LINGUIST List 14.2505

Mon Sep 22 2003

Books: Socioling, Jamaican English: Christie

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  1. arawakpub, Language in Jamaica: Christie

Message 1: Language in Jamaica: Christie

Date: Mon, 22 Sep 2003 14:59:08 +0000
From: arawakpub <>
Subject: Language in Jamaica: Christie

Title: Language in Jamaica
Series Title: Caribbean Language Series
Publication Year: 2003
Publisher: Arawak Publications

Availability: Available
Author: Pauline Christie				

Paperback: ISBN: 9768189312, Pages: 74, Price: US$15

English is the official language of Jamaica, a position it has
occupied for well over three centuries. As such, it is the language
traditionally required in the administration of government, in the law
courts, the churches and the education system. English is expected
wherever written language is required and for all formal oral
communication. It is also indispensable for contacts between Jamaica
and other countries. Thus, Jamaicans need to be proficient in English
for full participation in their own society as well as on the
international stage. However, despite the valiant efforts of teachers
over the years, many persons have failed to master Standard
English. The reasons for this failure are more complex than is usually

The book discusses these reasons and other important aspects of
language in Jamaica. It has two separate but interrelated practical
aims. The first of them is to provide information about language
related issues, much of which has so far not been readily accessible
to the general public. The second aim is to facilitate objective
assessment of the language situation and associated problems. Over the
past 60 years or so, scholars have examined a wide range of languages
and have thus gained new insights into their structure and the social
and psychological implications of their use. Yet the diagnosis and the
treatment of language problems in Jamaica often reveal unfamiliarity
with the findings of such research. There is also automatic suspicion
of non traditional ways of looking at language. Many public statements
by laypersons still clearly reflect blind adherence to received
notions about language, some of which studies have shown to be no
longer valid. More importantly, knee-jerk reactions often replace
rational arguments. The book should permit clarification of terms and
proposals that have commonly been misinterpreted and should also
provide a basis for making informed judgments from one or another
point of view.

The observed rush to judgment is particularly evident where Creole,
better known locally as Patois, is concerned. The majority of
Jamaicans use this variety in everyday communication with each other,
but even its speakers consider it to be a debased form of English,
something of which one should be ashamed, and an obstacle to
progress. These reactions are among the issues that are discussed in
the book.

The style of the book is simple, designed to enhance its appeal to the
average reader who is interested in language and its
socio-psychological and educational implications and/or in the
Jamaican language situation as such. At thesame time, students of
linguistics or communication at the tertiary and advanced secondary
levels should also find it useful. Specific topics dealt with, in
addition to those mentioned earlier, include (1) the functions of
English and Creole and the interaction between them in everyday
communication (2) the origin, development and current state of English
in Jamaica (3) the influence of American English (4) the linguistic
status of Creole and (5) different perspectives on the use of Creole
in the classroom. Towards the end of the book, discussion of the role
of English as a world language and of the related concerns about
maintaining standards is used to set the Jamaican situation within a
wider framework. A similar perspective is provided by brief comments
on the existence of Creoles in other parts of the world and discussion
of developments affecting some of these, which could be of some
relevance to Jamaica.

Ordering info:
Lingfield(s): Sociolinguistics
Subject Language(s): Jamaican Creole English (Language Code: JAM)

Written In: English (Language Code: English)

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