Social Stratification &
Language in the Modern
Caribbean
Part II
Aims



To explore the linguistic reality hidden
behind the labels “Spanish-/English/French-/Dutch Speaking.”
To examine alternative labels which better
capture the linguist reality of territories.
To identify the social factors which might
motivate a particular linguistic situation.
Territory Labels

English Speaking
French Speaking
Spanish Speaking
Dutch Speaking

What do these labels mean?



Territory Labels cont’d
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
The labels suggest that the official
language of the territory is
English/Spanish/French/Dutch.
The language of the ultimate colonizing
power.
The Distribution of Languages in
the Caribbean
Country
Official
Language
Cuba
Spanish
Dominican Spanish
Republic
Puerto Rico Spanish
Mass
Other
Vernacular/ Languages
Creole
Spanish
Spanish
Spanish
-
English
The Distribution cont’d
Country
Off. Lang
Mass Vern. Other lang.
Barbados
English
EC
Jamaica
English
EC
Antigua
English
EC
St. Kitts
English
EC
St. Vincent
English
EC
Monsterrat
English
EC
B&USVirgin English
Islands
EC
The Distribution cont’d
Country
Official
Lang.(s)
Haiti
French
Creole,
French
Guadeloupe French
Martinique
French
Mass
Other
Vernacular/ Languages
Creole
French
Creole
French
Creole
-
French
Creole
-
The Distribution cont’d
Country
Official
Language
St. Lucia
English
Mass
Other
Vernacular/ Languages
Creole
FC, EC
-
Grenada
English
EC
FC
Dominica
English
FC, EC
-
The Distribution cont’d
Country
Aruba
Official
Language
Dutch
Mass
Other
Vernacular Languages
Papiamentu E & S
Bonaire
Dutch
Papiamentu English
Curacao
Dutch
Papiamentu E & S
St. Maarten Dutch
EC
E, P & S
Seba
Dutch
EC
E, P & S
St.
Eustatius
Dutch
EC
E, P & S
The Distribution cont’d
Country
Guyana
Official
Lanugage
English
Mass
Vernacular
EC
Suriname
Dutch
Sranan
Trinidad
English
EC
Other
Languages
Amerindian
languages
Saramacca
n, Ndjuka,
Javanese,
Sarnami,En
glish
FC, Spanish
Bhojpuri
The Labels Which Better Reflect
The Linguistic Realities


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Continuum
Diglossia
Bilingualism/Multilingualism
Labels cont’d
Labels may refer to the speech community
or the individual.
Always keep in mind the De facto
(factual/real) and the De Jure
(legal/law) situation.
The Creole Continuum

What is the Creole Continuum


a continuous spectrum of speech varieties
ranging from the Creole to the standard
language.
Main levels of the continuum
Acrolect (standard variety)
 Mesolect (intermediate varieties)
 Basilect (Creole)

The Creole Continuum cont’d

The Creole Continuum is usually used to
describe the linguistic situation in Jamaica
and Guyana.

(Read DeCamp’s quote in Rickford 1987:18 )
The Creole Continuum cont’d


“Many Jamaicans and Guyanese persist in
the myth that there are but two varieties:
the patois and the standard.
The standard is not British English (as is
the claim) rather there is an evolving
standard (Jamaican, Guyanese) English
which is mutually intelligible with but
different from the British Standard.
The Creole Continuum cont’d

Each speaker (Jamaican& Guyanese)
commands a span of this spectrum. The
breath of the span depends on: 
“The breath of his/her social contacts”
(DeCamp 1971:350) which among other
things is informed by his/her education and
the need to portray his presence in or
familiarity with a particular social group (acts
of identity).
The Creole Continuum cont’d

Guyanese e.g.
“I told him”
Ai told him
 A tel im
 A tel ii
 Mi tel am


(Acrolectal)
(Basilectal)
(Jamaican example from H/Work)
The Creole Continuum cont’d

Jamaican e.g.

