LANGUAGE IN THE CARIBBEAN
B.V. 1 0
0 CEC0 RA
^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^" DON WI^^v~ Ls^SON^^^^^^^
We apologize to our readers
for an error appearing on page
65 of this issue. The first 2
lines on this page should be
read at the bottom instead of
at the top of the page.
Note on contributor (page 2)
RICHARD ALLSOPP should
read CAVE HILL Campus,
U.W.I., Barbados, instead of
St. Augustine Campus, U.W.I.,
Vol. 17 No. 2 June, 1971
Copyright reserved, and reproduction without permission strictly forbidden.
LIST OF CONTENTS
4 9 Report on Annual Conference on Caribbean Linguistics held
at U.W.I., Mona, May, 1971
Denis Craig & Don Wilson
10-24 Some Problems in the Lexicography of Caribbean English
25-36 Jamaican English A report on Remedial English teaching
36-39 Trinidad English "Mamaguy" and "Picong"
40-49 Trinidad Yoruba Notes on Survivals
50-61 The English Speaking Communities of Honduras & Nicaragua
D. W. Jones & C. A. Glean
62-81 Poetry & The Teaching of Poetry
John J. Figueroa
82-83 French in Practice
Pratt Small & Mullings
83-86 A Manual of Hispanic Bibliography
D. W. & V. R. Foster U. of Washington Press 1970
86-87 What became of the Mayas?
88-91 Nurturing Mathematics in Our Schools
NOTES ON CONTRIBUTORS
DENIS CRAIG, lecturer in the Department of Education, U.W.I., also
Chairman of the Senate Sub-Committee on Linguistics, and DONALD
WILSON of the Institute of Education are concerned with problems
of teaching English language in schools in the Caribbean.
RICHARD ALLSOPP is head of the Department of English at the
St. Augustine Campus, U.W.I., Trinidad. His research into the linguistic
peculiarities of the English-speaking Caribbean continues to bring to light
several common features in the dialects found in the region and suggests
social and historical influences on the speech patterns.
CECIL GRAY, senior lecturer in the U.W.I. Department of Education is
concerned with the psychology of learning, especially as related to literature
and self-expression. He combines a personal interest in dramatic perform-
ances and writing poetry to the teaching of English in schools.
KEMLIN LAURENCE, lecturer in the Department of Spanish, U.W.I.,
Mona, looks for the influences of that language in the present-day speech of
her native Trinidad.
MAUREEN WARNER, lecturer in English at U.W.I., Mona, is also from
Trinidad. She has lived among the Yoruba of Nigeria and continues to
relate social and linguistic patterns which have survived among present-day
African communities in Southern Trinidad.
DAVID JONES is the head of the Latin American Studies Committee and
Associate Professor of the Geography Department, University of Calgary,
Canada. He is married to a British Honduran, and has spent several years
in Central America and the West Indies in adult education, in addition to
working in Ethiopia and the Middle East and West Africa. He is currently
researching the English-speaking communities of Bocas del Toro and Colon
(Panama). He was assisted by CARLYLE GLEAN from Grenada, W.I., a
teacher pursuing educational research at Calgary.
JOHN FIGUEROA, professor of Education at U.W.I., Mona, is a well
known poet and writer on matters relating to educational philosophy and
the teaching profession in the English-speaking Caribbean. He is also the
editor of an anthology in two volumes pf West Indian poetry CARIB-
KARL GORDON is a teacher of modern languages at Jamaica College.
LAL NARINESINGH is a lecturer in the Department of Spanish at U.W.I.,
PETER SCHMIDT is Archaeological Commissioner of the Department of
Archaeology, Belize City, British Honduras.
IAN ISAACS, lecturer in the Institute of Education, U.W.I., is concerned
with the programme, content, and new methods of teaching mathematics
in our schools.
UNIVERSITY OF THE WEST INDIES
R. M. Nettleford, Director of Extra-Mural Studies (Editor)
Lloyd Brathwaite, Pro-Vice Chancellor, U.W.I., St.
Sidney Martin, Pro-Vice Chancellor, U.W.I., Cave Hill,
J. J. Figueroa, Professor, Faculty of Education, U.W.I.,
L. S. Grant, Professor, Faculty of Medicine, U.W.I., Mona,
Roy Augier, Dean of Faculty of General Studies, U.W.I.,
Patricia Williams, Department of Extra-Mural Studies,
U.W.I., Mona, Jamaica (Assoc. Editor).
All correspondence 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 recommended subjects which
they would like to see discussed in CARIBBEAN QUARTERLY Articles of
Caribbean relevancy will be gratefully received.
United Kingdom 1 (Sterling)
(a) Jamaica $2.00 (J.)
(b) Eastern Caribbean $5.00 (E.C.)
U.S.A. and other countries $4.00 (U.S.) or equivalent
**Subscription orders may be forwarded to the Editor or to the local
office of the Resident Tutor in any West Indian territory served by this Uni-
REPORT ON ANNUAL
CONFERENCE ON CARIBBEAN LINGUISTICS
HELD AT U.W.I., MONA 17th to 21st MAY, 1971
There are many different languages in use in the Caribbean area, and
within particular language communities a range of dialects are to be found.
The coexistence of these varieties of languages in the Caribbean provides a
unique opportunity for the study of language and language teaching.
The history and nature of this complex language situation has been
studied by linguists for some time now. The work of such linguists as Le Page,
Cassidy, DeCamp, Bailey and Stewart on the language situation in Jamaica,
for example, is well known both inside and outside the Caribbean. Import-
ant studies on various aspects of this language situation and those of
the other territories continue to be done by scholars at the University of the
West Indies and elsewhere.
The teaching of the standard variety of a language in a territory, where
most of the children come to school speaking different levels of a creole-based
dialect of that language, presents peculiar problems. Should the teaching
strategy in such a territory be based on a modified first language or second
language approach, or on what is now being called the second dialect
approach? Many scholars seem to feel that a complex of techiiLques,
selected and adapted from these three methodologies, is required by this
sort of language-teaching situation. Likewise, the foreign language teacher
in the Caribbean has his set of sophisticated difficulties.
To explore and to share their insights into these problematic but chal-
lenging situations, scholars at the University of the West Indies some time
ago formed themselves into the Senate Sub-Committee for Linguistics. In
1969, the Ford Foundation gave a grant to the University to extend
the teaching and research in language and language-teaching on all its
campuses. Since then, among its other activities, the Senate Sub-Commit-
tee has sponsored two annual conferences for Caribbean linguists. The first
was held at the St. Augustine campus of the University in January, 1970.
The Senate Sub-Committe for Linguistics held its second annual con-
ference from May 17 to 21 at Mona. Participants included all UWI staff
members working in linguistics and language-teaching on the three Uni-
versity campus together with representatives from the Universities of
Puerto Rico & Martinique, the Inter-American Program for Linguistics And
Language Teaching, as well as selected scholars from North American uni-
The papers read at the Conference represent a comprehensive cross-
section of interests and point to interesting developments in Caribbean
linguistics. The main papers were as follows:
Lexicography in the Caribbean: Filling in the Gaps.
Prof. F. G. Cassidy.
Some Problems Facing the Lexicography -f Caribbean English.
Dr. R. Allsopp.
Language Acquisition and some social factors affecting the case
of the English-speaking Caribbean. Mr. P. Standish.
Language Teaching: Aesthetic and Socio-Linguistic Aspects.
Prof. J. Figueroa.
On the Nature of a Creole Continuum. Mr. D. Bickerton.
Language Theory and Social-Class Differences in Lexis and
Syntax. Mr. D. Craig.
Tone and Jamaican Creole. Prof. D. Lawton.
Some Considerations of Tone and Intonation in Jamaican Creole.
Mrs. J. D'Costa and
Prof. J. Berry.
Caribbean Creoles: A Proposal for a Common Transcription
System. Dr. L. Carrington.
Spanish of Trinidad. Dr. S. Moodie
Mauritian Creole. Dr. M. Goodman.
Technical Aspects of Acquiring and Maintaining Tape Recorded
Material. Dr. R. Spears.
Structure compare de la phrase Creole et de la phrase EWE.
Monsieur R. Relouzat.
African Influence on West Indian Spanish. Prof. R. del Rosario
A Preliminary Analysis of Two Idiolects of Trinidad Yoruba.
Miss M. Warner.
Apart from the presentation and discussion of papers, there were work-
ing-party sessions within the Conference for the purpose of discussing and
recommending on research priorities in Language and Linguistics, English
Language Teaching and Foreign Language Teaching. The recommendations
of the first two of these working-parties were adopted in the plenary session
at the end of the Conference and are as follows:
Reports of Working-Parties on Research Priorities and Archives
I. Research Priorities
1) Although a range of descriptive studies of the dialects of the region
exists, more such studies are desirable, especially a planned overall
study such as that suggested by Professor Frederic Cassidy in his
paper "Lexicography in the Caribbean Filling the Gaps".
Nor do we deny the need to encourage the continuation of theoret-
ical linguistic studies. Nevertheless, a major problem is the gap be-
tween existing work and urgent problems in the education system. It
is therefore necessary that research programmes should integrate
descriptive work on levels of language in continuum situations with
work on the relationship between language and social roles and
It is essential to attempt to work out continually the application
of the resulting material with teachers in order to feed it continually
into the education system.
2) Research should be aimed at identifying the specific difficulties of
communication in the Caribbean. Related to this would be the effort
to find out the levels of acceptability of different language varieties.
3) The relationship between levels of competence in production and
reception should be investigated.
4) In order to achieve all this there should be coordination between
research and archives planning, and development programmes should
be formulated in consultation with an archivist versed in the tech-
niques and applications of linguistic research.
5) In addition, priority in the area of first-language teaching in the
schools should be given to the study of the causes of the inadequate
development of language skills as children advance in age and other
6) Planning should begin for the provision of personnel in areas
where it does not now exist.
7) Steps should be taken to have materials ready for the time when
political decisions about regional curricula and examinations will be
taken. Lexicographic research is particularly important in this con-
8) It is essential to facilitate the dissemination of information about
work now in progress and work that will be done in the future. For
this purpose a small bulletin or newsletter should be published, con-
taining brief reports of work in progress. The establishment of this
newsletter should be a matter of high priority, and it is necessary to
ensure that its publication is frequent and regular.
9) In addition to the newsletter, or perhaps as part of it, specific lists
should be compiled of materials in peripheral areas having a bearing
on Creole studies. Some of these have bibliographies already.
10) Lists must be compiled of work already done in little-known
Caribbean dialects. An offer of free printing services made by one
representative of a North American University participating in the
Conference should be gratefully accepted.
11) Research into Caribbean Indic dialects should be stimulated.
12) A Society For Caribbean Linguistics should be formed imme-
13) Dr. Lawrence Carrington of the Institute of Education, St.
Augustine, should be charged with the task of completing draft pro-
posals for a common transcription system for Caribbean linguistic
fieldwork, on the basis of the paper delivered by him to this Confer-
ence. Anyone willing to assist or desiring to make recommendations
should communicate with Dr. Carrington. On completion the draft
should be approved and the transcription system given the official
imprimatur of the Society For Caribbean linguistics.
14) Research into the problems of second language teaching in all
situations in the Caribbean, and the production of materials specifi-
cally designed to meet these problems, should be intensified.
1) A Caribbean Linguistic Archives along the lines suggested by the
paper by R. Spears should receive high priority. It is suggested that
the question of centralizing the facility and the proper housing and
staffing of such a facility receive consideration equal to that which is
given to questions of equipment purchases and maintenance.
Recommendations of the English Teaching Working Party
I. That the University establish a Regional Centre for English Language
Teaching to initiate and co-ordinate work in the following areas in
rullaboration with Ministries of Education, training colleges, teachers'
organizations and other interested bodies/agencies.
!a' pre- and in-service teacher training: training of key personnel for
Ministries and teachers' colleges
(b) syllabus -1 examination reform
(c) preparair of materials
(d) research m linguistics and linguistic pedagogy
(e) acting as a clearing house for work on relevant applied linguistics
and language teaching
(f) directing and co-ordinating the work of all foreign agencies involved
in language teaching
II. (1) That Teacher Unions and Ministries structure opportunities for
trained and experienced teachers to meet with other teachers in
workshops and exchange programmes between schools to stimulate
a critical awareness of the objectives and good classroom pro-
cedures for teaching English. That teaching materials already
produced by Caribbean scholars and judged to be effective should
be made available to schools as quickly as possible.
(2) That the SSL appoint an Information Officer for English Teaching,
who should collect and disseminate basic material on the theoret-
ical problems of ELT in the West Indies.
(3) That the SSL should undertake or support the publication of a
regular newsletter/journal to give teachers practical guides and
suggestions on the teaching of specific areas of ELT.
(4) That the SSL should be concerned with the political implications
of Linguistic decisions as they affect changes in ELT objectives
and practices in the West Indies:
(a) in the light of the recent experience of language teaching pro-
jects such as that at Brooklyn College (C.U.N.Y.) in the U.S.A;
(b) with the awareness that there needs to be a flexible approach
to the planning of language teaching programmes throughout
the West Indies, since no one programme exactly suits the
political, social, cultural or pedagogic realities of all areas
(c) taking into account that in the U.S.A., for example, experi-
ments are being done (a) on the teaching of reading using
dialect readers. (b) on the teaching of English using classroom
techniques which focus on the contrastive forms and uses of
dialect and standard.
(5) That the political, social and professional effects of changes or
proposed changes in language teaching policy in all regions
be carefully documented by the SSL.
Steps are being taken at the moment to implement the recommenda-
tions specifically relating to the instituting of the Society For Caribbean
Linguistics, and a regular newsletter as the organ of the Society. The rest
of the working party recommendations are being implemented within a pro-
posed Caribbean Language Research Programme being sponsored by the
Senate Sub-Committee For Linguistics through a grant from the Ford
DONALD G. WILSON &
DENNIS R. CRAIG.
Some Problems in the Lexicography
of Caribbean English
AS FAR as I am aware, the Spanish-speaking peoples of the Americas
proclaim and stand by the differences between their Latin-American Spanish
and the Castilian brand. Not so the peoples of the Anglophone Caribbean.
With us, all the spiritual zeal for independence stops firmly short at the
domain of language. The "lady" who leans out of her window and shouts
"But is whey dis boy? But like dis boy like he don' understand plain Eng-
lish, noh!" is likely to meet any suggestion that her English is not "good"
with the same non-negotiable hostility as would the Minister of Education
in any of our Caribbean territories to whom the suggestion might be made
that English ought to be treated technically as a Second language in his
territory. The underlying philosophy is quite strong and even defensible:
'since English is properly the language of this land, therefore the language
of this land is properly English.' As such it is a part of the international
body of English and one may fairly question the value if not the justification
for giving it a select label. Americans, after all, usually refer to their Eng-
lish without calling it American English; why should we seek to identify
Caribbean English as something different? I think it important to raise this
question at the beginning because whereas it is undisputed that there are a
number of Caribbean dialects at the bottom of the educational scale
throughout the area, the usually accompanying notion is that the varieties
at the top are not different from internationally accepted standard English
except phonologically. It is, in other words, by no means commonly
accepted that there is a distinguishable entity that may be called Caribbean
English. Indeed one must not forget that, in the world at large, we
are consciously excluded when the term "English-speaking peoples" is used.
So, for example, Sir Winston Churchill's 4-volume "History of the English
Speaking Peoples" makes no mention of the West Indies except in one para-
graph where we are dismissed as "a commercial venture", and the bicenten-
ary edition of the Encyclopaedia Britannica is
"Dedicated by Permission
To the heads of the two English-Speaking peoples
Richard Milhous Nixon
President of the U.S.A.
Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth the Second"
Even linguistic accounts rarely mention Caribbean English and the fact that
its identity may well be in some doubt is not surprising when it is observed
that in Canada, a demographically more significant part of the world than
ourselves, lexicographers have a job getting an identity accepted for Canadian
English. Walter Avis, Editor-in-chief of the Dictionary of Canadian English,
ends his introduction to that work as follows (1):
"It has been argued in these pages that there is such a thing as a
distinctive variety of Canadian English; yet it should be observed that
this distinctive variety is referred to as "Canadian English" and not as
"the Canadian language" The fact is that Canadians share one language
with Britons, Americans, Australians and a host of other people, both
inside and outside the Commonwealth and beyond it. To claim that
there is a Canadian language, or, as many Americans do, an American
language, is to distort the meaning of the word language for national-
istic purposes. On the other hand, it is a form of blindness to insist, as
many do, that "English is English" and that only fools "dignify
the slang and dialect" of Canada by giving it serious attention"
So, in case there is doubt even among ourselves as to what exactly is to
be understood by the label assumed in the title of this paper, let me be per-
mitted a brief working definition which, even if improved later, must
ultimately rest on the support of all the following discussion. Caribbean
English is, then, that co-ordinate branch of English developed and used in
the Caribbean, the term Caribbean being taken to include Guyana and Br.
Honduras, Bermuda and the Bahamas and to exclude, for practical purposes,
That is a fairly obvious definition hardly seeming to justify so much
preamble, but please look at the diagram by which I have attempted
to show how I would like it to be interpreted (Fig. 1). There is a central
circle representing the basic corpus of homeland English and this is inter-
sected by a number of other related circles of which only 2 are shown,
representing Caribbean and American English The circle of Caribbean
English is further intersected by a number of peripheral dialectal circles parts
of some of which (e.g. St. Lucia and Dominican patois, Jamaican Bongo
language (?) ) fall outside the limits of English. All the circles are broken
and we are to imagine free and continuous circulation of items in each circle
so that there is nothing in principle to prevent any item in any circle enter-
ing or influencing the lexicon in any other. So perhaps you will agree that
although I have used the term "co-ordinate branch" in my definition of C.E.,
that is not, if the model offered in my diagram is accepted, the most
appropriate term. Ours is an expansion of the central corpus of English
having the same mechanics but with a later history and marked by a
certain amount of change, so if I apply the term "metacentral expansion"
to Caribbean, as well as to each other English outside of Britain, it is in an
attempt to describe the above factors while also paying some regard to his-
torical relationship. This way of looking at our English also has, I think,
erl es th l-- f
\ I P
t, \ .K/
certain advantages. Firstly it helps to remind us that C.E. is not a small
branch of English as indeed DJE with its starting contribution of some
15,000 entries actually testifies. Indeed it is of a lesser standing than the
other metacentral expansions only in the low degree of academic attention
paid it so far and more especially in the complete absence of scholarly
lexicological attention until DJE was undertaken. Secondly the diagram
draws attention to that sector of the Caribbean circle that actually represents
the expansion. I have shaded this and would use my newly acquired licence
to refer to it as the "exocentral" sector or area. My diagram suggests
that the area of greater lexicological significance is this exocentral sector,
including of course an area in common with American exocentral English.
Let us therefore turn to this exocentral area for it is here that
our problems actually lodge. Before the lexicographer, it is the lexicologist
who faces the first question: "What is the SIZE & NATURE OF THE
EXOCENTRAL AREA and are these such as both to justify and require
documenting?" If, after all, the conscious anglophone Caribbean mood is,
as I suggested when I began, to conform as much as possible to the central
British English, why not play down, rather than give active recognition to,
anything that is properly outside of it, and let the C.O.D. continue its deity.
Well of course one answer is that ignoring our differences will certainly not
drive them away; another is that Americans, Canadians and others are not
ignoring their differences so why should we ours; another is that a great
deal of our historical and social record is capsuled in these differences as
when a word like "breakfast" signals "midday meal" or "local" signals
"inferior", and so on. Intelligent answers are, in short, not lacking, and of
course there is now the DJE on whose fine scholarly testimony we can form
some idea of what the size and nature of the total exocentral area of C.E.
must be if it were fully explored. Indeed the indication of DJE is that the
documenting of this exocentral C.E. is a huge problem in size and time
alone; and the next question that immediately arises is whether the JOB
OF DOCUMENTING must and can wait to be assigned to a dedicated and
of course fully financed team of linguists and experts. Well must, I don't
know, and can, I don't think. I believe that as soon as common school
examinations begin to be set and marked in the Caribbean area, as it
is proposed, the need for the authority of a common reference that deals
with Caribbean lexis is going to be abruptly discovered. It is indeed most
interesting to note that the Caribbean Association of Headmasters and
Headmistresses were sufficiently sensitive to the problem to pass, at their
Easter conference in 1967 the following Resolution No. 6 which was
forwarded to this University:
"Whereas the general interchange of teachers among the Caribbean
territories is increasing, be it resolved that this Association requests the
appropriate department of the U.W.I. to compile a list of lexical items in
each territory and to circulate these to schools for the guidance of teachers"
These secondary school Heads have hereby clearly shown they have
identified one, but only one, of the problems, that of CROSS-REFER-
ENCING, and they have, also, clearly, very much over-simplified it. They
seem to have had in mind not much more than a list of nominal which refer
to different items in different territories and a few of which a few of us discover
by accident from time to time, but the problem the teachers are highlight-
ing, and for which they must be fully commended, is the great absence of
public and professional awareness that the list is not small and not
SET 1. (Same name, different referent)
SET 1 is a sampling of such a list. These are numerals with different refer-
ents in 2 or more territories, homonyms if you like. For example ackee in
Jamaica is the fruit that provides the famous national dish, whereas in
Barbados it is a small green-skinned berry, a favourite only of children.
Coucou in Barbados is a national dish whereas in the Virgin Islands it is a
taboo word meaning faeces; and so on. In the anglophone Caribbean we
have in short names of foods, flora, fauna and items of everyday life which
refer sometimes not even to the same kind of thing.
Extreme cases like /kuku/ may not be so exceptional as one might
think. Referring to a person as a creature is, for example, harmless in Bar-
bados and pejorative in Antigua; and a magistrate in St. Kitts, I am
informed, sentenced one woman to 2 months' imprisonment for calling
another a coal-pot, a term of recognized offence in the country areas. (The
explanation I have been given is that you cook on it in the open and can put
any kind of wood on it!) The lexicographer's problem is how to IDENTIFY
inter-territorial and inter-group homonymous cases other than by accident
The use of a questionnaire is only a simplistic answer because a
questionnaire must use stimulants like: What do you call an X that does
Y? Seeking a response: Z. Now one needs a further device, perhaps another
questionnaire to check whether Z in another territory is quite something
else or perhaps a taboo item that nothing in the original questionnaire
elicits. A better answer is to use the splendid inventory of DJE as a first-
base from which to check all other list-making, but this too is an obviously
limited exercise. Some kind of graphic illustration in questionnaire and/or
informant's reply would also seem to be called for at least in some cases.
