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The following are definitions of language:

system of communication between humans, through
written and vocal symbols
speech peculiar to an ethnic, national or cultural group
(iii) words, especially employed in any art, branch or
knowledge, or profession
(iv) a persons characteristic mode of speech
by extension, the articulate or inarticulate expression of
thought and feeling by living creatures.
Language combines a wide variety of features and is the most
precise and complex means of communication that exists.
Language is one of a range of means of communication. It is not to
be regarded as just another form of communication. It is perhaps
the most complex of all. It is flexible, dynamic, systematic, creative
and socially governed. It is to be distinguished from all other forms
of communication, both human and non-human, because it does
more than simply communicate.
There is a popular misconception that language is just another form
of communication. It is important to note that language is not like
other forms of communication and that in fact it is a peculiarly
human phenomenon, though many of its features are to be found in
other forms of communication.
There are two types of languages: denotative and connotative
language. Denotative language is language interpreted literally
while connotative language has emotive shades of meaning.
Functions of Language
Language is a marker of evolution for the human species
Language offers human beings the means of expressing
themselves verbally.
Language is extensive, meaning that the ability to speak
separates us from all other species.
Language stands as being widely creative.
Language has identity, meaning that you begin to identify
people based on his or her use of language. It creates
personal identity.
Characteristics of Language
Language has a human characteristic. Only humans have the
physical capability to pronounce the wide variety of sounds
that are used in worlds languages. Language must be sound
based. However, it is not necessary to write it to be
considered a language. Communication must take place for it
to be considered a language.

Mutual intelligibility: where information could be passed on

and understand
Note that, in order for a language to become a standard form,
it must be written.

Language is verbal. It is based on recognizable sounds.

Language is symbolic. This means that it uses words as

representations or symbols of ideas. Most words have an
arbitrary, but mutually agreed relationship between the
symbol and the meaning. Symbolism in language ensures that
ideas are easily shared among speakers of the same
language. Dictionaries are actually records of the symbolic
meaning of the words in a language. They ensure that the
symbolism remains consistent despite the advent of new
generations and new speakers.

Language is systematic. Languages have structure. Each

language has specific grammar rules and follow specific word
order. Unlike other forms of communication, language makes
use of a number of different systems operating at several
1. Sound
Since some sequences of sound are not acceptable.
Note that the spelling in some cases is not readily
recognized because it may not suggest a sequence of
sounds that speakers of English recognize or use
normally. Each language has its accepted sound
patterns that are easily recognizable to its speakers.
2. Grammar
Since some order of words, or parts of words, are not
acceptable. The grammar of a language is a set of rules
that govern how the words of the language are put
together to make meaning.
3. Semantics
Words have specific meanings and people cannot keep
changing the meanings of words because they feel like
it, nor can they combine words which produce
ridiculous combinations such as green cow. Such a
form is only possible as a figure of speech.

Language is evolutionary. One manifestation of language

change is the invention of new words. As humans invent or
discover new things and new ideas enter the world, new
symbols have to be created to represent them.

Changes in meaning are another way in which language

evolves. Generally, these changes occur when a significant
group of persons persistenly uses a word to mean something
other than its traditionally accepted definition.

Language has a maturational characteristic. As and individual

grows older, their ability to produce and comprehend
language increases.

Language is non-instinctive. It needs to be learnt through

communicative interaction with others. While humans are
born with the ability to acquire language, they can only do so
through imitation.

Language is dynamic. Language is constantly changing. It has

great flexibility and can vary according to certain social or
geographical factors.

Language and A Language

Language (generic) is a vehicle of thought, system of
expression. The principal means used by human beings to
communicate with one another. Language is primarily spoken,
but it can also be written.
Language is the verbal form of human expression.
Language is a purely human and non-instinctive method of
communicating ideas, emotions and desires by means of a
system of voluntarily produced symbols.

A language (individual) is a set of elements and a system for

combining them into patterned sentences that can be used to
accomplish specific tasks in specific contexts. Examples: to
greet friends, argue, ask the time.
A language is any distinct system of verbal expression,
distinguished from other such system by its peculiarities of
structure and vocabulary i.e. every language is distinct from
other languages because of these features.
A language is one recognizable, identifiable or accepted entity
used by one or more communities of speakers.

