends to the work of George Lamming, who had consistently mined this classic culturo-
political antithesis for the themes of his novels.16 And just as Lamming has, in Natives of
My Person, circumnavigated the themes of power and exploitation first launched in In the
Castle of My Skin, Selvon by evoking the literary precedents of the master/servant
motif,17 obliquely recalls the historical origins of the "black tragic" (105). And not
satisfied with that framework, Selvon manipulates a mirror situation of human exploita-
tion: West Indian "Caliban", now turned guardian of the metropolitan language and
trafficker in human cargo, finds himself "in a quandary" over communicating with a
"Speakee English?" I try.
"Fuck off," he say, giving me a nasty look.
It was not the most auspicious phrase in the Queen's language...
explains the affronted Moses in pious outrage.
The Shakespearean motif is intensified by the sixteenth century turns of phrase:
I might of doffed my hat (105)
let us away (105)
one or t'other (28)
come a-running (28)
If I had had time I would of said, "Unhand me, knave" (43)
How did the battle fare? (104)
I could withstand the slings and arrows of misfortune (50)
Perhaps because of the novel's satiric content, and as a means of exploiting to the full
the direct address of the first-person narrative technique, Selvon's literary 'word-hoard'
tends appreciably to be eighteenth century. The "dear", "gentle", and "perspicacious"
reader is ever so often formally invited to pass judgement or sympathize:
Another point I would like to make in passing is the lack
of social graces in Galahad. Note the invasion of my
castle, note the intrusive, aggressive entrance...note,
I say, the stab at my Achilles heel! (47)
When Selvon relinquishes this period narrative style and Classical reference he may have
recourse to Cromwellian expletive:
I was thunderstruck. "God's blood", I cried...
"Hold your water," Bob say. "Cool it."
"Cool it?" I mock him. "Egad, man, they have really irked
my ire now." (105)
When one adds to this eighteenth century linguistic flavour the resonances of Dick
Whittington and his Cat, and those of Robinson Crusoe's and Prospero's relationship
with the 'natives' of the Caribbean, the dramatic and verbal ironies of the Moses/Bob
association are evocative and complex indeed.
All these arrangements were attended to
by my man Friday, a white immigrant name
Bob from somewhere in the Midlands,
who came to seek his fortunes in London...
He was a willing worker, eager to learn
the ways of the Black man...
I got him cracking...
I try to convert him from the evils of
alcohol, but it was no use...
By and by...
I allowed him the freedom of the house
It is in this ironic vein of logic that Master Moses threatens
Walter Scott's northern borderlands, "the Black Country"!
Defoe, Robinson Crusoe
the lowly Bob with exile to
But Selvon, for all this banter of situation and discourse, can modulate his humour
by cross-fertilizing it with a mocking but serious tone. One of his techniques in this
regard is recourse by verbal allusion to literary precedents with sombre/pathetic over-
there was a tear in my eye (97)
There is no god but the god, and Mohammed
is his prophet.
A man must go where the winds of fortune
blow him, willy-nilly, for his Destiny is
writ in the stars, nor all thy tears wash
out a word of it.
Omar Khayyam, Rubaiyat
Similarly, the meditative passages on the fate of impoverished black workers in England:
Where have they gone? What are they
Somewhere out there, somewhere among
the millions of whites: in the bustling
traffics and the towering buildings and
the confusion and pandemonium of the city,
they are scattered and lost.
I only hear stories of their plights and
sorrows, tales of tragedy
whispered on the wind...
If you do not keep in touch with your
friends and acquaintances you will think
they are dead in this country.
They vanish from your life:
they go down in the underground and
they never emerge;
they are blurred into a crowd and become
part of the density of humanity, individual-
istic only in a kind of limbo memory.
ubi sunt? motif
the Gothic novel
Ellison, Invisible Man
And so, by allusions both erudite, recondite, and sober in tone, as well as by the rum-
bustious coinages, malapropisms and cliches of the self-educated, Moses emerges as a
complex figure of a type with the ironic portraits of Chaucer's Canterbury Tales, like
the Nun and the Pardoner. As with them, the ironic content of Moses' tale operates not
only within the text itself, but even more fully in relation to the personality and aspira-
tions of the teller of the tale. In the end, it is as if the straining of the will to escape
social determinism catapults him down, not unlike Milton's Satan, from his heavenly
attic and ivory tower to the hellish basement, that twentieth century equivalent of the
"hold of a slave ship" (43).
