Belizean Creole Form Of English Cultural Studies Essay

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To proceed, the phenomenon observed in Belize, is the co-existence of two varieties; English on the first hand which is characterized by overt prestige and Belizean Creole on the other hand carrying covert prestige. Despite English being the official language of Belize, Belizean Creole appears to be characterized by high status. According to Escure (1997), even though Belizean Creole "is not officially recognized as distinct from English" and is assigned a low value, it has still gained prestige and it does survive and is spoken by a wide and massive amount of speakers. As she further explains, this occurrence is usually observed in Creole societies due to the prevalence of a 'double standard' in these societies. Thus, the vernacular is "avoided for certain out-group contacts," yet it remains prestigious and is "highly valued as a marker of ethnic identity and…Belizean national identity" (36). Belizean Creole in essence is gaining prestige but is still officially ignored given that the official position is that any non-English variety is perceived "broken English" or "brokop" as Escure (1997) refers to it. In view of that, English is the language used as a medium of instruction at schools with teachers expected to teach in English rather than Belizean Creole, yet, as the teachers themselves confessed they often switch to Belizean for more fluent explanations (Escure 1997: 37); an instance which actually points to the existence of English as a second language in Belize or language for practicality all (37), and to the notion of Belizean Creole being in actual fact the first language in Belize. According to Escure (1997), English - despite its official status in Belize - is never physically present, at least as far as everyday communication is concerned. In fact, excluding its use at schools, English is only spoken by immigrants including American families who moved to Belize after the Civil War (67). As LePage (1998) further adds, the Creoles of Belize said […] derogatory things about their language within the context of education [they] nevertheless called it Creole and identified themselves, with pride and feelings of superiority, as Creoles (stated in Ravindranath 2009: 140). Escure also points out that "[t]he creole is officially stigmatized, and avoided for external contacts, but it is internally prestigious and highly valued in peer group and family contacts" (cited in Ravindanath 2009: 139). In fact, LePage (1992) suggests that the "need for Creole people to distinguish themselves, politically and culturally, from the 'Spanish', as well as from the Garinagu ("Caribs") and Indians" strengthened the positive identification with Creole and essentially Belizean Creole has developed from having the covert prestige a newer status of overt prestige for Belizeans (std in Ravindranath 2009: 140). Commenting further on the status of Belizean Creole, the necessity and the aim to promote even more the language and culture of Belizean Creole led to the establishment of the Kriol National Council of Belize in 1995. According to Vorhees and Brown (2008), the council's aspire was the solidification of the national identity and the encouragement of interaction and collaboration between different ethnic groups in Belize as a result of the recognition and use of Kriol. Belizean Creole's high prestige, however, is not historically shared by the other indigenous languages spoken in Belize such as Garifuna, Mopan, Kekchi and Yucatec have. As a result, speakers of other indigenous languages in Belize appear to feel ashamed using their own language due to Belizean's higher status and value. According to Ravindranath (2009), Garifuna-speaking people in Belize such as in Dangriga and Seine Bight communities in Belize, Belizean Creole has largely replaced Garifuna, especially as far as younger speakers are concerned, due to the people's preference for the more prestigious status of Belizean Creole (144). Nonetheless, despite the high status of Belize and the preference and positive attitude speakers of other languages in Belize hold for it, this is not the case in all communities. Precisely, a study carried out by Maya Ravindranath (2009) demonstrates that in a specific community in Belize - Hopkins - people do not hold the same positive attitude towards Belizean Creole as people from other communities hold. For the study to be carried out, formal sociolinguistic interviews took place in Hopkins community - largest Garifuna-speaking village in Belize - asking speakers, usually in English, what they considered their first, second, third, and, if relevant, fourth language (137). As the study revealed, negative attitudes toward BC is far more common in Hopkins by older people who hold the belief that BC is an "illegitimate language and a bastardization of English" and they, thus, show an unwillingness to give BC the status of a language alongside Garifuna and English (149). Below is an example of a 55-year old woman who was asked in the interview which language she considers to be her first one, and we can observe the negative attitude she holds towards Belizean Creole by stating "Ah! I don't call Creole":


MR: What do you consider your first language?

SM55: Garifuna.

MR: And your second?

SM55: English.

MR: Third?

SM55: I have none.

MR: OK. How about Creole?

SM: Tsk. Ah! I don't call Creole… (Ravindranath 2009: 147)

Speakers of 20-40 years of age on the other hand, are unwilling to acknowledge BC as a language but, admit using it, particularly with their friends (177), whereas younger people are hesitant to admit to using BC when their parents and older relatives are present, but they name it as one of the languages that they speak (150). This phenomenon is clearly illustrated and supported by the following example of an 11-year old girl asked which language she liked to speak.


"Creole!" she responded. Then after a pause and a glance at her mother, she added

"With my friends."

"And at home?" her mother prompted.

"Garifuna," she said.