I was walking to school
Ai woz waakin tu skuul
A woz a waak tu skuul
mi woz a waak go skuul
mi did a waak go skuul
mi wehn a waak go skuul
mi wehn de waak go skuul
mi behn a waak go skuul
mi behn de waak go skuul
The continuum cont’d
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Things to consider
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What is so special about the Caribbean
continuum situation?
Is the continuum a social or linguistic
description?
How may underlying systems are were really
dealing with one, two, three?
Are we just speaking of diglossia anyway?
Can the acrolect, mesolect and basilect be
clearly isolated?
Diglossia


The concept was developed by Ferguson
(1959) and extended in its scope by
Fishman (1971).
A diglossic situation is one in which “there
exists two separate language varieties,
each with its own specific functions within
the society” (Devonish, 1986:9)
Diglossia cont’d

“A diglossic situation exists in a society
when it has two distinct codes which show
clear functional separation; that is one is
employed in one set of circumstances and
the other in an entirely different set”
(Wardhaugh 1986:87)
Diglossia cont’d


In diglossic situations the ‘High’ language
variety is the one used in writing, in
education, in government administrative
and legal institutions, and generally in
public and formal situations.
“These domains are dominated by and
under the control of the ruling class and
their values” (Devonish 1986:9)
Diglossia cont’d

“Diglossia is a relatively stable language
situation in which, in addition to the
primary dialects of the language (which
may include a standard or regional
standards), there is a very divergent,
highly codified (often grammatically more
complex) superposed variety, the vehicle
of a large and respected body of written
literature, either of an earlier period
Diglossia cont’d

Or in another speech community, which is
learned largely by formal education and is
used for most written and formal spoken
purposes but is not used by any sector of
the community for ordinary conversation”
(Ferguson 1959:336)
Diglossia cont’d


The ‘Low’ variety is the one used by the
mass of the population in the course of
their everyday private and informal
interaction, within the family, and in the
various forms of popular culture.
It typically involves two distinct language
but may also involve dialects of the same
language.
Defining Characteristics of
Diglossia
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Both varieties are kept apart functionally.
The H variety is the prestige variety; L
lacks prestige.
H is highly codified.
All children learn the L variety.
H variety is usually learnt in school.
L variety tends to borrow learned words
from the H variety especially to express
new ideas.
Examples of Diglossic Situations
outside the Caribbean



Arabia - Classic Arabic (H) and the various
colloquial varieties (L)
Swiss Germany -Standard German (H )and
Swiss German (L)
Greece - Kataharevousa (H) Demotic (L)
Diglossia cont’d
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Haiti was once seen as the prime example of
Diglossia in the Caribbean.
Standard French (H) and French Creole (L)
FC has been given Official status. The Speech
community by law is bilingual.
Most of the population is monolingual in French
Creole (In light of this, consider that for diglossia
to persist the individual has to command both
codes) Are speakers in Haiti really diglossic?
Monolingualism



Refers to the ability to use a single
language.
The speech community and the majority
of individuals can be monolingual.
Example Cuba (official language is Spanish
and the Mass Vernacular is Spanish)
Keep in mind that in this situation
individuals may be bi/multilingual.
Bilingualism and Multilingualism

Refers to the ability to speak more than one languages (Bi-two and
Multi-multiple/several).

When is a person truly bilingual? (Extremes—knows a few words
cannot be differentiated from a native speaker)


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A bilingual speaker will switch between codes and is not necessarily
restricted by speech context.
Example of bilingual speech community outside the Caribbean is
Canada (French and English).
For e.g. of Caribbean bilingual situation consider individual/defacto
situation (examine Puerto Rico which has English as an additional
language in the speech community but it (English) is not official)
Multilingual – Suriname, Trinidad, Curacao
Multilingualism outside of the
Caribbean

The Tukano (live in the Northwest
Amazon, on the border between Colombia
and Brazil).

Multilingualism is the norm in this community
because men must marry outside their
language group. They choose women from
various tribes. After marriage the women
move into the men’s households.
Consequently in any village several languages
are used.
Conclusion
The key is being able to argue the extent
to which the labels adequately capture the
linguistic situation in the territories.
ALL THE BEST!!!
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Caribbean Language Classifications