A language community is all the speakers of a particular


A language family is a group of languages that have all

developed from a single ancestral language.

Purposes of language
1. Expressive purposes

Language can be used simply to express ones feelings, ideas

or attitudes, without necessarily taking a reader or listened
intro consideration. When language is used in this way, the
speaker is not trying to effect change in an audience or elicit
response. He/she is merely giving vent to emotion or needs.
Diaries and journals are obvious examples of language used
for expressive purposes.
2. Informative purposes
Language is employed with the intention of conveying
information to others. This purpose is used to convey ideas,
truth statements, instructions, abstract and complex
propositions and to aid understanding. Therefore, a news
broadcast, a bulletin board or a textbook are all examples of
language being used for this purpose.
3. Cognitive purposes
When language is used cognitively, it is with the intention of
affecting the audience in some way in order to evoke some
type of response. Therefore, when one uses language to
persuade, entertain, stir to anger or arouse sympathy, one is
using language for cognitive purposes. Jokes, political
speeches and horror stories are different examples of ways in
which language can be used cognitively.
4. Poetic purposes
Language used in literary, stylistic or imaginative ways is
poetic. The user focuses on the structure and pattern of the
language and places emphasis on the manner in which
language is manipulated.
5. Phatic purposes
Language is used simply to establish or maintain contact
among people. This use of language is most obvious in spoken
communication. Language used for phatic purposes does not
necessarily seek to generate a meaningful response. Although
the phatic purpose of language does not often apply to written
communication, in the case of letter writing, the greeting and
closure are phatic. Informal or friendly letters and email may
also use expressions.
6. Metalinguistic purposes
This is the use of the language to comment on, refer to or
discuss language itself. A critique of a speech is
7. Social purpose

Sometimes when language is used, it has more to do with

certain cultural or ceremonial conventions that relate to social
interaction in a particular community.
8. Identifying purpose
This is seen in the use of slogans, chants, anthems, nicknames
and other terms that allow for expression of personal or group
9. Ritual purpose
This language offers the possibility of exercising control over
certain aspects of life.
Aesthetic purpose
Aesthetic use of language in its absolute form (for example,
experimental poetry) exploits qualities of language such as
sound and pattern, but may invite a variety of different
interpretations and responses.
Persuasive purpose
The persuasive purpose is used to convince, or persuade, the
reader that the opinion, or assertion, or claim, of the writer is
correct or valid.

Although any speaker of a language could communicate with any
other speaker of the same language, these people often do not all
speak the language in the same way. The way in which language is
used often varies from group to group, from one situation to
another, and from individual to individual. The language used may
also vary in relation to the intent of the speaker or the purpose of
the communication or even the nature of the relationship between
the speaker and the audience.

Variation is the changes in language in response to various

influences. For example: social, geographic, individual and
group factors.
Some factors influencing language variation are social
pressures, development in technology, geographical location,
political and economic status.
How do varieties develop?
They develop where there is limited communication between
different parts of a community that share one language.
Geographical boundaries, isolation, political conflict or military
hostilities may lead to sustained loss of contact between

groups so that changes in the language are not shared by all

speech communities.
Dialect is a variety of a language spoken by an identifiable
subgroup of people, i.e. dialects can be characteristic of
geographic, regional, ethnic, socio-economic or gender
groups; any version of a language spoke by a particular
geographic or social sub-group, e.g. British Standard English,
Cockney English, Yorkshire English, Trinidad Standard English,
American English, Dominican Standard English.
Sometimes, as a language evolves, one particular dialect
becomes dominant. This is usually due to the fact that it is the
dialect spoken by the people with the economic power or
greatest social influence in that society. In this case, their
dialect becomes accepted as the standard variety of that
language. Therefore, the standard variety becomes the one
used for writing and other formal purposes and is often given
prestige over the other varieties.
No one variety of a language is superior to another and that
every language is really a collection of dialects.
A group of people who speak the same dialect is known as a
speech community.
Although two person may speak the same dialect, their
accents may be different. An accent is simply a variation in
pronunciation. Accents can be regional or social.
Dialects differ from one another by semantics (word choice),
syntax (sentence structure), grammar and morphology (word
No matter what dialect is spoken by a speech community,
each user is capable of manipulating that dialect in relation to
the context of communication. Depending on whom you are
speaking or writing to, you can vary the way you express
yourself. This type of language variation is called code
switching. This is the ability to manipulate between the
standard and non-standard dialect based on the social setting.
Dialectal Variation refers to a persons conscious choice of
dialect which can be the variation of Creole or Standard
English. Choice of dialect is chosen based on the speakers
status, educational background, emotional state and attitude
towards the dialect.
The three different types of dialects are basilect, mesolect and
Basilect is a basic form of the dialect spoken by the group at
the bottom of the social ladder.
Mesolect is a midway point between basilect and acrolect.

