Bajan Creole

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Bajan
Native toBarbados
Coastal North Carolina, US
Coastal South Carolina, US
Coastal Georgia, US
Northeast Florida, US
Native speakers260,000  (1999)[1]
Language family
English Creole
  • Atlantic
    • Eastern
      • Southern
        • Bajan
Language codes
ISO 639-3bjs
Linguasphere52-ABB-ar
This article contains IPA phonetic symbols. Without proper rendering support, you may see question marks, boxes, or other symbols instead of Unicode characters.
 
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Bajan
Native toBarbados
Coastal North Carolina, US
Coastal South Carolina, US
Coastal Georgia, US
Northeast Florida, US
Native speakers260,000  (1999)[1]
Language family
English Creole
  • Atlantic
    • Eastern
      • Southern
        • Bajan
Language codes
ISO 639-3bjs
Linguasphere52-ABB-ar
This article contains IPA phonetic symbols. Without proper rendering support, you may see question marks, boxes, or other symbols instead of Unicode characters.

Bajan (pronounced /ˈbeɪdʒən/) is an English-based creole language spoken on the Caribbean island of Barbados and in the United States coastal regions of North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, and northeast Florida where it is known as Gullah.[citation needed] In general, the people of Barbados speak standard English on TV and radio, in courthouses, in government, and in day to day business, while Bajan creole is reserved for less formal situations, in music, or in social commentary.

Like many other English-based Caribbean creole languages, Bajan consists of a West African substrate and an English superstrate. Bajan is similar but distinguishable from the creoles of neighbouring Caribbean islands, as many of the other Caribbean creoles are theorized to have Hiberno-English or Scottish English as their superstrate variety, for example Jamaican Patois[citation needed].

Language[edit]

Bajan is the Caribbean creole with the closest grammar to Standard English.[2] There is academic debate on whether its creole features are due to an earlier pidgin state or to some other reason, such as contact with neighboring English-based creole languages.[3] In one historical model, Bajan arose when captive West Africans were forcibly transported to the island, enslaved and forced to speak English, though learned imperfectly. Bajan later became a means of communicating without always being understood by the slave holders.

Due to emigration to the Province of Carolina, Bajan has influenced American English[4][5] and the Gullah language spoken in the Carolinas.[6][7] Regionally, Bajan has ties to Belizean and Guyanese Creoles.[citation needed]

Unlike Jamaica, Guyana or Trinidad, Barbados was the destination of few enslaved African-born capitives after 1800.[8] Thus, African Barbadians became "Bajanized" relatively early on in the island's history. This tended to make them less resistant to local culture, with its Anglicised language, religion and customs.[8][9]

Today, Bajan is a more popular regional term for nationals of Barbados, in addition to the official name, Barbadian. In general, the people of Barbados speak standard British English on TV and radio, in courthouses, in government, and in day to day business, while Bajan is reserved for less formal situations, in music, or in social commentary. Standard English is a secondary native tongue of most Barbadians, and is usually used when talking formally[citation needed]. Barbadians may opt to speak Bajan amongst themselves or when in a very relaxed setting[citation needed]. Bajan is a primarily spoken language with no standardised written form. Due to the lack of standardisation, spelling may vary widely from person to person. There is much dialectal variation throughout the island. Barbadians practicing Rastafari on the island also tend to speak more with a Jamaican accent than full Bajan. Bajan words and sentences presented below are largely spelled as they are pronounced. New terminology, expressions, jargon, and idioms are regularly added to the dialect by social commentary sung during the annual Crop Over festival.[10]

Features[edit]

As in most English-based Caribbean creoles, the interdentals /θ/ and /ð/ have merged with other consonants (in this case, /t/ and /d/, respectively).[11] Unlike most other Caribbean creoles, Bajan is rhotic[citation needed]. Bajan has a strong tendency to realize word-final /t/ as a glottal stop [ʔ]. Thus the Bajan pronunciation of start, [stɑːɹʔ], contrasts sharply with the pronunciation of other Caribbean speakers, [staːt] or [stɑːt] or [staːɹt][citation needed].

The word for you (plural) is wuna, similar to Jamaican unnu / unna or Bahamian yinna. Unlike Standard English, Bajan tends towards using a zero copula.

Questions are usually pronounced as a statement with a raised intonation; usually on the last word; to indicate that it is a question e.g. Wunna win de cricket? means "Did you (pl.) win the cricket match?"; dah you own? means "Is that yours?"

