Barbados Languages

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Description[edit | edit source]

English is the official language of Barbados, and is used for communications, administration, and public services all over the island. In its capacity as the official language of the country, the standard of English tends to conform to the vocabulary, pronunciations, spellings, and conventions akin to, but not exactly the same as, those of British English. It is used in print, in the media, in the judicial system, in government, and in day-to-day business.

A regional variant of English referred to locally as Bajan is spoken by most Barbadians in everyday life especially in informal settings, in music, or in social commentary. In its full-fledged form, Bajan sounds markedly different from the Standard English heard on the island. The degree of intelligibility between Bajan and general English depends on the level of creolised vocabulary and idioms. A Bajan speaker may be completely unintelligible to an English speaker from another country. Bajan is influenced by other Caribbean English dialects. [1]

  • Bajan or Barbadian Creole - English-based creole language with African and British influences spoken on the Caribbean island of Barbados. Around 1,000 people use English as their main language and 286,000 use Bajan as their main language. [2]
  • There was no indigenous language on Barbados

Note: When West African captives were taken to Barbados and enslaved, they were forced to speak English. But they didn't learn it very well and the result was Bajan. It was the how the slaves communicated with each other without their masters understanding. Bajan continues to evolve as new idioms, jargon, expressions, and terminology are added. It is not a written language, only spoken. There are dialectal variations across the island. How To Speak Like A Bajan - The Ultimate Guide

Word List(s)[edit | edit source]

Although most words in Bajan Creole are English in origin, many words are borrowed from West African languages. The largest portion contributed to Bajan is from the Igbo language as shown in the list below. [3]

wunna
You all from the Igbo word unu, which means you (plural).
obeah
From Igbo obia, 'doctoring, mysticism, or oracle'.
Bim
From Igbo bé mụ́, 'my place, people, kindred', common nickname for Barbados
de, deh
From Igbo dị̀, 'present in'
eye-water
calque from ányá mmírí (eye + water), tears
duppy
From Twi adope.
Cou-cou
Part of the local national dish, but comes from "Fou Fou" in Africa.
nyam
(Pronounced "ng-yam" or "yamm") Means to eat ravenously or greedily, as in "Don't yamm the food like that boy!" – In Manjaku (language spoken in Guinea-Bissau) and in Pulaar it means to chew (pronounced "nyam"); it also means chew in Luo (language spoken in East Africa).
jook/juk
From the Fula word jukka 'poke, spur'
soso
From the Igbo language word soso 'only'
hard-head
From ísí íké, (head + hard, strength), 'obstinate'

Alphabet and Pronunciation[edit | edit source]

Pronouns in Bajan Creole do not diverge too far from Standard English, but there are differences. As with other similar creoles, Bajan does not differentiate subject and object pronouns, nor possessive pronouns, except in the case of the first person singular. Another difference is the word for the plural you, which is wunna, similar to the Jamaican word unnu / unna or Bahamian yinna. Here is a list of pronouns in Bajan creole:

Singular Plural
Bajan Standard Bajan Standard
I/me/my I/me/my we we/us/our
yuh you/your wunna you all/your
he
she
it
he/him/his
she/her
it/its
dem they/them/their

The word "yuh" is interchangeably pronounced /ju/ or /jə/. [4]

Language Aids and Dictionaries[edit | edit source]

Speaking Aids

Dictionaries

Additional Resources[edit | edit source]

References[edit | edit source]

  1. Wikipedia contributors, "Demographics of Barbados," in Wikipedia: the Free Encyclopedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Demographics_of_Barbados#Languages, accessed 29 January 2021.
  2. Wikipedia contributors, "Bajan Creole," in Wikipedia: the Free Encyclopedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bajan_Creole, accessed 29 January 2021.
  3. Wikipedia contributors, "Bajan Creole," in Wikipedia: the Free Encyclopedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bajan_Creole#African_words_in_Bajan, accessed 2 February 2021.
  4. Wikipedia contributors, "Bajan Creole," in Wikipedia: the Free Encyclopedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bajan_Creole#Pronouns, accessed 29 January 2021.