What this essay has tried to show, is that the socio-historical tensions 18 underlying
Moses' aspirations are reflected in the incongruity of his language codes,19 in the con-
comitant severity of his register shifts, in inconsistent grammatical forms, and in extrava-
gant metaphoric comparisons. So that while he sometimes consciously creates humour
for his readers by these means, his stylistic variations are not always controlled by this
over-ambitious creator, and he himself eventually falls victim to his own eclecticism and
flamboyance and striving for effect. Language in Moses Ascending accounts for a large
part of the humour the novel affords, but it is also a metaphor of Moses' ambivalent,
ambiguous and ironic situation. Yet despite his reverses, having succeeded in publishing
these inimitable Memoirs, Moses, like Selvon, can say: "all have come, and see, and I
1. See Errol Hill, Trinidad Carnival: Mandate for a National Theatre, Universitr of Texas Press,
2. See Sandra Pouchet Pacquet, "Introduction," Turn Again Tiger, Heinemann, 197; Michel labre,
"Samuel Selvon," in West Indian Literature, ed. Bruce King, Macmillan, 1979, and "Moses
and the Queen's English." Trinidad & Tobago Review 4:4, Christmas 1980, 12-5, for thematic
and structural affinities between Selvon's oeuvre and the calypso.
3. Page references in the text are to the Davis Poynter 1975 ed.
4. See Edward Brathwaite, "Houses in the West Indian novel," Literary Half Yearly 17:1, 1976,
111-21;also in Tapia, 3 July 1977, 5-6.
5. This motif seems to parody the confessional exercise of Kripalsingh in Vidia Naipaul's Mimic
6. A language style appropriate to a particular social, cultural, psychological, or professional
7. Basilect, mesolect, and acrolect demarcate progressively the furthest removed through to the
most approximate manifestations of dialect performance relative to its 'standard' or 'model'
language, here Standard English.
8. See Donald Winford, "The creole situation in the context of socio-linguistic studies," in Issues
in English Creole: Proceedings of the 1975 Hawaii Conference, ed. R. Day, 1980.
9. See Donald Winford, "Grammatical hypercorrection and the notion of 'system' in Creole
language studies," Carib 1, 1979. 67-83.
10. Bearing in mind Naipaul's observation of offensive refuse at the most frequented bathing sites
along the sacred Ganges in An Area of Darkness, "the bonny banks of the Ganges" rings a farcical
11. An echo of Biswas' nickname in Vidia Naipaul's A House for Mr. Biswas. The Tulsi family
satirized Biswas' independence by calling him "the paddler" since he insisted on 'paddling his
12. The most socially acceptable dialect of British English.
13. There tends to be little or no dialect differentiation in Selvon's oeuvre. Apart from the Trinidad
dialect-based discourse of the narrative voice, Selvon makes no attempt to realistically match
character to dialect, whether in regard to lexical, syntactic, or likely register choices. In Lonely
Londoners, for instance, a Jamaican character called by the non-Jamaican term 'Tanty' -
speaks in Trinidad Creole. Selvon defends this strategy in Fabre, 1980. Similar inconsistencies
occur in Moses Ascending. Faizull, a Muslim, requires to be cleansed by a 'pundit' a Hindi
term for a Hindu priest (76). And Bob, the Englishman, associates "Bangladash" with "one of
them new African states" (39), using a Trinidad Creole noun-plural (orm.
14. Perhaps one of the first articulations of the perverse satisfaction derived by West Indians from
British discomfiture at the size of the non-White immigrant influx since the 1950s is Louise
Bennett's "Colonization in Reverse". See her Jamaica Labrish, Sangsters. 1966, 179.
15. Fabre 1979, 123-4 sees this aspect of Selvon's work as being in line with "post-modern fiction...
[uniting] the iconoclastic techniques of the West and the iconoclastic techniques of the calypso
in order to liberate Trinidadian fiction by negating the monopoly of the 'great tradition'."
16. As Fabre 1979, 124 states, Moses Ascending is 'a novelist's novel'." Through Moses, Selvon
makes several direct allusions to West Indian writers. While covertly alluding to differences in
tenor between their work and his, Selvon approvingly recognizes the work of two professional
colleagues: Galahad disparagingly challenges Moses "You think writing book is like kissing
hand? You should leave that to people like Lamming and Salkey" (46). On p. 52 he signals his
awareness doubted by some of his earliest critics of "plot, dialogue, continuity and other
technical points." See also fns. 5, 10, 11, 14, 17.
