Jamaican Language

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A few weeks ago, I contacted Leon Robinson from Kingston, Jamaica, who writes a blog called My thoughts...on stuff, and asked him if he would write something about Jamaican English as I have found his blog interesting and wanted to know his ideas about Jamaican English, which I hoped would add to the range of our view of English. We have contributors from many varieties of English, but little about the Caribbean. He agreed to do it and his thoughts can be read here.

Leon uses the term Jamaican Language where I used Jamaican English as he seems to see it as a language in its own right, which is a different perspective from the one I started with, but the differences between language and dialect or variation are far from clear- there is no acid test for what constitutes a language. Czechs and Slovaks seem to agree that they speak different languages, but there are greater similarities between their languages than between some of the dialects of Chinese. A language is defined by the speech community rather than outsiders.

Leon also pointed out that Jamaican language is replacing Cockney in London. A few months ago, I contacted someone from the East End of London to try to get more Cockney Rhyming Slang from them and they said the same thing, though in his case it was more of a lament for the decline of a truly fascinating dialect.

Among the examples of Jamaican language he gives, pickney for child, I know comes from the Portuguese pequenino, but I didn't know nyam for eat, which is, curiously, the same as in Khmer, which I am trying to learn at the moment.

Categories: General


what percentage of the Jamaicans speak Patois and what percentage speak English?

Answering Christine's question. The official language for Jamaica is English and so all Jamaicans should be able to speak English. The reality though is that many Jamaicans, especially those of low economic and academic standing struggle to speak correct English. The typical Jamaican though speaks both English and the colloquial Patois. English is used in formal settings, Patois is more for social settings. Therefore you speak English when taking the job interview but freely speak Patois when you're just relaxing with your friends.

papashante bushman

bless rastafari mi deh fi put up de patois top top

hey i love jamaica it is a great country because i am doing a project on it but you have very good thoughts and i would love to talk like jamaican's it would be fun,and funny also self exspeirientsed

hey yes i too love Jamaica and jamaicans i m around lots of jamaicans in my life and now i consider myself as a Jamaican Im learning how to speak
''DEH'' language its amazing and different

speaking patois does not dictate ur social standing or level of education in Jamaica so people are just more comfortable using it because it's our 'native tongue'......not everybody see it this way tho only those like myself who study the the language....yes it is a language.

I am a jamaican and i speak both english,patois and several other languages.Patois should be considered as a language because living in jamaica Patois is the first Dialect-language i lean and when i started going to school i then learn english rather it not the english i learned was not American but so more like British English.So to make a long story short if Patois should be considered as a language it should be considered as a language under British English language.And also if someone speak English they really should understand when the english language is broken.

mi deah yah,ga lang dung desso. is also not understandable in the english dictionary.Also as to what Kerry said is incorrect.

Im a fan of this language. Very well-written article. Indeed, I have to agree with all of this then. Thumbs UP!

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