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Dissertation Information

Title: The African Lexis in Jamaican: Its linguistic and sociohistorical significance Add Dissertation
Author: Joseph Farquharson Update Dissertation
Email: click here to access email
Institution: University of the West Indies at Mona, Department of Language, Linguistics & Philosophy
Completed in: 2012
Linguistic Subfield(s): Historical Linguistics;
Subject Language(s): Creole English, Jamaican
Director(s): Susanne Michaelis
Hubert Devonish
Jeff Good
Silvia Kouwenberg

Abstract: This thesis presents a fresh and comprehensive treatment of the putative lexical
Africanisms in Jamaican with a view to assessing the volume and nature of this
aspect of the grammar of Jamaican.

The work draws on a set of best practices in the field of etymology and outlines a
set of transparent guidelines for assigning etyma. These guidelines are put to
work by conducting careful etymological analyses of the over 500 putative
Africanisms that have been identified for Jamaican. The analyses produce a list
of 289 words whose African etymologies have been fairly well established. An
entire chapter is devoted to surveying the distribution of these 289 secure
Africanisms based on their source languages, time of attestation, the African
region they come from, and the semantic domains to which they belong. The
thesis also discusses some of the regularities observed among secure
Africanisms such as the fate of noun-class prefixes, the shape of iterative words,
the number of taboo words, and pejoration. A reconstruction of Àkán day-names
shows that the Jamaican system shares more in common with the
reconstructed system than it does with any modern version of the system used
in Africa. The final substantive chapter attempts to trace substrate patterns in
compounding, an exercise which turns up two potential cases of substrate

The thesis assigns fewer Àkán etymologies than most previous works, and
proposes that many of the Àkán words in Jamaican appear to be post-formative.
On the converse, the number of Koongo etymologies has increased. This is
accompanied by the fact that there is more evidence for Koongo lexical
contribution to Jamaican up to the end of the eighteenth century than for Àkán.