The Jamaican Dialect

2462 Words10 Pages
The History and Sociolinguistic development of the Jamaican Dialect

The topic of dialects is one which linguistic anthropologists have spent much time studying. Distinctions made between an actual language, a sub-standard variety of that language and an actual dialect are often unclear and the topic of much debate. Recently in the United States there have been many discussions about Ebonics, or Black English. It has been argued that Ebonics is simply a sub-standard form and degradation of English, while others feel that it should be recognized as an African influenced English dialect. One of the most recognizable forms of African-influenced English is that spoken by the people of Jamaica. Linguists and sociologists alike have studied the formation of this dialect over the years, because it is a prime example of language development resulting from cultural influences. By looking at the development of Jamaican speech from a historical perspective we are able to see exactly how the culture of this island has influenced the evolution of this dialect.

Jamaica is the third largest Caribbean Island, measuring 146 miles at its widest point. The warm weather, high mountains and broad plains provide Jamaica with diversity in climate and agriculture. The population of Jamaica is estimated to be around two million people, with nearly a half-million living in Kingston, the capital and largest city in Jamaica. Of those residing in Jamaica, 90% are of African descent, with the other ten percent made up of mostly Caucasians, East Indians and Chinese (Barrett 1997:3). Popular culture is heavily influenced by the African heritage, while formal behavior is unmistakably British in style. The unofficial language of Jamaica is English; however th...

... middle of paper ..., which represents the people of today. This also is a dialect, which has not stagnated but continues to grow and will do so into the future. Perhaps someday it will become a language completely separate from English, a language of liberation free from the influences of White oppressors.


Barrett, Leonard E. The Rastafarians. Beacon Press, Boston.

DeCamp, David The Locus of Language in Jamaica. Georgetown University Press, Washington, D.C.

Encyclopedia of Language and Linguistics Volumes 1,3,6. Pergamon Press, NewYork.

International Encyclopedia of Linguistics Volume 3. Oxford University Press, New York.

Rasta/Patua Dictionary ed. Ogata, Michio updated by Pawka, Mike 1995.

Todd, Loreto Pidgins and Creoles. Modern Englishes. Basil Blackwell Pub. Lmtd., Oxford.Zach, Paul ed.1995 Insight Guides. Jamaica. Hofer Press Pte. Ltd.,Singapore.
Open Document