The Similarities Between Jamaican Creole & Standard English

Written by chris burke
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The Similarities Between Jamaican Creole & Standard English
Many native residents of Jamaica speak Jamaican patois as a first language. (Hemera Technologies/ Images)

Jamaican patois is a creole language spoken throughout the Caribbean island of Jamaica. Though the term "Jamaican patois" is the dialect's local name, linguists call the language Jamaican creole. It is the primary language of a majority of Jamaicans. Creole languages form when groups of people from different cultures interact and form a derivative language that allows them to communicate. They incorporate aspects of the original languages, and in the case of Jamaican patois, has many connections with English, from which it primarily derives.

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Linguists consider Jamaican patois an English-lexicon language, which means its underlying vocabulary is based on English. Patois incorporates words from a variety of sources, from many West African languages to Hindi. However, a significant majority of its words come from English. While some derivative languages transform the vocabulary into different words, in the way that French and other Romance languages have changed Latin, Jamaican patois borrows large amounts of words directly from English.


The grammar of patois and English, while having some significant differences, generally follows similar patterns. This means that both patois and English have similar sentence structures, with the subject coming first, followed by the verb and finally the object. This is in contrast to many languages that order the relationships differently, such as subject, then object, then verb. Patois also does not use gendered articles, like English but unlike many other languages.


Speakers of Jamaican patois also typically speak Standard English, and may use the two interchangeably. Patois is mutually intelligible with English, which means that people who speak patois can understand English speakers and vice versa. Speakers of patois typically speak in a continuum as the circumstances dictate, speaking primarily in patois in some situations while switching primarily to English in others.


While some written Jamaican patois exists, both patois and English generally use English for written communication. Because patois and English are mutually intelligible, both patois and English speakers can use Standard English to communicate with one another. Some people attribute the relative lack of literacy in Jamaica to the difficulty patois speakers have in reading Standard English as a result of this similarity.

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