The ‘Jamaican as Official Language Alongside English’ Petition: What Does that Mean to Me? - Jamaicans.com
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The ‘Jamaican as Official Language Alongside English’ Petition: What Does that Mean to Me?

The ‘Jamaican as Official Language Alongside English’ Petition: What Does that Mean to Me?

Introduction

The petition on the website of the Office of the Prime Minister calling on the parliament and government to take all the necessary steps to grant official status to Jamaican, alongside English, was opened for public signature on Tuesday, 5th November, 2019.  

Why should Jamaicans bother to go on the website and sign? Because

  1. Members of the public in Jamaica, particularly the most vulnerable and least educated, will get better and more efficient service from organs of the state, such as NIS, NHT tax offices, government ministries, etc. since customer service representatives will be trained and obliged to use both official languages, Jamaican and English, with equal levels of politeness, in interacting with the public
  2. Members of parliament would be in a position to ensure that, in debates in the house where they are conducting the people’s business, they are officially permitted to speak Jamaican as well as English, ensuring that through the broadcast of television proceedings on radio and television, large sectors of the population who do not have a good grasp of English, can nevertheless fully understand what is being discussed in their name 
  3. Members of the public being served in publicly funded health institutions including hospitals will now be cared for, as a matter of right, by doctors and other health personnel who have been properly trained to engaged in effective communication with patients and caregivers in English and Jamaican, based on the preference of those being treated or served
  4. Accused persons whose main language is Jamaican and who are brought before the court, will feel empowered to exercise the right, as exists currently in the constitution, to an interpreter, and the state will feel obliged to ensure that properly qualified court interpreters for English and Jamaican, are easily available
  5. Jamaican children who enter schooling will be provided with access to literacy skills, academic subjects and formal language preparation, in both English and Jamaican, with the effect that their cognitive skills and creativity, as well as their competence in English will way exceed that which currently obtains
  6. There will be a turnaround from the current pattern of falling worker productivity over the past two decades, with workers properly educated and trained in their native language, Jamaican, to use of the modern digital based technologies used in production, putting them in a position to use these tools to increase their productivity, rather than having these tools contributing as at present, to an ongoing fall in productivity because the technology related skills are being learnt in a language, English, the workers do not know well
  7. There will be an increase in the value of intellectual property now produced in the form of music lyrics performed in Jamaican, since music lyrics in written form are now, with the advent and dominance of music streaming services, an increasingly valuable piece of intellectual property, and those lyrics are best transcribed and are internationally most accessible, in the standard writing system of an officially recognised language

In the following, what we will do is look at the situation, as represented by ‘The Before’, and then at what it would be with a change in official language policy, ‘The After’. We will cover the seven areas listed above, i) – vii), plus a quick review of the writing system issue, viii). 

i) The Before – Customer Service Interactions

Imagine you are John or Jane Jamaican. You are about to call a government office for information about how to go about importing a motor vehicle on a reduced import duty concession. You know you are not too good with this English thing. From previous experience talking to customer service representatives on the phone or in person, you know that it is luck of the draw whether you will get courteous service or not. 

[Research shows that customer service reps only give courteous service 60% of the time when people call using English whilst courteous service for English speakers is much higher. That is why those of us who speak English can’t even begin to understand what our compatriots who are not as linguistically privileged as us, go through on a daily basis. ] 

You are nervous. You remember the time the customer service rep corrected your English with, ‘Is it that you are trying to say that …?’ And the other one who, when you visited the office, signalled her colleague to come and listen in on the conversation, after which the colleague went into the corner, hand over mouth, trying to hold back her laughter. How, today, should you speak on the phone? Should you try your best English like you did when the woman laughed at you? Or should you just speak in raw Patwa like you did when the customer service rep behaved like she was a school teacher correcting some pikni? Or maybe you should try and mix it up? The one thing you know you can’t do this time is just cuss them out. This duty concession on the motor vehicle you are bringing in is important for your farming business. As you dial the number, your heart is pounding and your brain racing. You are trying to organise the questions you need to get answered but you can’t think straight because you are worried how they might come out. And if the rep is fast with you, today is definitely NOT the day to cuss her out and hang up. 

