Monday, June 30, 2014

Language Profile: Jamaican Creole English

In this week's language profile we're taking a brief look at Jamaican Creole English, also known by the names Jamaican Patois, Patois, or Jamaican. Given its name, it should come as no surprise that it is a creole spoken in Jamaica with strong connections to English.

If you've read our previous language profiles, then you may recall our discussion of creoles back when we looked at Haitian Creole. Basically, a creole is a language that develops from a pidgin, which is a form of communication that is created to bridge the gap between groups that don't share a language. Once the pidgin has native speakers, it can officially become a creole like Jamaican Creole English. 

Jamaica, the island home of Jamaican Creole English.
Jamaican Creole English came about in the 17th century due to communication between African slaves and British settlers. As the African slaves learned and began to use English, a hybrid language with West African influences was created. While much of its lexicon originated in the English language, it is quite different in terms of pronunciation and grammar. The language also contains plenty of loanwords that haven't originated in English. They've come from languages that include Spanish, Portuguese, and Hindi, as well as various African languages such as Igbo and Yoruba.

The language is rarely written in Jamaica, which is why British English is generally used for written language. However, there have been efforts to standardize a written form of Jamaican Creole English. Recently, a project has worked to increase its prestige by translating the Bible into the language. We certainly hope the efforts are successful!