JAMAICAN PATOIS, known locally as PATOIS (PATWA or PATWAH) and called
JAMAICAN CREOLE by linguists, is an
English-based creole language with
West African influences (a majority of loan words of Akan origin)
spoken primarily in
Jamaicans refer to their language as patois . The term patois comes
Jamaican pronunciation and vocabulary are significantly different from English, despite heavy use of English words or derivatives. Jamaican Patois displays similarities to the pidgin and creole languages of West Africa, due to their common descent from the blending of African substrate languages with European languages.
Significant Jamaican Patois-speaking communities exist among Jamaican
Patois exists mostly as a spoken language and is also
heavily used for musical purposes, especially in reggae and dancehall
as well as other genres. Although standard
* 1 Phonology * 2 Sociolinguistic variation
* 3 Grammar
* 3.1 Pronominal system * 3.2 Copula * 3.3 Negation
* 4 Orthography
* 5 Vocabulary
* 5.1 Example phrases
* 6 Literature and film
* 6.1 Bible
* 7 See also * 8 References * 9 Bibliography * 10 Further reading * 11 External links
Accounts of basilectal Jamaican Patois postulate around 21 phonemic consonants and between 9 and 16 vowels .
LABIAL ALVEOLAR Post- alveolar PALATAL 2 VELAR GLOTTAL
STOP p b t d tʃ dʒ c ɟ k ɡ
FRICATIVE f v s z ʃ
^1 The status of /h/ as a phoneme is dialectal: in western varieties, it is a full phoneme and there are minimal pairs (/hiit/ 'hit' and /iit/ 'eat'); in central and eastern varieties, the presence of in a word is in free variation with no consonant so that the words for 'hand' and 'and' (both underlyingly /an/) may be pronounced or . ^2 The palatal stops , and are considered phonemic by some accounts and phonetic by others. For the latter interpretation, their appearance is included in the larger phenomenon of phonetic palatalization .
Examples of palatalization include:
* /kiuu/ → → ('a quarter quart (of rum)') * /ɡiaad/ → → ('guard') * /piaa + piaa/ → → ('weak')
Voiced stops are implosive whenever in the onset of prominent syllables (especially word-initially) so that /biit/ ('beat') is pronounced and /ɡuud/ ('good') as .
Before a syllabic /l/, the contrast between alveolar and velar consonants has been historically neutralized with alveolar consonants becoming velar so that the word for 'bottle' is /bakl̩/ and the word for 'idle' is /aiɡl̩/. Vowels of Jamaican Patois. from Harry (2006 :128)
Jamaican Patois exhibits two types of vowel harmony ; peripheral vowel harmony, wherein only sequences of peripheral vowels (that is, /i/, /u/, and /a/) can occur within a syllable; and back harmony, wherein /i/ and /u/ cannot occur within a syllable together (that is, /uu/ and /ii/ are allowed but * /ui/ and * /iu/ are not). These two phenomena account for three long vowels and four diphthongs :
VOWEL EXAMPLE GLOSS
/ii/ /beeni/ 'tiny'
/aa/ /baaba/ 'barber'
/uu/ /boot/ 'booth'
/ia/ /biak/ 'bake'
/ai/ /bike/ 'bike'
/ua/ /boat/ 'boat'
/au/ /town/ 'town'
Patois features a creole continuum (or a linguistic
continuum): the variety of the language closest to the lexifier
language (the acrolect ) cannot be distinguished systematically from
intermediate varieties (collectively referred to as the mesolect ) or
even from the most divergent rural varieties (collectively referred to
as the basilect ). This situation came about with contact between
speakers of a number of
The tense/aspect system of Jamaican Patois is fundamentally unlike that of English. There are no morphological marked past participles; instead, two different participle words exist: en and a. These are not verbs, but simply invariant particles that cannot stand alone like the English to be. Their function also differs from the English.
