Geography and Sociolinguistic Characteristic of the Carribean

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I Chapter – Geography and Sociolinguistic characteristic of the Caribbean.

According to Baptiste (1995) the thing which is very important and helpful in understanding the Caribbean English and where that language comes from is studying the history, geography and sociolinguistics of the Caribbean. Humanities, social science and natural science need to be taken into account to know what varieties of English are spoken in Caribbean, how this language developed and what kind of connection has the language with people who live there.

1.1 Location and definition of the Caribbean

The location of the Caribbean can be simply defined as the area ranging from certain parts of Florida to the northern coast of South America. As Baptiste (1995) assumes, it should be mentioned that the Caribbean geography is very complicated and the reason of that complexity is the European colonialism, which made barriers and divisions between the islands. The number of effects of the European colonialism was extensive, as for example slavery and infectious diseases but finally left the area split into British, Spanish, French and Dutch totality. At least 7,000 isles, cays, bars and islets can be numbered among that region. There are multiple uses of the word Caribbean. Its principle ones are historical, geographical, philological and the others are social. The Caribbean can also be extended to contain territories with strong cultural and historical connections to slavery, European colonisation and the plantation system. Caribbean Basin proposed by Lewis (2005) is the term which is the most extensively used to denote all the islands and islets of the Caribbean area, and includes:

- The sovereign countries of Barbados, Belize, Dominica, Guyana, Jamaica, Trinidad-Tobago, Haiti, Cuba, the Dominican Republic, Grenada, Guyana, Antigua-Barbuda, St. Kitts-Nevis, The Bahamas, Suriname, St. Lucia, St. Vincent and the Grenadines - The UK dependencies of Montserrat and British Virgin Islands, Turks and Caicos, Bermuda, Anguilla, Cayman Islands - The US Virgin Islands of St. Thomas and St. John, St. Croix and Puerto Rico - The Dutch colonies of Bonaire, Aruba, Curacao, part of the island of St. Maarten, St. Eustatius and Saba - The French external subdivisions of Martinique and Guadeloupe, dependencies of Desired, Cayenne, Les Saintes, Marie- Galante, St. Barthelemy, and rest of the Saint-Martin, Guadeloupe

Baptiste (1995) stands that in spite of the many aspects which differentiate the islands, the one important thing which characterises the islands` similarity, is their geography. For example, with the exclusion of Guyana, the Caribbean Sea eroded all the shores off Caribbean countries. Other analogous factors are history and colonial past.

1.2 The history of the Caribbean

The history of the Caribbean region is similar to the sea that washes its shores. At first glance, the sea seems to be a range of colours from turquoise to royal blue, but a closer look shows the water actually has no colour at all. Baptiste (1995:3).

The above description shows that the Caribbean history is very intricate. It may seem to be very easy to express the history of the Caribbean but during the deeper analysis we can come to the conclusion that it is a combination of fairytale, alteration and folklore. The history can be briefly characterized by few words like devastation, captivity, racial extermination and colonisation. It is generally known that in 1492 a Spanish voyager called Christopher Columbus sailed across the Atlantic Ocean. Columbus was convinced that he reached India. Nowadays we know that it was a part of Caribbean, precisely Bahamas.

Many sources report, among others also Baptiste (1995), that during this period, the Caribbean Islands were inhabited mainly by Arawak or Taino people, the Caribs and the Ciboney in fragments of Cuba. Columbus called those people Indians. He was also amazed by the jewels which...
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