17. Other master/servant pairs paralleled by Moses and Bob are: Cervantes' Don Quijote/Sancho
Panza, P. G. Wodehouse's Billy Wooster/Jeeves. The Robinson Crusoe/Man Friday motif has
inspired the pivotal image in Derek Walcott's Castaway, and finds an oblique resonance in the
reiterated image of shipwreck in Vidia Naipaul's Mimic Men.
18. As well as his moral vacillation.
19. Although in some contexts 'code' and 'register' are synonymous, I refer here specifically to Basil
Bernstein's formulation and definition in Explorations in Sociolinguistics, ed. S. Lieberson, 1966
of 'elaborated' code as a structurally complex and socially formal style of discourse in contra-
distinction to a 'restricted' code, which utilizes a limited vocabulary, slang and other informal
expressions, in addition to simple or even incomplete syntactic structures, with meaning being
communicated extensively through extra-linguistic factors such as body language and under-
Micntras la Historia latia en silencio sobre sus espaldas
ellos corrieron irreverentemente los acentos recortaron
silabas agregaron sonidos y dieron a las palabras
otros significados e intenciones
Sabian poco o nada de esos asuntos y jams imaginaron que
ademas del sudor
del cansancio y la sangre que aportaban a la vida
tambien en cse tumulto de sonidos y voces en esos gritos
y blasfemias en esas buenas y malas torpes y tiles palabras
construfan poco a poco algo finalmente
llamarfan para siempre el idioma
Labricgos artesanos esclavos y sus similares
agricultores ordeiadores carpinteros
talabarteros albaniles constructores
de fortunes ajenas
a ellos les debemos
las palabras pensamiento realidad
carajo compancro corazon
While History throbbed in silence on their backs
they ran accents irreverently together dropped
syllables added sounds and gave the words other meanings
They knew little or nothing of these things and never imagined
that more than the sweat
of exhaustion and the blood they gave to life
that also in this tumult of sounds and words in these cries
and oaths in these good and bad clumsy and useful words
they would build something that finally
would forever call the language
Labourers artisans slaves and the like
farmers milkers carpenters
saddlers bricklayers builders
of the fortunes of others
to them we owe
the words thought reality
shit comrade heart
(Trans: fragano ledgister)
GWO PITON PITI PITON
Tjek fwa adan lavi
Lavi ka ba nu woch,
Lavi ka ba nu fe.
Tjek fwa adan nan vi,
Woch ka pete duvan zhye'-u,
Fe nan dife'cho lavi ka kwaze'-u.
Se woch asu woch
Ka fe gwo piton, piti piton,
Dife'asu dife'ka fe gwo piton soti
Mon lavi ki nu ka monte,
Ban nu fe nan tje,
Woch lavi nu ka plewe',
Ban nu dife'nan tje.
Gwo piton piti piton,
Kite' nu defan sa Kawayib
Woch lavi, dife'lavi,
Gwo Piton, Piton nu la! Nu la!
Gwo Piton. Piti Piton. ....
Gwo Piton, Piti Piton. ...
Sometimes in life
Life gives us stones,
Life gives us iron.
Sometimes in a life,
Stones burst before your eyes,
Iron in the hot fire of life crushes you.
It is stone upon stone
Which makes the large piton, the small piton
Fire upon fire which makes the large piton
emerge from the small piton.
Mountains of life that we climb,
Give us iron in the heart,
Stones of life that we cry of,
Give us fire in the heart.
Large piton small piton,
Enter our hearts.
Let us defend what Caribs
Defended for us.
Stones of life, fires of life,
Gwo Piton, Piti Piton we are here!
We are here!
Gwo Piton, Piti Piton....
Gwo Piton, Piti Piton ....
In the south-west of St Lucia (West Indies) are two volcanic hills which rise almost
vertically from the sea. The larger hill is called Gwo Piton and the smaller hill, Piti Piton.
The orthography used for this poem is the St Lucian Creole Alphabet (1981), of Folk
Research Centre, Castries, St Lucia.
Syntaxe de l'Haitien. Claire Lefebvre, H. Magloire-Holly, Nanie Piou.
Ann Arbor: Karoma 1981. xiv + 251 pp. (Paper $15.00)
This book scores an immediate plus with its title which gives to the language of
Haitians its proper name, i.e. I'haitien in French. I have long campaigned for the removal
of the term "creole" from the designation of Caribbean languages. This book will certain-
ly help to establish proper designations based on the universal principle of using the
adjective of nationality.