According to Bailey (1966), the progressive category is marked by /a~da~de/. Alleyne (1980) claims that /a~da/ marks the progressive and that the habitual aspect is unmarked but by its accompaniment with words such as "always", "usually", etc. (i.e. is absent as a grammatical category). Mufwene (1984) and Gibson and Levy (1984) propose a past-only habitual category marked by /juusta/ as in /weɹ wi juusta liv iz not az kuol az iiɹ/ ('where we used to live is not as cold as here')
For the present tense, an uninflected verb combining with an iterative adverb marks habitual meaning as in /tam aawez nuo kieti tel pan im/ ('Tom always knows when Katy tells/has told about him').
* en is a tense indicator * a is an aspect marker * (a) go is used to indicate the future
* /mi ron/
* I run (habitually); I ran
* /mi a ron/ or /mi de ron/
* I am running
* /a ɹon mi dida ron/ or /a ɹon mi ben(w)en a ɹon/
* I was running
* /mi did ron/ or /mi ben(w)en ron/
* I have run; I had run
* /mi a ɡo ron/
* I am going to run; I will run
* Directional, dative, or benefactive preposition
* /dem a fait fi wi/ ('They are fighting for us')
* Genitive preposition (that is, marker of possession)
* /dat a fi mi buk/ ('that's my book')
* Modal auxiliary expressing obligation or futurity
* /im fi kom op ja/ ('he ought to come up here')
* Pre-infinitive complementizer
* /unu hafi kiip samtiŋ faɹ de ɡini piipl-dem fi biit dem miuzik/ ('you have to contribute something to the Guinean People for playing their music')
The pronominal system of Standard English has a four-way distinction of person, number, gender and case. Some varieties of Jamaican Patois do not have the gender or case distinction, but all varieties distinguish between the second person singular and plural (you).
* I, me = /mi/ * you, you (singular) = /yuh/ * he, him = /im/ (pronounced in the basilect varieties) * she, her = /shee/ar or /im/ (no gender distinction in basilect varieties) * we, us, our = /wi/ * you (plural) = /unu/ * they, them, their = /dem/
* the Jamaican Patois equative verb is also a
* e.g. /mi a di tiitʃa/ ('I am the teacher')
* Jamaican Patois has a separate locative verb deh
* e.g. /wi deh a london/ or /wi deh inna london/ ('we are in London')
* with true adjectives in Jamaican Patois, no copula is needed
* e.g. /mi ole nau/ ('I am old now')
This is akin to Spanish in that both have 2 distinct forms of the verb "to be" - ser and estar - in which ser is equative and estar is locative. Other languages, such as Portuguese and Italian, make a similar distinction. (See Romance Copula .)
* /no/ is used as a present tense negator:
* /if kau no did nuo au im tɹuotuol tan im udn tʃaans pieɹsiid/ ('If the cow knew that his throat wasn't capable of swallowing a pear seed, he wouldn't have swallowed it')
* /kiaan/ is used in the same way as English can't
* /it a puoɹ tiŋ dat kiaan maʃ ant/ ('It is a poor thing that can't mash an ant')
* /neva/ is a negative past participle.
* /Jan neva tiif di moni/ ('John did not steal the money')
Patois has long been written with various respellings compared to English so that, for example, the word "there" might be written ⟨de⟩, ⟨deh⟩, or ⟨dere⟩, and the word "three" as ⟨tree⟩, ⟨tri⟩, or ⟨trii⟩. Standard English spelling is often used and a nonstandard spelling sometimes becomes widespread even though it is neither phonetic nor standard (e.g. ⟨pickney⟩ for /pikni/, 'child').
In 2002, the Jamaican
Short vowels LETTER PATOIS ENGLISH
i sik sick
e bel bell
a ban band
o cut cut
u cook cook
Long vowels LETTER PATOIS ENGLISH
ii tea tea
aa bawl ball
uu shoot shoot
Diphthongs LETTER PATOIS ENGLISH
ie cake cake
uo grow grow
ai bite bite
ou cow cow
Nasal vowels are written with -hn, as in kyaahn (can't) and iihn (isn't it?)
