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Jamaican Patois is the language spoken by most people in Jamaica. Patois, as it is known by Jamaicans, is not the official and formal language, Standard English is. There is a significant difference between Patois and Standard English. The history of Patois dates back to the 17th century when slaves from west and central Africa were moved to Jamaica. The language represents a fusion between the native African languages and English. It borrows most of its words form all of its sources. This is a research paper that looks at the Jamaican Patois in particular and its comparison to English. The study phonetically analyses the Jamaican Patois, the differences between Patois and Standard English, and a conclusion.
Jamaican patois, which is mostly termed as Jamaican Creole by most linguists is the language spoken in Jamaica. Creole basically means a language that has originated due to a fusion of two or more languages. Jamaican Creole is a form of fragmented English with heavy African native language influence. The language is thought to have developed in the early 17th century by slaves from West and Central Africa who learnt the language from their English speaking masters. Consequently they nativized the English language and Jamaican Patois was born. This language today is a reflection of the country's rich history and interaction with many different cultures. Jamaican Creole is although not the official language in Jamaica but Standard English. There are two distinct linguistic spectrums in Jamaica today, that is, the Jamaican Patios on one end and Standard English on the other. Most of the population can be categorized in between the two. The highly educated and elite folks of society use Standard English while peasant and less educated folks speak Patios.
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Jamaican patois is the local language spoken by most people in Jamaica. It is referred by the locals as Patois (Patwa) or simply Jamaican. It is a fusion between native African languages (west and central Africa) and English. Patois in Jamaica exists as a spoken language and Standard English is the official and formal language (Jamaican Creole). The difference between Patois and English in terms of pronunciation and vocabulary use is significant although patois borrows some of its words from Standard English (Carr). Patois has close similarities to the pidgin language most common in West African countries. This close relationship is due to the historical connections between Jamaican the 17th century slaves from West and Central Africa.
The language has been studied and reveals about twenty one phonemic consonants and vowels ranging between nine and sixteen. There are two different types of vowel harmony exhibited by Jamaican patois. One of them is called the peripheral vowel harmony. The other type is back harmony. In the peripheral harmony vowels, sequences of vowels can be present within a syllable which is not the case in back harmony vowels. These two principals apply in most words used in the Jamaican Patois. This feature distinguishes Standard English from Patois. English words such as boat and bake are "buat and biak" respectively in Patois.
In terms of grammar, Patois differs from Standard English. There is the absence of forms of past tense in Patois as seen in English, for example. Patois employs the use of Copula in most of its sentences except cases where true adjecties are present. When it comes to verbs, the Patois uses the article "a" as an equative verb in most of its speech.
In the case of negation, Patois uses various articles differently from English. "No" in Patois is used as a negator in present tense. "Never" is usually used as a negative in the past participle. The vocabulary in Jamaican Patois is mostly borrowed. It has been borrowed from various west and central African languages, Hindu, Spanish and many more. Writing of Jamaican Patois is still not developed as there is no proper dictionary made to guide the spellings of Patois (Patrick, 141).
Comparison of Jamaican Creole and Jamaican English
To people who speak Standard English in Jamaica, Patois is considered inferior and a bad form of English. This perception promotes the fact that patois continues to be looked at as unacceptable and informal. Due to the fact that Creole is a fusion of native African languages and English, it borrows a lot of words and vocabulary from Standard English. Whereas Standard English continues to develop each day, the development of Creole is very limited. The limited development of Creole is owed to the fact that the language is viewed as inappropriate for learning purposes and therefore not explored to the maximum. The spelling system of Creole is generally ignored due to the manner in which the language is perceived (Cassidy, 204).
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There is a very big difference between Jamaican Creole and Standard English especially in the pronominal system. In Standard English, for example, there is the four way account in the distinction of a person which is very different from Jamaican Creole. In Jamaican Creole, demonstration of case is usually by position (Hannah, Jean & Tradgill, Peter). A pronoun that appears before a verb is viewed as the subject and becomes a direct or indirect object when it appears after a verb. The absence of possessive pronouns is also evident in Jamaican Creole. A person speaking Jamaican Creole can sometimes be understood by a person who speaks Standard English but this doesn't make the two languages similar.