This is a selection of articles by three authors (or "editors" as they are billed on the fly
sheet) on different aspects of Haitian grammar. These include Word classes such as
Determiners, Complementizers, Modals, and structures such as predicate topicalisation,
It is a rather uneven book in which the Introduction makes a series of quite extreme
and exaggerated claims which are not properly met in the main text. The book is at
pains to assert, at several places in the Preface and Introduction, that these studies are
innovative, striking new paths, breaking with tradition, filling gaps. Indeed in one
instance of "breaking with tradition", the Preface claims to replace the traditional
comparative diachronic approach with the generative approach, only to have the Intro-
duction take up the old traditional issue of the genetic links of Haitian. Are they with
French? Are they with the Niger-Congo family of West Africa? There is nothing innova-
tive here and indeed the few structural comparisons which are presented do not even take
into account the findings already traditionalised by the existing literature.
The linguistic analyses themselves are interesting. Lefebvre discusses the Haitian
determiner la postposed to the nominal. Semantically it is essentially deictic and syntac-
tically it may modify syntactic categories other than nominals. Here the author certainly
presents quite fascinating facts, hitherto not widely known, concerning the use of deter-
miners with adverbs, prepositional phrases and, most unusual of all, with entire declara-
tive, interrogative or imperative principal clauses:
1. Jean te vini a
John (tense) came (determiner)
2. li te vini a
he (tense) has come (determiner)?
3. vinia, no
Koopman and Lefebvre propose an analysis for pu in which they distinguish three
different usages: as modal, as preposition, as complementiser. There is certainly nothing
new here, except perhaps the quite questionable proposal to link complementiser pu with
topicalised predicate constructions. Indeed there seems to be a pu fixation among the
authors, as it turns up in other articles in similarly questionable contexts (cf. pp. 173-174
where Koopman mentions the case of the relative ki which "may be followed by the
complementiser pu" as in
mun na ki pu te vinia ....... "the person who should have come"
This is quite obviously not complementiser pu but modal pu, and seems to have no
implications at all for the relative).
The topicalised predicate is presented by Nanie Piou and the analysis in general is not
very convincing. Certainly an analysis of topicalised predicates (e.g. se pati Mar ap pati
"Mary is indeed leaving") which, perhaps in an attempt to substantiate its claim that the
topicalised predicate construction is similar to the topicalised noun or prepositional
phrase, omits to mention the most salient characteristic of predicates, and that is the fact
that, unlike noun or prepositional phrases, they have to be repeated in the topicalised
sentences, is very deficient.
Nanie Piou also deals with verb reduplication and focuses on one such function, viz.
to indicate the temporal subordination of one action vis-a-vis another:
soti 1 soti i pra kuri
"as soon as he came out, he began to run"
Piou devotes considerable effort to demonstrating that this reduplication is not at all like
predicate topicalisation. This is quite quixotic since I have never heard or seen it sug-
gested anywhere that there is any similarity between the two structures, and there is no
obvious reason to suppose that there should be or might be.
Koopman concludes the volume with a discussion on relativisation and on Wh-ques-
tions. There is copious material illustrating the different formats that these structures
may assume in Haitian. But the volume ends in the final paragraph with the author
unable to resist the temptation to comment on the historical issue of the genetic affilia-
tion of Haitian.
There is a lot of good data in this volume. And this perhaps is its abiding merit. The
transformational generative model certainly encourages the compilation and setting out
of very interesting data on related sentence types. Unfortunately the authors often get
carried away and indiscriminately use the T-G device of also setting out ungrammatical
sentences with asterisks. This when judiciously done helps to explicate the structure and
grammatical behaviour of well-formed sentences. Unfortunately these ungrammatical
utterances are sometimes cited in this volume in a manner that does not clearly serve that
MERVYN C. ALLEYNE
Comparative Afro-American: An historical-comparative study of some Afro-American
dialects in the New World, by Mervyn C. Alleyne. Ann Arbor: Karoma 1980. Two
maps. Pp. xii, 252. Cloth $8.50, paper $6.50.
Alleyne's Comparative Afro-American is an important advance in the study of the
varieties of speech that it discusses. Commentary on the work is made awkward by the
self-conscious anxiety that any use of the words pidgin and creole invokes in one who
reads the book. In essence the author examines the structure phonological, syntactic
and lexico-serrantic of Ndjuka, Saramaccan, Sranan, Krio, Jamaican and Gullah, com-
pares them to establish a unity of structure and demonstrates that they are incontro-
vertibly direct descendants of Niger-Congo languages and more specifically offspring of
the Kwa and Mande sub-groups of that class of languages. The evidence adduced is as
convincing as the theoretical base on which the study is founded.
