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American Virgin Islands Creole, American Indian words in Louisiana, DIALECT SPEAKERS, IRISH AMERICAN VERNAULAR, African American Vernacular, AAVE, Dialect, Creole, Patois, Pidgin, ESL


English Dialect Dictionary Online

Everyone speaks something, everyone, even though some folks don’t think they speak with a dialect, everyone does,” said Audrey Jaeger, one of the co-directors of Educating the Educated and professor of higher education and alumni distinguished graduate professor in the Department of Educational Leadership. A lot of internal collaboration between departments in NC State happens in support of Educating the Educated.

Linguistic Profiling, AfricanAmerican English Origin, Gullah



Do You Speak American?




- 1643, from Fr. patois "native or local speech," from O.Fr. patoier "handle clumsily, to paw," from pate "a paw," from V.L. *patta, perhaps imitative of the sound made by a paw.

Creole- 1697, from Fr. creole, from Sp. criollo "person native to a locality," from Port. crioulo, dim. of cria "person (especially a servant) raised in one's house," from criar "to raise or bring up," from L. creare "to produce, create." Originally with no connotation of color or race; Fowler (1926) writes: "Creole does not imply mixture of race, but denotes a person either of European or (now rarely) of negro descent born and naturalized in certain West Indian and American countries."

Pidgin - 1876, from pigeon English (1859), the reduced form of the language used in China for communication with Europeans, from pigeon, itself a pidgin word, representing a Chinese pronunciation of business. Meaning extended 1921 to "any simplified language." source

PIDIGINS, CREOLES and other Stigmatized Varieties Copyright David Sutcliff used with permission.

A pidgin is a new language which develops in situations where speakers of different languages need to communicate but don't share a common language. The vocabulary of a pidgin comes mainly from one particular language (called the "lexifier"). The early "pre-pidgin" is quite restricted in use and variable in structure. But the later "stable pidgin" develops its own grammatical rules which are quite different from those of the lexifier. Once a stable pidgin has emerged, it is generally learned as a second language and used for communication among people who speak different languages. Examples are Nigerian Pidgin and Bislama (spoken in Vanuatu).

When children start learning a pidgin as their first language and it becomes the mother tongue of a community, it is called a creole. Like a pidgin, a creole is a distinct language which has taken most of its vocabulary fromanother language, the lexifier, but has its own unique grammatical rules. Unlike a pidgin, however, a creole is not restricted in use, and is like any other language in its full range of functions.

Examples are Gullah, Jamaican Creole and Hawaii Creole English.

Caroline speaking Gullah and English



Note that the words "pidgin" and "creole" are technical terms used by linguists, and not necessarily by speakers of the language. For example, speakers of Jamaican Creole call their language "patwa" (from patois) and speakers of Hawai'i Creole English call theirs "Pidgin." Note that the words "pidgin" and "creole" are technical terms used by linguists, and not necessarily by speakers of the language. For example, speakers of Jamaican Creole call their language "patwa" (from patois) and speakers of Hawai'i Creole English call theirs "Pidgin.

Contact Englishes of the Eastern Caribbean by Aceto, Michael and Jeffrey P. Williams, ed. (2003) , John Benjamins, Varieties of English Around the World
Reviewed by Ken Decker 2003, SIL International


''Contact Englishes of the Eastern Caribbean'' is a collection of papers by various authors with focus on Anglophone Eastern Caribbean territories. More specifically, it is the editors interest in varieties that have received little attention in published linguistic research. It is the state goal of the editors, ''simply to stimulate more field-based linguistic research and, more specifically, fieldwork in neglected Anglophone areas of the Americas in order to broaden our base of knowledge about these language varieties.'' The papers cover a wide variety of language related topics, including: syntax, phonology, historical linguistics, dialectology, sociolinguistics, ethnography, and performance.
In 2002, Aceto published an article listing research that has been published about each of the Anglophone Caribbean Creoles, including varieties further north, such as Afro- Seminole and Bermuda. One of the purposes of that article was to highlight the territories for which there was little or no publication of linguistic research. This is a concern that I have shared, so I was anticipating the arrival of this new volume. Too often, I have heard implied, and even explicitly stated, that since Jamaican and Guyanese have been thoroughly studied, we know everything about variation in Caribbean Creole Englishes. There is much more to learn through these other varieties. I also believe that they are languages worthy of academic recognition.


