Our book Biesik Jumiekan, a greatly expanded print version of this site,
will be published in May 2014 by Gnosophia Publishers under the Chuu Wod imprint,
supported by crowd-funding through Indiegogo.
Wa Jumiekandem taak
What Jamaicans speak
Di habrij Jumiekan di taak wa dehn taak dehn kaali patwa, dehn kaali kriol, ar
iivn bad hIngglish, askaadn tu ou dehn fiil proud ar kaanful. Jumiekan dem uona
hatityuud divaid uoba di langwij di wuol a dem taak di muos, likl muos
aal di taim. Alduo hIngglish a di hofishal langwij a di konchri, ahn dehn
aal ab wa dehn kaal Jumiekan hIngglish, a muosli bakra ahn tapanaaris yu yie widi
ina hofishal sorkl, anles smadi wahn himpres wid piiki-puoki. Kaman
yuusij rienj frahn Jumiekan hIngglish tu braad patwa wid bout chrii digrii a
separieshan, noftaim ina di wan piika siem wan kanvasieshan.
hArijin a Jumieka Taak
Linggwis dem aidentifai "pior" Jumiekan, fain muosli a konchri, wid riijanal difrans,
laka wahn mixcho a sebntiin sentri hIngglish ahn Wes Afrikan, muosli Shwi,
kanschrokshan ahn vokiabileri, wid som Panish ahn Puotigiis iin de tu fi a gud mixop. Di
haxent ahn kiedens kohn frahn Sikatish ahn hAirish. Kansda di ischri
a Jumieka, dis shudn sopraizn sens di bolk a di papiulieshan dem a disendant frahn slieb
kiaa kom frahn Wes Afrika, fos bai di Panish, den dem laan hIngglish frahn dehn
British uona, uobasior, hadvenchara, ahn mishaneridem.
Potenshal, faib milian piipl, di papiulieshan a Jumieka hinkluudn di dayaspora,
taak Jumiekan ina wan faam ar di hada. Laik eni hada libn langwij,
ichienj ahn kantiniu chienj uoba taim. Mosa honggl fiuu huol-taima baka
bush a konchri ar aisoliet ina Brixtan ar Bruklin frahn waa gwaan kiahn kot di braad patwa,
ar wa wi wi kom fi nuo haz hAakiek ar Klasikal Jumiekan (Si
hAatagrafi, Jumiekan3). Di majariti taakin wi faal
somwe ina di migl a di spekchrom. Dehn haalzwie a mekop niuu wod laka aatikal
ahn tapanaaris, ar chruu di hiiz a hintanashinal chrabl ahn
hilekchranik komiunikieshan, baara dem frahn elswe, laka bling-bling frahn
ip-ap. Di langwij wi chienj bot inaa ded fari tek iin eni nyuu wod ahn Jumiekanaiz dem. So
langx az Jumiekan dem piich patan no chienj, dehn wi kantiniu tek di siem hIngglish
and toni ina dehn uona langwij. No kia umuch dehn wahn sopresi, a hit Jumieka
piipl wi haalzwie taak. Idon du aredi. A dehn langwij muo dahn heniting
hels we set dem apaat az wahn piipl.
Jak Manduora, mi no chuuz non.
The speech of the average Jamaican is variously described as a patois or creole, or
even as bad English, depending on the degree of pride or disdain of the describer.
Jamaicans' attitudes themselves are very divided over the language they all speak most,
if not all, of the time. Although English is the official language of the country, and a
variant known as Jamaican English is acknowledged, it is mostly heard only in formal
situations, unless one wants to impress with "speaky-spoky." Common usage ranges
from Jamaican English to broad patois with about three degrees of separation, often
within a single speaker's conversation.
Origins of Jamaican speech
Linguists have identified "pure" Jamaican, now spoken mostly in rural areas, with
regional differences, as an amalgam of seventeenth century English and West African, mostly
Twi, constructions and vocabulary, with some Spanish and Portuguese thrown in for good measure.
The accents and cadences have been derived from Scottish and Irish. Considering the history
of Jamaica, this should not be surprising as the bulk of the population are descendants of
slaves brought from West Africa, first by the Spanish, then taught English by their British
owners, overseers, adventurers, and missionaries.
