Patois Articles

Socio-historical Background of Patwa in Jamaica

ETHNIC MAKE-UP OF JAMAICA 1- ~90.9% Afro. Descent 2- ~1.3% East Indian Descent 3- ~0.2% Chinese (mostly shopkeepers and wholesalers) 4- ~7.3% Mix (Other background e.g. Syrian, or mix of the above)

Now a wey disya langwij come fram: · I would like to say that Patwa developed under the auspices of colonialism and conquest; (much like the rest of the world). But out of a contact situation between languages that were mutually unintelligible. During period of slavery the Africans were forbidden to speak their native tongues but not only that they were deliberately mixed up on the plantations to hinder communication (to plan rebellion or plotting to run away).

They use linguistic means as a method of subjugation and control. However, as humans you must communicate so they had to find a common ground. Thus ….. [use flip chart to draw pot cooking etc.] Now you may hear Jamaicans call PATWA by other names: Jamaican Creole; Bongo Taak; Quashie Taak; even Broken English · Many regard Patwa as the latter because we have lost many of African lexicon over the years esp. in urban Jamaica, but the more rural you go you will find an incredible wealth of our African Linguistic heritage in the vocab… e.g. saaka-saaka (To mess-up something); BAFAN (clumsy); BUFFU-BUFFU(fat and lumpy) REPORTED LANGUAGE ATTITUDE OF JAMAICANS (2005) WA WI SEY WI CHAT TO WHO !!! PATWA (Fig. 1) 1 62.9% Speak PATWA –FRIENDS AND FAMILY 2 28.5% Speak PATWA- EVERYONE (*could represent monoling in Patwa) 3 5.4% Speak PATWA- NOBODY (Mononlingual English speakers) 4 3.2% Speak PATWA- STRANGERS & WORK ENGLISH (Fig. 2) 1 57.1% Speak ENGLISH –STRANGERS & WORK 2 26.2% Speak ENGLISH – EVERYONE ((*could represent monoling in English) 3 8.8% Speak ENGLISH – NOBODY (Monolingual Patwa speaker) 4 7.9% Speak ENGLISH – FRIENDS AND FAMILY What do these charts mean to us? · It should be apparent that there is a CLEAR DIVISION OF THE USE OF Patwa and English in Jamaica · Yes Jamaica is a bilingual nation but as you can see from Fig. 1, less than 6% of the population report that they don’t speak Patwa at all. Well that is perhaps the reality, there is a group of people who choose not to speak Patwa, but it is not because of a lack of access to the language, generally iT is matter of personal choice. But they do understand the language when they hear it! .Patwa is the mother tongue/ 1st language that the majority – you learn at home. · As fig. 2 shows, the way the majority of the population access English – our 2nd language, is through formal instruction- EDUCATION. Now Jamaica’s overall literacy rate is very high, however, the truth is that greater access to education and the better forms of education are available in the less rural areas. Thus if we make the link between access to education and language spoken…. You should get the idea that you will be bombarded mostly Patwa speakers in your daily lives in your community. · \”Patwa\” is the native language of most of its speakers for whom English is indeed a second language. · Notice that in Fig. 2 there is a portion of people who admit that they do not speak English to anyone. That is because there is a sizable proportion of people that have not been able to access English by one mean or another, and thus lack the requisite competence in English. You should note though, that the figure for is understated. There are in fact more monolingual speakers of PATWA in Jamaica than ppl. themselves will admit because sometimes too they try “to pretty up their Patwa” (esp. if they regard Patwa as being broken English) and feel within themselves that they are speaking English, when to an English speaker they may not be. LINGUISTIC CONTINUUM · Which brings me to the next point that PATWA exist along a continuum. What do I Mean? (See Kantinyom Chaat) · This is as a result of the fact that there are pejorative sentiments associated with not being bilingual and not being bilingual (on the part of mono-Patwa) means that you will unable to contextually use the languages as shown on the above charts. Then, you have those people who can switch skillfully between Patwa & English in a conversation, odda werds yux di Inglish an di Patwa . · Of course, Patwa has its place, there is a covert prestige within the domains that it is acceptable. E.g. Among a group of boys on the corner, if you can’t talk Patwa you would be seen an outcast… It is more macho/manly /shatta yute. To speak English in that domain would be like social suicide….dem would sey, a wha do da mama’s bwoy yah; saafs dat man an so on….Mongse yuh bredrin yuh affi chat Patwa. But if is a serious matter you are expected to speak English; speaking to your girlfriend “madda” you have to move as far as is linguistically possible from the ‘basi’. · Still for others there is a deep sense of pride and joy which comes from using Patwa because it represents the link with Africa past. · Life in Ja is characterized by more than one language operating that is, most Jamaicans exhibit some degree of bilingualism. Here English represents the language of education and so in general the only way to acquire English is through formal instruction (education) whilst Patwa is the mother tongue of the vast majority of J’cans, thus learnt at home.

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