Jamaica Languages

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Description[edit | edit source]

Jamaica is regarded as a bilingual country, with two major languages in use by the population. The official language is English, which is "used in all domains of public life", including the government, the legal system, the media, and education. However, the primary spoken language is an English-based creole called Jamaican Patois (or Patwa). The two exist in a dialect continuum, with speakers using a different register of speech depending on context and whom they are speaking to. "Pure" Patois, though sometimes seen as merely a particularly aberrant dialect of English, is essentially mutually unintelligible with standard English and is best thought of a separate language. A 2007 survey by the Jamaican Language Unit found that 17.1 percent of the population were monolingual in Jamaican Standard English (JSE), 36.5 percent were monolingual in Patois, and 46.4 percent were bilingual, although earlier surveys had pointed to a greater degree of bilinguality (up to 90 percent). The Jamaican education system has only recently begun to offer formal instruction in Patois, while retaining JSE as the "official language of instruction".

Additionally, some Jamaicans use one or more of Jamaican Sign Language (JSL), American Sign Language (ASL) or the indigenous Jamaican Country Sign Language (Konchri Sain). Both JSL and ASL are rapidly replacing Konchri Sain for a variety of reasons. [1]

Jamaican Patois (or Patwa) or Jamaican Creole -

  • English-based creole language with West African influences
  • Spoken by the majority of Jamaicans as a native language
  • Developed in the 17th century when slaves from West and Central Africa were exposed to the forms of English spoken by the slaveholders
  • The pronunciation and vocabulary are significantly different from English but the writing system shows commonalities with the English alphabet
  • It exists as mostly a spoken language but is used for musical purposes [2]

Word List(s)[edit | edit source]

Alphabet and Pronunciation[edit | edit source]

Language Aids and Dictionaries[edit | edit source]

Additional Resources[edit | edit source]

References[edit | edit source]

  1. Wikipedia contributors, "Jamaica Languages," in Wikipedia: the Free Encyclopedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jamaica#Languages, accessed 15 March 2021.
  2. Wikipedia contributors, "Jamaican Patois," in Wikipedia: the Free Encyclopedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jamaican_Patois, accessed 15 March 2021.