Another problem of cross-referencing is seen in SET 2. (Different name,
ackee / chenette / genip
bilembi / carambola / sourie
bird pepper / nigger pepper
box / meeting turn / pardner / sousou
baksis / braata / lagniappe / overs
damison / gooseberry
dung / coolie plum / sour plum
feg / fig / peg / plug / sprig (of orange)
golden apple / Jew plum / pomme-citerre
crepes / pumps / washikongs / yachting shoes
a sampling of different names for the same referent in different territories.
Here I see rather more than a routine matter of dialectal or regional
variants, since such terms imply the existence of a standard form, as perhaps
Guyanese liard, swinger, touchous may be regarded as dialectal variants
of standard liar, swing, touchy. But in our archipelago of geographically
separated mini-states we have a number of national labels of equivalent
status, groupings of which are seen in Set 2. No standard form really exists
but an abstraction which will be described in a gloss or labelled as,
for example, "section of an orange" will represent
As none of these terms is normally used where another is you might say
they are in complementary distribution. I would like therefore to call them
ALLONYMS, and it seems to me that whereas some standard desk diction-
aries find it useful to supply Synonyms in many cases, it becomes a necessary
function of a Caribbean Dictionary to supply allonyms in all cases where
they exist, in addition of course to a gloss, which, however, labour and space
can only permit entry against one of them. Which one? On descriptive
criteria perhaps the allonym more widely used than any other throughout
the area and determining this may not be so simple should carry the
main gloss and all the others referred to it. The historical principle would
be even more difficult to apply reliably, and one may have to accept a simple
alphabetic principle which would not be so satisfactory when a minor
allonym (ackee in this Set is probably a case in point) would carry
the major gloss.
I have so far only dealt with nominals, interpreting the Headteachers'
resolution perhaps ungenerously, but it is in any case with non-nominals
that greater difficulties lie.
SET 3 ("Ungrammatical")
1. One gets the impression as though because he is a busy man, this
causes him to don't care about rules of grammar. (Student script)
cause not care -- grammar
= don't care rules
2. I do take a drink, but it is according (spoken)
[= (S.E.) it depends]
3. She gave herself so completely to him that he had to hold her up.
He was confused for her.
(Orlando Patterson: "Children of Sisyphus") (2)
A B C
4. That day, when I tell you rain, you will understand.
[Cp. On that day, if there is delay, you will understand]
5. Everyone has the right to demonstrate against the politicians,
since their dealings are not in the interest of those they have to
serve. (Student script)
[Cp. Creole: /sins di baai sii di poliis ii gaan laik hel./]
6. Naipaul's opinion of British colonial architecture is that British
colonial architecture is very glorious as compared to other archi-
tecture of other nationalities, as he says "British colonial archi-
tecture in the West Indies has had few moments of glory" (Student
[Cp. Creole: /di fyunurul had fyuu piipl veri wel./]
7. These books have been condemned by local eminent personalities
such as local heads of churches.
In Set 3 I have attempted to illustrate this side of the lexicographer's
problem. Lodged in a number of sentences are words that deviate in some
semantic way from their normal usage in Central English sufficiently to
render each sentence strictly "ungrammatical" in the present-day linguistic
sense of that word. None of them is made up they are all taken from
actual communications in the anglophone Caribbean and, more importantly,
none of them is exceptional as the reflection of the form don't-care in both
the newspaper headline of Fig. 3 and sentence 1 of Set 3 will serve to remind
KEITH MILLER'S Points on the First Test
Don't Care Fans Menace
Brisbane's Test Claims...
us. I make two claims here. The first is that a very great part, if not
already the bulk, of our exocentral area (Fig. 1) is taken up with cases of
the kind in Set 3 and, with the continuously hurried phasing-in of central-
ised English over active dialectal substructure, the Set 3 kind of examples
I believe to be the major distinguishing feature of Caribbean literate Eng-
lish today. My second claim is that, in these examples, what appear to be
syntactic deviations are essentially semantic deviations from the norm, and
they present a problem for the lexicographer. Let us take one example. In
utterance No. 3, the structure
He was confused for her
derives from 3 units of meaning (or concept categories)
A + B + C
He + confuse + she
In this linkage if, instead of the action flowing from A to C, it flows from C
to A, the change is rendered in standard English by the passive construction,
but in Creole (with its powerful economy and absence of passive construc-
tion), by adding the small particle "fo", thus
He confuse fo she
It is with such Creole structures that nearly every Caribbean English
speaker establishes the earliest and an abiding intimacy which, unless it is
consciously and constantly rejected and who can ever guarantee this? -
will influence the way he structures the concepts that enter his mind. Einar
Haugen deals very relevantly with this subject in an article he calls "The
Ecology of Language" (4) Those familiar with elementary transformational
theory will perhaps recognize that I am claiming here that somewhere at
deep level a spontaneous Creole structuring takes place and this surfaces
unconsciously in the 'normal', the 'regular' the standard speech that is
Caribbean English, only with some syntactic and phonological adjustments
That is how the idiomatic structure "confused for" happens to be thrown
up in Orlando Patterson's sentence, "He was confused for her" meaning
something like "His feelings were in a confusion caused by her action." An
illustration of process is offered in FIG 2. Here the concepts (man,
an Action Woman
She, confuse, she
\ Phonological Rules '
action, woman) that are going to be expressed come together in the "con-
ceptual structure", semantic items (he, confuse, she) are selected for them,
ordered by "syntactic rules", and presented as a "surface structure" uttered
in each speaker's own way. In the case that I am talking about, a further
"refinement factor", social and educational in character, enters at the syn-
tactic and phonological levels to adjust the string
/ i konfyuuz fo shii /
into Orlando Patterson's "He was confused for her" This kind of thing of
course gets through into writing because it is going on all the time in general
Caribbean speech. As one person puts it, when we are writing we put our
best foot forward; and I would add, sometimes when we open our mouths
too. A very good example recently struck me when a lady, who I am sure
had full primary school education, in explaining something to me, which she
seemed to regard as deserving of the best English, said: "and I saw that the
bicycle was put een twisted" an utterance which I believed emerged, with
the added refinement factor, from /ai sii di baisikl put twis/ as I feel sure
she might have said to an intimate. The point I am pressing is that this
Substratal Creole Influence in all Caribbean utterances has been
constantly throwing up new idioms and usage, a large amount of which has
set, with more of it settling, into general currency in Caribbean English.
There are many facets to the problem that this circumstance produces:
Firstly it is clear that although superficially the words in Set 3
are "standard" or to use Fig. 1, "central" English words, they actually
belong to the exocentral area by usage, function and/or sometimes construc-
tion all aspects of meaning, which is the lexicographer's business, and his
problem here a very real one when he is himself a Caribbean, is to
identify it every time there is a surface deviation in any one of these aspects.
Secondly, substratal differences can produce deviant usage that does
not at first appear. So in sentence 5, since conceived as = "from the time
that" is used in a sense permitted in standard English but not in such
a context as that in which it appears in that sentence, and in sentence 6
Naipaul's standard English few is conceived by this writer in the sense of
"quite a few" which is not permitted (indeed being the opposite of what is
permitted) in any sense of S.E. few. Again in sentence 7 the unusual word
order may be due to this writer's thought being structured as
local bigshots such as local parsons
eminent personalities heads of churches
where local has the sense of native (vs foreign); and it seems that this
writer wishes to identify the word local, by its position, as a constituent
with that particular semantic extension that applies to it in the Caribbean.
[Naturally if there is any substance in my remarks about sentences
5, 6, 7, one must begin to wonder how often it may be that deep level
differences produce results in our students' work that are too subtle for us
to receive or adjust at all. I recently had a long argument with a student
who wrote the following sentence:
"In 'The Fire Next time' the personal feeling of the writer evolves
past the degrading condition of the black man" Did he mean "evolves
from, out of"? No. "emerges from"? No. "develops beyond"? No.
"triumphs over"? No. Could he then put it another way, since "evolves
past" had no meaning for me. An explanation followed in which it seemed
that although he didn't really mean any of the things I had said it wasn't
clear exactly what he did mean. So I offered him a quotation attributed to
Voltaire which I had just happened to read in an American collection: "When
he who hears does not know what he who speaks means and he who speaks
does not know what he himself means, that is philosophy We both laughed,
but I had an odd feeling that he was laughing at me.]
A third facet of our deep-level problem that is more strictly academic
is its effect on translation both from and, more especially, into a foreign
language. One can well imagine a translated presentation of the meaning
as conceived by a Caribbean faithfully misrepresenting the original. Thus
the writer of sentence 6 (Set 3) would select "plusieurs" or "beaucoup"
rather than "rares", say, as his French translation of Naipaul's few. But
that is happily not a problem for the monolingual lexicographer.
For him the big side to the problem is how to organise the detection
and collection of, not some or most, but all and only the exocentral material
of the Caribbean expansion of English. For every intelligent seeker knows
that when an item is missing from the list in any Standard College Diction-
ary of current English it neither follows that it does not exist nor that it is
not English. It may be obsolete, technical, differently spelt, unknown to
the editors, etc., and he should simply try again somewhere else. This happy
relief clause can hardly be invoked for the kind of dictionary to which
I think my argument is leading. Since the book must be authoritative and,
by its nature, invite the intelligent Caribbean seeker to check any unfamiliar
or suspect item, structure or usage in identified Caribbean speech and
writing, then absence of the identified thing from the exocentral inventory
will certainly imply that it belongs to the central (Fig. 1); and clearly a large
number of omissions would undermine the authority if not the authen-
ticity of the book, making it little better than an interesting bastard that
tried to be something. If this is to be avoided then all the experience
of critical readers of Caribbean English will have to be brought to bear on
the exercise: school and examination writings, letters, newspapers and books
must be sifted; and that still leaves the greater bulk the spoken record -
to be tackled by the few trained observers among us.
So what kind of dictionary is my argument leading to? Look at SET 4.
SET 4 (Idioms)
to burn back (cane)
to cool out
to cut your eye upon
to make back (a dress)
to make your eyes pass somebody
to suck your teeth
to take in (suddenly)
to take sick
to take up with (a person, an activity)
take care (you forget, etc.)
It is offered as a sampling of our indisputably specialised use of English
words in English-type structures. Some of these every Caribbean body
knows. A few only some know. Yet these idioms are all in regular currency
in various parts of the Caribbean. As such they are standard structures and
usage in those parts. As they all, however, in relation to central English,
belong in the exocentral area (Fig. 1) we might call them exostandard
structures, a term we might also apply to certain of the forms and usages
that may be identified in this same area. They would be distinguished from
nonstandard and dialectal structures and usage, criteria for which will
have to be carefully established.
Sets 1 to 4 then are intended to make the case for a Caribbean Diction-
ary while illustrating some of its problems. But even if we need a dictionary,
who wants it? This is a problem of serious doubt, not just a perverse
question. A dictionary, let it be remembered, is always the product of a
scribal culture, and ours has been historically non-scribal and remains
largely so today: the low rate of personal writing is only exceeded down-
wards by the near absence of voluntary reading in the average Caribbean
citizen. An operative dictionary is also a product of literacy and an instru-
ment of accuracy, an inventory used by a people sensitive about their
environment and background, but none of these, only bread and butter, has
been the overriding consideration in everyday Caribbean life for 3 centuries
and still is. It is not pressing the matter too far to observe further that
writing, let us say the 'littera' is an indoor, intimate and static exercise
undertaken in a state of creative silence, whereas ours is a culture which
has developed out of doors in field and sun, so that it has produced a
language largely situational and dynamic in character, with strong kinesic
elements of gesture and ideophones which are not or hardly susceptible of
satisfactory presentation in writing let alone satisfactory lexicographical
treatment. In sum it is possible that neither the letter nor our response to
the environment is as yet a sufficiently vital feature of Caribbean life and
culture though they ultimately must be as to produce a demand for a
dictionary. That in no way invalidates the need, but the lexicographer has
the problem of convincing Caribbean citizens. At this point the exact
character of the work one has in mind is therefore a question of the
The scholarly attractiveness of the historical principle and the methods
of descriptive linguistics, both powerful influences in modern lexicography,
have both influenced the character of Dictionary of Jamaican English,
which must immediately come to mind. But the historical principle rests
on the printed record, which, as I have indicated, is unrepresentative, both
in quantity and quality, of the mass of Caribbean English. The character-
istic lexicon and structure of C.E. are found at the spoken level and in
unprinted writings, and I hope that all that I have said would indicate that
although the dialectal structures exert great influence and must not there-
fore be left out, there appears to be a large amount of exocentral material,
higher in status than the dialectal, which has never received systematic
attention and where I contend that the most urgent need for lexicographical
attention lies. I also contend that this material stretches far beyond the
area of nominals which, as it turns out, bulk very, very large in DJE.
Descriptive principles have also ushered in wide and even statistically
backed permissiveness such as seen in W3NID, and put prescriptive ideas
to sleep furiously under a colourless green shadow. I dispute however the
value of such an approach in the lexicography of C.E., and am more
in sympathy with the view of the editors of the American Heritage Diction-
ary (1969) who hold that "the seeker after guidance should not be turned
away without consolation" The resourceful and resolute Canadians I think
managed a compromise by launching almost suddenly no fewer than 4 size-
able Dictionaries of Canadian English out of one operation, the Dictionary
of Canadianisms, from their Lexicographical Centre at the University
of British Columbia:
A Beginning Dictionary 1962
An Intermediate Dictionary 1963
A Senior Dictionary 1967
A Dictionary of Canadianisms 1967
I think the first two, aimed at elementary schools, are more directive
or prescriptive in character, the latter two descriptive, the last being based
on the historical principle as well. In our part of the world, however, we
should be deliriously lucky to manage just one! If our one book must as
I think it should (a) invite inquiry from all levels of persons, (b) give a
true unbiased picture and (c) offer some guidance, we must seek a
compromise other than what the Canadian one seems to be.
I suggest an approach which I have tried to illustrate by sketching out
a possible Entry in SET 5:
Set 5 (Entry)
1. When you're) out in public like that you must behave
according (Spoken, Bs) (6)
2. I do take a drink, but it is according (Spoken, Bs)
3. "her peerents has to removed from where she is living according
to repair." (Letter copied to Gleaner, 10/3/70. Ja)
[PRONUNCIATION] /akaardin/ /akording/
[STATUS] Non-standard (?)
IMETACENTRAL 1. See OED according. B.1. obs.
RELATIONSHIP 2. Am. o. Br. -o.
3. Cp. Bible Rom. 1.3. His Son Jesus
Christ our Lord, which was made of
the seed of David according to the
[GLOSS] 1. accordingly 2. it depends
3. because of, as required by
By the simple device of reversing the normal arrangement of a dictionary
entry, and putting the illustrative citations first after the head word, I hope
to achieve many advantages:
First, by putting citations first, one reminds the reader that all word-
use is contextual and situational and that, indeed, word "meaning" does not
exist in any other way. This is the truth compared with the normal dic-
tionary entry which, in giving the gloss initially, offers a difficult, sometimes
comical abstraction, which, if it is not brought to life in a following citation,
may actually remain meaningless.
Second, by placing all spoken citations before all written citations, one
reminds the reader of the actual order of language development, and of the
special significance of this as a factor in the present condition of Caribbean
English. The point may receive further emphasis in cases where the first
citation(s) is strictly dialectal and contains a usage that is reflected
substantially in a following one.
Third, following the citations will be a range of pronunciations
encountered in the area suggesting that phonological realisation is second-
ary to the mental selection of lexis and to its use in a structure; and also
that phonological realisation is variant.
Fourth, by giving the next place to a status label (there may well be
more than one) this would become a judgment in context, following the
evidence (rather than preceding it as in all dictionaries I have seen so far)
and therefore more effective as guidance, which is all that it is.
Fifth, the natural sequence allows the next place to be given to
etymological considerations. In the case of non-dialectal exocentral words,
any reference to what may be called the metacentral relationship, if this
can be established, would help to indicate a historical relationship of the
usage to earlier English (signalled by See), or suggest an associated usage
in British, American, Canadian or other metacentral English (signalled by
Cp). Where no British or American equivalents or associates may be dis-
covered (using OED and W3 NID as checks) this should be indicated as is
done in No. 2. All this 'relational' information should improve the reader's
judgment of the word.
The sixth advantage lies in giving the Gloss last. This should not only
prompt the inquirer to read through the whole entry before coming to the
Gloss but also involve his own judgment in the acceptance of the Gloss.
Now although this arrangement in Set 5 appeals to me as much better,
for Caribbean purposes, than the usual one found in dictionaries, I do not
think it will be easier. Also, since we would be attempting to embody
information not of one territory but of many, there are many lurking prob-
lems which may bedevil the undertaking, but if the plan can be successfully
implemented we should have a resultant work embodying important des-
criptive, historical and prescriptive elements that may be used by any
intelligent inquirer as a guide in matters of both meaning and usage, but I
think it is in identifying and promoting precision of usage that would lie its
principal function, that is in the area, I contend, of a principal if not the
principal need in the Caribbean.
Lastly, SET 6: (Phonemic pitch)
bro-ther [2-1] [1-2]
Farmer / farmer
just now (past/fut.)
Set 6 is offered in token of other problems this paper has not touched and
as a closing reminder of the surprises that lie hidden essentially in Caribbean
speech. In that Set, each word carries two different meanings or 2 different
functions according to the pitch contour superfixed to it. It is a feature that
struck me some time back partly in Barbados and partly in Guyana. How
widespread is phonemic pitch in the Caribbean and how shall a lexicographer
set about capturing such differences by questionnaire or by any other
system? Well, I do not know, but set about such tasks we must, if we, in
the University at least, are serious about the practical application of our
academic pursuits to culture and communication in these territories
Referring to "the differences between one country and another, one district
and another, and, in one person, between childhood and youth, youth and
maturity" Eric Partridge, that experienced lexicographer, feared that "one
of the most delicate characteristics of language: usage" may well be "insus-
ceptible of inquiry." Well I hope that he is wrong and that I, in proffering
this and other thoughts in this paper, am not guilty as Voltaire might have,
said, of "Philosophy".
(1) Introduction to the (Senior) Dictionary of Canadian English p. IX W S. Avis.
(2) New Authors Ltd. (London, 1964). Dr. Patterson is a Jamaican Sociologist and author of two novels.
(3) The phonemic spelling here used is that suggested by F. G. Cassidy in Appendix I of Jamaica Talk
(4) The Linguistic Reporter, Vol. 13, No. 1, 1971 (Center for Applied Linguistics, Washington).
(5) American Heritage Dictionary (1969), Introduction p. XXIV, in the essay "Good Usage, Bad Usage
and Usage" by Morris Bishop.
(6) Abbreviations: Bs = Barbados
Ja = Jamaica
(7) The Gentle Art of Lexicography (Deutsch, 1963) p. 19.
Jamaican English -
A Report of a Pilot Experiment in Remedial
English Teaching through Role-Playing and
IN 1967 a small pilot experiment to test the effectiveness of a modified
form of a foreign-language teaching technique to teach certain patterns and
structures of formal English to pupils in their first year at some secondary
schools in Jamaica was carried out over a total period of eight weeks. Time
and other circumstances did not allow for an attack on more than a very
few common deficiencies and the number of pupils was small, but the
results seem worth reporting to teachers working in similar situations where
the mother-tongue of the learners can be described as a dialect of English.
In Jamaica the mother-tongue of a minority of the population can be
said to be Jamaican Standard English, taking this to mean English fairly
easily understood by English speakers throughout the world but containing
certain peculiar usages, structures and patterns i.e. morphological, phono-
logical and syntactical. The mother-tongue of the majority, however, contains
a vast amount of Jamaican Creole and Jamaican Dialect features. Examples
of these can be found in LePage and DeCampi and in Bailey2, and in
Cassidy3 The speakers of Jamaican Dialect and Jamaican Creole have not
developed certain habits through attempting to learn English and falling
into error as might be the case in some other countries. The pidginisation
of English they use, having probably evolved from interference of African
- and to a small extent Spanish characteristics, is, statistically speaking,
the mother-tongue of the country.
Yet, by the time a child enters secondary school, even if he has lived in
a pure Creole-speaking home and district, social and economic pressures
make Jamaican Standard English his target language. And, indeed since
very, very few speakers of Jamaican Standard English see any difference
between it and British Standard English (except, perhaps, in intonation) in
fact the pupil's and the school's target language is British Standard English.
The pupils beginning secondary education are nearly all able to understand
simple ideas spoken in simple English with the Jamaican intonation pattern.
They have also already acquired a significant number of basic English
structures which they try to use, if it seems called for, in situations which
they interpret as 'formal'.
They make numerous errors then. Some are errors of ignorance, in the
sense that they are made by learners who are trying to speak English but
who have never been exposed to certain usages and therefore do not know
that the structure is not English. Some are errors of inadequate practice
where the correct phrasing is 'known', can be substituted if the opportunity
arises, but has not yet become automatic responses of speech. Less of these
latter errors appear in their writing, though others peculiar to written
language i.e. spelling and punctuation would still tend to make the
written expression unintelligible sometimes. Vocalization habits, for instance,
would cause was engage to be written. But even discounting these areas
the written English of the great majority of Jamaican pupils of twelve years
of age would still very largely be influenced by the mother-tongue speech
characteristics of structures and form. It is not unusual to get a more able
user of English writing something like this (if he could spell the words):
A ghost always visit a old man or The man lie up for him far in the
Nevertheless the situation changes quite perceptibly in a year or two,
although it varies greatly from urban to rural and from school to school.
Space does not allow for the inclusion of samples of pupils' written work at
various stages in the secondary school. Suffice it to say that the average
pupil's writing of English, while devoid of freshness, fluency or power
becomes measurably more correct. (Punctuation remains almost unchanged
and spelling highly individual). The more intensive exposure to the target
language has some effect. But numerous errors of morphology, syntax and
lexis persist. And "O" level examiners remark on the strange constructions
and usages they too often meet with at the end of the five-year school
With this background of knowledge in mind it seemed that a course of
speech drills in primary schools and in the first year or two of most second-
ary schools could establish certain habits to enable both speech and writing
in English to be correct and fluent by removing the incidence of persistent
structural and lexical deviations. It was further thought that drills,
especially at the secondary age levels, must be attractive and interesting
without being childish, as language games are sometimes regarded. Indeed,
it was felt that drills should not seem to be drills at all, as far as possible.