The After – Customer Service Interactions

The website you visited told you to call this government office about the duty concession on the motor vehicle. The website gave you a lot of information but you still want to find a real human being who can answer some questions you still have. The website information was written in English as well as Jamaican. You are not too good at reading English even after years in school struggling with it. As for the Jamaican, even though the way they write the language is a little strange for someone who was taught to read and write in English only, but you have it figured out. Just sound the words out and you get it. And then you realised too that if you click on the speaker icon on the site, you hear all the information on the site read out to you in Jamaican.  Wow! That is new. But still, you need to talk to a human being. 

You are about to call. Your heart starts to race. How should I talk? What if they talk to me a way? What if I have to cuss the customer service rep the way I had to a couple of years ago?  And then, you laugh at myself. You completely forgot that things have changed. English and Jamaican, your language, have official status. You can talk to anyone working in any government office or any business owned by or run by or on behalf of the government, in any language you choose or any mix of the two languages for that matter. How you speak doesn’t matter. You are doing business with the government. You employ the person talking to me. The duty you will pay on the vehicle pays their salary at the end of the month. They have been trained to answer you in any language, English or Jamaican, that you use when they answer the phone. But more than that, they can break things down for you in your language, not like first time. They don’t shout out ‘reduced duty concession’ impatiently when you are trying to explain what you are asking about. They know and say to you in your language that they understand that you are asking for ‘govament gi mi a blai an chaaj mi les pan di taks fi bring iin di viikl’. You call the number and say, ‘Maanin. Mi niem Jane Jamaican an mi a kaal fi aks unu …’

It all started back in 2019, with a petition on the website of the Office of the Prime Minister calling on the government and parliament of Jamaica to take the necessary steps to grant official status to the Jamaican language, your language, alongside English. And things changed, first slowly and then a bit faster. Most of all, no more brain racing and heart beating fast when you have to do business with people who are supposed to be serving me. You are free in your own language and in your own skin.     

ii) The Before – Parliament

I am a parliamentarian. The Standing Orders of the House of Representatives of Jamaica (1964) and of the Senate of Jamaica (1964) state in 6 (1), ‘The proceedings and debates of the House/Senate shall be in the English language’. However, when I go out to campaign for my party, to ask the people of my constituency to vote for me, I mostly use the language they feel comfortable in, Jamaican. This is the language which appeals to their emotions and the one which will get them to act by going out and casting their ballot for me and my party. But in all this, deep down, I feel like a hypocrite.  When I address them, however, on the serious stuff, I find myself talking to them in English – about the party plans for progress and prosperity for the country and increasing the GDP of the country by 5% per year. I know they don’t get it. I don’t know how to say it in Jamaican so I just criss-cross between the two languages the best way I can. 

Then, I go into parliament. Some of my constituents say they like to watch parliament on television. In parliament, have to abide by the standing orders. I can only speak English. The language I used to get my votes isn’t good enough for parliament. So, parliamentary debates are broadcast but they go like wind past the ears of the people they are broadcast to inform. The people vote for us in Jamaican and we govern the country, supposedly on their behalf, in English. Many many ordinary people can’t understand the serious stuff we are debating in parliament on their behalf. But, I am told by the older politicians, this is the way of the world. This is the way it has always been done. We will keep on doing it, year after year, election after election, I guess, until something radical happens. 