Potentially, five million people, the population of Jamaica including the diaspora, speak
Jamaican in one form or the other. Like any other living language, it changes and continues
to change over time. It must be only a few old-timers in the bush of the countryside or
isolated in Brixton or Brooklyn who can still speak broad patois, or what will come to be
known as Archaic or Classical Jamaican (see hAatagrafi,
Jumiekan3). The majority speech will fall somewhere in the middle of the spectrum. New words
are always being created, like haatikal and tapanaaris, or through the ease
of international travel and electronic communication, borrowed from elsewhere, like
bling-bling from hip-hop. The language will change but it will never die for it
absorbs new words and Jamaicanizes them. As long as Jamaicans' speech patterns do
not change, they will continue to take English and turn it into their own language.
No matter how much it is suppressed, this is what Jamaicans will always speak. It is so
already. It is their language more than anything else that sets them apart as a people.
Chek hAARKAIV fi huola haitem
See ARCHIVES for older posts
Caribbean delegates press for language rights
Delegates from at least 12 Caribbean countries, including two governors general, met in Jamaica for two days
recently, to press for the recognition of the rights of persons who speak Creole languages as a part of overall
The delegates, including a number of linguists, said speakers of the region's Creole languages have a right
to be communicated with in their first language, and not be discriminated against in accessing important services,
including education, health and the justice system.
Participants also learned that in St Lucia, the governor general delivers parts of her Throne Speech to
Parliament in Antillean Creole, while many words in Jamaican or Belizean patois are not a corruption of English
as is widely thought.
The Conference on Language Policy in the Caribbean, hosted by the Jamaican Language Unit of the University of
the Indies (UWI), was held at the Mona campus on January 13 and 14.
Full text Jamaica Observer, 2011/1/30
Niem gaan abraad
Fraitn fi si ou dehn rait wi op aal ina Joerman. Wat a ting! Jamaikanisch – die gesprochene Sprache
Eine Mischung aus Englisch des 17. Jahrhunderts und dem westafrikanischen Twi
Ef yu kiahn riid Joerman siit yaso.
Oldest Jamaican Creole Text
A 1781 text from the Cornwall Chronicle was discovered somewhere around 1997 by Maureen Warner
Lewis in the course of her research. It is a big discovery for linguists studying Caribbean Creole
languages. It is the oldest known text of Jamaican. In addition, it is the oldest text of a Caribbean
English Creole outside of Suriname. It predates the next oldest known text, that for St Kitts, by at
least 15 years. Full text
What about freedom from language discrimination?
Hubert Devonish is professor of linguistics and coordinator of The Jamaican Language Unit
at the University of the West Indies. He makes the case for the inclusion of protection from language
discrimination in the Charter of Rights before the Jamaican Parliament. Send comments to
firstname.lastname@example.org. Photo Gleaner
The Charter of Fundamental Rights and Freedoms is about to become law without any
specific provision for freedom from discrimination on the grounds of language. This is
against the background of a society in which two languages are used - English and Jamaican
Creole. The former is the official language, but one in which all, except the educated
minority, have limited competence. The latter is the native language of the vast majority
of the population and is used with facility by all sectors of the population.
English is the only language the institutions of government and state are required to
use in the provision of services to the Jamaican public. We have a clear case of
discrimination on the grounds of language, so why was freedom from language discrimination
not included in the charter?
Full text: Part I
What language(s) should be used for instruction of Creole-speaking children in the Caribbean?
This has been a subject of debate among educators and ministries of education in the region since
the 1970s. This has been triggered by the continuing problems with literacy in English among
school children within the Commonwealth Caribbean.
The Jamaican Language Unit (JLU) within the Department of Language, Linguistics & Philosophy
at the University of the West Indies, Mona, spearheaded by Dr Karen Carpenter, developed the
Bilingual Education Project (BEP) as a contribution to this debate. BEP sought to provide
empirical evidence to policymakers in Jamaica as to the best way to proceed on language
education policy. It sought to test, in a real primary-school situation, the potential
positive effects of using a Creole language, in this case Jamaican, alongside English as
formal languages of instruction and literacy.
The BEP was designed as a way of testing the position taken in the official Language
Education Policy of the Jamaican Ministry of Education and Culture. According to that policy,
even though the use of both languages as subjects and in literacy and oral instruction was
ideal, it was not actually possible in the Jamaican context. The project sought to test this
by designing and implementing precisely such a project. The goal was to show how that which
was said to be ideal could be turned into reality.