Alleyne's professed motivations for the study are as much political as scholarly, both
justifiable starting points, the politician threatens the scholar occasionally and overstate-
ment of the unacceptability of certain positions of other scholars impairs the objectivity
of his critical comment. Let me hasten to say that he correctly recognizes that in the
field of pidgin and creole studies, every possible argument has been invoked to counter-
act the obvious propositions that:
i. The Afro-American dialects he discusses are the outcome of large scale language
shift by speakers of West African languages in the direction of English; (This
would hold for other European targets.)
ii. the shift was entailed by the socio-cultural and psychological pressure of an
abnormal experience in the slave era and colonial setting;
iii. that the shift must have proceeded along known or discoverable lines of language
iv. that adidactic role for Europeans in the process is a decorative frill and not a
Nevertheless, the conspiratorial air in which one senses Alleyne to envelop some fellow
researchers makes some of his arguments less effective than if he had merely recognized
the existence of a cultural block to logic when issues under examination involve Africans
or their descendants. Some of the scholars mentioned as suspects in the work may be
being condemned by association rather than by deed. Having played my strongest card
in support of Alleyne's politics, I now turn to his linguistics.
The most enduring aspect of the book is likely to be its careful presentation of data
from the several languages examined and the West African group that historically would
best account for their existence. In particular, the assurance that the Afro-American
dialects do not have to be linked collectively to a single West African language or in-
dividually to several different such languages for their structure to be explained is a
powerful outcome of the data and argument that Alleyne presents. He states:
"I am thus not concluding that the English-based Afro-American dialects in-
vestigated here derive from one common ancester. A common ancestor does
not imply a unique language. . the common source is. . a common substrate
structure..." (p. 33.)
Alleyne lowers the geographical barriers that semi-artificially separate the Afro-
American dialects and achieves a continuum of varieties starting at Saramaccan and
ending at Bajan. By parallel clustering of Afro-American on the one hand with Kwa and
Mande on the other, he gains the advantage of being able to discuss the intermediate
forms he needs for his argument regardless of the geographical zone or speech variety in
which they are documented. His success is not only theoretical but actual because the
examples he uses coalesce in grographically delimitable clumps with differences that are
explicable by historical evidence.
One of the fundamental propositions that he make's is that:
"Grammatical classes are not hard and fast categories in these languages;
although morphemes are invariable, they are first and foremost semantic units
that can fit into different grammatical frames." (p. 80)
This opens a way to deal with a number of normally uncomfortable areas of the discus-
sion of Afro-American grammar, viz. aspect, stativity and passivity. While Alleyne's
postulation of a higher order constituent, PREDICATE, with VERBAL and ADJECTI-
VAL as alternative rewrites takes the discussion forward (p. 78-80), but the discussion of
Copula (p. 87-90) and Passive (p. 97-100) are not sufficiently interlinked to remove the
discomfort. His ADJECTIVAL as a result of PASSIVE transform acting on transitive
forms requires tighter analysis and formulation. Fortunately, he is aware of it (p.99).
No pidgin-creole scholar has been satisfied with the definition of the language type
that (s)he studies, Alleyne least of all. Indeed, many are not convinced that the pheno-
mena they study constitute a linguistic type at all. By the time one completes a reading
of Comparative Afro-American, one is sure that Pidgin and Creole must be misnomers
for the linguistic phenomena under study unless the same terms are applied with
equanimity to a large number of other phenomena that are more usually recognized under
other headings. If one were to follow Alleyne's lead and use the term Afro-American for
the case he examines, what would be our loss? Nothing, though adjustment of estab-
lished related terminology would have to be made. French-aimed speech varieties of the
Caribbean and Indian Ocean (i.e. those for which French is/was the terminus ad quem, to
maintain the author's terminology) would also without loss be individually labelled
Haitian, Antillean, Mauritian, Seychellois etc. until some academic with a sense of
humour produced an acronym. Other X-aimed varieties would similarly be relabelled. As
in the case of other languages, no historical signal of provenience or destination would
clutter the labelling.
More important than labels though, is whether we need to maintain any pseudotypo-
logical link among the phenomena that up to now have fallen under the pidgin-creole
umbrella. Clearly we do, for even if:
a. these language varieties can be shown to be genealogically linked to their
substrate language groups thereby providing one classificatory axis,
and b. the termini ad quem provided another classificatory (not typological) axis,
there would still be more than casual similarities which would not be explainable by the
termini ad quem among the Niger-Congo diaspora tree, the Papuan post-colonial tree
and the Polynesian post-plantation tree.