Accordingly it was planned to exploit the natural enjoyment of
dramatic activity present at all age levels and to have the learners drama-
tise playlets or scenes in which selected structures and patterns were
repeated as often as was possible and reasonable. The writer conceived the
experiment, planned it with a practising teacher and supervised its operation
throughout. It was decided that the scenes had to portray situations of a
more or less formal nature in order to justify the use of correct English in
what was to be essentially play.
First forms of two large semi-rural secondary schools were used. In
both cases most of the pupils came from the surrounding agricultural
countryside of sugar cane plantations and the English Language situation
was known to be bad. One was a co-educational and the other a boys' school.
In each, two classes of broadly comparable average age, attainment and
socio-economic composition were selected. One class in each school was used
as the experimental group and the other as the control group. The practising
teacher taught the experimental group and everything was done to make
sure that the teachers of the control groups were not informed of the
experimental procedures or the principles on which they were based so that
they continued to teach in their usual way.
To determine which of the many likely errors should be treated in the
experiment a recorded pre-test was taken of both experimental and control
groups. This was done after a familiarisation session to get the pupils
accustomed to speaking while being recorded. Most of them were naturally
uninhibited and exuberant in any case and the idea of 'having fun hearing
how things sounded' removed all signs of self-consciousness by the time the
pre-test was done. Some even recorded songs, favourite poems and jokes.
When the pre-test was recorded the pupils were not discernibly affected in
either school by the presence of the tape recorder.
For the pre-test recording the class was divided at random into six
groups, each containing five or six pupils. At the co-educational school,
which was used first, each group was given a different one of these topics -
all selected to indicate the need for and involve the use of what the pupils
resort to as good English in a formal situation:
(1) A panel discussion on the radio about suggestions for making the
school and school grounds more attractive;
(2) 5 boys discussing with the sports master which of two pupils they
prefer to be chosen as football captain;
(3) 5 girls discussing with the games mistress which of two girls they
prefer as netball captain;
(4) A panel of speakers on the T V. programme 'Young World' discuss-
ing pocket money and young people;
(5) Managers of car marts discussing cars and sales;
(6) Ladies conversing at a tea party.
At the boys' school (3) and (6) were replaced by
(7) A radio discussion on Montego Bay by a panel of Tourist Board
officials on an overseas promotional tour. (This was fully explained).
(8) Should your school have its own school bus?
The groups were asked to discuss in separate parts of the hall or
grounds what ideas and remarks could be put into their dialogue. This
probably allowed for some domination by better users of the language but
could not, it seemed, significantly affect the performance of the weak pupils
in the time given. Besides,the teacher had allocated roles at random so as
to minimise the chances of good speakers being deliberately given certain
roles by their groups. No writing whatever was allowed. They were reminded
to think of what kind of English would be used in the situation and where
necessary the teacher helped a group with ideas that could be talked about
but not with phrases or sentences. For instance, one group was told they
could discuss their reason for their choice of team captain. This assistance
with ideas was to ensure that the results were as little influenced as possible
by an inadequacy of relevant ideas but tended to reflect mainly linguistic
inadequacies in expressing in the target language ideas already present in
the mind. It must be mentioned here that there was a noticeable decrease
in fluency and quantity of speech when the attempts were made to use
'correct' English in simulating the scenes as against the flow when the pupils
were having their preliminary group discussions and felt free to resort to
With regard, however, to the grammatical features which characterized
the 'correct' English in the pre-test a rather simplified classification of the
kinds of error made is given in Tables 1 and 2.
Table 1: School A Errors and Pupils Erring
(A semi-rural co-educational school)
(2) Pronouns and Nouns
(3) Articles, Intensifiers,
(4) Other errors
TOTAL NO. ERRORS TOTAL NO. PUPILS ERRING
TEST GROUP CONTROLGROUP TEST GROUP CONTROLGROUP
41 16 27 13
12 14 10 12
9 5 6 5
9 6 8 5
TEST GROUP = 36
CONTROL GROUP = 35
Table 2: School B Errors and Pupils Erring
(A semi-rural boys' secondary school)
(2) Pronouns and Nouns
(3) Articles, Intensifiers,
(4) Other errors
TEST GROUP = 32 CONTROL GROUP = 31
As shown, errors in the use of verb forms was the weakest area. This
appears to be mainly due to dialect interference. The final a of verbs was
often omitted or the form without s used in the wrong place: have for has,
do and don't for does and doesn't: 'It much taller and have End-
ings of the simple past tense d, ed, t were not often used. But often
attempts to use forms which had been met with in some way (almost cer-
tainly in the traditional grammar lesson) but which had not yet become
automatic responses gave equal results: if you goes out. should becomes,
can depends. As Cassidy said4 'Attempts to adopt inflection bring in
the usual confusions and over-corrections.' A similar reluctance to inflect
nouns for number seemed at work and again confusion, transference and
over-correction gave forms like leafs, entertainments, cricket gears. The
dialect speaker is much more habituated to the singular forms and would
say motor car is very useful to people when attempting correct English,
while the dialect structure a white shoes was left unchanged, obviously
taken to be correct. The pronoun it (pronounced hit in the dialect) was
often used as a plural form and who used for which. Inflection of pronouns
was similarly mixed up if anyone attack you and other inflections
occurred in very unexpected places: How can we make the school grounds
beautifully. (Grammar lessons on the adverb probably caused this one).
Common omissions were articles, suffixes on adverbs, and prepositions:
sometime for sometimes, use it buy things. As with a white shoes, the
dialect structures and patterns often crept in even when a speaker was
otherwise fairly correct: Then somebody couldn't tell her?
Generally speaking, the tests indicated too how similar were the
'English' speech behaviour in pupils at the different schools selected. (The
schools were on the south and north coasts of the island respectively). There
were also indications that certain errors tended to occur when pupils were
speaking in certain more particular situations. Thus, when pupils were
TOTAL NO. ERRORS TOTAL NO. PUPILS ERRING
TEST GROUP CONTROL GROUP TEST GROUP CONTROL GROUP
22 25 20 15
10 15 10 7
8 11 8 7
4 15 4 10
forced to focus their attention on the singular subject 'Derrick' there was a
higher frequency of errors over the use of the 3rd Person Singular in the
Simple Present Tense. This is one of the reasons why for the post-test, four
weeks later, after the remedial programme, pupils were again put into the
same groups as during the pre-test and given the same topics for discussion.
Faced with essentially the same situation they had to make similar language
THE REMEDIAL METHOD
The aim of the procedure was to give pupils interesting practice
in using selected structures and patterns which seem to be called for in
common formal or semi-formal situations. The scope was very tentative in
view of the time and personnel available. It was decided to give practice in
forms of verbs in the simple present tense using normal order sentence pat-
terns question and answer, negative and positive. Do, Be, Have were
the verbs to be particularly involved for subject-verb concord. In addition
dosages of ed inflection for the simple past tense and of inflection for noun
plurals were introduced wherever feasible. Thus the first two categories of
the simplified classification of errors were the areas saturated.
The practice was 'hidden' in lessons of dramatic activity. That is to
say, as far as the pupils experienced it, the activities, procedures, questions
and general emphases were the same as if the teacher were not concerned
about grammatical structures but about imaginative miming, appropriate
emotional vocal tones, etc., to make for convincing performances. It is in
this that the method differed from conventional practice with dialogues.
Experience of other pupils' reaction to whatever seemed to be drill in proper
English supported the idea of exploiting the powerful, natural urge to
make-believe and play. Hence, the pupils were not allowed to forget that
the lessons were drama lessons. Bodily expression, facial expression, and
vocal expression of characters were the focal points of attention. But at the
same time dialogues had to be perfectly memorised and reproduced or the
team would be criticised by the pupils for saying their lines incorrectly. The
team and competitive urges entered into the motivation.
It was an attempt to test Fries's dictum the oral approach. is
the most economical way of thoroughly learning, for use even in reading,
the structural methods of a language' in a different context from drill as
drill. And although the teacher was still 'a manager, a stage director, an
orchestra conductor of the oral practice'6 he was now conducting drama
which disguised, or made immaterial as a hindrance to moderation, the
drill inherent in it.
A typical lesson began with the teacher asking the class to repeat after
him some of the lines that would have to be learnt that day for their acting,
e.g. He does not live here; Crime does not pay; We do not have
enough strength. (It would have tended to spoil the illusion if the teacher
had tried to carry control of the speeches to the point where only one form
or phrasal structure was used in a scene, even if it were possible to devise
such dialogues). After two or three minutes of that the sentences were
written on the chalkboard and the pupils were asked to suggest in what
kind of situation such sentences would need to be used. They thought of
ones very similar to the scenes the teacher had prepared as often as
not, but in any case this question was posed to develop awareness of oppor-
tunities and contexts for them to use such sentences in the future. The
teacher then gave each group mimeographed copies of scenes to memorise
and practise for about fifteen minutes in separate parts of the hall or play-
ground. Sometimes two groups were given the same scene. Then each
group performed its scene once or twice, sometimes thrice, as time allowed.
Comments were made by the audience in response to the teacher's questions
on the convincingness of the acting. Teacher and pupils drew attention to
errors in speaking the lines and the teacher took every opportunity to get
the class to repeat what the right thing was.
It was easy to get troublesome sentences repeated several times with-
out getting away from the dramatic features of the performance as the
rivalry to put on perfect performances both in terms of actions and words
was very keen in nearly every instance.
An example of a scene or dialogue prepared by the teacher for one
group in an early class is this:
In A Hospital Ward
(Drs. Magnus and Stuart enter)
Dr. M: This patient looks quite happy.
Dr. S: Yes, and his pulse feels quite steady too.
Nurse Black: He looks very comfortable now, it is true. But he gives us
very much trouble at night.
Nurse White: Yes, every minute during the night he wakes and calls
Dr. M: Yet he seems so quiet now.
Dr. S: Yes, looks are really deceiving.
(They all go out).
Patient: (Getting up in bed). Don't they know that I am a man who
likes royal service? Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha!
Crime Does Not Pay
(Policeman and policewoman enter and knock)
Mother: Good morning. What do you want?
Policeman: It doesn't seem to be a very good morning. Does Victor
Black live here?
Older Sister: (Coming to door). Who does he want?
Policewoman: Does Victor Black live here? Well, does he or doesn't he?
Mother: He doesn't live here. We don't know anybody by that name.
Policeman: Well, if Black doesn't live here, where does he live?
Younger Sister: (Coming to door). Do they want Victor?
Policeman: Does Victor live here, little girl?
Younger Sister: (Calling). Victor, two people are here to see you.
(Police enter and arrest Victor as he comes).
Victor: It doesn't make sense hiding from the law, eh?
Policeman: It certainly does not.
Policewoman: Don't you know that crime does not pay?
(They take Victor away while the others begin crying).
Not only did the pupils memorise and perform the scenes during the
given lesson but they were told to keep on refreshing their memories about
the lines of all the scenes they learnt to be able to perform them again at
any time at a moment's notice. Pupils jealously guarded their scripts for
this purpose and could be seen not infrequently revising.
At the end of the four-week programme in each school during which
eight drama lessons as outlined were given the post-test was administered.
This was a repeat of the pre-test. The results are given in Tables 3, 4, 5, 6.
Table 3: School A Errors and Pupils Erring
(2) Pronouns and Nouns
(3) Articles, Intensifiers,
(4) Other errors
Table 4: School B Errors and Pupils Erring
(2) Pronouns and Nouns
(3) Articles, Intensifiers,
(4) Other errors
Table 5: Percentage Decrease in Errors
(2) Pronouns and Nouns
(3) Articles, Intensifiers,
(4) Other errors.
TOTAL NO. ERRORS TOTAL PUPILS ERRING
TEST GROUP CONTROL GROUP TEST GROUP CONTROL GROUP
PRE POST PRE POST PRE POST PRE POST
TEST TEST TEST TEST TEST TEST TEST TEST
41 17 16 13 27 6 13 10
12 3 14 13 10 3 12 12
9 8 5 3 7 6 5 3
9 6 6 7 8 8 5 7
__ 1 _ _I_ _
TOTAL NO. ERRORS TOTAL PUPILS ERRING
TEST GROUP CONTROL GROUP TEST GROUP CONTROL GROUP
PRE POST PRE POST PRE POST PRE POST
TEST TEST TEST TEST TEST TEST TEST TEST
22 12 25 20 20 10 15 13
10 5 15 12 10 5 7 6
8 9 11 15 8 8 7 9
4 3 15 11 4 3 10 8
SCHOOL A SCHOOL B A+ B
TESTGP CONTROLGP. TEST GP. CONTROLGP TEST GP CONTROLGP
58.3 18.75 49.5 25.0 60.3 19.4
75.0 7.1 50.0 20.0 69.3 13.8
11.1 40.0 -12.5 -39.6 0 -12.5
33.3 -16.6 25.0 26.4 30.8 14.2
Table 6: Percentage Decrease in Pupils Erring
(2) Pronouns and Nouns
(3) Articles, Intensifiers,
(4) Other errors
From these tables it is clear that in the two areas selected for attention
- (1) errors with verbs and (2) errors with nouns and pronouns far
superior results appeared to be obtained in both schools in the classes where
the drama drills were given. An average decrease of 60% in errors with
verbs compares very well with a decrease of 19% in the classes where the
method was not used. In both cases it is possible that the mere reappear-
ance of the tape-recorder after four weeks would have caused a decrease in
errors by awakening a sense of caution; also, that a certain normal increase in
mastery of the language was to be expected. But these seem insufficient to
explain the great disparity in the two percentages.
Better still, apparently, is the result obtained with nouns and pronouns.
This tallies with what ordinary experience suggests: that errors with verbs
are most difficult to remedy. Yet further evidence of the influence of the
method may be taken from the figures for the two other 'untreated'
categories articles, intensifiers, etc. and other errors where no significant
trend towards improvement is indicated. No pattern at all seems dis-
cernible there. We get negative results in one school balancing positive
results in the other in category (3), and this could be a result of accidental
events like the emphases of the normal syllabus and methods. The 40%
decreases in the control group, however (Tables 5 and 6), seem to need some
explanation although they remain inferior to the positive results of the test
groups in categories (1) and (2). At the moment this seems a chance
phenomenon but further and more refined experimental work should give a
more definite answer.
It must also be remarked that the results in overt enthusiasm and
enjoyment though not measured were remarkable to the eye. Even when
in the boys' school the idea was first greeted with reluctance and some
sneering very soon this became an enthusiastic welcome for the 'drama'
lessons. Often pupils were heard deliberately using the structures of a
dialogue in speaking to one another in the classroom and out of it. Finally,
the beneficial psychological effects of role-playing were evident although
SCHOOL A SCHOOL B A + B
TEST GP CONTROL GP. TEST GP CONTROL GP. TEST GP CONTROL GP.
77.7. 23.0 50.0 13.2 66.0 17.8
70.0 0 50.0 14.2 30.0 5.9
14.2 40.0 0 -28.4 6.6 33.3
0 -40.0 25.0 20.0 8.3 0
one East Indian boy resisted playing the role of the patient for super-
stitious reasons. And several pupils remarked that the drama would help
them to study plays for examinations.
There is a strong indication that even in a limited time the drama drills
technique produces positive results in language change and avoids mental
blocks to language learning. This appears to be due to the appeal to the
natural urges towards make-believe and group feeling. The teacher needs
to be at least a little familiar with miming and improvisation techniques
and criteria (there are many good books on the subject) in order to raise
questions which direct attention to the 'doing' and not to the grammar. But
he also has to bear in mind that his hidden aim is to get maximum repetition
of patterns and structures in this context of creative activity. The approach
recognizes the uselessness of cluttering the pupils' minds with a system of
grammar definitions, categorisations, and rules needing conscious thought
to apply to speech. It is very likely that the apparent success of the
method hinges, too, on the proper focusing of the pupils' motivation along
the lines of what is common in certain everyday life situations. There
should therefore be a wide range of linguistic features that could be dealt
with in this way although this pilot experiment necessarily had to be con-
fined to a very small area.
There will be problems of organisation to be managed: time-tabling,
equipment for recording and mimeographing, space, and most of all, prepara-
tion of life-like dialogues using a restricted range of structures over a certain
period. There is also the problem of forming the groups, to which a socio-
metric test should be related. To save time during lesson periods flash cards
and a flannel graph should be used instead of writing on the chalkboard.
What is needed now is a more elaborate experiment covering many of
the schools, especially the Junior Secondary Schools. A much more
thorough analysis of linguistic and other factors is needed to test the
results of this pilot project.
LePage, R.B., and DeCamp, David. Jamaican Creole. Macmillan. London. 1960.
Bailey, Beryl Loftman. Jamaican Creole Syntax: a transformational approach. Cambridge Uni-
versity Press. Cambridge. 1966.
Cassidy, F. C. Jamaica Talk. Macmillan. London 1961. p. 58. Dictionary of Jamaican
English. Cambridge University Press. Cambridge. 1967
4. Op. cit.
5. Fries, Charles C. Teaching and Learning English as a Foreign Language. University of Michi-
gan Press. Ann Arbor. 1962. pp. 6-7
6. O'Connor, Patricia. Modern Foreign Languages in High School. U.S. Gov't Printing Office.
Washington. 1963. pp. 4-5.
Trinidad English The Origin of
'Mamaguy' and 'Picong'
MANY of the lexical items peculiar to the English dialect of Trinidad
are not of English origin but derive from one or other of the minority
language of this multi-racial, multi-lingual island. The Spanish language,
introduced into Trinidad by its first colonizers, and still surviving in some
remote rural parts of the island, has contributed a number of these loan-
words. I hope to present a comprehensive study of these in the near future,'
but for the present I wish to concern myself with two of the most important
of these Hispanicisms, mamaguy and picong, both terms which are con-
sidered to be essentially and characteristically Trinidadian in flavour, and
which today enjoy great currency and popularity in all levels of Trinidadian
Mamaguy, a verb, is used in TE2 in the sense of 'to tease, especially by
flattery', while picong, a noun, is glossed by Thompson as 'ribbing,
teasing3 and may be more fully defined as 'the exchange of teasing and
even insulting repartee, generally in a light-hearted, bantering manner.'
Mamaguy, itself sometimes used as a noun ("don't come with that
mamaguy"), has given rise to the formation of another noun mamaguism
'teasing remark'; and picong is generally used in conjunction with the verb
give, hence 'to give picong' 'to tease'.
Mamaguy derives from the TS expression mamar gallo.4 The TE form
shows the coalescence of the two syntactic elements of the Spanish original
with the subsequent fall of the now preconsonantal r of mamar,5 and the
loss of the final vowel in this, and in other paroxytonic6 Spanish words
which appear in TE, is to be ascribed to the oxytonizing influence of French
Creole or Patois, as it is known locally.7
Mamar gallo, originally a term used in cock-fighting, a sport tradition-
ally identified with the island's Spanish-speaking population, appears with
a figurative meaning in the Spanish not only of Trinidad but also of
Venezuela and of Colombia. Its figurative meaning in Venezuela is defined
by Angel Rosenblat in Buenas y malas palabras as 'tomar el pelo'8, 'to
tease', while the Enciclopedia Universal Ilustrada, listing mamarle a
uno el gallo as a venezolanismo, glosses the expression as follows: 'Usar
de bromas con uno haciendole career lo que no ha acontecido o no se ha dicho,
con el proposito de halagar su vanidad o su esperanza'.9 In Colombia the
meaning of the expression appears to differ somewhat and is given as
'engaiTar, defraudar', 0 'to deceive, to defraud'. In TS the figurative mean-
ing of mamar gallo coincides with Venezuelan usage; and it is precisely
with this meaning that the word has passed from TS into TE.
In a work which was first published at the end of the last century, Julio
CalcanTo attempts to explain the metaphorical meaning which the original
cock-fighting term acquired in Venezuela and describes the process as fol-
lows: "Procede de la costumbre que tienen los jugadores de gallo de reanimar
al animal en la rfiia chupdndole la sangre que mana de las heridas de la cabeza
y los [sic] ciega." This explanation fails to convince because it is not easy
to conceive of a link between the cock-fighting practice which Calcanio des-
cribes and the current figurative meaning of mamar gallo. The same
explanation is repeated by Lisandro Alvarado in his study of regionalisms
in Venezuelan Spanish.12 More recently, further light has been thrown on
the matter by Rosenblat, who, while still viewing the expression within the
context of cock-fighting, relates it to other aspects of the sport which could
more plausibly have led to its metaphorical meaning. He refers to the use
of the verb mamar ('to suck'), in cock-fighting, to describe the action of a
cock which, for various reasons, is too weak to peck at its opponent with
the required force. Such a cock is described as mamon or mamador
because it does not peck as it ought to (picar), but sucks (mamar).3 Also,
in trials, with their spurs covered and their beaks protected to prevent them
from inflicting wounds on each other, the cocks are said to mamar rather
than picar.14 It seems highly probable that it is this use of mamar which
is responsible for the figurative meaning of mamar gallo 'to tease,
especially by flattery' in the Spanish of Venezuela and of Trinidad.
Picong is from the TS word picdn. The velarization of the final con-
sonant -n15 appears with some frequency in TS and is found in other Spanish
loan-words ending with -n e.g. parang (TS parranda), papelong (TS
papeldn), gabilang (TS gavilan)!6 The Diccionario de la Real
Academia Espaiola lists picon as a noun and defines it as 'chasco, zumba
o burla que se hace a uno para picarle e incitarle a que ejecute una cosa,17
and it is possible that this meaning could be directly responsible for the use
and meaning of picong in TE.
However, it is in TS usage that we find more definite evidence of the
way in which this word came to be incorporated into the English lexicon of
the island. In TS picdn is particularly associated with the singing contests
of the velorio de crud (cross wake, Patois veille croix). During the
course of the cross wake the principal singers, drawing upon an established
corpus of material which is either religious (mainly Biblical) or historico-
geographical (e.g. the discovery of the New World) in nature, engage in a
sort of verbal duel carried out in song.19 Each singer must be able to reply
to his opponent's questions and challenges, and the teasing, taunting, often
bitingly satirical remarks and repartee which are directed by one singer to
the other, are known as picdn. To a certain extent, picdn also appears in
parang-singing. A similar use of the word picdn appears in Venezuela; it is
described as a 'contienda cantada' by one source of reference20 while
Rosenblat defines it as 'contrapunto llanero' and traces the meaning of the
word in this sense 'burla, zumba, chasco' back to the Golden Age, a sense in
which it was frequently employed by Cervantes, Quevedo and Gracian.21
Miss Maureen Warner recently gave evidence of an interesting example
of a similar type of sung verbal battle which appears as a Yoruban survival
in Trinidad.22 I have been unable to ascertain whether there is any direct
link between the picdn of the velorio de cruz and the Yoruba-derived
flying of which Miss Warner gives an account.23 It is possible that we may
be dealing here with one of the universals in folk culture.