The Ministry of Education and Culture, after careful consideration, gave its approval
for the project to proceed. The BEP was implemented in 2004 in three publicly funded primary
schools. It tracked over a four-year period, a group of students who were taught in full
bilingual programme, i.e. taught literacy and language arts in both languages, and content
subjects in both languages. The BEP came to a close in July 2008, with the BEP children
who had entered the programme in 2004 at Grade One, completing Grade Four. Participation
in the project was voluntary. This was true of the schools, participating teachers who
received special training, as well as the parents of the pupils involved.
Among the promises made by the BEP were that:
the BEP would produce an increase in Language Arts skill levels in English among pupils
within the project relative to those in traditional modes of instruction;
the BEP would produce an increase in absolute literacy levels of pupils in the project,
as shown by their literacy in their native language, Jamaican, as compared with non-project
pupils for whom English was the only language of literacy;
the BEP children would show higher levels of competence in content subjects such as
Mathematics, Science and Social Studies, since they were receiving instruction for this,
not only in English, but also in their native language, Jamaican.
At the end of the third year of the project in 2007, a comparison was made of the Grade
Three diagnostic Literacy Test results of the project children and those taught by the
traditional method in the same school. At that stage, the project children had already
developed a level of literacy in English which was slightly higher than that of those who
had not been in the programme.
Based on the experiences of other such projects internationally, the projection was that
this improvement should have taken place by the fourth year. In 2008, the same cohort of
children took the National Grade Four Literacy Test. A preliminary analysis suggests that
again, the performance of the project children in English literacy skills is better than
those who were taught in the traditional manner.
Expert international reviewers listed and conducted the biennial review required as part
of the project design. The overall results of the research are clear. An approach to the
language-education issue in Jamaica which is innovative can indeed bring improved results
in English Language literacy. The old approach sought to get rid of, or at least ignore,
the children's native language, Jamaican. An approach which treated both languages equally
has proved to produce better results. The fully bilingual approach, as is shown the world
over, produces improved language communication and literacy skills across the board, not
only in the native language but also in the second language - in this case, English.
The BEP and the research surrounding it, have made another contribution. It has designed
a model for the implementation of bilingual education in Jamaica. Elements of this model
teaching standing writing system for Jamaican; and
the training of teachers, via a training manual and process, to present good models of
English to their pupils by keeping the two languages apart.
The BEP research is not only relevant to Jamaica but countries such as Belize and Guyana.
It is being viewed with interest by linguists and language educators across the Caribbean. - Jamaica Gleaner, 2010/06/27
Playwright Trevor Rhone dies
Photo Jamaica Observer
KINGSTON, Jamaica - Trevor Rhone, a Jamaican playwright who co-wrote the reggae film
classic The Harder They Come and helped introduce the island's pop culture to the world,
died Tuesday. He was 69.
Rhone died after a heart attack at a hospital in Jamaica's capital, Kingston, according
to his brother, Neville, and playwright Barbara Gloudon, a longtime friend and colleague.
Born in 1940, Rhone wrote more than a dozen plays, including his two-character comedy,
Two Can Play about a Jamaican couple who leave poverty-torn Kingston for an unexpectedly
complicated new life in the United States.
But Rhone is best known for co-writing The Harder They Come, Jamaica's first feature
film, in the early 1970s with Perry Henzell, a filmmaker who died in 2006.
Starring reggae singer Jimmy Cliff, the film became an international success, and its
pulsing soundtrack, which featured reggae performers including Toots and the Maytals and
Desmond Dekker, became a worldwide top-seller. More ...
Pruotes front a di Wait Ous. Nuot inkansistant pelin; shuda bi
Tap di raas waar nou
Ode to 'Miss Lou'
Louise 'Miss Lou' Bennett-Coverley championed the use of Jamaican dialect through
Louise Simone Bennett-Coverley would have turned 90 today. Miss Lou, as she was
affectionately known, was many things to Jamaica: a folklorist, the first lady of comedy
and our linguistic mother. Through her expressive poetry, engaging storytelling and natural
good humour, Miss Lou conveyed the passion and vivacity of Jamaicans and their language.