To this end, several of the chapters in this book provide information on varieties for which there has been no previous linguistic publication, for example: Turks and Caicos, Barbuda, and Anguilla. ''English in the Turks and Caicos Islands: A look at Grand Turk'', by Cecilia Cutler, is a very welcome presentation of the first linguistic research on the speech of the Turks and Caicos Islands. This chapter gives a nice overview of historical information describing the development of the speech, an introduction to basic phonological features, a brief description of the TMA (tense, mood, aspect) structure of the verb phrase, and a few clause features.
The discussion in many of the other chapters involves innovative research topics that have received little previous attention. For example, Jeffrey Williams's chapter concerning a white community on Anguilla includes both innovative research and gives description of a territory for which there has been no published linguistic research. For several years Williams, one of the editors of this volume, has studied the speech of white West Indian communities. (For example see Williams 1984 and 1986.) His interest is in the speech of whites with which slaves would have had contact during the time of creole development. His chapter, titled ''The establishment and perpetuation of Anglophone white enclave communities in the Eastern Caribbean: The case of Island Harbour, Anguilla'', presents the history of a white English-speaking community and reveals linguistic features that mark the variety as having a unique identity. Unfortunately, the speech of the black Anguillan community remains unexamined.
The speech varieties in focus in most of the other chapters have received only little attention from linguists. As pointed out by Aceto in his 2002 article, the speeches of some of the Caribbean territories have had more publications, while possibly not linguistic attention. For example, there have been numerous articles published on the folklore of the Bahamas, but less on linguistic description. Helean McPhee, in her chapter titled ''The grammatical features of TMA auxiliaries in Bahamian Creole'', presents a thorough description of the TMA structure of Bahamian Creole. Another chapter on the Bahamas is by Becky Childs, Jeffrey Reaser and Walt Wolfram, titled ''Defining ethnic varieties in the Bahamas: Phonological accommodation in black and white enclave communities''. The research described in this chapter uses phonological data to investigate ethnic identification between two Bahamian communities on the island of Abaco: Sandy Point, a black community, and Cherokee Sound, a white community. Their use of phonological data for studying sociolinguistic accommodation is interesting and well presented. However, I felt that more description of the sociolinguistic evidence of accommodation would have been helpful to confirm their interpretation of the phonological data.
Another kind of English contact environment addressed in the volume is that found on Dominica and St. Lucia. Both Dominica and St. Lucia were originally populated by speakers of French Creoles. The islands were ceded to Britain in 1763 and 1814 respectively, and institutions, most importantly education, shifted to English. Discussing the situation on Dominica, Beverley Bryan and Rosalind Burnette's chapter is titled ''Language variation and language use among teachers in Dominica''. Its purpose is to describe a study of teacher's knowledge and awareness of language varieties on Dominica. However, as background for understanding the environment in which their study was conducted, the chapter is largely a compilation of previously published material describing the multilingual environment of the island. Much of the data comes from Christie (1982, 1983, 1987). Christie (1983:22) refers to the English variety of Dominica as a creole. Similarly, Le Page (1977:109) described a ''creolized English'' on St.  Lucia. Paul B. Garrett's chapter presents information for St. Lucia, which is similar to the Dominica situation.
In ''An ''English Creole'' that isn't: On the sociohistorical origins and linguistic classification of the vernacular English of St. Lucia'', Garrett questions whether or not there is a variety of English on St. Lucia that can truly be described as a creole. The same question can be raised for Dominica. Taken as a unit these two chapters describe an interesting development among two creoles. Initially, through contact in the domain of the classroom, the Creole Frenches were relexified with English but maintained creole syntactic structures. Garrett considers a wide variety of information that might be relevant for defining the speech as a creole. The definition of 'creole' seems to be a perpetual problem. The editors, in the introduction, note a recurring need on the part of many of the authors to define how they use the term 'creole'. To me, this was a tiring aspect of reading this volume. Others who find this a pressing issue will undoubtedly appreciate the complexity of the situation on St. Lucia and Dominica, and its usefulness for this concern.  \ While I do not necessarily agree with Garrett's argument, like St. Lucian Vernacular English, I would not consider Dominican Vernacular English (DVE) a creole on other grounds. My observation, during a recent visit to Dominica, is that there is not a unified or standardized DVE speech that could be linguistically described and would be typify by any group of speakers. There is a multitude of forms used by as many individual speakers. It is a very unstable linguistic situation and the 'community' is trying to move towards some other shared speech. In creole-speaking communities, there are certain social domains in which the creole has a recognized important cultural role. Those who speak the various forms of DVE have no sentimental attachment to their speech. The multitude of forms referred to as DVE do not serve any such cultural role. The 'community' is pulled between those with sentiments for restoration of the French Creole and the inevitable political and economic force of English hegemony. The forms of DVE could be described as simply the speech of unsuccessful learners of standard English. Students who are successful in language learning do not speak anything resembling a relexified French Creole.
The definition of creole varieties is taken up in another chapter. Michael Aceto, one of the editors of this volume, uses a first description of Barbudan Creole as a basis for proposing a new typology for Caribbean creoles in ''What are Creole languages? An alternative approach to the Anglophone Atlantic world with special emphasis on Barbudan Creole English.'' Both the new information on Barbudan and a creative approach to generalizations about creole languages will be useful to other creolists.
''Barbadian lects: Beyond meso'', by Gerard van Herk, is another chapter that addresses creolist definitions. He also looks at an extensive list of reported Bajan creole syntactic features, and comments on evidence of their use in his data. Certain features are found in the speech of young Bajans when trying to sound more Bajan. He describes this as ''constructed dialect''. However, Bajan is hardly a ''neglected Anglophone area'', Aceto 2002 lists over twenty publications on this speech.
Another chapter that deals with well-documented varieties is David Sutcliffe's ''Eastern Caribbean suprasegmental systems: A comparative view with particular reference to Barbadian, Trinidadian, and Guyanese''. While not discussing any lesser-known creoles, the research explores an academic area that has had minimal attention among creolists. This research describes tonal and intonational patterns found in Caribbean creoles and their relationship to tonal patterns in some African languages.
A different type of research problem is taken up by Robin Sabino, Mary Diamond and Leah Cockcroft in their chapter, ''Language variety in the Virgin Islands: Plural marking''.  Not that plural marking is particularly troublesome, but the authors use this data to explore the effect of audience on production. The so-called 'observers paradox' is a particularly troublesome aspect of fieldwork. The authors also look at diachronic change in plural marking.
The most unusual chapter in this volume is Joan M. Fayer's ''The Carriacou Shakespeare Mas': Linguistic creativity in a Creole community.'' This chapter looks at the influence on a traditional cultural celebration from literary English used in the schools. Another chapter, ''Creole English on Carriacou: A sketch and some implications'' by Ronald Kephart, presents a more linguistically descriptive approach. This chapter presents a brief introduction to
syntactic features of Carriacou Creole English.  Unfortunately, both of these chapters only present previously published information. See Fayer and McMurray 1999, and Kephart 2000.