Both mamaguy and picong have undoubtedly become significant items
in the lexicon of TE, and for the Trinidadian, no Standard English words can
adequately replace them with their undertones of light-hearted and good-
natured teasing. Rosenblat claims that there exists no expression that is
more typically Venezuelan than mamar gallo;24 I am sure that many
Trinidadians in particular, and West Indians in general, think that there is
nothing more typically Trinidadian than mamaguy (both the word and
what it stands for) except perhaps picong. It is significant that both these
words belong to the Spanish heritage of the island.25
To the best of my knowledge the only works which deal with the subject of Spanish loan-words
in Tri idadian English are: Robert Wallace Thompson, "Pre'samos lingdisticos en tres idiomas
trinitarios", Revista de Estudios Americanos, Vol. XII, (1956), pp. 249-254, and Henry Richards,
"Some vestiges of Spanish in the Dialect of Trinidad", Hispania, Vol. XLIX, (1966), pp. 481-483.
Another article by Thompson, "A Preliminary Survey of the Spanish Dialect of Trinidad", Orbis,
Vol. VI, pp. 353-372, also touches very briefly on this subject. However, none of the above-men-
tioned works is in any way penetrating or exhaustive; for example, mamaguy is not listed in any
of these articles, while picong appears without explanation in Thompson's articles and is not to
be found in Richards' work.
Throughout this article the abbreviations TE and TS are used to stand for Trinidadian English
and Trinidadian Spanish respectively.
3. Thompson, "A Preliminary Survey p. 355.
4. Mamar 'to suck'; gallo cock' Gallo is pronounced gayo in TS as it is in many other Spanish-
speaking areas both in Spain and in America.
5. For the loss of preconsonantal r in TE see Thompson, "Prestamos lingdisticos", p. 254.
6. That is. with the main stress on the second to last syllabic.
7. An oxytonic word is one which bears the stress on its final syllable. A few other TE examples
showing the loss of final vowels in paroxytonic Spanish borrowings are: alpagat (TS alpargata),
cachap (TS cachapa), arep (TS arepa), sapat (TS zaparo). In cases where the loss of
the final vowel would have resulted in a consonantal cluster in the word-final position, the entire
final syllable disappears: ducn, dwen (TS duende). The influence of French on Spanish loan-
words in TL is deep-rooted and is clearly seen in the fact that several of them have received
gallicized spellings, e.g. lappe (TS lapa), lagniappe (TS la apa), crapaud, the tree carapa
guianensis and its wood (TS carapa).
8. Angel Rosenblat, Buenas y malas palabras, 2nd ed., (Caracas Madrid, 1960), in 2 vols. Vol.
I, p. 54.
9. Enciclopedia Universal Ilustrada, (Madrid, 1924), Vol. XXV., s.v. gallo.
10. Luis Florez in Presente y future de la lengua ecpa-ola, (Madrid, 1964), in 2 vols; Vol. I, p. 21.
11. Julio Calca2o, El castellano en Venezuela, 2nd ed. (Madrid, 1949), p. 318. The first edition of
the work appeared in 1897.
Lisandro Alvarado, Obras completes, (Caracas, 1953), Vol. II, p. 235. The Enciclopedia Uni-
versal Ilustrada (loc. cit.), also offers Calcaio's explanation of the origin of the metaphorical
use of the term.
13. Rosenblat, op. cit., p. 56.
14. Rosenblat, loc. cit. Cf. also the use of the adjective mamador in the context of cock-hghting,
"[hay] el que unta a sus gallos en el pescuezo diariamente, en la sombra, nata de leche, para que
el pico del gallo enemigo resbale o se ponga mamador, es decir, que agarre y no dispare",
J. A. de Armas Chitty, "Las riias de gallos en el Oriente del Giuarico," Archivos Venezolanos
de Folklore, Vol. II, (1953-1954), p. 151.
15. That is, the pronunciation of n like the ng of sing, wrong, rather than the n of sin, on.
16. Velarization of final -n is not restricted to the Spanish of Trinidad, but appears in parts of Spain
as well as in large areas of Spanish America. D. L. Canfield, La pronunciacion del espafol en
America, (Bogota', 1962), p. 71, and Ruth L. Hyman, "[ 5 ] as an Allophone denoting Open
Juncture in several Spanish-American Dialects", Hispania, Vol. XXXIX, (1956), p. 293 and p. 297.
17. Diccionario de la Real Academia Espanola, 18th ed. (Madrid, 1956), s.v.
18. Although the meaning ofdar picdn defined in the Enciclopedia Universal Ilustrada (s.v. picdn)
as "incitar a uno a que haga alguna cosa" differs significantly from the Trinidadian expression to
19. Similar sung contests have been documented in the Dominican Republic, P Heniiquez Ureifa,
El espalol en Santo Domingo, (Buenos Aires, 1940), p. 116, and in Venezuela, R. Olivares
Figueroa, Folklore venezolano (Caracas, 1948), Vol. I, p. 255.
20. Olivares Figueroa, ibid.
21. Rosenblat, Buenas y malas palabras, Vol. II, p. 58.
22. Maureen Warner, "Some Yoruba Descendants in Trinidad', African Studies, Bulletin No. 3,
Dec. 1970, p. 12.
23. Picong appears in other African survivals in Trinidad. For example, in describing the Congo and
Shango Carnival bands of the last century Daniel Crowley maintains that the protagonists "carried
on 'picong' or 'fatigues', elaborate ribbing of each other and the bystanders. Sometimes they
ridiculed prominent people and government officials with thinly disguised stories incorporated
into their picongs" Daniel J. Crowley, "The Traditional Masques of Carnival", Caribbean
Quarterly, Vol. IV, (1956), p. 198. Of course picong is also a characteristic feature of
the calypso as the exchanges between the Mighty Sparrow and Lord Melody illustrate.
24. Rosenblar, Buenas y malas palabras, Vol. I, p. 54. Rosenblat ibidd). claims that the term mamar
gallo first appeared in print in 1887 in Caracas and that by 1909 mamar el gallo had already
assumed the proportions of "a national vice."
25. It is perhaps appropriate to point out here that Louis James, in his Introduction to The Islands
in Between, (London, 1968), confuses the two terms mamaguy and picong. He comments:
"The private booths in which the calypsonians entertained for a small fee grew to the present-day
carnival tents where the self-made royalty of the carnival rhyme, sing, and scathe each other in
'mammaguy' (sic) contests of insult" (p. 12); picong and not mamaguy is the appropriate word
in this context. See note 23 supra.
Trinidad Yoruba Notes on
This article is prepared from two papers prepared for the Conference
on Caribbean Linguistics, May 1971, at Mona, Jamaica.
YORUBA is the name of a prominent language spoken by a people of
the same name living in the south-western part of present-day Nigeria and
in the south-eastern area of modern Dahomey.
This article outlines some of the findings so far reached in a research
project on the survival of African languages in Trinidad. In the light of the
history of the peoples of these islands, and of the assumption so glibly made
about the suppression and rejection of African cultural manifestations in the
Caribbean, it has been very revealing to discover the existence of vigorous
pockets of African language speakers in Trinidad up to the 1930s. By the
latter half of the 1960s when I began this research, I found a few survivors
of these minority groups using in very limited contexts Yoruba, Congo,
Chimbundu, Housa and Fon, the only languages I have as yet been able to
identify. Yoruba is by far the most attested language, but Yoruba in
Trinidad is all but a thing of the past. This is so even though, in my view,
Yoruba secular feasts and cult ceremonies are still assured of longer durabil-
ity despite Trinidad's rapid modernisation and urbanization.
I mention feasts and religious ceremonies in conjunction with language
because it is in these activities that Yoruba has its most vigorous place today.
But, from my observation, the Yoruba used on such occasions, in prayers
and chants, is in varying stages of phonological deterioration. This deteriora-
tion is occasioned by cultural distance, in the case of most cult-worshippers
60 years and under who have not grown up in a Yoruba cultural environ-
ment, because they are parrotting formulae in a language they do not hear
outside of the ceremonial enclosure. In the same way, cultural distance, not
age, is the factor that would cause even an older person to use almost
unidentifiable Yoruba-derived1 phrases, if for instance, a Yoruba descendant
was one who had either not been exposed to the language of his ancestors,
or had purposefully neglected to acquire what he considered an alien, or a
difficult, or a useless linguistic skill. Of course, some participants in cult-
worship may not be of Yoruba stock or may be ignorant of their tribal origins.
Fortunately for my study however, it is still possible to find informants
who can give intelligible versions of the commoner ritual phrases, and who,
in addition, have their own corpus of secular and religious songs. The number
of such people I have located is indeed small. Further to that, these people
do not form cohesive and functioning Yoruba-speaking communities in the
island today. Each informant operates in linguistic isolation from the others
- a cultural isolation typical of the larger socio-linguistic situation regard-
ing African languages in Trinidad, with the exception of the use of some of
these languages in religious contexts. A noticeable feature among this group
is the prominence of song in their retention of this ancestral language.
Were it not for the musical frame in which Yoruba was transmitted to them,
one has good reason to conclude that the language would have been even
less alive than it is now. Furthermore, most of these songs seem to be
associated with communal activity, either of a secular type, that is, dance
nights, or with religious occasions, either in worship of ancestors or gods.
But spoken Yoruba too has been recorded. Some of this comes in the
form of greetings, which sometimes constitute the rather limited but valuable
corpus of some Yoruba descendants who for one reason or another acquired
minimal competence in the language. Some informants also remember basic
words like 'water', 'ground' lexical items familiar no doubt through
domestic use in Yoruba households in earlier days, and retained still
in ritual. The more able informants, however, manage utterances of sen-
tence-length and longer. Yet even among this very small group, language
competence varies. Reasons for this include the individual's capacity for
retention, intensity of cultural pride, and the frequency and recency of
One informant appears to have last utilized Yoruba as a medium
of domestic communication up to the age of 26. This person was already in
her 70's when I asked her for translations of sentences. Although she is one
of my most cooperative informants, especially as far as songs are concerned,
she complained that I was in her own words, "persecuting her tongue" by
asking her to recall a skill so long disused. Other informants, also aged,
were clearly mentally extended when I asked for translations to set sentences
intended to explore their syntactic proficiency, and would soon tire of this
type of questionnaire and proceed to familiar household comments or com-
mands, and to songs. From among ths group of informants, I choose my two
most fluent users of spoken Yoruba to indicate something of their personal
history, their attitudes to the ancestral language, and their proficiency at
it. I refer to these people as A and B.
A will be 93 this year and lives in north-west Trinidad. Of his
foreparents, he says that his grandmother, while in Africa, moved through
Abomey, Dahomey and Ashanti selling honey, dried meat and agidi ,'and
was captured as a slave in Kumasi. This grandmother's name was Asetola.
She adopted or was given the name, Mariana, in the West Indies and her
first marriage was to one Pere. She bore Boya, a son, and Peggy for him.
After Pere's death, Asetola married Atekun Josephu for whom she had two
sons and two daughters, among them Elisabete3 who was given three tribal
marks. The latter had two children: Louisa and informant A, one of whose
names is Pojumi. A's grandfather died when A was about 12 years old,
Asetola when he was 18. A claims that it was his grandfather who taught
him, using charcoal on wood, to write the Yoruba alphabet and spell Yoruba
words, a remarkable situation, if accurate, since an alphabet for Yoruba
orthography had only been devised by missionaries in the early part of the
19th century. A lost his mother at the age of 2 and went to live with his
grandparents where Yoruba was the predominant language. French patois
was used for communicating with non-Yoruba-speaking neighbours, but it
was predominantly Yoruba settlement where Christian prayers were said in
Yoruba. When A's grandparents died, he continued to use Yoruba with his
aunt Louisa whom he described as an expert in the language. She and the
neighbours who spoke Yoruba are now dead.
B is now 89. Her mother was Asato, a native of Oye. Her father was
Akaso, a native of Arigidi, both towns in the Ekiti Division of Yorubaland.
Her mother's name was Ayambisi. Her own Yoruba name is Kosonibeye; a
sister's was Morondiya. I was extremely lucky to have persuaded B to
speak Yoruba to me. Relatives at the home in South Trinidad marvelled
that she divulged so much to me and she herself confessed that she
had always been unwilling to communicate what she considered her secret
possession. She was very much aware that she held information that was
rare in the community, but she sensed a general disinterest in African cul-
ture and had consequently withdrawn into herself when the Yoruba com-
munity of which she had been a part disintegrated through death, the onset
of old age, and pressures from an alien culture. This culture she identified
as Creole. She had not taught her children or grandchildren Yoruba
because she considered them Creoles in contrast to herself an African in
Among my informants, A is singular in his preference for using Yoruba
in speech rather than song. He recorded for me four lengthy statements:
one about the history and attitudes of black people in Trinidad; one on the
preparation of a type of food; another, the story of his encounter with
another Yoruba descendant in Trinidad. The other text was a description
of the tonal system of Yoruba followed by a long word-list. The songs he
gave me in one of the later interviews were either to explain a Yoruba cus-
tom, or they were Christian in theme. At my request he sang some "pleasure
songs"6 and gave a clearer wording of some of the sacrificial chants I had
heard indistinctly sung elsewhere. He also had written out, in exercise books,
Yoruba words and phrases and Christian prayers. Some of these prayers
were also carved on wooden tablets. These all reflect the depth and quality
of his intellectual concerns. They, together with his pride in his race and
his linguistic heritage, had led him to conduct evening classes in Yoruba in
B was also proud of her linguistic heritage. She recited a prayer said
each morning by her Catholic parents to Olodumare, the Supreme God, and
to the Spirit of the Earth, Emi L'ale. One of her longest unsolicited state-
ments in Yoruba was: "It is my mother and my father who taught me this
language that I am speaking to you in now." Her other long statement was:
"I am a woman who like African dancing a lot. I danced that dance a lot."
She was therefore very keen on singing "pleasure songs" and ritual chants.
Song came so naturally to her that when she wanted to express admiration
for me she burst into a charming song in which a soldier flirts with a young
married lady. It was also significant that she had composed an original song.
Its sentiments were very personal, romantic, and in contrast to A's critical
assessment of contemporary Trinidad politics, it revealed deep admiration
for Trinidad's head of government:
Mani7 Wili o, Oloran Mr. Williams o, leader,
Mo fe ba o lo I want to go with you
Enia o mo. Nobody knows.
I think the last line a highly revealing confession of the private linguistic
world in which B has found herself as regards Yoruba, which has now
become for her a language of secrecy.
Apart from their attitudes towards language transmission, another
substantial difference between A and B lies in certain aspects of their
phonology and morphology. It seems that A's grandfather's literacy sparked
off his intellectual interest in the language, a concern which found an outlet
in later life when he got hold of a Yoruba grammar book. Through this he
consolidated his knowledge of orthography and vocabulary. It is therefore
very probable that his ability to read Yoruba and his use old grammar
books accounts for a tendency to formality in his speech. One of the areas
in which this is evidenced is in that of vowel elision and assimilation, a very
prominent feature of oral Yoruba. He often says ki a for ka, and ni ojo for
lojo or even li ojo, the form used formerly in written Yoruba. The same
formality is present in his use of the uncontracted forms of some syntactic
particles such as ko, rather than the colloquial o.
In contrast, informant B reproduces Yoruba that is strikingly colloquial
in its elisions and assimilations. In lexical choice and syntax, it moves with
ease from what would today be classified as dialect to Standard speech. It
startles the modern Yoruba ear by the raciness of its Ekiti dialect and yet
the sharpness of its shift to Oyo/Ibadan forms. She makes use of the con-
tracted negative particle o, and reduces maa, the pre-verb, to a. I therefore
conclude that B's utterance is more akin to oral Yoruba than is A's because
of the non-interference in her learning process of either the visual shape of
the word or knowledge of its etymological derivation.
A very good example of the difference which arises from their different
linguistic backgrounds is found in their rendition of the same English
He ran quickly to reach home in time.
A gave a too faithful translation:
0 sure tete lati lo si ile le9 akoko.
He ran soon to go to home in time. (literally)
B's version is:
O sure sure sure. O dele nisisiyi.
He ran ran ran. He reached home now.
An analysis of B's version reveals that raciness of colloquial speech that has
found its echo in the reduplicative qualities of West Indian dialects. The
brevity of the sentence length itself captures the urgency of the action, and
although nisisiyi is not an accurate translation of in time, it gives the
impression that the speaker was, at the moment of utterance, visualizing
the race home and the arrival. Her commentary and the incident were
On the other hand, A's lexical range is wider and one gets the impression
of erudition. The version is too, less passionate. In addition, it is more for-
mal because of its lack of assimilation for si ile to sile and le akoko
to lakoko, in contrast to B's dele for de ile. But this erudition has a side
effect, the mutilation of syntax in O sure tete for tete should precede sure.
This in reality means that A has given a word-for-word reproduction of the
English sentence, whereas B, less learned, has not.
A syntactic analysis of the noun and verb phrases in their speech, how-
ever, indicate a remarkable degree of competence for people articulating a
language which is no more than a bare survival in Trinidad society,
and which they have for about four decades been unable to practise with
interlocutors. For their structures agree in large measure with those found
in Yoruba today.
They can express the present, past, future continuing and conditional
state/action in positive statements. They can both use the imperative of
the verb. They can also negate the simple verb, and the verb preceded by
awon ko mo awon ko le ri i
they do not know they cannot see him
In addition, A's text supplies examples of the irregular construction for
negating the verb se:
ki ise iwo
it is not you
B, on the other hand, can negate the conditional structure, as in:
bi mo ba ma lo
if I do not go
She can also negate commands:
mo'I se binu
don't get annoyed
Both informants make use of compound verb structures. These may
be created when two or more verbs, all capable of functioning independently
in a sentence are used together in a clause. Examples are:
mo fe mo o nse wi
I want to know you are speaking (to)
B's text, however, yields more instances of the use of a more complex con-
struction where the string of verbs in the sentence is discontinuous
because of the intrusion of the predicate:
pa'lekun yi mo ko mi l'ede yi
join door this stick teach me say language this
shut this door taught me this language
As regards the noun phrase, both informants faultlessly reproduce the
syntactic arrangement of the noun in relation to its adjective, possessive
pronoun, demonstrative pronoun, the pluralizing emphatic personal pronoun
awon 'they', and other nouns linked with it either conjunctively or
In their use of the personal pronouns, both used won 'they' as a mark
of respect for a singular referent and A used it also to refer anonymously to
'one', 'somebody' Both substituted mi for the 1st person singular personal
pronoun mo before the negative particle ko, and B assimilated mo before
the future verbal particle maa to ma. A however used the emphatic forms
of the personal pronoun indiscriminately where the non-emphatic would
have been more appropriate. He does use the emphatic in suitable contexts,
ki i se iwo
it is not you
B observes the difference between the forms of the pronoun in the sentence *-
Emi, obirin yi, mo feran" ijo ajeni12
All this, however, is not to accredit these speakers with the competence
of a native Yoruba speaker in Nigeria or Dahomey today. Before one could
say this, one would have to test them with a wider range of syntactic
structures, and would also have to take into consideration other areas of
linguistic competence such as phonology, fluency, vocabulary, and range of
social register. These last four factors have not been considered here.
The analysis has been valuable for another reason. It has shown up the
importance of not limiting comparison of Trinidad Yoruba idiolects to only
one dialect of mainstream Yoruba. For what may be unacceptable in one
dialect may be the standard in another. And instances occur in the texts
where dialectal forms, both syntactic and phonological, are used.
Other considerations arise in relation to dialect, particularly in the case
of B whose speech reveals a synthesis of Yoruba dialects. Why should this
be, one wonders, when both her ancestors came from the Ekiti Division of
Yorubaland? Was it that the Ekiti and Oyo/Ibadan dialects were not as
distinct' in the 19th century14 as they are now? Or could it be that
the dialects were distinct in Yorubaland, but that contact on the 'Middle
Passage or in the slave factories produced a synthesis? This is a possibility,
but one for which I have no concrete evidence. Or could it be that contact
in Trinidad of Yoruba dialect groups resulted in a 'creole' variety using
'creole' in the non-linguistic sense of a New World product? I rather incline
to the suspicion that the last probability is the most plausible in that, as
far as the first supposition is concerned, distance and difficulty of com-
munication would make it more likely that dialectal differences in Yoruba-
land were more pronounced in the last century than they are now, though
one has to allow for the possibility of dialect contact through secondary
settlement in Africa where groups of people left their native town for
political or economic reasons to found settlements elsewhere. On the other
hand, oral evidence speaks of Yorubas in Trinidad15 either living together in
communities or coming together on market days or at feasts and on odd
occasions to reminisce, discuss and share experiences and using their native
language. Although there is much oral evidence of tribal prejudice16 between
certain African 'nations'17 in Trinidad, there does not appear to have been
sub-tribal discrimination. In other words, one does not hear of Ijebu/Ekiti
confrontation, for instance, and whereas informants claim to be "Yaraba",
they do not know the sub-tribe of Yoruba to which they belong, or supply
this information only after questioning on the specific issue. Probably exile
brought solidarity on a more nationalistic level and these overseas Yorubas
could not discriminate against each other's dialect peculiarities when Ijesa
dialect speakers, for example, had more in common with an Ekiti speaker
than with a Congolese. Under these circumstances of dialect contact, there-
fore, Yoruba standards probably emerged, among those communities that
intermingled, if even one does not want to be bold enough to suggest that
all Yoruba-speaking communities in the island shared the same standard.
It is thus likely that B's Yoruba, that of a first generation Trinidad Yoruba
speaker, shows this amalgamation of dialect forms either as a standard
arrived at in compromise by those of her parents' age-group, or a standard
that was in the process of being established in her own generation.
The analysis and classification of songs and greetings seem also material
in the consideration of a probable Yoruba Standard in Trinidad. There is a
remarkable similarity of greetings among informants both in the north and
south of the island. B supplies, however, in addition to the usual O ku o
and 0 ji re for "Good morning" the peculiarly Ekiti forms E nle run and
Okun. 1 The phrase Ara ba ti le for "How are you?" is widespread too. Then
the corpus of religious and secular songs give the impression that all the
various communities largely shared the same repertoire.19 Then some
"pleasure songs" are similar, with a word or phrase changed here and there
as is usual in folksong. It is yet too early however to fully evaluate the
occurrence and significance of shared features in Yoruba verbal skills.
