Communication One
• In this presentation we will
discuss the Jamaican
Language Continuum and
the features of Jamaican
Creole in terms of the
linguistic components it
possesses in common with
all other languages.
• These linguistic features
1. Phonology
2. Lexicon
3. Grammar
4. syntax
• Each country has its idiosyncrasies regarding the languages
used within its borders and Jamaica is no exception. The
Jamaican Language situation is referred to as a continuum.
• It depicts the range of languages and language dialects spoken
in Jamaica. (Indeed there are a few other Caribbean territories
which are described in a similar manner.) This range is
represented as a continuum because:
• Not every point on the continuum is a separate language
• Jamaicans will switch from one to the other continuously in
conversation and in different situations and
According to some linguists, the Creole is continuously changing
and becoming more like English. (Decreolisation)
• BASILECT is the form of Creole with more African derived
features than other forms and is said to be the first point on the
continuum. It is most often spoken in rural areas and by
uneducated persons.
• MESOLECT is the form of Creole with more English derived
features than the basilect and is said to be the point on the
continuum next to the basilect. It is most often spoken by urban
and educated persons.
• ACROLECT is the Jamaican Standard English and it is the last
point on the continuum. It is most often spoken in formal
• Undoubtedly this notion that each form is most often spoken by
particular persons is debatable as the increased accessibility of
new technological mediums of communication throughout the
country has enabled Jamaicans to choose even more freely any
variety they wish to use along the continuum.
• The lexicon of a language refers to its vocabulary. In the case
of Caribbean Creole English the vast majority of lexical items
are derived from English but, there are many other lexical items
that are derived from other languages (Europe, Africa and
Asia). Also, there are some English words, that the usage and
meanings of which are inconsistent with traditional English
usage. Some creole words are not recognized to be English
words but they do not mean the same thing as they do in
Lexical Item
English Meaning
Creole English Meaning
Lacking in knowledge or
Irritable and lacking in self
Wretched or unhappy
Fussy or difficult to please
A cold dish of raw
Tomato/ football technique
A beverage or a drink
made from dried leaves of
an evergreen Asian shrub
Any hot beverage
A person’s stomach
Pregnant/ Resentment
With little or no light
To be bashful and
A place where two streets
Street as well as a place
where two streets meet/ a
hang out spot
• In Jamaican Creole English, some English words have been
compounded to create nouns, adjectives and verbs which do
not exist in English. Many of these compound nouns refer to
body parts.
• For eg., ‘eye-water’(tears), ‘hand-middle’ (palm), ‘nose-hole’
(nostrils), ‘neck-back’, (nape), ‘arm-hole’ (armpit), ‘head-top’
(crown), and ‘foot-bottom’ (sole).
• Compound adjectives formed in creole are: ‘hard-ears’
(stubborn), ‘sweet-mouth’ (flatter), ‘bad-mouth’ (to discourage
by destructive critcism), ‘force-ripe’ which means forward or
precocious and ‘red-eye’ (envious).
• Creole words are also formed by reduplication (base words
are repeated to form new words).
• For example: ‘freni freni’ (very friendly), ‘chati-chati’ (talk
excessively or out of turn)
• The sound system or phonology of Caribbean Creole English is
not identical to that of English. For eg, the English word ‘this’ is
pronounced as ‘dis’, the word ‘with’ is pronounced ‘wid’ and
‘these’ is pronounced as ‘dese’.
• Final consonance clusters
tend to be devoiced for
some words in
Caribbean Creole
English. So ‘becomes’ is
pronounced ‘become’
and ‘reduced’ is
pronounced ‘reduce.’
Sometimes the final
consonant sound is
• ‘child’ pronounced ‘chil’
• ‘last’ pronounced ‘las’
• ‘respect’ pronounced
• Colloquial aphesis
(Alleyne, 1980) is a
tendency to omit
unstressed syllables in
Kaazn- because
Gainst- against
Kaal- call
Dawta- daughter
• In English, possession is
signaled by the addition
of the apostrophe ‘s’ to
nouns. In Creole English
this is not so. Instead the
word ‘fi’ is used.
Creole English
Standard English
A fi Jon mango
It is John’s mango.
A fi mi mango
It is my mango.
• Pluralization
• De by dem- the boys
In English, plurals are
• De two book dem- the
signaled by the addition
two books
of a suffix to regular nouns • Mary dem want to comeor by the changing of the
Mary and her friends
noun form as is the case
want to come.
with irregular verbs.
• In JC, plurals are
signaled by the addition
of the word ‘dem’ to the
noun phrase.
• ‘Dem’ is also
multifunctional and not
soley restricted to
marking plurals of count
nouns. It can be used as
a pronoun.
• Dem a come- They are
• Mi si dem a come- I see
them come.
• Dem boy de ready nowThose boys are ready
Copula Verb Construction
• In English a copula links
the subject of a sentence
to the predicate. It is
derived from the verb ‘to
be’. Creole English, in
contrast, can have a zero
copula structure.
• In English you would say
‘I am happy.”
• In creole it would be
expressed “mi happy” or
“I happy”.
The Past Tense
• Verb forms do not
change in Caribbean
Creole to signal the past
• “mi drive de van
• Him did see mi at the
beach las Sunday.
• In Creole English the
ordering and placemen t
of phrases and sentences
are used to highlight and
emphasize different
aspects of meaning in a
• Is Pam eat de mango. In
this sentence, the focus is
on the doer.
• Is yesterday pam eat de
• Is eat Pam eat de
• List five compound words that exist in the Creole English spoken
in your territory which are derived from English words but with
non- English meaning.
• Identify the feature(s) of Caribbean Creole English that is/are
present in the following sentences.
1. Mi big sister dark yu see but mi younger sister id de opposite,
she have belly aready.
2. Di house ketch fiya an de brigade had to out out it.
3. Mi vex wid de boy dem.
4. Fi wi team play football like dem fool fool.

Linguistic Features of Jamaican Creole