Community Blog: Is Patois a Language?

By: Pat White

FT. LAUDERDALE – In my last blog I used some Patois and a lot of people got a kick out of it. It led me to wonder if Patois is an actual language.

The dictionary defines a language as “a body of words and the systems of their use common to a people who are of the same community or nation, the same geographical area or the same cultural tradition.”

A second meaning is “communication by sound, in a distinctive human manner, using arbitrary sounds in conventional ways with meanings; speech.”

Following this explanation , then patois is definitely a language. Some people in Jamaica, are very proud of their patois dialect.

Louise Bennett, traveled the world with her books of patois poems and stories, making it popular and famous. She was on, and some would say fulfilled, her mission of formalizing Patois as Jamaica’s Folk language. I must add though, that her Poems, stories and plays that utilized the Patois language were mostly for entertainment.

Some people (from Jamaica) on the other hand, dislike the sounds of patois. They believe it depicts ignorance and regression. They will have nothing to do with the dialect and discourage others from using it. They are embarrassed and ashamed of it. Patois is embedded in the Jamaican culture. I don’t understand how any Jamaican can be embarrassed by it. I do believe, however, that it has its place. As immigrants, living abroad, we have to assimilate in order to adapt to the culture and lifestyle of whatever country we migrated to. In a professional environment I do not believe the dialect should be used.

However, in a more casual, relaxed atmosphere, I believe one should feel free to express themselves in Patois.

Some non-Jamaicans actually like to hear it. And, when you are in the company of Jamaicans, it is just a beautiful, warm, fun sing-song way to communicate. Some of us dip in and out of it, in between proper English, because it brings the point across just so.

Its important to use your common sense as to when to use the dialect. For Jamaicans living at home or abroad, I think the same rules apply; Professional environment – use English; Casual environment – choice between English and dialect, where appropriate. What are your thoughts on the whole Patois thing.

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Community Blog: Pat’s Pet Peeves Daily Blog. Sometimes Controversial – Sometimes Humorous – Always Thought Provoking.

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