Acrolect is a dialect that is closest to the standard European

language spoken by the groups in close contact with most
powerful sector of the society.
Jamaican Language Continuum
This is the range of languages and language dialects spoken in
Jamaica. This range is represented as a continuum because:
1. Not every point on the continuum is a separate language
2. Jamaicans will switch from one to the other continuously in
conversations and in different situations
3. according to some persons, the Creole is continuously
changing and becoming more like English.
Basilect. is the form of Creole with more African derived
features than other forms. The first point on the continuum. It
is most often spoken in rural areas and by uneducated
Mesolect is a form of Creole with more English derived
features than the basilect. The point on the continuum next to
the basilect. It is most often spoken by urban and educated
Acrolect is the last point on the continuum. An example is
Jamaican Standard English. It is most often spoken in formal

A register is the form of a language in which one may choose
to speak, where form refers to ranges in formality and
Standard English is a formal register, Jamaican Creole is a
more informal register.
Words used to refer to informal register include: colloquial,
A register is also a language variety associated with a
particular situation of use; the range of language choice
available for use in different situations.
One may choose to use an entirely different variety or dialect
of a language from one situation to the next. The variety of
language that you use at any given time is your register.
Choice of register also generally reflects the speakers/writers
relationship with the audience.
The ability to change your register is an important life skill.
There are five types of registers:
1. Frozen Registers
Used in print and public media, sermons, pledges, prayers.
The language of the register is fixed and unchanged. No
direct response from a reader or listener is expected.

2. Formal or Academic Registers

Used in formal social settings and interviews. It is the
language of seminars and lectures, ceremonies, public
speaking and conversation between strangers. This register
almost always uses Standard English. The sentence
structure and vocabulary are complex but more easily
understood in general than some forms.
3. Consultative Registers
Used in situations where the listener is expected to give
some feedback. Example: a doctor visit, interview,
counseling, client-lawyer. This register indicates that the
speakers are not intimately related but that there is
sustained communication between them. Standard and
non-standard forms of language may be used as the
speakers may switch codes to relate more easily to each
4. Casual or Informal
Used when talking with friends and acquaintances in a nonformal setting. This register is usually recognized by the
slangs used. The topic of discussion may be general and
there is a conversational tone reflected in the use of
colloquialisms (a word or phrase that is not formal or
literary and is used in ordinary or familiar conversation.)
and slang. There may be attempts to code-switch to adopt
the dialect of the person.
5. Intimate Registers
It is the language of persons who are very close. This is
usually marked by specialized words or expressions only
understood by the parties involved in the intimate
relationship. Communication is aided by non-verbal
elements and reference may be made to unspecified topics
and situations. There is evidence of intimacy in the use of
nicknames and terms of endearments as well as expression
of personal emotions. Incomplete sentences, interruptions,
shortened responses and unexplained references are the
This is the dialect used for education and other formal or
official purposes.
How does a dialect become a standard?
It is spoken by the dominant group in the society thus it
commands the most prestige and becomes the target to which
people aspire. Education, publishing and an established body
of literature enhance the status of the prestigious dialect and

