Jamaican creole – Patwa, yeah mon!


Jamaican Patois is used generally as a verbal language. Although standard British English is used for the majority of writing, however, Jamaican Patois is gaining ground as a literary language. Language in Jamaica reflects the history of the country’s interaction with a variety of cultures and languages from many ethnic, linguistic, and social backgrounds. Aside from the Arawaks, the original inhabitants of Jamaica, all people were exiles or children of exiles.  At least 76% of the 2.8 million people who live in Jamaica are descendants of slaves brought from western Africa by the British.  According to Pryce, "The local Jamaican language is a reflection of a tradition of contact with various people, however the official language remains to be Standard English," (Pryce, 1997).
The most impacting speakers were immigrants from Africa and Europe. Kwa, Manding, and Kru are amongst the number of prominent African languages apparent in Jamaican history. Early Modern English was introduced to the Caribbean islands by sailors, soldiers, indentured servants, convicts, and settlers (lower-class whites) as regional and non-standard dialects. 
Jamaican patois rests at one extreme of the linguistic spectrum while Standard English lies at the other end of the spectrum. "The majority of the population falls in between the two," (Adams, 1991). At one end there is the educated model spoken by the elite, which follows the "London Standard".  Cassidy and Barrett also wrote, "At the other extreme is what linguists call "creolized" English, fragmented English speech and syntax developed during the days of slavery with African influences. This is the speech of the peasant or laborer with little education. In the middle of the language scale there is the inclusion of Jamaican rhythm and intonation of words, which evolved within the country," (Cassidy, 1961 and Barrett, 1997).
What are your views on Patois?

Suggested Reading:

Is the Jamaican dialect suffocating the market potential of Jamaica artistes?

Miss Lou – A Jamaican folk legend



scroll to top