The After – Parliament

It’s so much easier now, talking in parliament. I can now I talk in a manner that those who voted for me to be here can understand. I am now quite good at discussing increasing Jamaica’s GDP by 5%, ‘mek di moni valyuu fi evriting wi projuus ina Jamieka go op faiv dala ina evri onjred’.  It has required some practice. People think that just because you chat Jamaican, you can just jump up and express any idea in it. It calls for practice and a bit of training when you are dealing with specialised areas such as politics and economics. I am grateful for help received from the Jamaican Language Unit through training in the use of Jamaican for topics in politics and economics. Now, when my constituents tune in to hear debates in parliament about taxes or the education system, they can hear presentations that they can full understand, at least from those of us younger members of parliament who choose to use Jamaican. The older folk are stuck with their English. 

Speaking for myself, somehow, the promises I make in English to bring ‘progress’ and ‘prosperity’ to the country don’t feel anything like as heartfelt and genuine as when I pledge to do everything in my power to ‘mek di konchri go faawad’ and ‘gi di konchri everiting we gud’. Using Jamaican, our native language within our parliament, is a very important step in making us more accountable to the people who have elected us to represent their interests. 

As you should have guessed, the standing orders for the houses of parliament have now changed. It was one massive struggle but it came to pass. They now read, ‘The proceedings and debates of the House/Senate shall take place in the Jamaican language and in English’. The standing orders into Jamaican haven’t yet been translated into Jamaican but we can wait for that. Meanwhile, on the language front, ‘Big tingz a gwaan fi Jamieka’.

The Before – Health Services

As Jane or John Jamaican, when you go to a hospital, it can be a matter of life and death. You had better make sure the doctors, nurses and other health professionals understand you or you are in trouble. So, you make sure to ask, ‘You understand what I say?’ The ones you like are those who say back what they think you said to them, just to check. The ones you hate are the ones who say, ‘Yes, yes!’ and start writing and prescribing. You have to stop them, ask them to hold on and explain to you what is wrong with you, in a language you can understand. After all, not because you don’t speak English too well, you are an idiot. If the doctor is not from Jamaica, the communication problem can be huge. All those foreign doctors will know is English. In the case of doctors that are from Jamaica, many times they can break it down into the Jamaican language, even if they use some big fancy English words like ‘lesions’ and ‘trauma’ in the middle of their Jamaican. All the time, you are listening to make sure that they understood what you told them about where you are hurting, when the pains first started and how you are feeling now. You have heard lots of stories about doctors making mistakes and treating people for the wrong thing. You don’t want that to happen to you. 

You have to listen keenly and look down their throats, when doctors tell you what is wrong with you and what has to be done to bring about a cure. You had better make sure you understand them. Your life might depend on it. Even in the middle of your discomfort, you have to keep your ears wide open. What is that you just heard? You don’t quite understand what they are saying? What am you hearing about using ‘cooled boiled water’ to use as an eye-wash for my infected eye? ‘Cool’ and ‘boil’ don’t go together. Boiled water is hot. You stop the doctor to get an explanation. He not going to boil out your eye with boiling water? Thank goodness that this doctor is from Jamaica, is patient and makes sure you understand.  The last time you came to the hospital, the doctor was not from Jamaica. He spoke English but no Jamaican. You only understood a little of what he had to say. You called a passing doctor who looked like he was from Jamaica and asked him to explain to you. He was impatient, and you still didn’t get what you were being told. Coming to hospital, you have two problems, your sickness and the language. This visit to the hospital wasn’t so bad, though. 

The After – Health Services

Going to hospital or carrying someone to hospital is still not a fun thing. However, since Jamaican became an official language alongside English, you have one less worry. You at least don’t have to worry about making sure they don’t kill you off because they don’t understand you, or you kill yourself off because you don’t understand them. You don’t have to be fighting sickness and language all at the same time. Not anymore, anyway.

Whatever language you use, English or Jamaican, the doctors and nurses are now trained to use with me whichever official language you choose to talk to them in. And that’s true whether they are from Jamaica or some other country. They all have to take an exam in the use of the Jamaican language in medical situations, or at least that is what you heard. And whether you complain about pain or numbness in my hand or foot or belly bottom, they understand exactly what you mean. And as for the ‘cooled, boiled water’, that’s like easy now, since they would all tell you, ‘yu tek waata, bwail i, kuul i, an den wash yu yai wid it.’  The foreign doctors still aren’t that great with the language but things are way better now than they used to be.