Consonants LETTER PATOIS ENGLISH
b bake bake
d dawg dog
ch church church
f food food
g goat goat
h hen hen
j judge judge
k kite kite
l lean lean
m man man
n nice nice
ng sing sing
p peel peel
r run run
s sik sick
sh shout shout
t two two
v vote vote
w wile wild
y young young
z zoo zoo
zh verjan version
h is written according to local pronunciation, so that hen (hen) and en (end) are distinguished in writing for speakers of western Jamaican, but not for those of central Jamaican.
See also: List of African words in Jamaican Patois
There are many words referring to popular produce and food items—ackee , callaloo , guinep , bammy, roti , dal , kamranga. See Jamaican cuisine .
Patois has its own rich variety of swearwords . One of the
strongest is blood claat (along with related forms raas claat, bomba
claat, claat and others—compare with bloody in Australian English
Homosexual men are referred to as /biips/ or batty boys .
* /trii man did a swim/ - Three men swam. * /mi aalmuos lik 'im/ - I nearly hit him * /'im caan beet mi, 'im dʒos loki dat 'im won/ - He can't beat me, he simply got lucky and won. * /dem pikni de out a awdah/ - Those children are disobedient * /siin/ - Affirmative particle * /papiˈʃuo/ - Foolish exhibition, a person who makes a foolish exhibition of him or herself, or an exclamation of surprise. * /oman/ - Woman * /bwoi/ - Boy * /ɡyal/ - Girl * /mi nuh knoa/ - I don't know
LITERATURE AND FILM
A rich body of literature has developed in Jamaican Patois. Notable
among early authors and works are
Thomas MacDermot 's All Jamaica
Claude McKay 's Songs of
Dah language weh yuh proud a,
Weh yuh honour an respec –
Po Mas Charlie, yuh no know se Dat it spring from dialec! — Bans a Killin
After the 1960s, the status of Jamaican
Patois rose as a number of
respected linguistic studies were published, by Frederic Cassidy
(1961, 1967), Bailey (1966) and others. Subsequently, it has
gradually become mainstream to codemix or write complete pieces in
Jamaican Patois; proponents include
Kamau Brathwaite , who also
analyses the position of Creole poetry in his History of the Voice:
The Development of Nation
Patois is also presented in some films and other media, for
example, the character
Tia Dalma 's speech from Pirates of the
Caribbean: Dead Man\'s Chest , and a few scenes in
Meet Joe Black in
In December 2011, it was reported that the Bible was being translated
into Jamaican Patois. The Gospel of St Luke has already appeared as:
Jiizas: di Buk We Luuk Rait bout Im . While the Rev. Courtney Stewart,
managing the translation as General Secretary of the West Indies Bible
Society, believes this will help elevate the status of Jamaican
Patois, others think that such a move would undermine efforts at
promoting the use of English. The
Patois New Testament was launched in
Britain (where the
Jamaican diaspora is significant) in October 2012
as "Di Jamiekan Nyuu Testiment ", and with print and audio versions in
...as it occurs in Di Jamiekan Nyuu Testiment: Wi Faada we iina evn, mek piipl av nof rispek fi yu an yu niem. Mek di taim kom wen yu ruul iina evri wie. Mek we yu waahn apm pan ort apm, jos laik ou a wa yu waahn fi apm iina evn apm Tide gi wi di fuud we wi niid. Paadn wi fi aal a di rang we wi du, siem laik ou wi paadn dem we du wi rang. An no mek wi fies notn we wi kaaz wi fi sin, bot protek wi fram di wikid wan. ...as it occurs in English Standard Version : Our Father in heaven, hallowed be Your name. Your kingdom come, Your will be done, on earth, as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.
* ^ Chang, Laurence. "Jumieka Langwij: Aatagrafi/Jamaican Language:
* ^ Jamaican
Ethnologue (18th ed., 2015)
* ^ Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin; Bank,
Sebastian, eds. (2016). "Jamaican".
Glottolog 2.7 . Jena: Max Planck
Institute for the Science of Human History.
* ^ Cassidy FG: Multiple etymologies in Jamaican Creole. Am Speech
* ^ DeCamp (1961 :82)
* ^ "patois".
Oxford English Dictionary