The other issue of importance I would like to remark on is the contact
of Yoruba with European languages. I have already shown in one example
how informant A had transliterated an English sentence into a Yoruba syn-
tactic equivalent, at the expense of Yoruba syntactic accuracy This is a
feature, albeit not completely so, of A's idiolect, a prime example of which
turned up in his version of the Apostles' Creed. In many places it was
a word-for-word rendition of the English equivalent. I also suspect that B's
interpretation of my sentence: These children are giving me trouble as, in
her own words, These children fighting me: Omode wonyi won ba mija,
is a Yoruba re-lexification of idiomatic Creole English,20 for ba mi ja trans-
lates quarrels with me or fights with me and is not the Yoruba idiom for
gives me trouble. Yet another instance of re-lexification in B's text is her
use of die-die, literally small-small, in answer to How are you? Although
die-die is a common Yoruba phrase it is not used in this context. It denotes
quantity not quality. But Trinidad Spanish has bequeathed to Trinidad
English the phrase poc a poc, literally little by little, as an answer to How
are you? The richness of Trinidad's linguistic complexity is amply demon-
strated in this instance.
Allied to this relexifying tendency was the code-switching that occurred
in A's story of his meeting with another Yoruba descendant. This piece was
related in the relaxed informal mood that goes with story-telling and signifi-
cantly enough, A switched from Yoruba to English sentence-length utter-
ances, and even to a Creole French21 exclamation. Apart from the Creole
French, the piece, in its code-switching, sounded much like the modern
Yoruba-English so common among educated Yorubas.
There is a certain irony in all this, surely that an African language
using syntactic patterns some of which have been relexified in Caribbean
Creoles,22 should now in its turn be in some ways relexified by a European
language. I find both the historical span and the linguistic processes
exciting. For the Creole sub-stratum, that is, West African languages, had
time to transmute the European model languages into a new synthesis, but
the sub-stratum itself also survived long enough to in turn be transmuted
by that very language in contact.
It is these types of discoveries which are now exhilarating me past the
mere fact of unearthing African language speakers in the Caribbean, as sur-
prising as that discovery in itself is. I feel strongly that more surprises are
in store in the content of the texts, in their exposition of a past way of
life, in the historical data to be gleaned, if not in the importance of
the linguistic data itself, both for the history of African languages themselves
and for the light a knowledge of African languages can shed on the study of
As mentioned below, it is possible to conclude that these chants are "'Yoruba-derived" because one
can submit the 'corrupt' version to someone familiar with Yoruba and with the chant, who can
then give a more identifiable interpretation of the words. A case in point is the phrase "a ma de
ko ri e" in the opening chant to Esu in the Shango ritual. Sung by an old informant, it becomes:
Omode korin Children sing.
2. Corn grated, strained with water, and steamed i
'Joseph' and 'Elizabeth' converted to Yoruba phonology in A's pronunciation.
4. There is the possibility, however remote, that A's grandfather had been converted to Christianity
in Africa, or at least had attended an early missionary school. This fact may also account for A's
strong Christian zeal as evidenced in his Christian Yoruba hymns and litanies, and in his aversion
to the Shango cult.
While B's attitude seems typical of other Africans and African descendants with a knowledge of
an African language, one of the factors which hindered the transmission of African languages was
the strict exclusion of children from the adult world, children being sent out of the area where
adults conversed. As a result, many of the younger generation were discouraged from early in their
attempts to learn the ancestral language, so only very curious and forward young people were able
to acquire it. On the other hand, a principal agent of language learning, both in Trinidad and
Jamaica, was the grandmother, a reflection most certainly on West Indian family structure.
6. Secular songs.
An old Trinidad Creole expression for 'Mister', probably derived from English 'man'
8. Dr. Eric Williai
9. li, in complementary distribution with ni was intended here.
10. A dialectal form of the negator ma.
Fe should be used in this intransitive structure. Feran is used transitively.
Guinea' converted to accord with Yoruba phonology.
Dialects may differ in tonal configurations on some words, in intonation, in idiomatic construction,
in allophones, in vowel distribution, in lexical items.
14. The most likely period of arrival in Trinidad of her mother and father.
Tribal communities appear to have been formed very soon after Emancipation. These villages were
either homogeneous, or if mixed, each tribe congregated in particular sections of the town. This
pattern is also evidenced from oral report in Jamaica.
16. Yorubas looked down on Congos, tolerated Coromantces, disagreed with Hausas, and fraternized
with the Daholneans.
The Trinidad African descendants use this term rather than 'tribe' to distinguish their origin.
18. These mean 'Hello' in a very loose way of translation.
19. Even now a vital social system operates among Shango cult worshippers who are invited to feasts
of groups other than the one to which they are affiliated, and who in turn invite those who have
shown their group hospitality and interest. This no doubt leads to a certain amount of uniformity
in ritual and chant usage, though this does not mean that the ceremony takes exactly the same
form from one group to another. In point of fact, apart from deviations which I have heard of,
two of my informants possessed an exceptional corpus of chants. One is herself the granddaughter
of a person who appears to have been a cult priest in Africa. She therefore is the special recipient
of knowledge that others had to come by through more indirect means. Another informant, aged,
and a renowned practitioner in the old herbal and magic skills, used some of the more popular
chants but had a larger repertoire, some I think being rather rare. He had, in youth, apprenticed
himself, so to speak, to an African Yoruba man who lived in Central Trinidad.
20. In Trinidad English anything that gives one trouble is described as "fighting" one, cf. This work
fighting me, or, in reply to How are you?, I fighting up. I do not know the provenance of this
The informant is trilingual in Yoruba, Creole French and English.
An example of such relexification is found in B's text where she says: lya mi kuro nilu Oye, and
she translates: My mother come out in Oye country. Come out in is a Trinidad English
expression for English comes from, and is a literal translation of kuro ni come out in.
The English-speaking Communities
of Honduras & Nicaragua
PERMANENT English settlements along the Caribbean coast and the
offshore islands of Central America have been many, and have a history
almost as long as those in the Eastern Caribbean. The Spanish Main pro-
vided the attraction for both legitimate traders and pirates, often indis-
tinguishable, and attempts to form colonies were made by both England and
Scotland, as well as by religious groups and land companies. As a complement
to these activities, which it is not the purpose of this paper to outline, was
the Spanish concern that Britain might be preparing a major foothold on
the mainland, with the ultimate aim of dislodging Spanish influence. Free-
booting raids on Panama and Granada tended to confirm this view, with the
result that Spain made a series of attempts to remove by force any
permanent English settlement. The history of Providencia, for example, is
one of repeated changes in control, and the Baymen of Belize several times
had to take refuge in other English settlements, usually Black River
In the mid 18th Century the principal settlements were Belize, Black
River and Bluefields, as the Bay Islands do not appear to have been settled
by English immigrants until the early part of the 19th Century. Greytown,
for a time the administrative centre of the English protectorate of the
Miskito Shore did not acquire importance until the late 18th Century. In
1730, the principal settlements outside Belize had been Black River, Cape
Gracias a Dios and Bluefields; the later decline of the Cape seems to have
been due to a steady silting of the harbour. A civil government embracing
these three settlements was set up in 1741, but by 1778 the settlers were
officially withdrawn by Treaty with Spain. Many of them stayed on
in practice, however, and a re-occupation of the coast by British arms was
only terminated in 1788 when the forts were destroyed on orders from
Jamaica and the troops withdrawn.
A geographer today has little interest in this, except to trace the "pedi-
gree" of the present-day creole communities. There have been major
changes, with towns disappearing and others appearing. Cape Gracias a
Dios has today a population of less than 500 people and almost no traffic.
Greytown has declined to a few families living in the ruins of what was for
a time a major English settlement. Black River has entirely vanished,
together with the short-lived settlement of Fort Wellington, established by
a land company in 1830. It is claimed by some Bay Islands families that
their ancestors had left the Black River settlement because of "fever"; the
exact date of the departure of the last English families from that town is
The settlements of Bluefields, Corn Island, San Andres, Providencia,
Puerto Cabezas, and the Bay Islands, however, are large and well-established
today, although much ignored in the rest of the English-speaking Caribbean.
It is therefore of value to make some assessment of their economic situation,
their culture, and their degree of permanence, even though it is politically
unlikely that there will be any significant increase in the degree of contact
with centres such as Jamaica, which once were their "metropolis"
Bluefields is the second largest English-speaking town of Central
America after Belize, and is the administrative capital of the largest province
in Nicaragua. This political function has meant the incursion of a number
of Spanish-speaking families from the interior, but has not altered the
predominant role of English as the major, if unofficial, language. While
rejecting the concept of racial or ethnic classifications as a tool for meaning-
ful geographic analysis, it is possible to isolate three principal English-speak-
ing groups within the town and its satellite settlements. These are:
1. Settlers from the West Indies and their descendants, mainly of
2. "Creole" families, frequently lighter-skinned than the first category
and the owners of most commercial and landed property in the area.
3. Poorer, or working class creoles, many of whom have married for
generations with the Indian population of the coast. This group
have sometimes been called "Samboes" or Zambos, because of their
adoption of a mixture of Miskito and English as their language, and
a mixture of food habits, etc.
In addition, there is one Black Carib settlement in Pearl Lagoon
(Orinoco) where English is the second language to Carib (as in British Hon-
duras) and most of the Miskito, Rama and some Woolwa Indians are
bilingual in their own language and English. Tri-lingualism is not uncommon.
The Miskito territory remained under British influence even after the
official withdrawal in 1850, until the invasion of the area by Nicaraguan
troops under General Zelaya in 1893. It was several years until this military
conquest produced the first signs of a desire to Hispanize the population of
the now Zelaya Province; the Moravian mission schools were taken aback
when it became obligatory for all schooling to be conducted in Spanish. This
law has been rigidly enforced, but there has been no significant decline in
the "Englishness" of the town and its surrounding villages. One of the
reasons is the isolation of this part of Nicaragua from the rest of Central
Neither Bluefields nor Puerto Cabezas can be reached from Managua
by land, and it was not until the 1960s that the road from Managua
reached Rama, the river port a few miles up the Rio Escondido from Blue-
fields. The old river passage from Lake Nicaragua via the San Juan del
Norte River to Greytown had fallen into disuse, and there was no road to
North-East Nicaragua. In 1968 an express bus service was opened along the
newly-completed Managua-Rama highway, and thence by fast launch to
Bluefields. The effects of this link, which permits traffic between the
capital and Bluefields in about 15 hours, remains to be seen.
Several cultural institutions further the continuance of English as
a language. Firstly, the churches play an important role, as most of their
services are in English or Miskito. The Anglican church was until 1946 con-
nected to the diocese in Belize, although it received very few visits from the
Bishop. In 1946 it was found financially expedient to affiliate with the
Episcopalian Church of the U.S., and a North American is now one of the
three Anglican priests in Eastern Nicaragua. The church serves mainly
West Indians and their families, and has small schools attached to its
churches (three in Bluefields town) and mission stations in Tasbapauni,
Marshall Point, Orinoco, Kakabila, Raitipura, Pearl Lagoon, La Fe, Cuckra
Hill, Rio Grande Bar, Walpa, Puerto Cabezas, and Corn Island. In Rio
Grande Bar and Walpa the services are conducted in Miskito, while
the main church in Bluefields has a 10.30 a.m. service in Spanish, which is
The Moravian Church became interested in the area in 1847 when they
sent an exploratory mission partly at the suggestion of some of the 80 or so
German settlers who were then living in a part of Bluefields still known as
Prussian Town. Their concern was to establish a mission field among the
Indians of the coast and the interior, but their effectiveness has largely been
among the creole population, whether called creole or Sambo. The more
wealthy and lighter-skinned creoles form the main financial support for the
church, with the poorer folk forming the bulk of the membership. Some
success has been scored among the Miskito Indians, especially with the
establishment of a large number of churches in the north-eastern part of the
country and a mission hospital on the Rio Coco (Wanks River) at Bilwas-
karma. There is a strong feeling of Moravian-ness even among those who
are denied church membership through being unable to meet the rather
strict standards of the Church, and the Moravian colleges of Puerto Cabezas
and Bluefields are the major educational centres of Eastern Nicaragua. Here
again, the principal language used outside school is English.
The Catholic church in Eastern Nicaragua is also American-run. This
post-war development appears to have been motivated by financial con-
siderations in Managua, and the Catholic clergy of Puerto Cabezas, Blue-
fields and the mines are all Americans. This, too, tends to preserve English
as the major language, and there appears to be no likelihood of a change.
The rapidly growing Catholic secondary school in Bluefields is managed and
largely staffed by North Americans at the senior levels, although instruction
is by law in Spanish.
In addition to church organizations, there are several other forms of
organization such as an active scout troop, run by a Chinese merchant, and
so on, all of which use English in their everyday activities.
Links with Jamaica have entirely disappeared however, and those with
Belize have shrunk to very small proportions. We came across only one
recent marriage into Bluefields by a Belizean girl. The last record of a
Belizean marrying into Bluefields in the Moravian church records were of a
Belizean sailor in 1956. In Belize we came across no recent arrivals from
the Bluefields area, although there are still several family links between the
two communities. Dialect and intonation in Belize and Bluefields are
remarkably similar, probably closer than between any two communities in
the English-speaking Caribbean. We could find no explanation for this,
except perhaps the effects of the joint administration in the 18th Century.
The Moravian marriage records, dating back without interruption to
1849, were examined in an attempt to glean some idea of the principal
sources of immigrants into the original creole community of Bluefields. We
have no record as to whether these family units remained in Bluefields or
emigrated to the home of the incoming spouse. In ten-year periods the
results were as follows:
MARRIAGE INTO BLUEFIELDS (excluding from other coastal settlements)
Location Year 1870 80 90 1900 10 20 30 40 50 60 68 Total
Corn Island 3 4 2 2 3 17
Caymans 3 3 15 3 8 2 35
Jamaica 5 4 20 8 2 3 44
Bay Islands 2 2 7
Belize 2 4
Other W. Indies 2 2 1 4
Prov/Son Andres 2 4 4 9 3 26
Port Limon 2 3
Bocas del Toro 2 2 6 including one
Latin American 3 including one
(including Nic.) Chinese
N. America 2 3 2
China I 2 5
6 4 13 10 52 22 28 10 12 7 6 168
Source: Moravian Church Records, Bluefields, Nicaragua.
A significant 25% of the in-marrying spouses were Jamaicans, and it is
probable that a few of these were banana-boom immigrants, although the
main influx came between 1910 and 1930, and mainly affected Anglican
records. A number of elementary patterns appear from the table. A sig-
nificant boom in in-coming Jamaicans and Caymanians coincided with the
growth of Bluefields as a port following its incorporation into Nicaragua
after General Zelaya's campaign. The emergence of a self-sustaining Chinese
community is apparent. A very limited influx from English-speaking com-
munities north and south of Bluefields is apparent, but nowhere near
as important as that coming in from the sea (Corn Island, San Andres,
Providencia, Jamaica and the Cayman Islands. Finally, the almost total
absence of Latin immigrants is marked, although these would mainly appear
in the Catholic records.
Bluefields is today a town of some 10,000 people, although an accurate
figure is difficult to obtain. Its communications with Port Limon, Bocas del
Toro and Colon to the south, and with Puerto Cabezas, the Bay Islands and
Belize to the north have vanished, except for one small coastal vessel sailing
irregularly to Puerto Cabezas. Its links with San Andres and Providencia
are limited to the copra boats mainly operating out of Corn Island, and there
is no direct shipping to the Caymans and Jamaica. Air links are all through
Managua, although there is a thrice weekly service to Corn Island and
Puerto Cabezas. A flight to San Andros today would involve a trip to
Managua, a connection to Panama, and from there another flight or a boat
to San Andres; a prohibitively expensive journey. Similarly, a journey to
Cayman by the most direct air route would involve a Managua-San Jose
connection. Jamaica could be reached via Managua and Miami, or via
It appears inevitable, therefore, that Bluefields will become more and
more a part of the Central American mainland. This process is already
taking place in that the emphasis on English-Spanish bilingualism in
present-day Central America is creating a number of good job openings for
graduates of the secondary schools of the coast. We found less emigration
to the U.S. from Bluefields than from any of the English-speaking settle-
The town itself is still in need of substantial investment to create an
atmosphere of progress. In general, a dilapidated appearance marks Blue-
fields, and unemployment is still high. There is only one lumber mill
operating, and the only new source of employment is chiefly for young girls,
in the two shrimp-packing plants of Schooner Cay and El Bluff. El Bluff,
the outport of Bluefields, contains only 100 houses (and five bars), most of
the port workers travel to work from Bluefields across the shallow lagoon.
The 1968 dynamiting of the sand bar across the entrance to the lagoon may
have a beneficial effect on the port of El Bluff, but it is not yet known how
rapidly the bar may re-form. First reports of the explosion suggest that the
blast removed a sill of rock that had contributed to the shallow draught,
but these reports appeared to be little more than rumours.
The villages of Pearl Lagoon are almost as old as Bluefields, and those
that are inhabited by Miskito Indians are probably older. English Bank is
the only predominantly creole settlement, but greater or lesser degrees of
English are spoken in all the settlements. The lagoon is connected to Blue-
fields by a twice-weekly launch.
The total population of Great Corn Island is about 3,000 and Little Corn
has only a few houses and no really permanent residents. During the slave
era, Corn Island was a "sea of cotton" while Little Corn was used for fatten-
ing cattle for sale to passing vessels. Emancipation in 1834 brought about
a complete refusal of the former slaves to engage in cotton cultivation; as in
most of the West Indies they preferred to establish small farms away from
the abuses of their former masters. The slave-owning families were greatly
incensed at not receiving the promised payment of 25 sterling per slave,
and were still blaming this as the cause of the island's economic decline as
late as the turn of the century.
Most of these families are still represented on Corn Island, including
the Hookers, probably the oldest family. Very few "white creoles" are left
on Corn Island, however, in contrast with the Bay Islands and the Caymans.
The ex-slaves established small settlements around the island, and still
refuse to have much to do with the lighter-skinned creoles, who, as in Blue-
fields, are the property owners.
The island subsists on the export of copra to San Andres (formerly to
Panama) where there are two processing plants. About half of Nicaragua's
exports of copra originate on Corn Island, with most of the remainder
coming from the vast plantation to the south of Bluefields owned by a white
creole originally from Sweden. One small shrimp-processing and lobster-
processing plant is operated by an American who sells direct to the United
States and Panama, but a large new plant was about to be opened in the
fall of 1968, and will employ over 100 girls.
In complete contrast to Bluefields, there is a tremendous tourist poten-
tial on Corn Island. Only one hotel capable of satisfying American guests is
presently in existence, but a second is planned. The beaches are remarkable,
and sea-bathing and fishing are excellent. The major problem seems to be
access; air from Managua three times a week and involving an overnight
stay in the rather expensive hotels of Managua is not an adequate means of
access. The propertied Corn Islanders are agitating for a direct link from
San Andros and/or Miami, with the creation of a port of entry on the island.
Puerto Cabezas and the North-East
The once important towns of Prinzapolka and Rio Grande are now little
more than villages, and have no reliable means of communication with the
two towns of Puerto Cabezas and Bluefields. Puerto Cabezas, however, has
still a population of between 5,000 and 7,000, an exact figure being difficult
to obtain as the Miskito element in town can appear and disappear accord-
ing to the economic opportunities available. Their strong links with villages
of origin permits this mobility. In 1968 (June) we were informed that num-
bers of Miskito people were moving back to their villages.
The town itself subsists largely by virtue of the lumber mill ,which since
1963 has had a checkered history of near-closure and changes in ownership.
In 1968 operations were suspended pending new management and the
settling of outstanding debts both to and from the independent lumber con-
tractors in the North-East. The wharf, built by the United Fruit Company,
had been taken over by the Nicaraguan government earlier in the year, in
exchange for monetary compensation that appeared to be in excess of the
real value of the rather weather-beaten structure. There was still much
speculation as to the motive behind this transfer. Its main function in mid-
1968 seemed to be for fishing by the unemployed workers of the town.
Descendants of West Indian banana workers formed the majority of
the town's population, but there is a creole element of some size. Again, the
Moravian school and churches form the core of English-speaking culture.
English is spoken as a second language by many of the Miskito inhabitants
of North-East Nicaragua, although Spanish seemed to be gaining ground.
The small centre of Waspan on the Rio Coco is largely Miskito, with a few
creole and Chinese families, and a handful of foreigners. The Cape has
shrunk to a small village, but still has a few creole families.
The area of Honduras from Trujillo to the Cape is again largely Miskito,
with a few English-speaking creoles established in Puerto Lempira and Brus
Lagoon (Brewer's Lagoon). These families have relatives in Belize, and the
Cape appears to form a kind of cultural watershed between two creole areas.
The Nicaraguan area is strongly related to San Andres and Providencia (and
of course Jamaica) while Honduras has stronger links with Belize, the Cay-
mans and again Jamaica.
Carib settlements appear from Irjona to Trujillo and compete for space
with Miskito settlements. An amicable relationship between these two
groups dates from their first contact when the Caribs received land grants
from the Miskito kings.
The last sizeable Indian community in westerly direction from the Cape
is at Balfate, to the west of Trujillo and accessible only by sea and a narrow
trail. Trujillo is a Spanish-speaking settlement, the last English-speaking
white families having died out over 50 years ago and the French-speaking
families having apparently left before that. Some English is still spoken,
however, in Punta Castillo, although most of the inhabitants use Spanish
much more readily. These people are mainly the descendants of slaves for-
merly owned by English plantation owners, traders and seamen, and some
of the families in Punta Castillo appear to have crossed over from Roatan
after the abolition of slavery. Others are West Indian banana workers who
were brought in to work the plantations to the east of Trujillo. When these
were discontinued, part of the work force was transferred further west to
the newer plantations around Tela and La Lima, but many preferred
to settle down and scratch a living from the land on their own account.
The towns of La Ceiba, Tela and Puerto Cortes all contain a large
coloured minority, mainly of West Indian origin. It is difficult and probably
pointless to search for family origins in these towns as the Honduranian
banana boom brought in what was probably the greatest variety of people
anywhere in Central America. Even 100 San Bias Indians were imported to
Tela, and some American share-croppers from Mississippi and Alabama
were shanghaied. The process of Hispanization has been more rapid here
than anywhere else in the Caribbean fringe, with very few families still
speaking English even at home. Most of the population is, however,
bilingual to a degree.