it emerges as the standard and is often supported by

economic, political and social factors.
The term Creole originally meant a person of European
parents who had been born and raised in a colonial territory.
Later, it was used to refer to anyone native to these countries
and then it became the name of the language spoken by
these people.
A Creole is a language that is as a result of contact between
Africans speaking different native languages and Europeans
speaking different varieties of European languages. Or it is the
set of varieties which have their beginnings in situation of
contact where groups of people who do not share a common
language are forced to communicate with each other.
A Creole is a language that comes into being through contact
between two or more languages.
The substrate of Creole is the grammar of the African
languages while the superstrate of Creole is the vocabulary of
European languages.
It is the set of varieties which have their beginnings in
situations of contact where groups of people who do not share
a common language are forced to communicate with each
When people who speak different languages find themselves
in a situation where they have to communicate with each
other for purposes of trade, business or to survive, these
people usually devise a form of language communication
called a pidgin. A pidgin is a system of communication that
has grown up among people who do not share a common
language but need to trade or conduct business.
Pidgins are not ordinary languages since they are normally
used only for communication between persons from different
speech communities. However, in some case, a pidgin begins
to be used as the first language of people in the same
The pidgin may then become a native language; it acquires
the more complex grammar of a full language and is referred
to as a Creole.
Therefore, all Creole languages start as pidgins. Sometimes
Creole languages are referred to as patois or patwa.
However, the word patois can be used as synonym for any
non-standard variety or local dialect, including pidgins.

Characteristics of English Creole Languages

Nouns, verbs and pronouns are not altered in form to indicate
plurals, tense, person or case.
Creole uses the plural marker dem without changing the
noun in any way.
Standard English

1 person singular
2nd person singular
3rd person singular
1st person plural
2nd person plural
3rd person plural

Standard English
I am eating
You are eating
He/She/It is eating
We are eating
You are eating
They are eating

I eatin
You eatin
He/She/It eatin
We eatin
You all/All you eatin
Dey/Dem eatin

Another characteristic of Creole grammar is its use of

predicate adjectives.
Standard English
I am tired
He is sick
You are thirsty

Dem gyal/ de gyal

Creole does not utilise an auxiliary verb to indicate change in

person. However, the Creole differentiates between the
second person singular and plural by inserting all in the latter

Gal/ gyal

English Creole
I/me tired
He/him sick
You tired

French Creole
Mwen las
E malad
Ou swef

The use of double negatives is another characteristic that

Creole shares with Standard French (and Spanish) but not with
Standard English

Standard English
Im not doing

I not doin nothing

Standard French
Je ne fais rien

Creole does not reverse word order to indicate the

interrogative form of a sentence
Standard English
You have eaten
Have you eaten?

You eat already
You eat already?

English Creole

Caribbean Standard English

Unmarked count nouns with

generic meaning, for example,
mango sweet

Pluralised count nouns with

generic meaning, for example,
mangoes are sweet

Unmarked action verbs with past Past-marked action verbs with

time reference, for example, she past time reference, for example,
pinch me and run outside
she pinched me and ran outside

Preverbal markers, for example,

ben/bin/wen/did (past marker),
go (future marker), a (marker of
continuous and habitual), does
(marker of habitual)

Auxiliaries and suffixes, for

example, did/-ed (past),
will/shall (future), -ing
(continuous), simple present
tense forms (cook, cooks)

Subject-adjective structures, for

example, mi sick, di mango

structures, for example, I am
sick, the mango is sweet

Subject-verb word order in

Inversion of subject and auxiliary

question formation, together with

rising intonation, for example,
you done cook di food?

in question formation together

with rising intonation, for
example, have you finished
cooking the food?

No voiceless th sound at the end

Voiceless th sound at the end of
of words or syllables; a t or f
words or syllables, as, for
sound instead, as, for example, in
example, in fifth, with
fif, wit/wif

Phonology is a branch of linguistics concerned with the
systematic organization of sounds in languages
In the case of English-based Creole, the most distinctive
differences in sound combinations are observed in sounds that
occur in Standard English but not in the Creole.
A very obvious one is the th sound, which does not exist in
Creole. It is replaced by either the d, t or f sound,
depending on its postion in the word and the presence or
absence of other non-English influences on the Creole.
Creole also dispenses with the final consonant in the words
that end in ing or with d.
In some cases, an English sound combination is not dropped
but reversed, for example: ask becomes aks and film become

English Creole*

Caribbean Standard English

No voiced consonant clusters at Voiced consonant clusters at the

the end of words, for example, -nd end of words, for example, -nd, as
> n, as in han, san
in hand, sand