Habitual actions are usually indicated by the word does and done, for example I does guh church punna Sunduh means "I go to church on Sundays", or I done guh church pon Sunduh "I went to church on Sunday". It is quite common for this to be shortened to I's guh church pun Sunduh.[citation needed]

Verbs in Bajan are not conjugated for tense, which is inferred from time words e.g. I eat all de food yestuhday = "I ate all of the food yesterday", where the word yesterday indicates that the action happened in the past.[citation needed]

The word gine is usually used to mark the future tense e.g. I gine eat = "I am going to eat".[citation needed]

Ain't (frequently shortened to ain') is used as a negative marker e.g. "I didn't do that" becomes I ain' do dat/dah. It is not uncommon for the I and the ain' to be pronounced in Bajan as "Ah'n" i.e. "Ah'n do dah" or "Ah'n able".

Proverbs[edit]

Bajan is peppered with a number of colourful proverbs and sayings that have been passed down through the generations. These are just a few examples below:

ProverbsMeaning
De higha de monkey climb, de more he show he tailThe more you show off the more you show your faults.
Gol' (gold) teet (teeth) doan suit hog mout (mouth)Fancy things don't suit those that aren't accustomed to them.
Cat luck ain' dog luckWhat one person may get away with may cause problems for another.
Wuh ain' see you, ain' pass youJust because you got away with something so far does not mean that it won't catch up with you later.
Ef greedy wait hot wud (would) coolPatience will be rewarded.

African words in Bajan[edit]

According to the Ethnologue, Bajan has "fewer than 20 lexical items that are traceable to an African origin".[12]

wunna
You all from the Igbo word unu, which means You (plural).
obeah
From Igbo Obia, 'doctoring, mysticism, or oracle'.
doppy
From Twi Adope.
kaeh-lee
Derogatory term - from the Ugandan word for anus
Cou-Cou
Part of the local national dish, but comes from "Fou Fou" in Africa.
nyam
(Pronounced "ng-yam" or "yamm") Means to eat ravenously or greedily, as in "Don't yamm the food like that boy!" – In Manjaku (language spoken in Guinea-Bissau) and in Pulaarit it means to chew (pronounced "nyam"); it also means chew in Luo (language spoken in East Africa).[citation needed]

Further reading[edit]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Bajan reference at Ethnologue (17th ed., 2013)
  2. ^ Hancock (1980:22), citing Le Page (1957:58–59)
  3. ^ Hancock (1986:195)
  4. ^ Barbados Tourism Encyclopaedia
  5. ^ New York Times – "The Buried History of America's Largest Slave Rebellion and the Man Who Led It"
  6. ^ Carrington, Sean (2007). A~Z of Barbados Heritage. Macmillan Caribbean Publishers Limited. pp. 113, 114. ISBN 0-333-92068-6. 
  7. ^ "Historical Facts on George Washingtons visit to Barbados in 1751". Retrieved 6 April 2010. 
  8. ^ a b Radula-Scott, Caroline, ed. (2000). "Features: All o' We Is Bajan". Barbados. Insight Guide (3rd ed.). Singapore: APA Publications. p. 58. ISBN 981-234-067-X. 
  9. ^ Carrington, Sean; Fraser, Henry (2003). "African Heritage". A~Z of Barbados Heritage. Macmillan Caribbean,. pp. 2–3. ISBN 0-333-92068-6. "Direct African influence declined in Barbados earlier than in other major Caribbean societies. In 1817 only 7 percent of Barbadian slaves had been born in Africa, whereas in Jamaica the proportion was 36 percent and 44 percent in Trinidad. An important result was that the process of acculturation, whereby Afro-Barbadians were persuaded or coerced into accepting European cultural norms was more intensive in Barbados. To give two examples, the proportion of words of African origin in the Barbadian vocabulary is much lower than it is in Jamaica, and there are in Barbados none of the religions of African or partly African origin found elsewhere in the Caribbean, such as Voodoo in Haiti, Shango in Trinidad, or Kélé in St. Lucia. (It may be claimed that the Spiritual Baptists are an exception, but this church came to Barbados from Trinidad in comparatively recent times.)" 
  10. ^ Musings: In this jurisdiction, solely
  11. ^ Cassidy (1986:202)
  12. ^ ethnologue.com – "Barbadian Creole English"
  13. ^ Website of author Jerome Davis, former Barbadian Consul to Canada
  14. ^ COMMON SENSE & EVIDENCE: The art of Bajan dialect, Nation Newspaper

External links[edit]