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Jamaican Patois

English-based creole language spoken in Jamaica / From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

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Jamaican Patois (/ˈpætwɑː/; locally rendered Patwah and called Jamaican Creole by linguists) is an English-based creole language with West African influences, spoken primarily in Jamaica and among the Jamaican diaspora. A majority of the non-English words in Patois come from the West African Akan language.[5] It is spoken by the majority of Jamaicans as a native language.

Quick facts: Jamaican Patois, Native to, Native speak...
Jamaican Patois
Patwa, Jamiekan / Jamiekan Kriyuol,[1] Jumiekan / Jumiekan Kryuol / Jumieka Taak / Jumieka taak / Jumiekan languij[2][3]
Native toJamaica, Panama, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, Colombia (San Andrés y Providencia).
Native speakers
3.2 million (2000–2001)[4]
English creole
  • Atlantic
    • Western
      • Jamaican Patois
Official status
Regulated bynot regulated
Language codes
ISO 639-3jam
This article contains IPA phonetic symbols. Without proper rendering support, you may see question marks, boxes, or other symbols instead of Unicode characters. For an introductory guide on IPA symbols, see Help:IPA.
Female patois speaker saying two sentences
A Jamaican Patois speaker discussing the usage of the language

Patois developed in the 17th century when enslaved people from West and Central Africa were exposed to, learned, and nativized the vernacular and dialectal forms of English spoken by the slaveholders: British English, Scots, and Hiberno-English. Jamaican Creole exhibits a gradation between more conservative creole forms that are not significantly mutually intelligible with English,[6] and forms virtually identical to Standard English.[7]

Jamaicans refer to their language as Patois, a term also used as a lower-case noun as a catch-all description of pidgins, creoles, dialects, and vernaculars worldwide. Creoles, including Jamaican Patois, are often stigmatized as low-prestige languages even when spoken as the mother tongue by the majority of the local population.[8] Jamaican pronunciation and vocabulary are significantly different from English despite heavy use of English words or derivatives.[9]

Significant Jamaican Patois-speaking communities exist among Jamaican expatriates in South Florida, New York City, Toronto, Hartford, Washington, D.C., Nicaragua, Costa Rica, the Cayman Islands,[10] and Panama, as well as London,[11] Birmingham, Manchester, and Nottingham. The Cayman Islands in particular have a very large Jamaican Patois-speaking community, with 16.4% of the population conversing in the language.[12] A mutually intelligible variety is found in San Andrés y Providencia Islands, Colombia, brought to the island by descendants of Jamaican Maroons (escaped slaves) in the 18th century. Mesolectal forms are similar to very basilectal Belizean Kriol.

Jamaican Patois exists mainly as a spoken language and is also heavily used for musical purposes, especially in reggae and dancehall as well as other genres. Although standard British English is used for most writing in Jamaica, Jamaican Patois has gained ground as a literary language for almost a hundred years. Claude McKay published his book of Jamaican poems Songs of Jamaica in 1912. Patois and English are frequently used for stylistic contrast (codeswitching) in new forms of Internet writing.[13]