The Bay Islands (Honduras)
The islands of Utila, Roatan and Guanaja (Bonacca) were apparently
settled by Indians, but no mention of their existence occurs during the early
period of English settlement. In all probability they had been removed by
Spanish slave traders many years before, in common with those who had
inhabited the coastal regions of British Honduras.
The first "modern" settlers were the Black Caribs of St. Vincent,
marooned on the north shore of the island of Roatan in 1797 It appears
that the majority of this group migrated to the mainland in response to an
invitation from the Spanish authorities in Trujillo, who were doubtless
interested in the anti-English sentiments that the Caribs could be assumed
to hold. That this honeymoon was of lengthy duration, or that the marriage
was even consummated, is unlikely, as we soon find references to poverty-
stricken family groups of Caribs making their way along the beaches
of Northern Honduras, and being given land by the Miskito ruler. The
isolated north coast of Honduras, and the Miskito lands of the east provided
them with their present "core area", with later migrations to British Hon-
duras giving rise to their largest town, Stann Creek.
A Carib settlement of about 600 people still remains on Roatan,
at Punta Gorda on the north shore, accessible only by footpath from Oak
Ridge. It may be assumed that this is the original Carib town in Central
America, pending research into the continuity of the settlement.
English and Scottish (with some French and other European) settlers
began to arrive in the Bay Islands in the early part of the 19th Century; it
is probable that these were Caymaners forced out of the islands by over-
pressure on the land. Their almost total unconcern with the land, except
for some cattle farming and coconut growing, particularly on Bonacca,
suggests more that they were seamen interested in a base closer to the
Spanish mainland for trading purposes. It also seems clear that some of the
white Bay Islanders came from the Black River settlement, and others from
Nicaragua and Belize. Their first homes were apparently on the small off-
shore cays, with The Town of Bonacca remaining as the sole example of
such a cay settlement that has expanded and grown into a village of some
size (about 2,000).
The principal settlements of the white Bay Islanders are French Har-
bour and Oak Ridge, with a smaller population living at Jonesville and Port
Royal, and three large families on Bonacca. Of the Roatan settlements in
1968, only Coxon's Hole and the strip of beach houses westwards to Flower's
Bay, together with the string of settlements on the north shore from West
End to Sandy Bay, are predominantly coloured. On Bonacca, the main-
island settlements to Mango Bight and Savannah Bight are predominantly
coloured, as is The Town itself. Utila has only one settlement, and it
is interesting that here the tensions deriving from colour discrimination are
Utila's only dance hall has separate nights for "whites" and "coloureds",
and the white people exhibit horror at physical contact, including a hand-
shake, with coloured people. This Mississippi-like environment has produced
a determined move for political power on the part of the coloured population.
In French Harbour, the white population live in a string of very
attractive board homes fringing the sea, while across a mangrove swamp-cum
cesspool the coloured population live in very poor dwellings in The Hill.
Their homes are built on land legally belonging to the white families, who
obtained massive land grants from Queen Victoria. The sale of land to
American tourist "developers" has not yet produced the eviction of
squatters; such an eventuality would seem to be possible, however, and
might produce an even more marked state of tension on the basis of skin
colouration. In French Harbour the coloured population has not acquired
the confidence to pose any serious threat to political control, although now
that French Harbour has been included in the Coxon's Hole municipio, the
white families are in a minority.
Coxon's Hole is the only town with an airstrip, and has a number of
Spanish families from the mainland engaged in commerce, teaching and
administration. The bulk of the population are descendants of the slaves
brought into the Bay Islands by the white families of French Harbour and
elsewhere, but includes some West Indians from the mainland. It appears
that the western part of Roatan was not owned in large blocks by the white
families, so that the coloured families were able to acquire small farms and
Port Royal has declined to a small settlement, and is now the centre
for American tourists who come to the islands in search of buried "pirate
gold" One can only hope that the Honduranian government will see fit to
scatter an occasional handful of doubloons around to maintain this flow.
The main economic base of the white ship-owning and property-owning
families outside French Harbour is Oak Ridge, a village only accessible by
sea. A shrimp-processing plant is being constructed here, which may pro-
voke the immigration of labour from other parts of the island, and possibly
from the mainland.
Punta Gorda, on the north side, has been little touched by the 19th
Century arrival of immigrants from the English-speaking Caribbean, except
that the Caribs of Roatan speak English as their second language, while their
relatives on the mainland prefer Spanish.
The maintenance of English as a language is largely through home use,
and through contact with the Cayman Islands and Belize, as well as the
United States. Schooling is officially in Spanish, which, as in Nicaragua, has
produced a marked increase in the use of Spanish words and phrases in the
last few years. One English-language school is maintained after-hours by
the white families of French Harbour; the teacher, however, is on the point
Several church ministers (Church of God and the Methodists) are from
Belize, and Belize Radio is still the preferred station of the islanders. To
counteract this, the Honduranian government has begun English-language
programmes from La Ceiba. There is a boat that runs between the islands
and the Caymans once every three weeks or so and occasional trips may be
made to Belize. Many families still prefer to send their sick to Belize for
treatment, and any family that can afford to do so sends its children to the
United States for schooling.
There is a tendency for white families to emigrate to the United States
more rapidly than the coloured population, with the result that there
appears to be a net decline in the size of French Harbour and Oak Ridge.
The white Bay Islanders have apparently been unable to come to terms
with changing political values and there are no exceptions to supremacist
views. It is safe to postulate the eventual disappearance of this group within
one or two generations. The only Spanish-speaking community on Roatan
is the village of Calabash Bay, where a few recent Miskito immigrants have
begun to establish a settlement.
The growing concept in Belize of British Honduras as a bridge between
the Caribbean and Central American culture areas is one which can be
applied to most of the Caribbean coast of Central America. At present the
amount of commerce between Central America and the English-speaking
Caribbean is very limited, but the concern of the rapidly industrializing
Central American countries for new markets, and their determination
to improve port facilities on the Caribbean side are likely to produce a rise
in traffic. The hostility between the Spanish and English sections of Hon-
duras and Nicaragua has largely disappeared; the scars of the wars and
revolutions of the early part of the century have been largely healed. This,
together with the increased value of bi-lingualism to employers in the main
cities of Central America, has brought an increased acceptance of being
"Central Americans" to most of the coast dwellers.
At the same time, there is a very great interest in the West Indies, and
a desire for more cultural contact. Direct air-links from La Ceiba and Blue-
fields to Jamaica would probably pay, and would contribute towards the
"bridge" concept without creating a serious separatist tendency such as
existed when Britain was still thinking in terms of hegemony along the
The racism of many Central American highlanders must eventually
give way, especially in view of the Cuban example and the rise of independent
states in the British Caribbean.
It may be possible to create a West Indian equivalent of the British
Council or U.S.I.S. to provide reading matter, visual aids and other cultural
tools to the West Indies-oriented population of these areas, although this
would depend on fairly delicate negotiations with the Central American
governments whose past experience with Britain was one of outright hostility
and who still tend to regard the coastal dwellers as interlopers or banana
Still an isolated and culturally deprived region, the Caribbean coast of
Central America would gain much from the stimulus of contact with modern
West Indian literature and political questioning, and only then could begin
to make its unique contribution as a distinct and valuable part of Central
DAVID W. JONES & CARLYLE A. GLEAN
Poetry and the
Teaching of Poetry
TEACHER, FRIEND, COLLEAGUE
"It is a fact that symbols, by their very nature, can
so unite the opposites that these no longer diverge
or clash, but mutually supplement one another and
give meaningful shape to life."*
IN the winter of 1965, in February to be exact, finding myself living in
South County, Rhode Island, and having not only a son at Holy Cross Col-
lege, but also a very old friend and colleague and teacher there, Francis
Drumm, I drove over frozen roads to the Mount of Pleasant Springs.
He enquired whether I was still as interested in poetry as before, and
particularly whether I was still interested in the teaching of poetry and in
"education" I told him that I was. He repeated the opinion that the young
people of today were not really interested in poetry, and that is was par-
ticularly different to take those large groups which, by tradition, were
expected to do some poetry in their first or second year at a place like the
College of the Holy Cross.
I found it difficult to believe that the young were, by nature, uninterested
in poetry and fiction. I said that I thought it was all in the way in which it is
taught. I then put forward my favourite paradox connected with the teaching
of poetry; in order to read poetry (and enjoy it), one has to know how to read
it; in order to know how to read it, one has to read it; in order to know how to
*Jung: Memories, Dreams, Reflections, London, 1963, Collins & Routledge & Kegan Paul. P 311.
read it, one has to read it (and end enjoy reading it). The young person needs
help with making sure he is reading poetry, and reading poetry, and getting
pleasure, satisfaction, and insight from doing both. One has to encourage the
young to read poetry, but in the first readings they have to gain a great deal
of pleasure, of satisfaction; at the same time they have to get an insight into
the way to read poetry.
Characteristically, Mr. Drumm listened to me, his head cocked slightly
to one side, looking almost over those rimless glasses of his, clearing his throat
now and again, and making the suggestion in his driest possible way that
perhaps I would like to teach poetry to some of these young men at Holy
Cross. I readily agreed, and went away to Rhode Island to prepare myself
for two sessions with a group of sophomores.
It was characteristic of him that he invited me to do this, and that he
warned me, with just the slightest touch of malevolent fun in his voice, that
he intended to come along and "learn something about the teaching of
poetry" It was also characteristic about the young in my family that they
warned me that I was probably going to have a most disastrous session with
the students, because my young people were themselves persuaded that most
of their contemporaries did not enjoy poetry; to put it more honestly, simply
had no use for the stuff.
I started the first class by telling the students that while I was a student
at Holy Cross How to read a book was published, and that it was much
liked by some of the older Jesuits because in a sense it consisted of old time
rhetoric and old time logic. That book called forth another: How to read a
page. I was hoping to teach them how to read a poem.
If a man does not know how to drive a car he can't really enjoy it -
unless he has a chauffeur, but in life there are many things for which
a chauffeur is quite useless. Things which we have to do for ourselves. In
University education we forget this at our peril. Our room-mate or teacher,
or worse, the potted outlines made up by somebody else, cannot really read
The better the car, or at least the more complicated the car, the more
difficult is it to get the best out of it. The more subtle the joke, the more
difficult is it to get it. The better the writing, the more subtle, the
more it demands that we really know how to read, really know what we are
Together we were going to enjoy, understand, find satisfaction in the
poems in front of us, and also to learn more about how to read poetry. In
fact, in learning how to read poetry and in learning how to get satisfaction
and pleasure from these poems, we would be learning also about language,
especially language which is not plain statement. This non-statement
language I call "fiction" following John Julian Ryan who taught me at Holy
Cross. Fiction is not the kind of language which is found in the answer to
"Where is the Chapel at Holy Cross College?" Although it could be implied
by the question stressed: "Where is the Chapel at Holy Cross?"
"He is on the razor edge of doom" this being a translation of
Sophocles is not the kind of answer one would expect from the question
"Where is he?" It is much more the kind of answer, though heightened by
a certain kind of dramatic style which one would get from the question,
"How is John these days; how is he doing?"
Further to illustrate this aspect of language, we looked briefly at Eliot's
"(Webster) Was much possessed by death And saw the skull beneath the
"Skull beneath the skin" is a phrase which uses the word skull not in
the way in which that word is used in the usual biology textbook. If in read-
ing a medical textbook one were to come upon the statement "the skull is
beneath the skin" one would not be expected to react, that is to read, in the
way in which one is expected to react to Eliot, to the fictional locution "he
saw the skull beneath the skin" In that locution it is, of course, important
to know enough of the language to get the first level meaning of skull and
skin but to see the skull beneath the skin (as Webster is said to have seen it)
is not to see merely a bone which happens to be covered. But it is to grasp
"death in life" to know that the smooth flesh (and all its lusts and luxuries)
will not last as long as the 'dry bones'.
In the fictional situation a wide variety of implications and meanings
are called upon; the reader is expected to understand in a different way from
the way in which he would understand a plain statement in a biology text-
book. I hope it is not overstressing the obvious simply to remember, as I
reminded the class at Holy Cross, that a reader is active in grasping, some-
times in grappling with meaning; the text of a poem for instance, does not
hand the meaning over to the reader; the text is there, but from it the
reader must extract the meanings, and the special constellation of meanings
and implications embodied in the poem, and indicated by the text.
I then suggested that if we succeeded in getting pleasure, satisfaction,
deep understanding from the poems in front of us, and if in doing this we
get an insight, practical and theoretical, into how to read poetry, our work
together would have been useful far beyond the reading of the poems before
* Implying either that there is not a chapel, or that it does not have the honoured position, nor effective
role that it should have.
Having read The Eagle twice, I asked them what word struck them as
being slightly unusual in the first line "He clasps the crag with crooked
us. In fact our work together would be having its effect whenever they
reacted in the future in an appropriate fashion to fiction of any kind.
Further our work would enable all of us to get a deal of satisfaction
which otherwise we would have missed; because we would not have been in
a position to know how to deal with a certain kind of human communication,
with that kind of fiction which when fashioned by art, becomes literature.
We then turned to the texts in front of us, and here reproduced. I first
read a few of the poems as a sort of performance, starting with the trans-
lation from Sappho, then Ample Make This Bed and then The Eagle. Our
first real work was done on The Eagle.
Evening, you bring together
All that bright dawn scattered
You bring home the sheep
You bring home the goat
The child you bring home
To his mother.
(Translated by John Figueroa)
Ample Make This Bed
Ample make this bed;
Make this bed with awe.
In it wait till judgment break
Excellent and fair.
Be its mattress straight;
Be its pillow round:
Let no sunrise' yellow noise
Interrupt this ground.
He clasps the crag with crooked hands;
Close to the sun in lonely lands.
Ringed with the azure world, he stands.
The wrinkled sea beneath him crawls;
He watches from his mountain walls.
And like a thunderbolt he falls.
Alfred Tennyson, 1809-1892
hands" after a little hesitation some suggested 'hands', some suggested
'crooked', so we decided to look at those images in that order.
Why did they think the word hands was used rather than the word
claws? There was a certain amount of indiscriminate wondering about this,
wondering aloud, and a few suggestions were made. I asked them not
to take it any further yet but simply to keep in their minds the various ideas
that had been suggested about the choice of hands. So we went back to
'crooked' What did they understand crooked to mean in relation to the
so-called hands of the eagle? There were many suggestions about crooked.
Those who had seen eagles, or who had some knowledge of biology
suggested that in fact the eagle's claws do look crooked, and that the word
"raptores" described that particular group of birds. One person said of
crooked, "well his claws aren't straight, crooked means not straight" After
some discussion and repetition of crooked and repetition of not straight,
they suggested that of course crooked in the sense of not straight did not
only mean, let us say, a line which was broken, but might suggest something
shady, something dishonest; as one student said: "Yes well something not
straight you know what I mean"
Here perhaps we have a good example, at a simple level, of one of the
aspects of fiction. I then asked why might the term "crooked" be well
applied to the hands of the eagle? And of course various meanings now came
out more clearly for "crooked"; in fact when the eagle's claws are sunk into
the young lamb they are crooked in a statement sense, and they are crooked
in the sense of the robbery and the rape which has been perpetrated. Fur-
ther implied perhaps was the stealth needed to make the successful raid.
We read the next two lines but skipped, for the time being, and went
on to ringed, "ringed with the azure world he stands" What picture did
"ringed" suggest to them? Where are we standing as we look at the eagle
and notice that he's ringed with the azure world? The class responded:
"the eagle is up there" What then, I asked, makes him ringed, what forms
the ring? Was there anything in "close to the sun in lonely lands" which
suggested an image, an idea, a feeling, a tone, which might be linked with
ringed, "ringed with the azure world he stands" There were many sugges-
tions about this, including the fact that ringed might suggest some sort of
crown, that it might suggest a halo. We then re-read the first stanza asking
particularly what then was the significance of "close to the sun in lonely
lands" What does that phrase mean in the literal sense? After some push-
ing and pulling, and close questioning on my part, the answer was phrased,
by the class, something like this "it means that the distance between the
eagle and the sun is less than the distance between us and the sun, as we
are below the eagle looking up to him, and beyond him to the sky,
here called the azure world" I asked whether when they said we were below
the eagle, they meant simply that the eagle was closer, by measurable dis-
tance, to the sun than we were.
They began to see, and to point out, that in terms of the poem at this
stage, the eagle is "close to the sun in lonely lands" in a sense other than
simply the literal sense. True enough the distance between him and the sun
is in fact measurably less than the distance between us and the sun,
but, they readily agreed, if one were to say that the eagle is "above us" then
above could have a series of meanings. Similarly, "close to the sun in lonely
lands" suggested a whole feeling of difference, of being alone in his closeness
to something as special as the sun; of, in fact, distance, of a certain aspect
of being different, perhaps, of being "regal" Regal was picked up. and
referred back to "ringed"; was ringed equivalent to "wearing a crown?"
"Ringed with the azure world" was the azure world his crown? Or
did it suggest a halo which would likewise put the eagle apart, even as
"close to the sun in lonely lands" puts the eagle apart, but apart in a certain
I then had all of them read, in two different groups, the whole of the
poem. I felt this to be essential because by reading it aloud in chorus, by
giving everyone a chance to read it, the meanings, at least at the level
of feeling, were going in through the words, and the voicing of them, into
the whole soma of the person, not merely passing through the abstractive
faculties. Further this reading aloud encourages them to take part in the
ritual aspect of The Eagle, as a poem.
But there is a further reason for the constant re-reading, as well as the
close scrutiny, of the poem. This has to do with what Wittginstein discusses
as "the dawning of an aspect" Many people do not see simply because they
have not looked, or have not looked in a certain way. Further, even when
looking quite openly or more precisely, in a relaxed way at the object that
needs attention they take time to see what is there to be seen. It takes
time for various aspects to dawn. Most important is this: students learning
to read fiction should do it experimentally (i.e. according to some such plan
as is being advocated here), rather than being told "all about it", lectured to
and all that, because through the way of discussion and of repetition of the
poem itself, they can pragmatically discover how "aspects dawn" as they
constantly look at the poem, and speak its words. When they have found
useful ways of helping the aspects to dawn, and ways of testing their
insights, and of relating them to the whole that is the poem, they will have
discovered rewarding ways of reading.
Of course, having discovered these they then have a way of getting to
the poem more quickly, and with less stutterings, distractions and deviations
However, it is always dangerous to cut down on the sounding of the poem,
on the reading aloud of the exact phrases of the poem. For one thing the
poem is constructed partly out of sounds;* for another, if the poem is subtle
it will not immediately give up its delights, and finally, the constant re-read-
ing aloud of a good poem enhances the pleasure received from it. Too many
*See below comments on The Eagle and Lear, page 77
aspects of good fiction are "taken as read", even as the loveliness of
the human body used to be taken "as already seen", when it had hardly been
We then moved to work on the second stanza. I read it for them first.
As I read "the wrinkled sea beneath him crawls", an aspect of "beneath
him crawls" started to dawn upon them an aspect not unconnected with
"close to the sun in lonely lands"
First of all, I said, where are we now, are we looking up to the eagle?
Clearly not, we are now with the eagle looking down. Looking down to what?
To the wrinkled sea. What does the wrinkled sea do? The wrinkled sea
beneath him crawls. What is the link between all this and "close to the sun
in lonely lands"?
"Wrinkled" what starts to emerge as the meaning, or meanings, of
wrinkled? It was readily suggested by them that from a certain level the
sea would in fact "look wrinkled" If one were above but quite close to the
sea, it would look not merely broken, but active and the waves would
be deep and give the impression of being scooped out. On the other hand,
from a very, very high level the sea would look smooth. From somewhere
in between these two the sea would look wrinkled. But by this time the
students themselves were ready to suggest that there might be more to it
than that. How did we feel about wrinkled? What do wrinkles suggest?
Was it a pleasant feeling; was the eagle associated with wrinkles? No, he
was not close to that which is wrinkled, because the wrinkled sea beneath
him crawls. He was close to the sun in lonely lands. Wrinkled, suggested
something in some sense unpleasant it is difficult not to have unpleasant
associations of old age with wrinkled but it was something unpleasant
which in a way characterized that which was beneath him, beneath him in
every sense. Moreover, the wrinkled sea crawls. Again especially as they
said "crawls"* they started to appreciate other meanings than the simple
first meanings of crawls. The aspects that went together to make the poem
fiction, but which were put together by art, were beginning to dawn on them.
He watches from his mountain walls.
I made them spend sometime considering the significance of the image
"walls" as it appears there. What did the image suggest to them? This part
of our work was more than usually interesting. I asked them in what sense
was he watching from mountain walls; and in what sense were they walls?
What was the visual image suggested? How does the mountain look when
you use the characterisation of mountain walls? They suggested the per-
pendicularity, the sheer drop, the sheer drop from a height into the sea. But
I asked them to consider what else walls might suggest. Where would we
* Take "crawls" along with "He clasps the crag with crooked hands".
find such walls? Perhaps around an ancient town, they said; or could it be
a castle, someone suggested, as in fairy stories? I then asked them to go
back in the poem and to remember what we had not yet solved.
He clasped the crag with crooked hands
We hadn't really said much about our reaction to hands. Was it merely.
an affectation to speak of the eagle's hands? Keeping that question in
mind, I suggested, let us consider watches in "He watches from his mountain
walls" Watches for what? Who would you expect, as a rule, to be watch-
ing from mountain walls?
Perhaps a guardian, they suggested. Would such a guardian, I asked
have hands or claws? In what sense could such a guardian even if he be
a knight, or a modern soldier, or even a civilian vigilante be said to have
Anyway what animal or person or thing watches from (his) mountain
walls? They replied that in certain stories it might be a knight, or a king,
or a guardian of some sort looking out from the protection of his mountain
walls; in fact also himself forming part of that protection. But I asked, what
might he be watching for? And does this kind of situation arise only
in fairy stories?
A guardian, they said, might be looking for an enemy; an invader.
But, I pressed, in terms of the eagle, what might he be looking for?
Prey, something to catch, something to snatch.
Then we went back to "hands" for a while.