The Before – The Legal System

I am in court. I am being tried and I am not really understanding a lot of what they are saying. I hear that the constitution says that everybody has a right to be tried in a language they can understand. That should apply to me since I don’t understand very much of what is going on. Yes, I have a lawyer representing me but I am supposed to know what is going on and what is being said so I can advise her on how to conduct my defence. I might as well not be here in this courtroom. I can’t really ‘hear’ what they are saying and I can’t really ‘speak’ either through my lawyer because I can’t understand enough to give her advice. I can’t even understand her as she gets up to speak in my defence. 

I believe, from what I am told about my constitutional rights, that I am entitled to an interpreter if I do not understand the language of the court. Well, I don’t understand much of what is going on here. But Jamaica is an English speaking country. English is spoken here and therefore I am supposed to understand when it is spoken. How would it look if I said I didn’t understand English even though I was born in Jamaica and lived here all my life? The jury would think I am some kind of conman pretending not to understand English. Or they would think that any Jamaican who doesn’t understand English is really ‘dark’. I don’t want anyone thinking I’m a fool because I am not. Better pretend I know what’s going on than to look a fool by saying I don’t understand and asking for an interpreter. I have pride. My mother sent me to school. I can read and write. I won’t shame my family by standing up and telling these people I don’t understand English, the language of Jamaica. Even if I have to take the chance of ending up in jail for a crime I didn’t commit, that’s better than disgracing my mother of blessed memory. I’m not going to stand up here and make myself look a real fool before all these people, saying I don’t understand English. They will say, ‘Patwa is not a language so what language do you understand then?’. 

The After – The Legal System

The trial has dragged on and on, from adjournment to adjournment. A couple of years have passed. But what a way things have changed! I now have access to a professional and trained interpreter every time I appear in court. The interpreter sits next to me and in whispers, interprets for me exactly what is being said in English in the court. 

When the law changed and Jamaican was declared an official language alongside English, I suddenly felt free. I could declare to the court that I spoke a language, Jamaican. No shame in that now. I speak one of the official languages of the country. Up until then, I spoke ‘nothing’, just a ‘dialect’, just ‘broken English’. If you speak a broken language, you are yourself broken. I discovered I had a language when they made it official and gave it a name. It was a name that identified it with who I am, Jamaican. I was so proud and happy. I and my language were no longer ‘non-standard’ and ‘broken’. And I became whole in the process. I will fight the charges. I will not accept being found guilty of a crime I didn’t commit. And I will do so in my language, Jamaican, with the help of my lawyer and my interpreter.  

The Before – Education System

My children go to school. They are taught to read and write in English, a language we don’t speak at home or in the community. And, on top of that, English is the language used to teach subjects like mathematics and science. The teachers expect the children to read and understand textbooks in English, a language they are now learning in school. The teachers tell them that the language they use at home is not the ‘target language’ of the school and that how they speak normally is not appropriate for the classroom and formal situations. The boys hate school and English. They mock it as a girls’ language. When the children come home, I have to be fighting with them to tell them that they are great and wonderful and that nothing is wrong with who they are or how we speak. 

The children and their friends pretend to read books sometimes. That’s when they are playing school. The big girl loves to play teacher. The books are in English. When the teacher in make believe school ask another child to read aloud, they call out the words, one by one. No sign that they understand the connection between these words. That’s even as they excitedly chat Jamaican at the speed of Usain Bolt running on hot coals. They don’t understand the subjects they learn, all taught using English, from mathematics through science to social studies. I try to get them to prepare for exams by getting them to memorise the notes they get from school and what is in the textbooks. It doesn’t work. The keep failing their exams and doing badly. I can see the light in their eyes that they used to have first time going to school, going out.  