No voiceless consonant clusters at Voiceless consonant clusters at

the end of words, for example, -st the end of words, for example, -st,
> -s, as in tes, wris; -ft > f, as in
as in test, wrist; -ft, as in left; left; -; -ghed > gh, as in laugh;
ghed, as in laughed; -ped, as in
-ped >p, as in leap

No voiceless-voiced consonant
clusters at the end of words, for
Voiceless-voiced consonant
example, -sed > s, as in miss;
-ghed, gh, as in laugh; -ped>p, as clusters at the end of words, as in

in leap

missed, laughed, leaped

No voiced th sound at the

Voiced th sound at the beginning
beginning of words or syllables; a
of words or syllables, as, for
d sound instead, as, for example, example, in they, them, la.ther
in dey, dem, la.der

No voiceless th sound at the end

Voiceless th sound at the end of
of words or syllables; a t or f
words or syllables, as, for
sound instead, as, for example, in
example, in fifth, with
fif, wit/wif
* It should be noted that some of the English Creole characteristics
are at times carried over into Caribbean Standard English.
The vocabulary (lexicon: list of all the words in a language) of
Caribbean Creole English is derived primarily from Standard
English. However, a number of words used in Creole speech
are related to cultural influences from other European,
Amerindian, African, East Indian and Chinese languages.
Like any other language, the vocabulary of Creole is dynamic
and reflects changes that arise out of social movements such
as Rastafarianism or the incorporation of prevalent slang.
English Creole

Caribbean Standard English

Peculiar words and phrases (for Equivalents: child, eat, cou-cou,

example, pickney, nyam, couconfused, pudding and souse,
cou, bazodi, puddin and souse,
nostril, tears, door/threshold,
nose-hole, eye-water, doorbring along, waste time, best or
mouth, walk with, spin top in
prevail over someone, give
mud, hit somebody for six, watch
someone a look of anger,
somebody cut-eye)
disapproval, envy, etc.

Shared words but different parts

of speech, for example, stink
(adj), over (v, prep, adv), out
(prep, adv), sweet (adj, v, n)

Shared words but different parts

of speech, for example, stink (n,
v), over (prep, adv), out (adv,
prep), sweet (adj, (n)

Shared words but different

Shared words but different
meanings, for example, miserable meanings, for example, miserable
(=ill-tempered, (playfully)
(= wretched), ignorant (lacking in
annoying), ignorant (= illacknowledge)

Challenges Faced in Choosing Creole over the Standard

The standard language has an established tradition of written
literature, while Creole has mainly oral tradition and a short
history of written literature.
The standard language has published dictionaries and
grammar while Creole has a few recently published
The Standard language is the accepted medium of education,
while Creole is rarely used as the official language in
The Standard language is globally recognized as the official
national language, while Creole is recognized as official in few
The Standard language is the most prestigious (inspiring
respect and admiration; having high status) dialect of a
language, while Creole which is composed of African sound,
phrases and sentence patterns and mainly European lexicon
(vocabulary) is not viewed as prestigious.
The Standard language has had centuries of evolution and it
borrows words from other languages, however, the Creole is a
result of sudden forced change.

The Standard language has a complex system of rules but

Creole has simplified rules.
The standard language enjoys stability and uniformity, while
Creole moves from decreolization to creolization continuously
(a language continuum is said to exist when two or more
different languages or dialects merge one into the other(s)
without a definable boundary)

Language in Society
Factors influencing Language
1. Historical Factors
The language situation in any country can normally be linked
directly to historical factors. These are often related to
colonization or migration.
For example: French and English are spoken in Canada today
because it was the scene of several conflicts between France
and English in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries.
Colonisation is the greatest factor responsible for the spread
of certain languages from more homogeneous populations to
distant and diverse geographical locations