They started to see that "hands" had been the first note in the building
up of the eagle into some sort of king or guardian or watcher, some figure
close to the sun in lonely lands. The apotheosis of the "eagle" had started
What does he fall like, I asked. They read together, con brio, "And like
a thunderbolt, he falls"
As my work with Mr. Drumm's class was intended not as an introduc-
tion to criticism but rather to reading, and as none of the students in that
class had ever before read any of the poems on the sheet, I was satis-
fied simply to help them to realise that various aspects must be allowed to,
and in fact, be helped to, dawn. Their experience of implications, and of the
significance of implications to the whole that is the poem; their experience
of the fact that fiction is based upon such implications and significance, and
cannot be enjoyed, let alone assessed, without this experience of the implica-
tions, and of their composition into a whole, a whole which is often a tension
of disparates and ambiguities their experience of these matters was essen-
tian before any work on assessment, and "trends", and "schools", and
themes, and motifs, could be anything more than the mouthings of second-
We did have time to note one interesting implication which is brought
out both on the lexical and structural level. Very early in our discussion
someone wanted to say something about the rhyme scheme. I discouraged
the comment at the stage at which it had come, but after we had read the
poem through in choral groups, I asked about the rhymes. "Very simple
rhyme scheme", was the first reply.
It is interesting, incidentally, how soon even those on the lower rungs of
the academic ladder learn that an expression of judgment should always be
made before giving a clear statement of what does simply exist!
Yes, it is simple, I replied. But what is it? What words rhyme with
What word ends the first set of "simple" rhymes? "Stands" What
ends the second set? "Falls"
Put the line ending with "stands" against that ending with "falls"
Ringed with the azure world, he stands
Like a thunderbolt, he falls.
What now do you make of the juxtaposition of "he stands" and
"he falls" One ends the first stanza; the other ends the poem, and they stand
together, and against each other, in the structure of the poem.
The ambiguity of "falls" was soon seized upon, but also the significance
of the simple structural positioning of "he falls" and "he stands". When is
the eagle most like the eagle? in
"Ringed with the azure world, he
"Like a thunderbolt, he falls"?
Or does the "eagle" have to be both? And when he falls, in what sense does
he fall? Can the Guardian, the Monarch Bird, Jove himself, 'clasp the crag
with crooked hands', and avoid that other part of his being when
Like a tunderbolt, he falls
Just recently I came upon a passage in Jung, which I interpose here
before going on to the other work which I attempted with that class at Holy
Cross, under the quizzical, raised eyebrows of dear Mr. Drumm, whose face
often registered doubt about the possibility of the "young men" being able
to cope with some of the questions I raised, and then slowly lighted up as
the young men tackled the matter, worried it, and came up with something
quite interesting and apposite.
We always require an outside point to stand on, in order to apply the
lever of criticism How, for example, can we become conscious of national
peculiarities if we have never had the opportunity to regard our own nation
from outside? Everything that irritates us about others can lead us to
an understanding of ourselves When I contemplated for the first time
the European spectacle from the Sahara, surrounded by a civilisation which
has more or less the same relationship to ours as Roman antiquity has to
modern times, I became aware of how completely, even in America, I was
still caught up and imprisoned in the cultural consciousness of the white
On my next trip to the United States I went with a group of American
friends to visit the Indians of New Mexico, the city-building Pueblos
There for the first time I had the good fortune to talk with a non-European,
that is, to a non-white. He was a chief of the Taos Pueblos, an intelligent
man between the ages of forty and fifty. His name was Ochwiay Biano
(Mountain Lake). I was able to talk with him as I have rarely been able to
talk with a European. To be sure he was caught up in his world just as much
as a European is in his, but what a world it was!
"See", Ochwiay said, "The whites always want something; they are
always uneasy and restless. We do not know what they want. We do not
understand them. We think that they are mad"
I asked him why he thought the whites were all mad. "They say that
they think with their heads", he replied.
"Why of course. What do you think with?" I asked him in surprise.
"We think here", he said, indicating his heart.
I fell into a long meditation. For the first time in my life, so it seemed
to me, someone had drawn for me a picture of the real white man . This
Indian had struck our vulnerable spot, unveiled a truth to which we
are blind. I felt rising within me like a shapeless mist something unknown
and yet deeply familiar. And out of this mist, image upon image detached
itself: first Roman legions smashing into the cities of Gaul, and the keenly
incised features of Julius Caesar, Scipio Africanus, and Pompey. I saw the
Roman eagle on the North Sea and on the banks of the White Nile. Then I
saw St. Augustine transmitting the Christian creed to the Britons on the
tips of Roman lances, and Charlemagne's most glorious forced conversions
of the heathen; then the pillaging and murdering bands of the Crusading
armies. With a secret stab I realized the hollowness of that old romanticism
about the Crusades. Then followed Columbus, Cortes, and the other con-
quistadores who with fire, sword, torture, and Christianity came down upon
even these remote Pueblos dreaming peacefully in the Sun, their Father. I
saw, too, the peoples of the Pacific islands decimated by firewater, syphilis,
and scarlet fever carried in the clothes the missionaries forced on them.
It was enough. What we from our point of view call colonisation, mis-
sions to the heathen, spread of civilisation, etc., has another face the face
of a bird of prey seeking with cruel intentness for distant quarry a face
worthy of a race of pirates and highwaymen. All the eagles and other pre-
datory creatures that adorn our coats of arms seem to me apt psychological
representatives of our true nature.
In the second session after re-reading "Ample make this bed", and the
Sappho, and reminding them of the fictional overtones of HORACE's
"fortiter ocupa portum" and the whole of the poem leading up to this
appeal for shelter, haven and peace we got down to work on the passage
From King Lear, Act IV, scene vi, lines 11-25
Edgar (speaking to Gloucester)
Come on, sir; here's the place: stand still.
And dizzy 'tis to cast one's eyes so low!
The crows and choughs that wing the midway air
Show scarce so gross as beetles; half way down
Hangs one that gathers samphire, dreadful trade!
Methinks he seems no bigger than his head.
The fishermen that walk upon the beach
Appear like mice, and yond tall anchoring bark
Diminish'd to her cock, her cock a buoy
Almost too small for sight. The murmuring surge,
That on the unnumber'd idle pebbles chafes,
Cannot be heard so high. I'll look no more,
Lest my brain turn, and the deficient sight
Topple down headlong.
William Shakespeare, 1564-1616
I started by reading it to them as well as I could, but, purposely, did
not at that time place it in its dramatic context except to say that Edgar is
speaking to Gloucester.
"Here's the place" "what place do you think?" 1 asked. Some place,
they answered (not knowing the play!), to which Edgar had promised
to bring Gloucester; or some place he wished to show him.
And dizzy 'tis to cast one's eyes so low!
It is apparently both "fearful" and "dizzy" How would they distinguish
between these? What is it that makes for the fearful and the dizzy what
is it in the passage that contributes to (or illustrates?) "fearful and dizzy"?
They picked out, and spoke aloud, what they considered to be "illustra-
tions" or "examples" of what contributes to the feeling of "How fearful And
Dizzy 'tis to cast one's eyes so low"
They of course first said that the crows and choughs looked like beetles.
But they had to be pushed to define that observation. We noted where the
crows and choughs were said to be, and what they were doing. When they
had selected "mid-way air" to place the crows and choughs, and "wing" to
characterise what they were doing, they were asked at what else beside the
"midway air" were we caused by Shakespeare to look? What words named
the positions to which we should attend; where in fact was "so low" and
what graduations or moments lead to it? With a little encouragement they
first said that the lowest point was to be characterized by "upon the beach",
the highest point by "midway air", and in between was "half way down"
Hangs one that gathers samphire,
But no sooner was this offered by some members of the class than others
pointed out that the furthest extent of our view was "almost too small for
sight", and that referred to a buoy which was obviously on the water. Fur-
ther we were asked to note "the murmuring surge" and in fact made to
hear it in
The murmuring surge
That on the unnumber'd pebbles chafes
although we are at the same time told that it "Cannot be heard so high"
So, both from the point of view of sight and sound, the murmuring surge
seems to be the limit that marks "so low", the limit at which to "cast one's
eyes" is to be made fearful and dizzy. But more than distancing is taking
place in the passage. So we re-read it; it is none too easy to sound out
meaningfully, in a cadenced way, without losing one's breath!
After these readings we examined
"Show scarce so gross as beetles."
What is it, I asked, that "show scarce so gross as beetles?" The crows
and choughs, they answered. What then, I posed, is the difference in feeling
between "the midway air" and "beetles"?
When crowt appear to become beetles, and a man no bigger than his
head, what process is taking place? Is there a single word in the text that
can stand for this process? Where else is it taking place? After a quick re-
reading from "The Crows and Choughs" to "Almost too small for sight",
some of them selected the word "Diminish'd" "and yond tall anchoring
bark/Diminish'd to her cock, her a cock a buoy/Almost too small for sight"
We looked further at "Diminish'd" which is in a way a rather abstract
word; I wanted them to get the quality and feeling of the particular kind of
"diminishing" that was going on, and so asked them where, in this passage,
had it started? "Show scarce so gross as beetles", they replied, adding that
it is crows that are diminished to beetles; the associations usual in the
English language with beetles were noted not only as antithetical to crows
and choughs, but particularly to the action and feeling suggested by "wing
the midway air"
Further, what is the feeling stirred up in one by the almost surrealistic
"Methinks he seems no bigger than
What do the fishermen appear like?
But further what are the fishermen said to be doing?
"The fishermen that walk upon the beach (appear like mice)"! How do
mice walk; how do men walk?
How do crows and choughs move about (they wing the midway air);
how do beetles?
How, further, does the feeling of Diminish'd continue in the passage
'Yond tall anchoring bark
Diminish'd to her cock (i.e. her dingy),
her cock a buoy.
I did all this by questioning, but not only so as to lead to insight but
also so as to get them to repeat the words of the text, and also very much,
wherever possible, so as to stir up the appropriate feeling and associations
in their minds and bodies. It does not seem to me enough simply to see
symmetry and shape in the diminishing process:
crows and choughs beetles
(a man) who gathers samphire his head
tall anchoring bark her cock
stand still topple down headlong;
nor in the movement from
stand still midway air halfway down
beach murmuring surge unnumber'd
idle pebbles (deficient night) Topple down
The symmetry or structure or form has indeed to be appreciated but it must
be through the feeling-meanings it embodies. Through this embodied feel-
ing-meaning we grasp the kind of 'meaning' which is aesthetic and appropriate
to this remarkable passage from a remarkable play by an author whose work
seems to be the very embodiment and exemplification of what fiction is.
In dealing with this passage from Lear I constantly, as is my practice in
dealing with any worthwhile poetry, pressed the students back to repeating
what the text actually said, rather than to giving their own paraphrases and
synopses. This I feel to be important for two reasons: first, fiction is such
that it makes more of an impact than is at first apparent, and it takes time,
and needs opportunity, to make that impact; in constantly repeating the
words of Shakespeare the student is giving those words (and the way they
are structured), the chance to make an impact, and the impact is being made
at levels we do not quite understand, and in ways not at first apparent to
us. Any indiscreet use of other than Shakespeare's language hinders the
effect at the surface level of easy matching and symmetries. The embodi-
ment of the meanings, and so the fuller "meaning", is Shakespeare's
language that must be allowed, encouraged and helped to have its effect.
And the effect will always leave residues not immediately analysable. Again
we come upon the paradox I had proposed to Mr. Drumm, the discussion of
which had led to my taking the two sessions being described: In order to
read poetry (and enjoy it), one has to know how to read it; in order to know
how to read it, one has to read it (and enjoy reading it)!
The second reason for the constant readings, both by the class and me,
and for the use of choral and group readings from time to time, is that un-
doubtedly the aesthetic meaning or significance is embodied in the sounded
rhythms and reverberations of a poem. I would say that this is true of all
poetry; but it must be emphatically true of dramatic poetry such as Shake-
speare's, which is so much of the theatre. But the connections of sound and
sense, or better the sounded sense, of poetry are not really only or mainly
at the easy levels set out in Pope's famous passage.* Nor is the sound of
poetry easy to speak about with tact, and without falsifying the whole
position. Constant reading aloud enables the sound to have its effects, and
gives a solid basis of experience from which to gain insights into the way in
which the sound embodies meaning. The worst distortion that can be made
is that which suggests that the sounds are used as decoration, or that they
are somehow added on to reinforce a meaning. In fact we get the meaning
from the sound (as well as from other elements) so it seems a bit odd
to refer to one of these elements as "adding to" rather than being part of
the meaning. All the elements in fact combine to be a meaning. But again
we don't know all about this matter of sound in poetry, nor do the uninitiated
immediately have ways of grasping what is going on, or of even opening up
themselves to what can take place when they come into contact with any-
thing as rich as Shakespeare's language. We must, therefore, give real
opportunities for aspects to dawn, real opportunities for consort and
cadence and configuration to be heard, but also, admittedly, to be heard as
significant, as symbol or part of a complicated symbolisation process through
which opposites can so unite "that these no longer diverge or clash, but
mutually supplement one another and give meaningful shape to life.
Especially in the early stages, I prefer to help the students so to deal with
the opposites and clashes and diversities that these do indeed supplement
one another and do come to have meaningful shape.
As these "opposites" and "clashes' when they are meaningful and
moving, invariably have their connections with the deep layers of the per-
sonality, or at least with those things that stir us at what might be called a
less rational, less controlled, less surface level, their unification into a sym-
bolic whole is "giving meaningful shape to life", just where that shape and
meaning are most needed. The Lear passage conjures up fear (how
fearful/And dizzy 'tis), and that dreamlike teetering at the edge, and that
nightmarish diminishment (methinks he seems no bigger than his head) do
conjure up disturbing feelings, but at the same time by a subtle process of
organisation, the passage becomes fiction and so makes quite sure that the
brain will not be overwhelmed by the murmuring surge, chafing on the
unnumbered idle pebbles far away in the distance, at the edges of conscious-
'Tis not enough no harshness gives oflence,
The sound must seem an Echo to the sense:
Soft the strain when Zephyr gently blows,
And the smooth stream in smoother numbers flows;
But when loud surges lash the sounding shoar,
The hoarse, rough verse should like the torrent roar:
When Ajax strives some rock's vast weight to throv
The line too labours, and the words move slow:
Not so, when swift Camille scours the plain,
(lines 364-373 from the "Essay on Criticism" by Pope).
By constantly repeating aloud the words and rhythms of The Eagle or
the passage from Lear for we must now return to the question of letting
the sound have its effect by this constant repetition, we are making sure
that the effect, and the basis for the later understanding of the significance
of the effect, of a certain sound pattern will have been operating long before
any discussion of it takes place; and indeed long after the discussion has
ceased! The discussion is often an aid to "having another look" or to listen-
ing more carefully, rather than a direct and explicit "explanation" or
"accounting for" For this reason questions are more helpful than assertions
whenever face-to-face group discussion is possible, and group discussion is
better than either one to one "teaching", or simply reading to oneself. All
this is perhaps truer about the sound aspects, and the construction of the
sound aspect, than about any other aspect of the poem. The group discus-
sion helps aspects to dawn and aspects dawn more easily in con,,pction
with sounds when they are made and heard repeatedly.
However, articulatory phonetics, as well as common sense, clearly
indicate that one of the best ways to appreciate a sound is to make that
sound. Oddly enough the way to get the sounding of a Shakespeare passage
is constantly to sound it! Yet, at the conscious and articulate level perhaps
we can only point at certain correspondences. If we have had enough
experience of the sounded verse we can then agree to, or disagree with, the
significance of the correspondences as they are pointed out by someone else,
who is "helping" us with the passage.
With respect to certain sound correspondences note, for instance, in
The Eagle the following:
clasps (clasps the crag with crooked hands)
close (close to the sun in lonely lands)
The first part of the sound /crawls/ (i.e. cr-) is reminiscent of cla
(clasps), or of (crag) and again of cr- (crooked). But note that/crawls/also
recalls, in its latter part (-awls), falls, and walls. So that in a way /crawls/
combines, in sound, the "opposite" sounds of the first stanza with those of
the second: this one word brings together the cl, cr, cr, cl, 1, 1, which appear
in the first stanza, with a (or -alls) of crawls, walls and falls which mark the
sound of the second stanza. The word wrinkled acts as a sort of bridge
from the c, 1, and cl, cr, sounds to the -awls, -walls, falls of the second stanza.
But the main point here is that /crawls/ is part of the symbolisation process
which brings all these sounds (and therefore the meanings associated with
the words in which they occur) together. And further this aspect of the pro-
cess of the poem, is neither enjoyed, noticed nor appreciated, unless
the poem, and its parts, are often sounded out in a meaningful and relevant
way. Moreover, when the poem is sounded in a reasonable and sensitive
fashion, no doubt this aural aspect of the symbolisation process has its effect
long before it is (or can be) appreciated.
In all that has been here said about the sound and the need for group
discussion, and for repetition of the poem itself, we have been attending to
an important aspect of teaching, an aspect to which I referred when I dis-
cussed with Mr. Drumm my interest in "education" It is this: the teaching
of any human achievement calls for an understanding of and preferably an
analysis of that achievement; so that to set out to prepare oneself to teach
is to come face to face with the meaning and essence of what one is
to teach; and at the same time there are few better ways of coming to grips
with any human achievement than the consideration of that achievement
in the context of having to teach it. One has to face how best the human
achievement can be in itself communicated, and what are the bases needed
for that communication. Seriously preparing oneself to teach forces upon
one the need for analysis, but also the realisation that analysis is not
enough, that "talking about" might be useful, but that what is essential is
an initiation into the thing itself into the poem, rather than into criticism
of the poem, or into general aesthetics and linguistics although these no
doubt will help one to introduce people into the centre of the poem, into
carrying out activities which will enable them to "get" the poem.
So, of course, in the two sessions which I took for Mr. Drumm,we did
not go into any of the considerations here put forward about sound
and symbolisation. We read the poems together, and discussed them
together, entirely with a view to establishing a real acquaintance with the
poems. Theories questions about "what was really going on" would
have had to come later.
The poems that appeared on the sheets which I used with Drumm's
class have not been put together entirely by chance. After teaching for a
while I started to notice that some passages were very useful, for helping
students to learn how to read fiction. In fact, as do most teachers, I have a
series of three or four sheets to use with students who have not yet learnt
to read fiction, and I have tried out these poems with classes in many dif-
ferent places including St. Lucia, Moscow, Indiana, Illinois, London and
Jamaica. Besides the ones here shown I have used the ballad Lord Randal
especially for younger pupils, and The Old Masters by Auden, and Piano
Practice (translated by F. C. MacIntyre from Rilke), and Claude McKay's
Poetry, and Derek Walcott's "Poopa da was a fete", among others. I would
like to look at the Lear passage again very briefly to point out something
about certain aspects of its sound, and to mention how the symbolisation
process and the knitting together of images into significance takes place at
much more than the lexical level. We have already noticed the specificities
of the diminished (and diminishing) process taking place in the passage.
But notice the sound pattern in the following sets of lines:
1. / The crows and choughs that wing the midway air
Show scarce so gross / (A) as beetles
2. / The fishermen that walk upon the beach
Appear like mice (b)
3. /and yond tall anchoring bark/ (C)
Diminish'd (c) to her cock.
Notice that the structure of sound in 1, 2, and 3, is such that the rela-
tion of A to a, and B to b, and C to c, is much the same, and that, of course,
in each case the passage marked with the small letter represents the
diminishedd' aspect of the "binary opposition" the more positive part being
marked with the capital letter. Notice the sound of 'Diminish'd' itself as
against "yond tall (anchoring) bark"; there is a relationship here, is there not,
between the sounded relationship between 1, 2 and 3, and the imagery
relationships between these?* Finally note 'the deficient sight'; put deficient
and diminished together as sounds and notice the similar contours with res-
pect to intonation and consonant/vowel alternation!
It was not until the end of the second session that I placed the Lear
scene for the class: Edgar speaking to Gloucester; Gloucester recently
blinded, and desperately looking for a cliff from which to cast himself
to destruction; Edgar having led him to a place where no cliff exists; so
to have him jump down a small drop only to be persuaded that he in fact
The whole 'placing' of this scene is itself meaningful, significant and
symbolic within the structure of the play. There was not time to, nor any
intention to, touch upon that structural aspect of fiction; that could not
have been done within the limits of the two classes which I had been invited
by Mr. Drumm to give to the 'young men' of Holy Cross.
I would like to take leave of the memory of Mr. Drumm with the fol-
lowing story, both true and fictional, which I am sure many men young and
old, Holy Cross and otherwise, will find interesting:
For the whole of the four years that I was at Holy Cross I never did
have the opportunity to return home to Jamaica but neither could I go to
New York or to Boston to see friends. I was suffering from two things which
dogged me through all the years at Holy Cross. One was the recurrence of
* And note that there is a kind of contrapuntal movement in
And dizzy 'tis to cast one's eyes so low
in which "the so low" (in a way a 'diminishment') contrasts with /How dizzy 'tis/, in a way contrary
to the relationship already pointed out between A a. B, b, C L.
a running catarrhal cold; the other was the complete absence of money. It
was the long Thanksgiving week-end and I was almost alone at Holy Cross.
As I got close to Bevan Hall Mr. Drumm happened to pass by.
"Going away for the week-end John?" In his quizzical way!
"No Mr. Drumm"
He thought that I should get away, and have a break, but immediately
he noticed that I had a very bad cold. He asked me what I was doing about
the cold. I told him that there wasn't very much to do. I had seen the Col-
lege Doctor, and he had said that it was simply a bad cold. "Well", said Mr.
Drumm, "I know what I would do" and he looked at me, as often he did,
raising an eyebrow, asking a question without saying anything; asking the
question, as it were, do you understand what I mean?
"Why don't you go to some friends anyway", he said, "and get them to
look after you?"
I must have hung my head in self-pity, and confusion. However he got
the message. He said, "Anyway, be sure you have a good rest", and he left me.
I went up to my room; my room-mate had left for New York. I got in
my bed and started to read; soon enough I fell asleep. I could not have slept
long when there was a first tentative tap at the door and then two
quite strong knocks. I asked whoever it was to come in hoping that maybe
one of the more riotous members of my class a football player perhaps -
was coming in to entertain me with a story of one kind or another. But the
person who entered my room was Mr. Drumm.
He was carrying a brown paper package under his arm, he closed the
door, he cleared his throat. He said, "This is what you need to cure a cold,
He cleared his throat again, as only he could. "I know that you will not
get me in trouble with the authorities" He handed me a small bottle
of aspirin, and placed the brown paper package gently on the desk.