The After – The Education System

Then the language change came. Jamaican is now an official language alongside English, the younger children are having a completely different experience in school. They are learning to read and write in English and Jamaican at the same time. They find reading and writing in Jamaican easier, and that’s not just because they talk the language already. The way you write the language, it’s just one letter or letter combination for each sound. School is much more fun for the younger ones than it was for the older ones going through the old time system. Most of all, I can help them with their homework because, when it comes to anything in or about the Jamaican language, I know more about it than my children do. That’s not the case when all the schoolwork was done in English. And I am learning a whole heap of social studies and science and mathematics too because I can read and understand the textbooks in Jamaican.  We are growing and learning together, and the children are proud of who they are, and are so full of confidence in themselves. Most of all, I see the boys paying an interest in learning and speaking English. Now that Jamaican has the same status in school as English, the boys don’t have any reason to treat English as that ‘speakey-spokey’ girly language. It’s just another language for them to learn and speak. 

The system is still settling down. There is still can’t get all books and other materials in Jamaican. It’s taking a bit of time to get those out, but I see a lot of the parents online experimenting with getting their children to write their own Jamaican language story books online. The odd parent has even tried writing a fun science book in Jamaican and another one in mathematics. The mathematics one caught me. The Jamaican word for ‘triangle’ is ‘chrii-said shiep’. Someone got onto WhatsApp and said that was foolishness until another pointed out that the English word ‘triangle’ just means a shape with three angles. Same thing with the English word ‘ovoid’. It is in the Jamaican language children’s maths book as ‘eg shiep’. It wasn’t long before someone said the Jamaican word was stupid and clumsy and that the English word ‘ovoid’ was much nicer and had a better sound. And then the clap back came, that ‘ovoid’ is from Latin ‘ovum’ meaning ‘egg’ and so ‘ovoid’ just means being egg-like. The language arguments are hot but most people agree that two languages in Jamaican schools are better than one. 

The Before – Worker Productivity

I am an investor and an employer of labour. Over the period from 2000-2012, the value of the production output per worker in Jamaica decreased on average by 0.83% every year.    This is in contrast to an average 1.8% per year increase globally, and a 1.72% per annum increase for the comparator of choice, Singapore

I am puzzled. Jamaica, like the rest of the world, has gone through a technological revolution. There has been widespread the application of technology, particularly information and communications technology, in the workplace and in everyday life. In almost every other country, this has meant an increase in output per worker. But not here in Jamaica. There has instead been a decline in the value of goods and services produced per worker in any given year. This is particularly puzzling given that many more Jamaicans are going to school and getting education and training at higher and higher levels. 

After some thinking, the answer is obvious. The education and skills training are not taking place in a language most workers are comfortable with and fully understand. In education and training, they learn by rote and apply what they know from memory to the work they do. When we bring in new equipment, all of which these days has some digital component and relies on information technology to function, they are at sea. Even when we spend large sums on training, they use the expensive new equipment as if it were the old ones. Many times, the machine operators will disable the advanced functions on the new equipment so it can function like the old. I as an investor in this new equipment get no benefit from the money I have spent. In fact, the workers produce less because the machines, not designed to operate with their modern capabilities disabled, break down more often, slowing production down. 

Maybe I should refurbish my old equipment, put them back into my Jamaican operations and ship my fancy new equipment to an operation in a country where things are different. Going forward, why should I invest my money in a country where labour is giving me lower and lower production per worker with each passing year when I could go to any other country and expect an increase in the productivity of my employees from one year to the next?

