MODULE 2: LANGUAGE AND COMMUNITY
The West Indies coincides with the following territories of the Commonwealth Caribbean: Jamaica, Trinidad, Tobago, Guyana, Barbados, Grenada, St. Lucia, St. Vincent, Dominica, Antigua, St. Kitts, Nevis, Anguilla and Montserrat.
(a) Differentiation between ‘language’ (generic) and ‘a language’ (individual).
Language is an ability which every normal human being has and it allows him not only to communicate with other human beings but also with himself. It facilitates the transmission of ideas, emotions and desires from individual to individual. It is external in the form of sound and symbols and internal as mental activity. ‘West Indians and their Language’ means West Indians and their ability to communicate ideas, emotions and desires and their ability to think.
A Language refers to one recognisable, identifiable language used by one or more communities of speakers. Recognition of the language is dependent on linguistic similarities and is dependent on cultural and historical identity.
(b) Variation (changes in language in response to various influences, for example, social, geographic, individual, group factors).
The development of the language in the West Indies has been completely dominated by the structure of the society, which in turn has been dominated by slavery, the plantation system and more recently by political independence.
Factors that militate (have force or effect) against stability and homogeneous language development:
1. A high mortality rate in all sectors of the population.
2. Imported labour
3. Changes in colonial administration in most territories
4. Attempts at revolt and escape
5. Post-emancipation increase in migration between territories
6. The post-emancipation influx of new arrivals from Asia.
The rigid social structure has produced language differences between all West Indian Territories.
1. Barbados and Jamaica:
• Under British Colonial Rule
• Influence of English Language
• Much greater dependence in Jamaica on the importation of new Africans, especially in the late slave period. • In Jamaica, there are more language varieties more distant from English • In Barbados, there is a spectrum of language varieties related to the English Language
2. Trinidad and Guyana:
• It was the early 19th century which was the critical period of formation of language in both countries. • It was during the early 19th century that there were significant demographic differences between the two countries.
• Has a significant increase in population as a result of (1) turmoil in the French World, (2) the French Caribbean (French Revolution, Haitian Revolution) • 19th century Trinidad was linguistically and culturally more French than English although it was British. • Natural resources became economically and strategically more important – British and American presence grew, many migrants from English speaking Caribbean territories. • The French and French speaking Creole territory became and English and English Creole speaking territory.
• No sudden and massive increase in the population before the East Indians came in the late 19th and 20th centuries. • The majority of the population of which lives along the coast and in towns grew gradually by natural increase and by migration from Barbados and other Caribbean territories- English Creole speaking areas. • Linguistically Guyana is English dominated, with all the other influences being minimal.
3. St. Lucia, Dominica, Grenada:
• They all changed hands between the French and the British before finally becoming British at about the beginning of the 19th century.
• Historically has stronger ties with Trinidad.
• There is more similarity in linguistic development between Trinidad and Grenada • Decline in French Creole with an increase in English....
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