2. Social Factors
The social dominance of a group ensures that its dialect
becomes the one that assumes the place of important in the
society and is considered to be the standard language of that
society. Language is also dynamic and never static unless
there are no more speakers of that language. Much of the
dynamism of a language is a result of constant social change
and the emergence of new cultural phenomena as a result.
However, the elements of social and economic class always
affect attitudes to and choice of language.
For example: individuals seeking to be recognized as part of a
certain social group may deliberately cultivate the language or
dialect of that group although they do not normally speak that
Sometimes a person may switch from one variety of language
to another throughout the day as he/she interacts in different
social settings.
3. Cultural Factors
Global movement of people (globalization) has been a major
influence on language. Many migrants and refugees are eager
to assimilate quickly as much of the new culture as they can,
to facilitate their ability to fit in with their society. As
generations are born into the new culture, much of their
original language is lost.
For example: In the case of Hispanic populations in the US, a
form of language has evolved that features aspects of both
Spanish and English. The name Spanglish has been coined
for this phenomenon, but linguists would refer to it as code
While acculturation, or assimilating, of the new culture affects
the language of immigrants, sometimes the language of the
host country also undergoes changes as a results of the new
cultural influences.
For example: Several Spanish words have become part of
everyday English language (taco, piata)
The coexistence of different languages from different cultures
in a society results in linguistic changes in all the languages.
However, the nature of the cultural change determines which
language is more widely influential and what types of change
takes place.

For example: In the case of the USA, the fact that some states
may well have more Spanish than English native speakers will
be largely instrumental in how language develops there.
4. Political Factors
The official language of a country is normally indicated in the
national constitution or other official sources. Recognition
given to other languages is also a political or government
decision. Most countries maintain the assigned status of their
languages regardless of political changes. However, in some
countries, language is significantly influenced by political
Language policies typically define a governments plan
regarding the approach to the treatment of language in the
specific country. The policy may either promote or discourage
the use of a particular language or languages and in some
cases it is designed to protect an ethnic language that may be
in danger of disappearing.
Political influences on language can determine the extent to
which minority languages or dialects are accepted, recognized
or utilized in a society.
For example: In Quebec, Canada, the provincial government
stipulated that only French should be used on street signs and
in places where bilingual signage was allowed, the English
letting had to be significantly smaller and within stipulated
Turmoil and violence can arise out of political disputes over
language as seen in Sri Lanka and Turkey.

Roles of Languages
There are several roles of languages such as social, political,
ethical and psychological.
Positive Uses of Language

Negative Uses of Language

To assert authority

To mark identity
To mark solidarity (unity)

To make social linkages

To promote cultural awareness

Discrimination against Others:

To make an unjust or prejudicial
distinction in the treatment of
different categories of people
To alienate:
To make someone feel isolated or
To ridicule:
The subjection of someone or
something to
contemptuous/scornful and
dismissive language or
To mark social biases::
The tendency of survey
respondents to answer questions
in a manner that will be viewed
favorably by others
To make face threats
To put or keep someone in a
powerless or unimportant
position within a society or group

Language Situation in the Caribbean

The language situation in the Caribbean is the result of a
highly stratified plantation society as well as severe social and
geographical isolation of subgroups.
The Caribbean is often described as a complex linguistic
region, largely because its complicated history has resulted in
an array of languages, dialects and vernacular forms that
provide rich material for study by linguists from far and wide.
The original inhabitants of the region had their own wide
range of languages, some of which are still spoken by small
groups in places such as Guyana and Suriname.
Many Caribbean people are not aware that there are
significant Amerindian influences on their way of life and
language today.
The arrival of the European colonists in the fifteenth and
sixteenth centuries meant that non-indigenous languages
began to take root in the society. It is important to note that
many of these Europeans were themselves speakers of nonstandard dialects and no one variety of English, French,
Portuguese, Dutch or Spanish was spoken.
When the need arose for cheap labour to work on the
plantations, Africans were captured, enslaved and imported
primarily from countries along the west coast of Africa. Many

of them were also speakers of various non-standard dialects of

their own languages. However, in order to minimize
communication among the enslaved Africans as a security
measure, plantation owners made sure that they purchased
from a variety of ethnic groups so that few Africans speaking
the same language could be found on any one plantation.
After the emancipation of the enslaved Africans in 1838,
estate owners began recruiting indentured labourers from
India, China and some Portuguese territories with the last
major group arriving from Syria and Lebanon.