The After – Worker Productivity 

Things have changed over the few years since Jamaican was made an official language alongside English. Training takes place in both languages. Information and training manuals are translated into Jamaican and both written and audio versions of these are made available to them via their cell phones. Even customer service functions involving automated telephone instructions are in both languages, with the user free to choose which language. Needless to say, most choose the Jamaican option. The workplace is now much more relaxed, less strain on people trying to fix their English to talk to the colleagues or their supervisor. With training in a language that is native to them, the workers feel more comfortable with the new information they are receiving and much more willing to experiment with that information and make mistakes. They are definitely much more in the learning mode than before.

The area in which the change in language policy has had the biggest difference is in occupational safety. Industrial plants need to have strict safety rules and regulations. In the old days, you would train workers, put up signs, have health and safety recordings all over the place, and all of this still had limited influence on the behaviour of our workers. Our accident rate hardly came down, no matter what measures we put in place. And then, with the change in official language policy, suddenly accidents dropped and stayed low for the following years. We brought in a consultant to try and help us understand what had happened. They came up with the ‘No Piss Ya’ explanation. Even though rum bars and hang out spots could communicate with patrons via the sign ‘No Urinating Here’, it is ‘No Piss Ya’ that is mostly seen. Instructions about safety behaviour given in a language which is not native and not tied to emotions related to urgency and fear, will never create behaviours needed for safe behaviours. By giving the health and safety instructions in Jamaican, we were tapping into the emotion and urgency triggered by a language in which they experience fear. The ‘No Piss Ya’ principle has made all the difference. 

The Before – Music Lyrics

I am a music publisher in Jamaica and I did some calculations. Reggae’s share of the USA recorded music market in 2018 is 1.1%. The total global revenue for music, both recorded and live, is projected in 2019 to be US$26B . If we were to assume that this percentage is representative of reggae’s share of the total global music market, recorded and live, in 2019, then the total revenues from reggae globally would be US$286M. Let us, in addition, assume that reggae originating in Jamaica accounts for 70% of global reggae music production.  The revenue derived by Jamaica would be US$200.2M. Since almost all reggae music is sung, we can assume that the value of the lyrics, separate from the music, is half of the total, i.e. US$100.1M. If we make the assumption, further, that only half of the lyrics of this music were sung in the Jamaican language, this would mean that the global value of the lyrics in this language would be US$50.05M. This earning takes place against the background of no investment in the Jamaican state in the language. Particularly relevant here is the lack of investment in the development and popularisation of a standard writing system for the Jamaican language, and its formal use in the school system or any other area of the state. 

This last issue is of particular interest to the music industry. Streaming services are replacing radio as the majority medium by which consumers access music around the world. Research shows that 88% of music streamers look for lyrics with their music, because they want to know the words and to sing along (Mulligan 2017 ). Partly because of carelessness in the area of language policy, the vast majority of music lyrics from Jamaica are not managed as part of the intellectual property of the creators of these lyrics. Thus, the lyrics are made available in any of a range of spelling conventions, by fans and/or by those pirating off the economic value generated by these lyrics. The producers of the music lyrics are missing an important revenue stream and I, as a music publisher, can do little about it. That will remain so until the producers of the lyrics respect the language in which they produce most of their lyrics. For now, since Jamaican is thought of as merely an exotic, racy kind of English, a kind of slang, they are happy for others to transcribe their lyrics for ‘free’ using typically an inconsistent writing system, and post these online, sometimes with translations, to generate income which does not enter the pockets of the original creators of the lyrics.

The After – Music Lyrics

Having the Jamaican language recognised as an official language alongside English, with its own standard writing system, has changed things in two ways. It has professionalised the transcription of those lyrics which are in Jamaican. Also, its official recognition as a language separate from English, written in its own writing system, the Cassidy-JLU orthography, is serving to create a market for professional translators working from Jamaican into English, Chinese, Japanese and the myriad other languages whose speakers are consumers of Jamaican music. The Jamaican owners of the intellectual property in the transcribed versions of these lyrics are benefitting financially since markets have been created for the consumption of the written lyrics and their translations. A demand for expert transcribers and translators has also been created. The benefits here are i) an increase in the value of existing and yet to be created intellectual property, in the form of commercially available accurately transcribed lyrics, and ii) ‘value added’ to this intellectual property downstream through translation and the creation of new markets across language barriers. These changes promise to massively increase the estimated US$44.4M currently earned via the use of Jamaican in music lyrics originating from Jamaica.