In the process, she engrained a sense of identity in a fledgling nation. Three years after
her death in Canada, Miss Lou still profoundly epitomises the indigenous Jamaican genius,
as has been seen in other areas such as music and sports. Full story
- Jamaica Gleaner, 2009/09/07
Mi a born Jamaican and mi proud
An yuh fi feel proud too
Fi walk roun an big up yuh chest
An say tanks to Miss Lou.
When she did start, she neva know
A how it would a go
An nuff nuff people wen da laugh
An a call her pappy show.
But she galang strang and stick it out
For she know say she did right
Inna her belly battam she did know one day
Dem would a see di light.
Entime trouble teck wi a Miss Lou wen put
Wi good name pon di map
And wen da push Jamaica heritage
An Laad, she wouldn stop.
She say, "Tek kin teet kibba heart bun"
Wen times neva so sweet
"Good luck will come as long as fowl
A scratch up dungle heap".
Nuff a dem went ink she crazy
An nuff meck up dem face
How Miss Lou a chat dis boogooyagga Patwa
All ova di place.
For dem wen tink patwa was bad English
Dem neva know, poor ting
Dem wouldn tell dem pickney Nancy story
An folk song dem wouldn sing.
But a di jackass wid him long tail
Bag a coco comin dung
An did peel head jankro pon tree top
Jus meck dem head spin rung.
An lickle bi lickle dem start fi back her
Start fi fan her flame
An see deh, after fifty year
Miss Lou - a house hold name.
Now wi nuh shame fi chat wi owna language
An wi dah tank yuh fi it Miss Lou
Dem a teach it clear a university
An ongle sake a you.
Dem a mek flim, dem a write book
Dem a sing whole heap a song
An a say "Oh Patwa is a good language"
But yuh wen know dat all along.
So now wi tan up proud fi be Jamaican
An wi want di whole worl fi hear
Miss Lou, nuff tanks, for Howdy and Tenky
Neva bruck no square.
Wikipedia Jumiekan langwij sait
Sens Disemba 2008, Wikipedia a tesout wahn websait fi Jumieka langwij. Efi wokout dehn wi
meki pormanent. Wail piipl a yaad a gi out gens tiich patwa, di langwij gaan abraad aal a
mek insaiklopiidia. Maitbi afta dehn si se iaksep a farin, dehn wi tekiop sens dehn no siim
fi ana eniting dehn ab tel smadi els rekanaizi.
Buot Lari Chang ahn Javed Jaghai kanek tu LangwiJumieka a di mien kanchribiuta.
Since December 2008, Wikipedia has been testing a Jamaican language website. If it
is successful, it will be made permanent. While people at home are against teaching patois, the
language has been accepted abroad for an encyclopedia. Now that it is gaining international
acceptance, maybe they will take to it since they seem unable to honor anything without prior
Go here to see it.
Both Larry Chang and Javed Jaghai of LangwiJumieka are major contributors.
AKSHAN TAAK, is a Jamaican Language company (JLC) production done in association
with the Jamaican Language Unit. It is a news commentary program done solely in Jamaican
(More commonly referred to as Patwa or Jamaican Creole), which reports on how the media
covers the news relevant to Jamaica and Jamaicans in general.
This inaugural episode looks at the recently held 2008 Olympic games and the different
angles from which various media centers covered the phenomenal performance of the Jamaican
Jumiekan iina Webster's Online dictionary
No nuo frahn wen bot Jumiekan meki iina
Webster's Online Dictionary . Dem ab a gudli lis a wod ahn hexpreshan wid
definishan; yu nuo se a no nuo baan Jumiekan a kompaili far bikaazn se som a dem no kwait
kech di riek, bot iyuusful az refrans. Beg yu nuot se muos a di pelin fala miizolek
aatagrafi, wa wi wuda kaal fala-fashin Ingglish pelin wa no riili gi di dairek soun, so
kieful ou yu fala dem.
We are unsure when, but Jamaican has made it into Webster's Online Dictionary.
There is an extensive list of words and expressions with definitions; you can tell it was
not compiled by a native Jamaican since some of them are a little off, but it is useful
as reference. Please note that most of the spelling follows mesolectal orthography, or
English-based approximations, which do not represent the true sounds, so be careful in