Her mother added: "No Creole in my home." (Ravindranath 2009: 150)

As far s BC's grammar is concerned, BC is highly variant and there is variation in all language fields - phonology, morphology, syntax and semantics - because of the absence of codification, consistent orthography and any standardized form (Greene 1999: 19). To begin with BC's phonology, according to Tinelli (1981), BC is characterized - just like other creole languages - by "open syllabicity "; a syllabic structure rule which creates a tendency towards words ending with vowels (stated in Greene 1999: 27). For example, [lada] for "ladder" and [kiba] for "cover." A feature to be observed in BC, therefore, is word-final consonant deletion which according to Cassidy is a feature that "may stem from similar tendencies in many African substratum languages" (stated in Greene 1999: 27). Other characteristic of BC's phonology, according to Greene (1999), are palatalization and nasalization. Specifically, in BC voiced and voiceless velar consonants as well as alveolar consonants appear to be palatalized when occurring in initial position (e.g. [kyɑt] meaning "cat" and [kyɑːd] meaning "card"). Regarding nasalization which is also another feature noticed in creole languages, in BC nasility is phonemic and this nasalization is the result of the final nasal consonants being deleted "during the process of lexification from English" (Greene 1999: 28). In such cases Greene (1999) further maintains, nasalization is regressive and the nasal feature is retained by the preceding vowel even after the drop of the final consonant - [kyā] for "can" and [frā] for "from" (28). According to Tinelli (1981), this process of regressive nasalization observed in BC is a common feature of creoles and this is possibly because of the "tendency towards nasalization of vowels in African languages which act as substratum for the Atlantic creoles" (stated in Greene 1999: 28). What is more, creole languages have a tendency towards cluster reduction. Likewise, BC has a tendency towards reducing consonant clusters in initial, medial and final positions. For instance, the words "cold," "stomach" and "already" in BC become [kol], [tomɑk] and [ɑredi] respectively (Greene 1999: 30-1). A further phonological phenomenon observed in BC, as Greene states, is [r] laxing and deletion. Yet, whereas the [r] deletion from the middle of a word leaves a residual vowel length as in [bɑːn] for "barn," when a word-final deletion of [r] takes place, there is little residual effect left on the phonemic environment such as [suga] for "sugar" (31). Finally, the phonology of BC is characterized by the absence of interdentals in all positions and precisely of [θ] and [ð] which are realized as [t] and [d] correspondingly (e.g. [dat] for "that," [tik] for "thick" and [notiŋ] for "nothing"), and the deletion of word initial vowel as well such as [boːt] for "about" and [kros] for "across" (Greene 1999: 32-3). Moving on to morphology, according to Green (1999), BC is characterized by free rather than bound morphemic grammatical marking. For instance, the present tense, number and person are not overtly marked with the need to rely on the context, in essence, in order to accurately read the meaning (40). In BC, to speak in present tense what is needed is the placement of the verb after the noun it modifies. Green (1999) provides the following example:

a go da di sto:. smiliŋ de de:, ɑːn I sel mi wan nays pok saseʝ.

I go down to the store. Smiling id there and he sells me a nice pork


Past tense on the other hand is optionally marked with the marker //mi// which is placed before the verb as it is seen in the following example:

a mi bay wan tiŋ - "I bought one of them"

a bay wan tiŋ yesade - "I bought one of them yesterday"

What it is notable is that despite the absence of a sentence in the examples above that includes both the marker //mi// and a lexical item denoting tense (e.g. yesterday), it is possible that both of them are used in a sentence for emphasis (Greene 1999: 41). Moving on to the future tense, according to Greene (1999), in BC it is created through the insertion of the marker //Ê”wã// before the verb which is not optional as //mi// is for the construction of BC's past tense (e.g. É‘ Ê”wã si yu tumor - "I will see you tomorrow"). Regarding the progressive aspect in BC, the continuative action is denoted through the preverbial marker //di// for present tense (e.g. ʝimi di se gubay É‘:n so lÉ‘Å‹ - "Jimmy is saying goodbye and so-long"), through the combination of both //mi// and //di// before the verb for past tense (e.g. É‘ mi di drink biyÉ‘ - "I was drinking beer") and for the future tense the progressive aspect is denoted via the addition of //bi// after the future marker //Ê”wã// such as [É‘ Ê”wã bi sin yu] which is translated as "I will be seeing you" (Greene 1990: 43-4).

Concerning the verb "to be," in Belizean Creole it has four forms, Greene (1999) cites; they are //da// which is used when the complement of the verb is a noun or a noun phrase (e.g. É‘ dÉ‘ wÉ‘n dÉ‘ltÉ‘ - "I am a doctor"), //de// which is the locative form of the verb "to be" and is used when the complement of the verb is a prepositional phrase (e.g. wi de inÉ‘ wÉ‘n bot - "We are in a boat"), //di// that, as already stated above, is used for expressing the progressive aspect, and finally it can be unmarked "Ø" when an adjective is the complement of the verb phrase as in phrase [ʝɑn big] which means "John is big" (57-8).