The Before – The Writing System

Critical to the commercial value of written music lyrics in Jamaican is the question of a standard writing system. In the old dispensation, we treat Jamaican as a dialect of English. What we, therefore, do is write any Jamaican language word which has the same meaning and roughly the same pronunciation, the same way it is written in English. Thus, even though the Jamaican equivalent of the English word ‘table’ is pronounced a little differently, we write it as ‘table’. That’s the way Miss Lou wrote Jamaican and the way we write it still. 

In cases where we think the pronunciation is different enough, we make a change in spelling. So, when we feel that the Jamaican word has one less sound than its English equivalent, we use an apostrophe as in lan’ for the Jamaican word that is similar in form and meaning to English ‘land’. 

In words where we are dealing with a sound we think is clearly different from the English equivalent, we usually change the spelling. So, the Jamaican word that is equivalent to English ‘the’ is written as de by some people and di by others. Knowing when to make a change and when not to, is a major headache. 

There are major headaches though, with this approach. How do we write the Jamaican word that is equivalent to English ‘through’? Do we write this word as t’rough, chrough or even true?  What we do is ‘try a thing’ and hope for the best.

The After – The Writing System

The Cassidy-JLU of writing Jamaican is now well established. It so easy to learn, people call it the ‘15 minit’ system. Every letter or two-letter combination stands for a single sound and no other. Whenever you see the letter or letter combination, you always pronounce it the same way.  No rules to learn, no exceptions. The words look strange like a different language for those of us accustomed to reading English. But then, that’s the point, Jamaican is a different language. It isn’t supposed to look like English on the page.

The consonant letters and letter combinations used in the Cassidy-JLU system are ‘b’. ‘ch’, ‘d’, ‘f’, ‘g’, ‘j’, ‘k’, ‘l’, ‘m’, ‘n’, ‘p’, ‘r’, ‘s’, ‘t’, ‘v’, ‘w’, ‘y’ and ‘z’. There is no ‘q’ and no ‘x’ with the Jamaican words equivalent to English ‘quick’ and ‘box’ being spelt respectively as kwik and baks

There are 5 simple vowels,  ‘i’, ‘e’, ‘a’, ‘o’ and ‘u’, 3 double ones, ‘ii’, ‘aa’ and ‘uu’ and 4 combined ones, ‘ie’, ‘uo’, ‘ai’ and ‘ou’. The 5 short vowel letters retain their sound values when they occur in the longer vowel forms which are simply a joining together of the vowel sound values of the individual vowel letters. The sound of these vowel letters is consistent with European languages that use the Latin alphabet, notably Spanish, Portuguese and Italian, as well as widely used non-European languages written in the Latin script, such as Kiswahili. The Cassidy-JLU system, of course, cannot be consistent with English since the English writing system, unlike that of most other languages using the Latin script, is highly inconsistent. Below are some samples of how we used to write and how we now write using the Cassidy-JLU system.

a) We used to write:
De fat stuff elephant ‘ave one calf an’ dem laugh

Now we write:
Di fat stoelifant av wan kaaf an dem laaf

 

b) We used to write:
Me woulda like know wh‘im lie bout im buy dye laas’ night

Now we write:
Mi wuda laik nuo wai im lai bout im bai dai laas nait

c) We used to write:
De new blue suit, it cute but fe tell yuh de truth, dem nuh too like de boot

Now we write:
Di nyuu bluu suut, it kyuut bot fi tel yu di chruut, dem no tuu laik di buut.

Hubert Devonish
Dept. of Language, Linguistics & Philosophy
UWI, Mona

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Hubert Devonish