Hey there! Today we’ll be talking about Language in the Caribbean…. Fun!
So last week my class had a lecture on Language in the Caribbean and I found it very interesting and I’d like to share a bit of what I learned with you. First I would love to know how would you define language? Do you speak more than one language?
So let’s start by defining language. According Noam Chomsky, “when we study human language, we are approaching what some might call the “human essence” the distinctive qualities of mind that are, so far as we know, unique to man.” The possession of language is one of the main features which distinguishes human beings from other animals.
Do you remember in my first post when I talked a little about the languages in the Caribbean? Historically, the Caribbean was regarded as the English-speaking Caribbean. However, English is not the only language spoken in the Caribbean. The languages in the Caribbean vary from island to island and because of this, many dialects emerged. The varying dialects spoken in the Caribbean are rooted in its history. During slavery, the blacks that were brought to the Caribbean were not all slaves, some of them were interpreters. As a result of varying speech communities trying to understand each other, these interpreters played a key role in the exchange of language. Languages such as English, French, Dutch and Portuguese merged, creating lingua franca. Lingua Franca is a language that is adopted as a common language between speakers whose native languages are different. Therefore, nativized creoles emerged.
There is a common misconception about Caribbean people. Often times people who were raised outside of the Caribbean tend to think that all Caribbean people sound like Jamaicans (this is not true by the way). However, I understand why people may tend to think this way because that is the way Caribbean language is represented by the media. Each Caribbean island has its own dialect unique to its people and because of this we attach different meanings to the same words and phrases. We express ourselves differently through the beauty of language. If you aren’t a native of the Caribbean I know it would be difficult to understand what we are saying so we would speak at a slower rate or in some cases, even try to speak like the other person during a conversation to make them feel more comfortable. Personally, I find myself having to carefully listen to understand the Jamaican accent if a Jamaican and I are conversing. To my surprise, I fond it fascinating that such dialects like the Jamaican dialect is considered another language all together. This is so because some people who only speak Jamaican dialect don’t understand “standard English”. I placed standard English in quotations because standard English in itself is just another dialect (I learned that in Linguistics and Linguistics is the science of language).
Below, I found this video on YouTube featuring an American guy who visited Guyana for 6 months, for the purpose of a missionary trip who shared his experiences with the dialect spoken in Guyana.
With reference to the video you would’ve just watched, did you hear the example he gave about when they went to someone’s home and the little boy could not understand what they were saying because the little boy only knows Guyanese dialect? The little boy only understood him when he communicated to him using Guyanese dialect. Well this just reinforces the point I made earlier. It also reminds me of another video I watched during class of Caroline Cooper at Ted Talk, when she gave a very similar example of a school teacher and a student. The only difference is this similar experience was in Jamaica.
So you see, language is unique and language is diverse. I hope you found this video interesting and learned a few things because I sure did.
Thank you for reading! 🙂
1st Photo Credit: https://www.boundless.com/psychology/textbooks/boundless-psychology-textbook/language-10/
2nd Photo Credit: http://www.k-international.com/blog/language-quotes/