French and

Puerto Rico
Santo Domingo
French Guiana



French Lexicon

St. Lucia

English Lexicon
French Lexicon



English Lexicon


French Lexicon

Petit Martinique
St. Kitts
St. Vincent
Trinidad and

English Lexicon
Creole, Sranan,
Tongo, Ndjuka,

Hindi, Urdu,



Attitudes to Caribbean Language

Language clearly plays a major role in all aspects of society
with the most obvious being its social role of allowing people
to relate to each other in all facets of their lives: to share
information, emotions and ways of lives.
Some people may form impressions of your personality,
emotional state, geographic origin, age or socio-economic
status from the language you use and the way you use it.
Some impressions may be formed largely because of societal
and personal attitudes to certain types of language. Therefore,
people often adopt certain linguistic behaviours that they
believe would create more favourable impressions of
In Caribbean society, there are varying attitudes to language.
Because of our history, people of the region tend to place a
high premium on the standard languages or, as we have notes
before, the languages of power and economic might. Many
people believe that upward mobility is largely dependent on
ones ability to fit in with the predominant socio-economic
class, and language is the main signified of this fit.
Attitudes to language may vary from one sector of the society
to another and some people demonstrate self-conscious
behaviour when speaking the standard language. This is
largely a result of the fact that in most societies one is often
judged on the basis of the variety of language that one
speaks. This is even more prevalent in societies with a colonial
legacy, like the Caribbean, where certain dialects are
associated with the institution of slavery or conquest.
Increasingly, educators are becoming aware that a persons
native language is an integral part of who that person is and
marginalizing that language can have severe damaging
effects on that persons psyche. Many linguists consistently
make a case for teaching native languages alongside the
target language so that children can clearly differentiate
among the codes and hence be less likely to mix the two.
Language in International Situations
Language is an important means of creating and recognizing
identity. Our sense of self and our sense of community are
tightly tied in with the language we speak.
You may have noticed that, very often when individuals are in
foreign countries, the moment they encounter someone from
home they immediately revert to their original dialect of way
of speech.

Language, in this case, creates a sense of ethnic community,

or of belonging to a group, and immediately assuages the
feeling of being an outsider in a foreign land.

Choice of language
While attitudes to local dialects have been slowly changing,
many people still associate the use of Creole with negative
images and believe that its use should be relegated to specific
circumstances and occasions. However, the fact that nonstandard language varieties are the most widely spoken in the
Caribbean makes them the choice of persons trying to get
information to large sections of society.
A language variety is usually chosen because of its perceived
social function.
Such factors which influence the choice of language and
communicative behaviours in interactive situations are:
1. Audience
2. Message
3. Purpose
4. Occasion
5. Gender
6. Age
Arguments Against Creole as a Language
1. Creole is the language of the lower class, uneducated,
powerless, country folks and people whose ancestors were
African slaves in the Caribbean.
2. Creole is the language of comedy. Creole is used in the arts
and can therefore often be seen as substandard or inferior.
3. Creole cannot be written as here is no consensus on an official
written form.
4. Creole language varies from island to island
5. Creole has little or no prestige*.
6. Creole is stigmatized as a bad or improper way of speaking.
7. Creole offers no form of social mobility.
8. Working in a foreign country requires the use of Standard
Arguments For Creole as a Language
1. There is mutual intelligibility. Information could be passed
from one person to another and easily understood.

2. There is a structure of the linguistics: rules of grammar and

pronunciation, syntax (sentence structure), semantics and
3. It can easily show emotion.
4. For a language to be considered official, it must be written.
Creole is in fact a written language since a dictionary exists.
*Prestige: The level of respect accorded to a language or dialect as
compared to that of other languages or dialects in a speech
community. The degree of esteem and social value attached by
members of a speech community to certain languages, dialects, or
features of a language variety.
Overt prestige: Using the standard language as well as having a
prestigious accent.
Covert prestige:e One that is generally perceived by the dominant
culture group as being inferior but which compels its speakers to
use it to show membership in an exclusive community. It allows
people to identify with others based on age, gender, regional or
cultural forms.
How does a language acquire prestige?
Its speakers occupy a dominant role in the society.
It affords its speakers access to economic power and upward social
It is the recognized language for education.
It has value as the instrument of technological innovation.
There is a significant body of written work using that language.