This volume covers a wide variety of linguistic concerns and introduces data on many Caribbean varieties that have received little linguistic interest. This collection should be welcomed by all linguists who study is in the Anglophone Caribbean. There are chapters that will also be of interest to grammarians, phonologists, anthropologists, and sociologists. My only criticism of the volume would be that some of the chapters didn't include enough data to totally convince me of the authors thesis.
Finally, I would like to retell an event related by Kephart in this volume: ''A Grenadian physician, after listening to me describe my goal of discovering the grammar rules for Carriacou Speech, asked if I had thought about the political ramifications: according to him, if I was able to show that CCE [Carriacou Creole English] had its own grammar, then I would have proven that those who speak it are real human beings, and should be treated accordingly.''
This is the deepest value of what is accomplished when attention is given to languages that have been ignored. As was the intention of the editors, I hope that this volume will serve to stimulate more research in languages, creole or other, that have received little or no academic attention. We can also hope that the work of academics will help the people whom they study.


Aceto, Michael. 2002. Going Back to the Beginning: Describing the (Nearly) Undocumented Anglophone Creoles of the Caribbean. In G. Gilbert (ed.) Pidgin and Creole Linguistics in the Twenty-First Century. New York: Peter Lang.

Christie, Pauline. 1982. ''Language Maintenance and language shift in Dominica.'' Caribbean Quarterly 28:41-50.

--. 1983. ''In search of the boundaries of Caribbean creoles.'' In L. Carrington, (ed.) (in collaboration with D. Craig and R. Todd-Dandar) Studies in Caribbean Language. St. Augustine, Trinidad: Society for Caribbean Linguistics. 13-22.

--. 1987. ''Dominica: A Sociolinguistic Profile.'' Working Papers in Linguistics. UWI, Mona: Department of Language, Linguistics and Philosophy, 50-73.

Fayer, Joan and Joan McMurray. 1999. The Carriacou Mas' as ''Syncretic Artifact''. Journal of American Folklore 112(443):58-73.

Kephart, Ronald. 2000. Broken English. The Creole Language of Carriacou. New York:Peter Lang.

Le Page, Robert. 1977. ''De-creolization and re- creolization: A preliminary report on the sociolinguistic survey of multilingual communities Stage II: St. Lucia.''  York Papers in Linguistics 7: 107-128.

Williams, Jeffrey. 1984. White Saban English: a socio- historical description. The University of Texas. Austin.  Unpublished Master's thesis.

--. 1986. The forgotten Caribbean: the sociolinguistic histories of the white peasantries in the Anglophone and francophone Caribbean. Post-doctoral proposal prepared for the Program in Atlantic History, Culture, and Society. The John Hopkins University.


Ken Decker is a sociolinguistic consultant for SIL International. He has studied Caribbean Creole languages for about 12 years. He is also interested in language vitality and language development issues.



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Director of the Linguistics Laboratory at the University of Pennsylvania.

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