Monday, 31 January 2011

Language (Dialectal) Variation

Language Variation or Dialectal Variation, refers to changes in language due to various influences. These include, social, geographic, individual and group factors.
Dialect
This refers to the variety of language characteristic of a particualar group of people in a given speech community (country) or region. For example one may refer to a Caribbean dialect as there are certain vocabulary items and sentence structures that Caribbean countries have in common.
Creole
There is no definition of creole that is accepted by all. The meaning of the word 'creole' has changed considerably over the years. However, it is normally used to refer to a dialect or language which results from contact between the language of a colonizing people and the language of a colonized people. In the Caribbean, Creole languages are as a result of contact between English, French, Spanish, Portuguese, Dutch (languages of the colonizers) and West African languages (languages of the colonized).
Patois
Patois is a word of French origin which translates most closely, in French, to mean 'gibbrish'. It was a word used to describe how foreign and strange Creole languages sounded to the speakers of European languages. Patois is used to refer to a geographical dialect which differs from the standard language spoken in a given country. In Jamaica, for example, the word patois is used to refer to the English based creole spoken. Patois carries the usual negative associations and lack of prestige which characterize non-standard, rural or regional dialects.
Standard Variety (Eg, English, French)
This is the variety of language or dialect that is used for formal, official and education purposes. It is also used as an instrument for mass education and communication causing it to acquire greater prestige and uniformity. (Creoles have been observed to lack uniformity as a result of not being standardized.) Most Caribbean countries have a Eurpoean language as its standard variety for formal, official purposes and a Creole language for informal communication amongst native, family and friends. The notable exception is Haiti where the French Creole was made an official language alongside French.
Slang
This is a popular, fashionable use of words and phrases which may be either old words given new meaning or completely new words. In the same way that fashion changes, so do slang expressions. Slang is a normal part of everyday speech but may not be acceptable in certain formal settings. When used in formal writing, in particular, these expressions should be put in inverted commas (For e.g, 'wicked'- Jamaican slang for good/amazing, 'off the chain'-American slang for exciting/good)
Foreign English
This refers to varieties of the English language spoken by persons not from ones country.
Rasta English
This refers to a special variety of English indegenous to Jamaica, spoken by a religious group of persons called Rastafarians. This variety diffrentiates itself from standard and non-standard English by use of different, specialized vocabulary items. The psychology of 'no contradiction' extends to all aspects of a Rastafarian's life, including language. Hence because it sounds contradictory for oppress -/up-res/ to mean held down in life, Rastafarians refer to this verb as downpress. Likewise instead of participation -/part-icipation/ to mean being fully involved they refer to this noun as fullticipation. The language is also characterized by use of 'I' to signify positivity and the importance of the individual in relation to another, so instead of 'You and I', Rasta would refer to us as 'I and I' to signify that we are both equal in importance. Irie, refers to a good vibe and Ital food refers to food considered good for the body (i.e, Vegetarian based food).