The notion of universals fills the breach, but Alleyne quite justifiably fears that
linguistic universals will become another garbage bag/Christmas hamper out of which
will emerge miraculous explanations to release scholars from their corners. He does not
deny the reasonableness of a universalist approach to the examination of any of the
phenomena but he does question the contemporary haste to elevate specific strategies and
features to the immortality of universals. He recognizes the need for;
"a theory of language acquisition and language shift to inform our interpretation
of the emergence and development of these Afro-American dialects." (p. 137)
To this one might add all of the hitherto pidgin and creole languages.
There are a number of unfortunate shortcomings that should be repaired in subsequent
edition of the book. Alleyne errs greatly in failing to recognize the work of Allsopp
(1976) in linking the lexico-semantics of Caribbean Creoles to the same group of West
African languages as well as the latter's, important if even small work in the discussion
of distinctive tone in Guyanese and Barbadian (1972). The error is the more unfortunate
because the examples discussed by Alleyne (p. 73) are similar to those investigated by
Allsopp. Equally important is the absence of reference to Rickford and Rickford (1976)
in the bibliography. In Table 1, a most valuable display of some similarities of Afro-
American speech in specific lexical bases, a typographical error (p. 13, col. 4) could
mislead one unfamiliar with creoles in French lexical modes "pa mwe" should read
"sa me". Another editorial matter worth noting is the apparent inconsistency between
the text at p. 39;
"Thus, although modern Saramaccan and Ndjuka have a tense/lax distinction for
the mid vowels..."
and the diagram at page 35 in which no such distinction is shown for Ndjuka. Finally,
the organisation of the chapters might be modified to permit The African Base to follow
the comparative chapters. Moreover the place of the phonological discussion in this
chapter could be relocated before the discussion of syntax in harmony with the rest of
the book's structure. In its present location it appears to be an afterthought.
Lest my assessment of the book be perceived to be other than positive, I reiterate the
importance of Alleyne's bold, painstaking and enlightening contribution to linguistics.
LAWRENCE D. CARRINGTON
Allsopp, S. R. R. (1972) Some suprasegmentals of Caribbean English. UWI/UNESCO
Conference on Creole languages and educational development.
St. Augustine, Trinidad.
(1976) The case for Afrogenesis. In Cave, G. (compiler) New direc-
tions in Creole studies. Conference preprints for the 1st
Conference of the Society for Caribbean Linguistics.
Rickford, J. and A. Rickford (1976) Cut-eye and suck-teeth: African words and gestures
in New World guise. Journal of American Folklore 89. 294-
NOTES ON CONTRIBUTORS
Joy Gleason Carew
Lawrence D. Carrington
is faculty member at the Northwestern University, Chicago.
is lecturer at the School of Education, University of the
West Indies, Mona.
is senior lecturer in the Department of Linguistics and Use
of English, Faculty of Arts and General Studies, University
of the West Indies, Mona.
is professor of Socio-Linguistics and Head of Department of
Linguistics and Use of English, University of the West
is Research Fellow at the African/Caribbean Institute of
senior lecturer in the Department of English, Faculty of
Arts and General Studies, University of the West Indies,
poet and diplomat, is a member of Casas de las Americas,
St Lucian originally, now works out of London at the
Institute of Education, University of London training for a
post-graduate teachers' certificate in English as a second
is senior lecturer at the School of Education. University
of the West Indies, St Augustine.
INFORMATION FOR CONTRIBUTORS
We invite readers to submit manuscripts or recommend subjects which they would
like to see discussed in Caribbean Quarterly. Articles of Caribbean relevancy will be
Manuscripts should be typed on one side only, double-spaced, leaving ample margin
for editorial purposes. Two copies thoroughly revised with no corrections should be sent.
As a general principle, articles should not exceed 7,500 words. Authors are advised to
keep an exact copy of the version submitted. Manuscripts should be presented with only
the title and author's name and address on a cover page. The title without the author's
name should be repeated on page 1 of the article. With their articles, contributors should
include information on themselves, of their positions and affiliations at the time of
writing. An abstract should also accompany the article.