There are Basic English words that sound differently when spoken in Jamaican Creole. The words boy, no, this and thing for example are 'bwaay', 'nuh', 'dis', and 'ting' respectively in Creole. There are many English words that have been nativized to form the Creole language. Some of these Creole words are written from the way they sound because there is no Creole dictionary to guide us on the spellings of these words. A sentence such as, "it's my car" can be translated into Jamaican Creole as, "a fe me car". "Boy! I thought that test would have been easy," can be translated as, "Bwaay! Mi ded tink de test was easy".
Bob Marley - New Zealand interview
The late bob Marley is arguably the biggest reggae artist of all time. Like most Rastafaris in Jamaica, Marley speaks with a deep Jamaican patois accent. For a person not conversant with patois, it can be very difficult to understand what Marley speaks. His English is very different from Standard English. People speaking patois don't usually put any emphasis on their tense work. The tense work problem comes out clearly from bob Marley's speech. He says' "...what you is, is what you is..." instead of saying, "... what you are, is what you are..." Hee also says, "...anyting di radio plays is dat we hear..." instead of saying, "...we hear anything that is played on the radio..."
His pronunciation of words is also very different from the way one is supposed to pronounce words in Standard English. Words such as them, truth and thing are pronounced as "dem, trut and ting". People speaking Patois also put unnecessary stress on some words, which is not same when spoken in Standard English. Bob Marley puts a lot of stress on words such as herb and people. Words such as change, name, explain and educate are pronounced as "chieyng, nieym, explieyn and edukieyt", respectively (Bob Marley). It should be noted that there is no standard way of spelling Patois words.
Reggae Artist Turbulence on an Interview
Turbulence is a celebrated reggae artist from Jamaica. He is a person who grew up in the ghetto. From his speech, one is able to notice the heavy influence of Jamaican patois in his spoken English. From the study about Patois, people from a lower social class like the one which Turbulence grew in, are the ones whose English is most affected. From his interview, it's very clear that he speaks English with less consideration on tense work. He pronounces words such as "thing" and "them" as "ting" and "dem" respectively. He uses phrases such as, "mash up di place" implying how successful his tour to Sierra Leone was. Turbulence's is a good example of adults in Jamaica who speak English which is influenced by Patois. There are other Jamaican's who speak Patois only which is cannot be understood by an English speaking person (Turbulence).
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Prime Minister Michael Manley - Interview
Former Jamaican Prime Minister, Mr. Michael Manley is an example of people who speak Jamaican English instead of Jamaican Patois but with a Jamaican accent. Jamaican English is similar to British Standard English on a grammatical aspect. Mr. Michael Manley, being Jamaican, speaks English with a Jamaican accent. The Jamaican English accent is to some extent influenced by the Irish accent. The accent can be cited from the prime minister's speech from the stress he puts in certain words. The Prime minister's English is rich in Standard English vocabulary. This kind of speech is the one which is recommended in every formal setting in Jamaica including educational purposes. (Michael Manley Interview)
Jamaican patois is spoken by a very big portion of the Jamaican population. Patois is spoken as an informal language by mostly the youth and people with less formal education. Standard English is the formal language and also the language of instruction in schools. In terms of grammar there is a very significant difference between Jamaican Patois and Standard English. One can get the meaning of words spoken in Patois but that does not mean that the two languages are similar. This is only owed to the fact that Patois borrows some words from Standard English and then pronounced and written differently. The grammatical problems are evident in people of all ages in Jamaica due to the heavy influence of Patois. Very few people speak Standard English when they are in an informal setting. The highly literate people speak good Standard English in the formal setting. Efforts have been made by various groups to lobby for Patois' recognition as a formal Jamaican language but their efforts have been in vain.
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