CARIBBEAN ENGLISH CREOLE
History and developmentLike most other such creoles, Caribbean English Creole is the outcome of contact among Europeans and West Africans in the course of European expansionism, the slave trade, and the colonization of the New World. The regional dialects of the English-speaking colonists were the dominant source of vocabulary for Creole before the 20c. More recently, standard varieties of English, propagated by contemporary mass media and the increased availability of schooling, have fed the expansion of the vocabulary. Large numbers of lexical items and phrases of West African provenance form part of the daily vocabulary. The grammatical structure of the group shows patterns that are characteristic of West African language families, patterns that are particular to creole languages as a whole, and features that appear to be restricted to the Caribbean Creole group.
Effects of contactIn most countries (excluding Surinam and the Latin American nations), the contact with English that produced Creole has persisted beyond its emergence, with a chain of associated results: (1) It has inhibited the evolution of widely recognized standard varieties within the group. (2) In its turn, the absence of one or more standards has made the language more permeable to influence from English than it might otherwise have been. (3) This permeability, combined with the prestige of English as a world language and its transmission through the official institutions of the societies concerned, has resulted in the evolution of varieties intermediate between the local variety of English and the prototypical variety of Creole. (4) The social stratification of these varieties is such that language use involves some fluidity of movement among the intermediate varieties. (5) The effect is to exaggerate the variation that one might normally expect in a coherent language variety and further inhibit the evolution and identification of a standard. The layering of varieties between local standard English and a creole is commonly described as a post-creole (dialect) continuum. Three main strata are recognized: the basilect, which refers to the prototypical creole variety, the acrolect, which refers to the variety most like the official standard version of English, and the mesolect, which refers to the set of intermediate varieties.
FeaturesDespite differences among varieties, Caribbean English Creoles share several defining characteristics: (1) Expressing tense, mood, and aspect mainly by pre-predicative particles: (Jamaican) Im waak He or she walked, He or she has walked, Im a waak He or she is walking, Im bin waak He or she walked, He or she had walked. (2) Marking noun plurals by postposed particles, not -s: (Jamaican, Guyanese) di daagdem the dogs, (Trinidad) di dog-an-dem the dogs. (3) Using front-focusing structures to disambiguate or emphasize: (Trinidad) Iz mi mʌdʌ tel mi du it My mother (and not someone else) told me to do it; (Jamaican) A tief im tief di gʊot He stole the goat (he didn't buy it). (4) Reduplication in word-formation and for emphasis: (Jamaican) poto-poto slimy, muddy, fenky-fenky slight, puny, cowardly, fussy, batta-batta to beat repeatedly; (Guyanese) tukka-tukka a kind of plantain. (5) Differentiation of singular and plural second person, like archaic thou and you: (Barbados) yu versus wVnV; (Trinidad) yu versus all-yu. (6) Possession shown by placing unmarked nouns side by side: (Trinidad) mi fada kuzn hows my father's cousin's house.
Social status and useCreole is the preferred variety for informal and private communication, but yields to English in formal public settings. English, because of its strong association with educational systems and the official institutions of government and society, generally has higher prestige than Creole, but the latter enjoys increasing status as a sense of nationalism increases in various recently independent countries. The use of Creole for literature is increasingly common; it is the normal medium for popular drama and the lyrics of songs composed in local styles. The use of Creole in radio and television is most developed in Jamaica.
See ATLANTIC CREOLES, CARIBBEAN ENGLISH, NATION LANGUAGE, NEW ORLEANS, RASTA TALK, WEST AFRICAN PIDGIN ENGLISH.
"CARIBBEAN ENGLISH CREOLE." Concise Oxford Companion to the English Language. . Encyclopedia.com. (February 21, 2018). http://www.encyclopedia.com/humanities/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/caribbean-english-creole
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