Sub-titles (or cross-heads) should be used to divide the text in such a way that they
indicate to the reader the structure of the article. Sub-titles should be typed in initial
upper- and lower-case letters
Footnotes should be kept to a minimum, but where they are included contributors
are requested to comply with the system used in Caribbean Quarterly. Footnotes are to
be numbered consecutively by means of superior figures from 1 onwards (not renumber-
ing on every page). Footnoes should appear at the end of the article instead of on the
page on which they occur. Authors should provide, in a first reference to a given publi-
cation, the full name of the author, the complete main title of the work, place and date
of publication and the relevant page numbers. Subsequent references to the same work
can be given in a shortened form.
Tables, Charts, Mathematical Copy
If tables are typed on separate pages their preferred position in the text must be
indicated. Mathematical copy must be clearly set out and correctly aligned. All illustra-
tions (no colours) should be provided in camera-ready form.
Book review headings should appear as follows: Title, authorss, publisher, place
and date of publication, also the number of pages and prices if possible. Book reviews
(except review articles) should not exceed 2,500 words.
Contributions to Caribbean Quarterly (or publications for review) should be
addressed to the Department of Extra Mural Studies, University of the West Indies,
P.O. Box 42, Mona, Kingston 7, Jamaica, W.I.
All material submitted for publication are read by our panel of editorial adaisors
prior to selection and editorial approval
(This listing does not preclude a review of any of these books)
West Indies Ltd. Poems (2 copies) by Nicolas Guillen, published by Casa de las
Americas, 3RA. Y.G. El Vedado, Ciudad de la Habana, Cuba, 1982, pp 190. No price.
Dictionary of Bahamian English by John A. Holm & Alison W. Shilling (Drs.), published
by Lexik House Publishers, P.O. Box 247, 75 Main Street, Cold Spring, New York 10516,
U.S.A., 1982, pp 228. Price: US$42.00.
Monthly Bibliography: Books, Official Documents, Serials, Part I, Selected Articles,
Part 2 (Nos. 3 & 4, 1982), published by United Nations Library, 1982, pp 339 & 298.
Fela, Fela-This Bitch of a Life by Carlos Moore, published by Allison & Busby Ltd.,
6A Noel Street, London WlV 3RB, England, 1982, pp 287. No price.
Syntaxe de L'Haitien by Claire Lefebvre, Helene Magloire-Holly, Nanie Piou, 1982,
pp251. Price: US$15.00 (paperback).
A Seventh Man by John Berger & Jean Mohr, published by Writers & Readers Publishing
Cooperative Society Ltd., 144 Camden High Street, London NW1 One, England, 1982,
pp 238. Price: UK2.95, US$6.95, AUS$7.95 (recommended), CAN$7.95.
Food for Beginners by Susan George & Nigel Paige, .published by Writers & Readers
Publishing Cooperative Society Ltd., 144 Camden High Street, London NW1 One,
England, 1982, pp 173. Price: UK2.50, AUS$5.95, CAN$5.95.
Canadian Literature No. 94: Stories, Tales & Sketches from Life by W.H. New (ed.),
published by the University of British Columbia, 2021 West Mall, Vancouver, B.C.,
Canada V6T 1W5, 1982, pp 188. Price: US$7.50.
The Word Remains: A Life of Oscar Romero by James R. Brockman, published by
Orbis Books, Maryknoll, New York 10545, U.S.A., 1982, pp241. Price: US$12.95
Palmira Poemas by Lourdes Sanchez, 1982, pp 29. No price.
Monthly Bibliography Part I Books, Official Documents, Serials, (May-June) Nos. 5 & 6,
1982, published by United Nations Library, Geneva, 1982, pp 500. No price.
Monthly Bibliography Part II Selected Articles (May-June) Nos. 5-6, 1982 published by
United Nations Library, Geneva, 1982, pp 440. No price.
Religion in Sociological Perspective by Bryan Wilson, published by Oxford University
Press, 1982, pp 187. Price: 8.50.
Another Life by Derek Walcott, published by Three Continents Press, Inc., 1982, pp 150,
Sun Poem by Edward Kamau Brathwaite, published by Oxford University Press, 1982,
pp 104. Price: 4.95.
Monsieur Toussaint: A Play by Edouard Glissant, published by Tod Newcombe, Editor,
Three Continents Press, 1346 Connecticut Avenue, N.W., Suite 1131, Washington, D.C.
20036, U.S.A., 1982, pp 133. Price: US$16.00 (case), US$8.00 (paperback).
Tourism in the Caribbean: The Economic Impact by Shirley B. Steward, Bernard K.
Spinrad, published by Renouf Publishing Co. Ltd.(I.D.R.C.), 1982, pp 163. Price: $10.00.
