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Caribbean Language Planning

Caribbean Language Planning

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Published by Shivana Allen

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Categories:Topics, Art & Design
Published by: Shivana Allen on Apr 25, 2010
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial


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Mohammed 1
Shivana MohammedDr. Jeannette AllsoppThe Standardization of Caribbean Languages7th May 2009
The Tongue That Ties:Addressing Caribbean Fragmentation Through Linguistics
To suggest that we all speak one tongue is surreal. But can’t we learn each others... so that every man's native tongue,is every other mans second language?Then can we not say we have achieved linguistic unity?(Mohammed, 2009)
The Caribbean is conventionally referred to as a singular region internationally, however,internally the region is far from singular, rather it is a group of islands each a nation unto itself.Many an individual and government have attempted to create within the region a sense of unity,the façade of a single nation under the sun. However, after multiple failed attempts this has not been accomplished.This paper proposes that the definitions of the region all reflect its fragmentation and thatattempts to piece the puzzle together have all failed due to one overlooked and understated
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element, at the grassroots level, islanders cannot communicate across their national boundaries.In his Nobel laureate lecture Derek Walcott captures the sentiment of most Caribbeanintellectuals, of the region he remarks that the everyday acts of belief and culture, recall“Memory that yearns to join the centre, a limb remembering the body from which it has beensevered, like those bamboo thighs of the god. In other words, the way that the Caribbean is stilllooked at, illegitimate, rootless, mongrelized. "No people there", to quote Froude, "in the truesense of the word". No people. Fragments and echoes of real people, unoriginal and broken.Historically the Caribbean has been destined for fragmentation, politically, socially andotherwise. A Pre Colonial West Indies was home to a number of indigenous tribes among whichwere the major groups the Tainos and Kalinagos, the Carib-speaking peoples and the Arawak-speaking peoples. These languages were later subjugated before a European Tongue, or tongues.This process began with the colonization of Cuba, Puerto Rico, Jamaica and Trinidad by theSpanish. Though in 1655 Jamaica was seized by the English and remained under its rule for 300years.Consequent to their domination an English speaking rule began in Bermuda(1612) to befollowed by their conquer of St Kitts, Barbados, Nevis, Antigua, Monsterrat, Anguilla, Tortola.In 1625 however a French Rule permeated the island of St. Kitts followed by Guadeloupe andMartinique both of whom to this day are French Departments, a political aspect that has hadserious ramifications for their assimilation into the greater Caribbean region. Similarly, theFrench took control of one third of Spanish Speaking Hispaniola, creating the French SpeakingHaitian. In addition to the English and French rule the Caribbean islands of Aruba, Bonaire,Curacao, Tobago, Saint Eustatius, Saba, St. Martin, St. Croix and Tortola, also became Dutchspeaking territories.
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Colonization Policy was one that mandated that the slaves be fragmented to allow for easier rule. Such that the African imports, were scattered across the multiple territories in nolinguistic order to prevent collusion. Derek Bickerton in discussing the Language BioProgramme Hypothesis comments that the intelligence of the average slave was underminedsince one’s ability to learn language is seen as proportionate to ones intelligence, rather inactuality the average slave came out of a region with nearly 2000 languages, where knowledge of multiple language varieties is commonplace. Bickerton notes that the propensity of the slave toacquire a multilingual repertoire was high.The acquisition of the language of the Colonizer was no herculean feat. It is thus acuriosity that with so heavy a substrate influence- genealogically speaking the Caribbean regionshould have evolved into a region where, while being multi-lingual, the average islanderslinguistic repertoire ought to include the major languages and varieties. Africa for instance as amulti-linguistic nation has an average 80 million people who share 400 languages, the typical Nigerian for instance, his repertoire includes at minimum two to three languages; this theyconsider their “linguistic inheritance” (Languages of Africa,1)Furthermore, in a Nation that is considered third world as is the case with the Caribbeanregion, the value of a multilingual population to its development has been recognized, that “thehigh linguistic diversity of many African countries (Nigeria alone has 250 languages, one of thegreatest concentrations of linguistic diversity in the world) has madelanguage policya vital issuein the post-colonial era. In recent years, African countries and many other developing nationssuch as Singapore
, have become increasingly aware of the value of their linguistic inheritance.
Singapore has four major languages, they are; Tamil, Malay, Mandarin and English.

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