You must remember that in those days Holy Cross had rules and regula-
tions which young people of today find difficult to understand, in fact
to believe. We could not leave our Halls after 7:00 p.m. in the evening with-
out permission not even to go to the Library. We were not supposed to
leave the grounds at all during the evenings, again without special permis-
sion. Of course, alcohol was utterly and completely banned from the rooms
and the buildings, even from the billiard room. So it was only slowly that I
realized that he had brought me a bottle of "the stuff' especially when he
"This is what you need for your cold. If I were you I'd drink the whole
bottle slowly, of course; and take some of the aspirin, too"
It turned out to be rock and rye, and it was all consumed, by myself
and no other, although I cannot now remember at what rate!
I have told this story merely to record certain facts, but expecting it
meaningfully to reverberate in my readers' minds, the better to tell, and to
have felt and understood what manner of man was Francis Drumm.
JOHN J. FIGUEROA
FRENCH IN PRACTICE A CARIBBEAN FRENCH COURSE
S. A. M. Pratt (with C. E. Mullings and Jean Small) 213 pp.
THIS book is really an adaptation to Caribbean usage of Practical
French, a book first published in 1965 for use in Africa. It is the first of four
books destined to provide a complete secondary school French course up to
the standard of the G.C.E. "O Level" examinations. The book comes into
the West Indian market at a time when the demands of the Cambridge
"O Level" syllabus in French make imperative the use of an audio-visually
oriented programme, with strong emphasis on the spoken language.
An interesting feature of the book is that new French words are intro-
duced by means of simple explanations in French rather than as translations
of their English equivalents. The type of subjects presented allows for some
fairly difficult grammatical points to be introduced in a deceptively easy
manner; and the exercises used throughout the book are sufficiently
stimulating to hold the attention of even the most lethargic of pupils.
Sketches of concrete and familiar situational items are used to help facilitate
the acquisition of vocabulary and the understanding in French of differing
concepts. In addition, tables systematically laid out towards the end of the
book make possible a hurried and comprehensive review of various points of
Unfortunately, many of the visual props and their captions are
ambiguous. These could be disastrous for the uninitiated pupil as well as to
the untrained and/or non-fluent teacher of French. This observation is the
more significant when it is noted that many of our teachers are unavoidably
neither fluent in, nor trained to teach, French orally. The main weakness
of the sketches and their captions is that in trying to teach vocabulary by
contrast the authors seem to have put too many unnecessary details into
On p. 4, for example, the idea of 'LIVRE' and 'CAHIER' is introduced
for the first time with the sketch of a fat book which, incidentally, is closed.
The questions and answers that accompany the sketch suggest that the two
items are synonymous. On p. 5 the suggestion is that the same book, which
is now open, is only 'UN LIVRE', not 'UN CAHIER' as well, while on p. 6
a clear distinction is made between the two items both as sketches and as
vocabulary. A likely result is that one may make wrong associations between
items and words, or completely misunderstand the concepts intended.
Elsewhere in the book other ambiguities arise. See for example the
attempt to teach certain vocabulary items on p. 7, and the reinforcement
exercise for teaching the differences between singular and plural forms on
p. 83. It is clear that the authors took too much for granted from the first
lessons in the book, and have made little attempt to guard against some of
the inevitable pitfalls in understanding interpretation that plague young
beginners (whether teacher or pupil). Consequently, one cannot guarantee
that the book will be successful, save in the hands of experienced and
imaginative teachers who are capable of profiting from the real potentials
of the exercises themselves.
One hopes that books 2-4 will suffer less from the pictorial and
methodological weaknesses of the first book. Lectures Francaises could
serve as a useful supplement to French In Practice. It is intended as a
reader, and it fulfils that rl8e well. In general the approach used in present-
ing the passages is slightly different from that of other French readers. The
subject range is at one and the same time wide, informative, well graded,
and interesting. Society games (dominoes included), mammals, useful objects
hammer, scale, etc. camping, the eyes and other diverse subjects form
the nucleus of the offerings.
The presentation of these subjects, with their carefully chosen illustra-
tions, add to the charm of the book. So too does the isolation of new
vocabulary given in small doses throughout the book. The Rdsume de
Grammaire at the end is timely and useful.
I would venture to say that this book, apart from recommending itself
highly as a reader, is in itself quite a practical course in French composition.
Since this book is only part of a series it would be advisable to make use of
each volume in its due season in order to reap maximum benefits.
H. F. Kynaston-Snell, M.B.E. LECTURES FRANCAISES, Vol. 3, 99 pp.
David W. Foster and Virginia Ramos Foster, Manual of Hispanic bibliog-
raphy, University of Washington Press, Seattle and London, 1970. X +
206 pp., 23.5 cm x 15.7 cm. $US11.00.
THE Manual is handsomely bound in board and should stand up well
to considerable handling; the fact that it is a reference work makes this an
important consideration. The type is attractive and easily legible; consider-
able care seems to have gone into its presentation, since even the dust jacket
to this volume is pleasant and attractive.
The title might appear confusing at first sight, but what the compilers
intend as a bibliography of bibliographies of works in the Spanish language
- including those of the Latin American continent but excluding "works
relevant to Luso-Brazilian, Galician, Catalan and Spanish American Indian
literatures" Since the compilation has an obvious literary orientation, works
dealing with stylistics seem to constitute a strange inclusion although the
compilers claim that the area of stylistics is "demonstrably germane to the
study of literature" (p. vii).
The need for an up-to-date handbook of this sort as a first step in post-
graduate investigations in the literatures of the Spanish-speaking peoples has
been long felt as anyone who has attempted research into this field will
painfully remember; the work is patently and explicitly intended to fill this
need: "The major focus of this work is upon reference tools for investigation
in Spanish and Spanish-American literature" (p. vii). For this, at least, the
authors are to be warmly commended especially as the tedious task entailed
in the compilation of uninteresting but important bibliographical details has
attracted, and will doubtless continue to attract, far too few scholars (what-
ever the importance of and interest in critical and analytical research).
The work is divided into four main sections, apart from the Introduc-
tion and the Index. Part I ('World') bears the title "General bibliographies,
including general Romance", and includes such earlier works of a general
nature as Theodore Besterman's World bibliography of bibliographies
., Javier Lasso de la Vega's Catalogo abreviado de una seleccidn de
libros de consult, referencia, studio y enseianza, and Arturo del
Hoyo's Teatro mundial Current general bibliographies such as the
Yearbook of the MLA are a useful indication to the new researcher. Part II
('Spain') is entitled "Bibliographies of Spanish literature" and Part III
('Latin America') "Bibliographies of Spanish-American Literature" These
two divisions are not mutually exclusive since Part II includes both bibliog-
raphies, catalogues, etc., which deal only with Peninsular literature and
those which contain as well references to Latin-American writings. Part IV
is concerned exclusively with works of the Latin-American sub-continent;
these are listed under "National bibliographies", that is, they are sub-
divided according to national boundaries into smaller 'geographical' areas for
purposes of easy reference according to countries and these are listed in
Each of these divisions and sub-divisions is introduced by a general
bibliographical guide relevant to the particular geographical area. This is
followed, in each case, by (a) period bibliographies, and guides to (b) libraries
and collections, (c) periodicals and periodical literature and (d) theses and
dissertations. The period bibliographies are further sub-divided as follows:
in the case of 'World' and 'Spain' (I and II) into the Middle Ages, the
Renaissance (roughly 15th, 16th and 17th centuries), 18th century, 19th cen-
tury, and 20th century; in the case of 'Latin America' and 'National bibliog-
raphies' (III and IV), specific bibliographies of each geographical area are
listed under the headings "Colonial", "19th century" and "20th century"
The format and general arrangement of the material into first geograph-
ical and then into chronological periods is a natural one and provides the
researcher with quick and easy access to his relevant material; the compilers
are to be commended for making his task an easy one. Within each of these
sub-divisions the items (786 in number) are listed in alphabetical order and
each is given a numerical reference; an attempt is made in the majority of
cases to describe the contents of the work listed with the help of four addi-
tional "annotators" One serious lapse becomes evident here: the location of
the material is not always given; this does not matter in the case of recent
secondary sources, but would not be very helpful to the researcher in the
case of earlier or rare books, and in the case of primary sources. However
difficult the task which acquiring and furnishing the additional data might
have entailed, the gratitude of the student who has little time on is hands
would have been the reward of the compilers. The items are supplied with
a satisfactory system of cross references; a useful and comprehensive index
of each item listed closes the work. There is one minor criticism which one
feels one must make in the arrangement of the material: the compilers claim
that the work represents an attempt at "a comprehensive bibliographical
guide to primary and important secondary sources of investigation" (p. vii);
in view of the fact that the first of these categories is 'absolute' or rather,
'objective' while the second implies subjective criteria, and in view of the
fact that the researcher who is still new to methods of investigation will be
unable for the most part to distinguish between the two when he starts re-
searching for the work, it might have been advisable for the material to be
divided into the two types.
The work claims to be comprehensive, and there can be no doubt that
the undertaking is certainly vast in its scope, attempting, as it does, to cover
material in both the European and the Latin-American contexts, in the case
of the former from the Middle Ages, and, in the latter, from Colonial period
to the present day. One fears from the start that this ambitious plan is its
own Achilles' heel: notwithstanding the immense effort and the scholarship
which must have gone into the undertaking, it seems inevitable that the
compilers will have omitted some material which would come/has come to
the hand of competent specialists who will spend/have spent the better part
of a lifetime in some very limited and specific field of Spanish research. The
present reviewer, for example, must comment adversely on the omission,
inadvertent or otherwise, of two notable general catalogues housed in the
Biblioteca Nacional, Madrid, both of which relate to Peninsular literature
and neither of which can be excluded on the basis of the criteria established
in the Introduction. The works are: Pedro Roca, Catalogo de manus-
critos and Antonio Paz y Melia, Catalogo de piezas de teatro.
There will doubtless be others. In spite of this, post-graduate students
embarking on a career of research will certainly find this a very helpful work
and far more than a mere starting point, and this is, after all, the explicit
hope of the compilers: "If this bibliography makes the weary task of setting
up a research project in Hispanic literature any lighter for the busy scholar,
then its existence will have been justified" (p. ix). Furthermore, it is, for-
tunately, not a work of the sort that is irreparably ruined by one or
two grave omissions; the student should, with time, be able to fill the
The initial help which it will furnish in establishing a provisional
bibliography (in spite of the inevitable omissions), the well-arranged format,
the handsome way in which it has been 'put out' make the Manual of His-
panic Bibliography a useful and attractive volume to have; the steep price
will undoubtedly place it out of reach of the average, indigent student, but
no serious research library should be without a copy.
Pamela Francis: What Became of the Mayas?
Designed and illustrated by Denis Wrigley.
Wheaton, 1969; 98 pp., 33 line drawings, 1 map.
Scientists are often accused of not presenting their subject matter in a
readable form to the general public. Miss Francis is a journalist who sets
out on her own to remedy this situation for Maya archaeology.
In three sections she treats first the archaeological background, then
the Spanish Conquest, and finally the situation of the Maya Indians today.
Unfortunately, the book shows all the marks of being hastily prepared by
somebody not versed in the field he is writing about, relying only on second-
ary sources of very different age and validity.
The archaeological section, especially, suffers from gross inaccuracies.
As an example might serve the very strange discussion of pottery on page
10: the first pottery is said to appear around 600 B.C., and to be very prim-
itive. In fact, Early Preclassic pottery, as far as we know at present, appears
sometime in the second millennium B.C. and is fully developed already.
Plumbate, a certain type of pottery, is said to have been the most highly
prized ceramics of the Maya, but in fact it appears only very late, after the
end of the Maya Classic, does not originate in the Maya area, and was
apparently never highly appreciated there. The description of techniques
borders on the ridiculous: what purpose should unfired clay vessels have,
and where m the humid Maya Lowlands does the author expect to find such
a piece preserved? Firing, by the way, was usually not done in a kiln, as
Miss Francis states, but in an open fire.
It would be tedious to dwell on all the other inaccurate and outright
wrong statements of this section. With some exceptions to be mentioned
later, archaeological facts, interpretations, speculations, and historical
legends of different epochs are mixed into an unharmonious whole. The
"Old" and "New Empire", long discarded in serious Maya studies, flourish
again in "What Became of the Mayas?"
In her section on the Spanish Conquest, the author is on firmer ground.
The colourful subject matter lends itself to a fairly exciting account, but
again Miss Francis does not take too much care to separate fact from fancy
in the early chronicles.
The very short final section on historic and present-day Maya Indians
is at best a rather superficial and cliche-ridden newspaper article. Again
factual errors and misinterpretations are frequent, especially with regard to
Yucatecan (strangely called "Yucatanese") politics.
Recommendable is the attractive printing on slightly greyish paper; the
illustrations, however, all line drawings and some of them in two colours,
are rather poor, in artistic quality as well as information value. They are
uninspired enough to prevent appreciation even of the authentic pieces of
Maya art illustrated. The map is grossly inaccurate, spellings are wrong,
and nearly half of the sites shown are wrongly located.
After working through this book, one gratefully reaches for J. E. S.
Thompson's "The Rise and Fall of Maya Civilization" (2nd ed., Norman,
Oklahoma, 1966), which is better written, better illustrated, and produced
by a man who rightfully could be counted among the greatest living
authorities on the Maya. Nevertheless, it is highly readable also for the
non-specialist; and it is interesting to notice that wherever Miss Francis'
book succeeds fairly well, she quite evidently follows if not transcribes
Thompson very closely, unfortunately the superseded first edition of 1954.
PETER J. SCHMIDT
NURTURING MATHEMATICS IN OUR SCHOOLS
A Natural Approach To Mathematics, With Answers
(2nd Edition) by H. W. Clayton & D. N. Straker (Pergamon Press);
The New Mathematics for Primary Teachers; Book 4:
Measures and Measuring; Book 5: Working With Numbers
by D. Paling and J. L. Fox (O.U.P.).
The development of school mathematics in the Commonwealth Carib-
bean has been largely determined by two factors: the external examinations
and the textbooks used in the schools. Most secondary school teachers of
mathematics have been content to accept the syllabuses and the examina-
tions based on these syllabuses by overseas examiners as their guide as to
what is best in the field of mathematics education. The elementary school
teacher can be excused for accepting blindly any official syllabus on the
grounds that he (or more likely, she) is ill prepared in this subject area and
so is not competent to judge what should be taught at the primary level and
the junior levels of the secondary school.
What can we say for the graduate teacher of mathematics? His
strongest argument is probably that the syllabuses prepared in London and
Cambridge are just as appropriate for secondary school children in this
region as those in England. Mathematics, he argues, knows no national
boundaries. It is a truly international discipline with the only universal
language so it is important that our children reach the same level of attain-
ment as children in highly developed countries of similar age. Superficially
this argument is attractive and seems plausible. But as the recent study' on
achievement in mathematics in twelve developed countries has shown that
what is considered suitable mathematical topics for 13-year-olds in some of
these countries is considered difficult or inappropriate for 15-year-olds
in other countries.2 For example, in England (and the West Indies too) it is
quite common to introduce able students to elementary calculus in the
fourth and fifth forms whereas in the United States this topic is usually
reserved for those students taking advance placement courses in the final
year of High School. So that we cannot let the demands of the physical
sciences and mathematics dictate what we are going to teach in our schools.
Although one expects to see the same core of basic mathematical con-
cepts and skills learned in all countries at about the same time, one never-
theless expects the emphasis and the level of development of any given
topic to differ from country to country, and in a given state to vary from
school to school. In the West Indies where we have had poor primary
schooling in mathematics, where we have had teachers not adequately pre-
pared for the teaching of primary school mathematics, we would expect the
textbooks and syllabuses used in the secondary schools to be so flexible that
they would allow for remedial work to be done where necessary. This has
not been so. In most of our secondary schools the textbooks and syllabuses
used are those written for pupils in English grammar schools or the
'academic' streams of secondary modern or comprehensive schools. Or
teachers have adopted syllabuses and books which they used as students,
without giving much thought to whether they were appropriate then, and
even moreso now, to the bulk of students in the secondary schools. If one
assumes that the basic concepts and skills of mathematical thinking are
within the reach of all students of average ability then it follows that
it should be possible for most pupils to succeed at mathematics at the
secondary level. Of course this presupposes that the child has had a proper
grounding in the elementary concepts of mathematics, that he likes
mathematics (or at worst, is indifferent to mathematics), and that he lives
in an intellectual environment that encourages and fosters logical and
If all these prerequisites have to be met before we can expect success in
mathematics at the secondary level then it is easy to see that at present we
are not going to have many children in our secondary schools wishing
to learn mathematics. What then can be done to remedy the situation at
the primary and the junior levels of our secondary schools? First, we can
re-train our primary school teachers and provide them with suitable books
and materials. Secondly, we can make teachers very sensitive to the weak-
nesses in their students and provide them with the techniques for remedying
these weaknesses. Another, is to provide the children with attractive books
- books that develop concepts at a pace appropriate to their level of
intellectual maturity; books that are comprehensible and attractive to look
In Jamaica, the Mathematics Curriculum sub-Committee of the Ministry
of Education considering this problem in 1967 decided that the series
A Natural Approach To Mathematics met most of the requirements for
a suitable textbook for children at the Junior Secondary level. The Com-
mittee felt that it was a book using some of the new terminologies and
approaches to teaching mathematics that teachers at this level could handle.
So, with some reservations, the Committee as an interim measure recom-
mended the adoption of these books in the newly formed Junior Secondary
Schools. The experience of teachers in the field has been that the first four
books in the series are suitable for the upper fifty per cent of the students in
the Junior Secondary Schools.
There are certain faults in the first edition which are still present in the
second edition. Faults which were clearly pointed out by this writer in
a review 3 written for the Mathematical Association of Jamaica in 1968. For
example, the introduction to directed numbers in Part 2 (page 80) of the
series has not been re-written and is one of the most unconvincing introduc-
tions to the concept of the negative of a number that this writer has seen in
a school textbook. All that the authors have done in this new edition is to
re-write the money problems using the new English decimal currency thus
making the series less appropriate for schools in the Caribbean area.
It does seem like putting the cart before the horse to revise the second-
ary curriculum and re-train teachers for this level and leave the primary
school programme untouched. Fortunately this has not been so. Concur-
rently with the reform at the secondary level the Institute of Education,
U.W.I., has sponsored projects in primary school mathematics. In Jamaica
the primary school maths. project under the chairmanship of Phyllis
MacPherson has produced a curriculum guide to be used with the Jamaican
version of the Ginn series, "Mathematics We Need" At Cave Hill, Desmond
Broomes has produced material for the St. Lucia Mathematics Project and
at St. AugustineSair Ali Shah produced a primary school curriculum which
he and the late Andrew Camacho used as a basis for writing their series
"Mathematics Around Us" (pub. by Longman).
For primary school teachers who are not fortunate enough to be partici-
pants in any of the projects sponsored by the Institute of Education and/or
the governments of the Caribbean territories, there are a number of recent
publications from Britain in which they will find many useful suggestions
for their lessons in mathematics. The most outstanding of these publications
is the series published for the Nuffield Foundation by Chambers. On a much
more modest scale is the series The New Mathematics For Primary
Teachers by D. Paling & J. L. Fox. These five little booklets will prove
useful to any primary school teacher interested in enrichment mathematics
for herself and her class.
So often writers of maths, books for primary school teachers try
to make specialists out of these general practitioners of the profession for-
getting that they have to teach many other subjects besides mathematics.
For such teachers New Mathematics For Primary Teachers will prove to
be a handy reference series; compact, easy to read, with practical and realistic
suggestions for improving the teaching of primary school mathematics.
Until we come to accept the idea of specialist teachers in our primary
schools either as a member of a team or working on an individual basis it
does not seem that there is much hope of upgrading the competence and
mathematical knowledge of the great majority of practising primary school
teachers. Intensive on-going inservice programmes with many expert super-
visors visiting the schools regularly and living within easy reach of a number
of the schools might produce dramatic changes in three to five years. How-
ever the same results might be produced by concentrating on the training of
specialist teachers in key subject areas such as language arts, mathematics,
environmental studies, and general science. Then having teams of four or
five teachers responsible for a group of say four classes,with each member of
the team teaching her specialty to all four classes and the classes looking on
the whole team as their teachers.
In the final analysis new textbooks and new curricula will not result in
hoped-for improvements unless they are accompanied by a re-organization of
the structure of our primary schools to reflect the growing need of the
teachers to have easy access directly or through audio-visual aids to resource
personnel and materials. Until they are partly relieved of the omnibus task
of being parent, friend and all-knowing guide to their young charges it will
prove very difficult to raise them to that minimum level of competence at
which they might become effective teachers of mathematics.
Husen, T. (Ed.) International Study Of Achievement In Mathematics: A Comparison Of
Twelve Countries (John Wiley, 1967), 2 vols.
Postlewaite, T N. International Association For The Evaluation Of Educational Achievement
The Mathematics Study Journal For Research In Mathematics Education, Vol.
2, No. 2, 1971.
Mathematical Assn. Of Jamaica, Books On New Math: Reviews Of Some Current Texts From
British Publishers, 1968.
Commonwealth Short Stories -
edited Hannah Rutherford Edward Arnold,
A Smell of Onions Peggy Appiah
Legends of Suriname Petronella Breinburg
New Beacon (London) 1971
The Caribbean Confederation (1888) -
C. S. Salmon (reprint March 1971)
Frank Cass Ltd.
Revista/Review Interamericana -
Inter-American University of Puerto Rico
The Commonwealth 1970 Lester Pearson
Cambridge U. Press 1971
The United States and The Caribbean -
The American Assembly
Columbia Univ. Press 1971
Journal of the Folklore Institute
Vol. III No. 1 Edited at Indiana University,
June 1970, Mouton & Co., Holland
The Blacks in Canada A History
Robin W. Winks, Yale U. Press 1971
Latin America and The United States in the
1970s Edited Richard B. Gray
F. E. Peacock Pubis. 1971
The Decline and Abolition of Negro Slavery
in Venezuela 1820-1854 John V. Lombardi
Greenwood Publ. Corp., U.S.A.
Contributions in Afro-Amer. & African
Studies, No. 7 John V. Lombardi
Greenwood Publ. Corp., U.S.A.
Price 1. 20p. U.K.
48p. U.K./$2.20 E.C.
$3.00U.S. ann. subs.
$ 5.95 (US) paper
$10.00 (US) cloth