Patwa Grammar

Today’s a big day in Jamaica. The People’s National Party (PNP) which held power from 1989 to 2007 is undergoing a power struggle which culminates today when party delegates will decide whether the incumbent party leader, Portia Simpson-Miller, continues to lead them or if contender Peter Phillips will get a chance to take the helm. An unbelievable amount rides on the outcome of this race for each candidate is seen as representing a different class. what we’re seeing is nothing less than a class war though there’s a lot of resistance on the ground to calling a spade a spade. Much of this class struggle expresses itself linguistically and Carolyn Cooper had a boss article called “Nuff tings a go gwaan” on the subject in last Sunday’s Gleaner (see below). Read it; i’ll be back at the end of the day when the results are announced to add my two paisa worth. till soon!

Nuff tings a go gwaan?

Prime Minister Golding spoke straight from his heart when he was asked how the nation was going to honour our Olympic champions: ‘Nuff tings a go gwaan.’ Then in response to Jacques Rogge’s reprimanding of Usain Bolt for celebrating victory in typical Jamaican style, the PM’s passionate assessment was: “Is pure red eye and ‘grudgefulness’.”

In classic dancehall fashion, our prime minister dismissively sent a message to all bad-mind people: “Tell dem to tek weh demself.” Incidentally, that’s ungrammatical Jamaican. It should have been ‘fi’ instead of ‘to’. And in the sentence above it should have been ‘a’ instead of ‘is.’ And then ‘grudgefulness’ adds an over-correct English ‘ness’ which wouldn’t usually be there in Jamaican. These are good examples of English interference in Jamaican grammar. Bilingual speakers sometimes get their languages mixed up, especially when they are in a highly emotional state.

8.10 pm

Yessssss! Portia prevails! by 350 votes–

Photo credit: Pepper swimps by Varun Baker (who happens to be my sun and a great photographer, check out his website)

Author: Annie Paul

writer, editor and avid tweeter anniepaulose@gmail.com

17 thoughts on “Patwa Grammar”

  1. Mervyn Alleyne, if I recall correctly, spoke of a linguistic continuum in Jamaican speech. He identified three levels. The <>basilect<>, the real raw-chaw patwa, as it were, which is what Dr Cooper seems to think of as the authentic Creole vernacular. At that level ‘Tell dem fi tek weh demself’ would be grammatically correct. The common form of communication used by people of standard education, is what Alleyne called the <>mesolect<> which is heavily influenced by standard English usage and vocabulary. At the other extreme is the <>hierolect<>, Standard Jamaican English, differing from International English in some particulars of usage and vocabulary (‘ganja’ for ‘marijuana’, ‘obeah’ for ‘witchcraft’, ‘prime minister’ for ‘buffoon’).

  2. yes i’m lucky that way, my sun shines on me every day…thanks for expanding on the linguistic continuum, its fascinating, clearly Golding was using the mesolect.prime minister’ for ‘buffoon’??

  3. muito brigado Anastacio,estou feliz con o seu messagem…falo um pouco de mal portugues…morei en Rio de Janeiro por isso…hey i can’t tell you how much i appreciate this, i always wonder why my faraway readers don’t ever leave comments.um abraco para voce tambem!

  4. Annie, please inform Mr.Varun Baker that the image of the pepper swimps is a great one and it has me salivating for some.Nuff respect!!ESTEBAN AGOSTO REID

  5. Eu falo e escreve-me portanhol (uma mistura de portugues com espanhol).Thanks for the credits re: the pepper swims. Varun does have a good eye indeed. The picture of Miss Merle (that is the same Miss Merle from Hellshire, yes?), the guinep, breadfruit and pumpum rock are my favourites so far. As for the fallout from the PNP contest – I am losing respect for a few folks already…Maxine Henry-Wilson is high on the list.

  6. ta legal, que surpresa that so many people on this blog know a little Portuguese! wow!forgot to ask fsjl how come he speaks portuguese–yes that is Miss Merle from Hellshire.i know, interesting to watch the pnp goings on. who i’m losing respect for are journalists who are jumping all over sista p because she didn’t mention Peter P in her speech that night.can’t imagine them walloping Mr. Seaga in the same way and he was repeatedly guilty of autocratic behaviour.on the other hand i’m really impressed with Raymond Pryce, what an articulate young guy…

  7. Carolyn Cooper’s article strikes me as humourous and nothing more. She wasn’t seriously trumping Bruce for speaking mesolect, was she?Portia’s win doesn’t necessarily surprise me. I do wonder about these resignations that are supposedly the traditional sign of deference to give the ‘new’ President freedom to choose her team… animosity under wraps?And, finally, I no speakah de Portuguese… pero puedo hablar un poquito de Espanol… is that close enough? 🙂

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