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JAMAICAN CREOLE, also Jamaican English Creole, Jamaican Creole English, Jamaican, Patois, Patwa, NATION LANGUAGE. The general and technical term for the English-based CREOLE vernacular of Jamaica, a Caribbean country and member of the COMMONWEALTH. It has the most extensive and longest-standing literature and the widest media and artistic use of the varieties of CARIBBEAN ENGLISH CREOLE, and is the most fully studied. The wide appeal of Jamaican music, DUB poetry, and Rastafarian religion has spread the VERNACULAR throughout the Caribbean region as a widely heard (though frequently ill-understood) form of folk speech. Its influence is noteworthy in the UK, where it dominates other varieties of West Indian vernacular and has been a major factor in the evolution of BRITISH BLACK ENGLISH. In the US, Jamaican immigrant communities have also retained linguistic characteristics related to continued use of the language.

Jamaican Creole is relatively well researched, and within Jamaica, consensus has evolved on its artistic value and its distinctness from English, but despite this its use continues to be stigmatized and many literate Jamaicans do not value it. It is commonly viewed as an obstacle to education, an opinion actively countered by many who urge that the obstacle lies in failing to develop strategies for teaching English in the Creole environment. Because of the complex pattern of varieties between the English and Creole, Jamaica is often cited as a classic example of a POST-CREOLE CONTINUUM.

For those who have a command of both English and Creole, the one complements the other, English being more usual in formal public activity. Most of the population, however, use intermediate forms (mesolects). In radio and television, Jamaican is an established medium for advertisement, popular entertainment, and programmes with public participation. The news, however, is generally read in English. The use of Creole in newspapers is minimal, tending to be restricted to special columns. The Dictionary of Jamaican English (1967, 1980) has contributed to the stabilization of spelling in the press as well as to the readiness with which Creole is used by Jamaican writers. See BAJAN, CARIBBEAN ENGLISH.