PUBLICATIONS AVAILABLE FROM
THE DEPARTMENT OF EXTRA-MURAL STUDIES
P. O. Box 42, Kingston 7, Jamaica
G. P. Chapman: A New Development in the Agronomy of Pimento ....
M. G. Smith, Roy Augier, R. M. Nettleford: Report on the
Rastafari Movement in Kingston, Jamaica ................
R. M Nettleford: Trade Union and Industrial Relations Terms.......
R. M. Nettleford: Caribbean Cultural Identity. The Case
of Jamaica .................. ....... ...........
Joseph Ragbansee: Civil Service Associations in the
Commonwealth Caribbean ..........................
Howard Fergus: History of Alliouagana: A short history
of M ontserrat ................. ........ ........
:William H. Bramble: His Life and Times ..........
Earl G. Long: The Serpent's Tale, Reptiles and Amphibians
of St. Lucia .............................. ......
Robert Lee: Vocation and other Poems ......................
Reinhard W. Sander: An Index to Bim. .......................
G. Cumper & S Daley: Family Law in the Commonwealth
D. G. Hall, H. Paget, R. Farley: Apprenticeship & Emancipation .....
Ann Ashworth, J. C. Waterlow: Nutrition in Jamaica .............
S. G. Kirkaldy: Industrial Relations & Labour Law in Jamaica .......
B Steele: Tim Tim Tales from Grenada ......................
Cameron G. 0. King: Aibel in Pain .........................
John R Rickford. A Festival of Guyanese Words. ................
CARIBBEAN AFFAIRS, NEW SERIES:
Agricultural Research in Jamaica (Five papers from Seminar
in 1965) .............................. ....... .
From the Radio Education Unit:
RADIO BROADCAST SCRIPTS ..........................
Catalogue 1977 of Recorded Programmes ................... .
$ 1.00 ea.
BACK ISSUES CARIBBEAN QUARTERLY
Listed below are the back issues with their prices available from Caribbean Quarterly.
Volume 6 Nos. 2,3 1960 US$ 2.00
12 No. 3 1966 2.00
13 2 1967 2.00
14 Nos. 1,2,3,4 1968 12.00
16 2,3 1970 4.00
17 No. 1 1971 2.00
18 Nos. 1,2,3,4 1972 12.00
19 1,2,3,4 1973 12.00
20 1,2,3,4 1974 12.00
21 1,2,3.4 1975 12.00
22 1,2,3,4 1976 22.00
23 188.8.131.52 1977 22.00
24 1,2,3,4 1978 22.00
25 1,2,3,4 1979 22.00
26 1,2,3,4 1980 22.00
Send orders to: (p&p inclusive)
Department of Extra Mural Studies,
P.O. Box 42, U.W.I., Mona,
Kinston 7, Jamaica, W.I.
Listed below are back issues NOT available from Caribbean Quarterly.
Volume 1 Nos. 1,2,3,4 1949-50
2 1,2,3,4 1951-52
3 1,2,3,4 1953-54
4 1,2,3,4 1955-56
5 1,2,3,4 1957-59
6 1,4 1960
7 1,2,3,4 1961
8 1,2,3,4 1962
9 1,2,3,4 1963
10 1,2,3,4 1964
I1 1,2,3,4 1965
12 1,2,4 1966
13 1,3,4 1967
S 15 1,2,3,4 1969
16 1,4 1970
17 2,3,4 1971
For information and orders (Book Form) write to: For information and orders (Microfilm) write to:
Kraus-Thomson Organization Ltd., University Microfilms International,
Route 100, Millwood, 300 North Zeeb Road,
.New York 10546, U.S.A. Ann Arbor, Michigan 48106, U.S.A.
A quarterly journal of the Institute of Social and Economic Research,
University of the West Indies, SOCIAL AND ECONOMIC STUDIES
is devoted to the social, economic, and political problems of the
Caribbean in particular, and of developing countries in general.
Topics of recent articles have included:
Weber and the Third World: Ideal Types and Environment
Institutional Innovation and Change in the Commonwealth
A Review of Historical Writing on the Commonwealth
Caribbean since 1940
Special issues include that of March 1973 on:
Dependence and Underdevelopment in the New World
and the Old
Subscribe by sending the coupon below to:
The Subscription Secretary
SOCIAL AND ECONOMIC STUDIES
Mona, Kingston 7, Jamaica
SOCIAL AND ECONOMIC STUDIES
Please enter my one-year subscription to SOCIAL AND ECONOMIC
STUDIES. My check for US$15.00 is enclosed.
Please print clearly
,I-- -. --