Technology, Culture and Communication

Culture influences the ways in which people communicate and
the technology they select as part of that communication
The ways in which we communication evolve out of the nature
of our culture and the type of communication technology
available to us.
Technology alters and shapes out culture while it influences
the decisions and choices people make regarding
Technology and Communication
Technology can be defined as the technical means that people
use to improve their surroundings.
The first major technological phenomenon associated with
communication was the invention of the printing press in the
fifteenth century. The printing press facilitated the spread of
information in all areas of human life. It was also able to
influence human thought.
For a long time, the only mass communication medium was
print, until the invention of the electromagnet in 1825 kick
started electronic communications: telegraph, telephone,
radio and television.
However, it is hard to imagine that there can be anything to
revolutionise communication to the extent that the Internet
and other modern electronic media have done.
Technology has enhanced our lives by offering multiple
options for our modes of communication and by affording us

the opportunity to exist in a virtual world in which we can

potentially communicate with everyone else.
Apart from the array of available modes of communication, we
are also faced with large volumes of information that needs to
be sorted, processed, filed, responded to or utilized. Therefore,
comprehension skills must be deployed in several areas at
It is also important to develop expertise in the use of all
communication tools at your disposal so as to select the
appropriate mode and to observe the required etiquette for
modern communication. These skills are referred to as
interactive skills which is defined as the generation of
meaning through exchanges using a range of contemporary
tools, transmissions and processes.

Technology and Culture

One of the greatest impacts of technology on culture has been
If the Internet reflects the language of the dominant economic
power, then speakers of other languages are forces to adapt
or remain at a disadvantage.
Technology is responsible for the influx of a large number of
words into the English language. For example: blogger,
google, wiki. However, the majority of technology-associated
words are adaptations of vocabulary already in use. For
example: netbook, homepage, facebook, software, youtube.
Many abbreviations have also been accepted as words. For
example: USB, HTML, mp3. An entire new language known as
Netlingo has evolved to facilitate the speed with which
conversations now take place.
The development of technology has an impact on the culture
of a society by influencing or changing the way in which things
are done. As a society becomes more technology driven, there
is a need to communicate faster and to transfer larger
amounts of information. Therefore, traditional means of
communication are either abandoned or adapted to suit the
new technology.
In the same way technology affects writing and speaking
communication, it also influences reading behaviours. Many
people now own electronic readers on which they can
download books and other documents. This means that
certain cultural practices such as going to the library are
Listening behaviours have also been influenced by the
changing technology. Music has been more portable as the
vinyl record was replaced by the audio cassette, then iPods.

Technology impacts on the way we learn and impart

knowledge. Paper charts, chalk and chalkboards are replaced
by slideshows and videos.
Social interaction has also been influenced. The television has
been blamed for a number of cultural changes such as
increased antisocial behaviour and less community interaction
since people tend to spend more time indoors.
Business culture has been modified. You are more likely to
hear of a sale through electronic media. Daily offers and
special also fill your email inbox.

Culture and Communication

Culture refers to common practices and beliefs held by a
specific group.
Differences in culture are visible when one looks at the folk
tales and proverbs of the different countries. There are
similarities in the presence of these supernatural beings but
they point to a slightly different cultural experience.
The history of the Caribbean is one that clearly illustrates the
relationship between language and culture. There are French,
Dutch, English Creoles throughout the Caribbean. Additionally,
the Caribbean countries illustrate the effect of culture on
language in the place names in various islands.
The names of our food have also been influenced by culture.
In Guyana and Trinidad, a significant Indian presence in the
foods eaten there.
Currently within the various countries of the Caribbean, there
has been significant movement of people which has led to
changes in the language patterns in those countries.
Another influence of culture on language is seen in the
spelling of words. For example: centre/center,
organize/organise, cheque/check. While the understanding is
that neither choice is an example of misspelling, the writer
should be consistent in the use of American Standard or
British Standard.
In the world of business, language and culture can play a very
important part in shaping the effectiveness of communication.
Language can be a barrier to communication especially when
the individuals on two different sides speak a different
language which leads to poor business interaction.
The dynamic nature of language makes it adaptable to
changes in the culture and worldview of its speakers. For
example: the issue of political correctness.
Many terms and expressions that were once commonly used
are now deemed to be offensive or detrimental to the sense of
identity of minority groups. Widespread access to the media
has made people more aware of how labels attached to
certain behaviors and lifestyles can lead to stereotyping which

prevents certain groups from enjoying all the opportunities

available in modern society. For example: it is better to say
"people of colour" and "visually impaired" and "plus size"