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This popular culture includes our music, dance, carnival masquerade, vernacular language, sports, folk supernatural practice and folklore. Despite the fact of being one Caribbean nation, all aspects of our individual culture is shaped uniquely to the island it belongs to. For instance, there is something about Trinidad's vernacular language that differentiates it from Grenada's. This research paper seeks to highlight the reasons for the varied response to the vernacular language in Grenada. It will also discuss the ways in which varying attitudes have affected twenty first century manifestations of this language.
Grenada was ruled by the French then the British, changing hands between them until the British ruled until independence in 1974. A few villages on the island still carry a French name, such as Sauteurs, Lance aux Epines and Morne Jaloux. According to Wilder (2010), along with the French-African Patios, Grenada Patois or Grenadian Creole is the vernacular languages on the island. Grenadian speech is a mixture of strange words and dialects of the African language, the Creole English, the Grenadian Creole French, and the French Patios. Dialect according to Roberts (2007) "is a variety of languages." With influences from the French, Spanish and British, along with the Africans and Amerindians, a collaboration of phrases from these languages forms the Grenadian dialect which is known to some as Grenadianese (Hughes, 2004). This can be seen as our "Creole English." Words such as jook (African) meaning to prick, bun-jay (from French word bon dieu) meaning good God, mab-boo-yah (Amerindians) which is a house-lizard and saven (Spanish) which is a child's game are all part of Grenadianese. During its early years, Grenadianese was the dominant language. However, there are varied responses towards the Grenadian vernacular. This is because of many reasons: lack of knowledge by the younger generation, the opinion that it is not "respectable" enough for the public, because of other cultural influences, Grenada's independence and historical socialization.
The Grenadian vernacular language, especially the French patios, is slowly dying. Patois is what is known to us as "broken French." But in Grenada, according to TravelGrenada.com (2010), patois is "a dialect that combines English words with elements of French and African languages." Thus, it can be said that the patois in Grenada has a few unique phrases as compared to that of St. Lucia or Dominica. This part of Grenada's vernacular language is slowly dying because the younger generation does not know the language for many different reasons: the main one being that they were not taught by the older folks who used the language during conversations that they thought were inappropriate for children. As a result, Grenadian patois is becoming part of our history. Roberts (2007) stated that there were efforts (especially by Barbadians) to teach the language in schools. But at this point, it is still a trying effort to reestablish it. What have remained are the popular words such as "bun-jay", "oui" and "compe" while some older folks still speak the language.
The opinion that the vernacular language is not "respectable" enough for public also stands on the notion of varying responses towards it. Hughes (2004) believes that one will hear the true Grenadian "language" when the citizens are not on public display. That is when Grenadians then tried to speak "proper" English, for people who spoke in their native Creole language were termed "uneducated." Roberts (2007), thus shares the view that our Creole language distinguishes people of the upper class and those of a lower standing. For example, Grenadian news reporters, business owners or politicians will not speak the native language in a formal setting. This will be seen as unprofessional and degraded on their part. However, on a regular day it is believed that the Grenadian dialect would be displayed. It can also be added here that upon travelling, one may tend to quickly adapt the "proper" English language. This may be due to embarrassment of the native language or it may involve that fact that foreigners do not understand the dialect in which we speak. More directed to the older generation, when someone travels, especially to the United States or the United Kingdom, that person is expected to return speaking proper English. Louise Bennett's poem "No Likkle Twang" highlights this theory when a son returned home from America and his mother was disappointment that he didn't the carry the accent home with him. Some Grenadians, and also the Caribbean on a whole, tend to abandon their dialect with the intention of sounding smarter or more educated to others and to themselves. Roberts (2007) mentioned that we judge people's intelligence based on their speech - based on his or her command on the English language, we tend to associate it with whether that person is a rural or urban resident.
Other cultural influences also have a part to play on varied responses to the Grenadian vernacular. The Grenadian society is highly influenced by the American culture. We are exposed to the American life through the television and internet, and it has changed the way we dress, eat, live and speak. Consequently, we have lost some of our vernacular language for the American phrases and slangs. According to Roberts (2007) slang is a "non-standard" language. This language varies from country to country - it is unique for each country. American slangs that we have adapted include words and phrases such as "What's going on?" or "What's up?" In Grenada this should translate as "Wha happening?" or "Wha go?" This point can be tied back to the fact that Grenadians or Caribbean children on a whole are so attached to the television or computer that they spend no time talking to their parents or grandparents to learn more about their culture and heritage. Hence one of the reasons why many young people did not develop a likeness for the French patois language or other dialects that have been incorporated into their home-land dialect. Most children are not fund of the games or folklore and supernatural stories that were a delight to children of the pass. Thus, the origins of words such as "la-jah-ess (from the French), "lou-ga-rou" (from French) and mab-boo-yah" (From Spanish) is not known to some. Words that we use on a regular basis in our day-to-day conversations, especially the word "oui" is of the French origin and only a few young people know this. Again it all leads back to the lack of conversation with the older generation due to the widespread use of technology.
Upon discovery, Grenada was inherited by the Americans, Spanish, French and British. The island was like most other Caribbean island with European slave masters and West African slaves. Because of all the nationalities and their different native languages, the vernacular of the island is made of many different cultures and languages, all incorporated into our Grenadian dialect. The island got its independence in 1974 under the leadership of Sir Eric Mathew Gairy. Due to this fact, Grenadians tried to put the right meaning to the word by having their own flag, coat of arms, anthem and other national symbols. Thus, they would have also tried to let go of some of the French, British, Spanish and African words to adopt a more unique accent that can be identified as "Grenadian." We developed our own slangs, making our speech patterns more a Grenadian dialect. According to Roberts (2007) in the West Indies, slangs can be of two kinds: one with the normal English word or phrase with a totally different meaning from the original or those with somewhat normal meanings for an unusual or fabricated word. For example, we use the word "hot" to describe a woman that looks good, or "bad eye" to describe an evil look. But on the other hand we use make-up words such as "mama gai" in the context of making a fool out of someone.
Historical socialization also has something to do with the various responses to the vernacular language. Grenada has changed hands from the Americans, Spanish, French and British. According to Roberts (2007) "[when] an island changed hands the official language changed automaticallyâ€¦" This does not necessarily change the vernacular of an island, but it does affect the way people relate to it. With this I mean that because of the varieties in the vernacular language (French, Spanish, British, African, and others) one may tend to forget the originality of the language. This variety was also evident during the slavery days. With the Europeans as slave masters, they spoke the Standard English, while the slaves who mostly came from West Africa spoke in their native language. Roberts (2007) describes this as a "social pyramid structure." The ones at the top (Europeans) spoke their language which was proper English, while the ones at the bottom (mainly Africans) maintain their language which was African dialects and other Creole languages. This maintenance of languages was due to the fact that the slaves were not directly communicating with their masters. Roberts (2007) also spoke of the white, brown and black making up the pyramid: the "white" being the masters, and the "black" being the slaves. The "brown" came about when slave masters were sexually abusing slave women. With the communication barrier being broken a bit, languages were integrated and formed into one vernacular.
The varying attitudes have affected twenty first century manifestations of vernacular language both positively and negatively. Positive in the fact that we still indentify with the French, Spanish, African and other languages that make up our Grenadian vernacular languages. It keeps us rooted in our history. Our vernacular language today, although dying, according to Roberts (2010), "reveals our beliefs and philosophy." There may be instances when we are not aware of the origins of our actions, but our everyday practices stems from our oral traditions left to us by our ancestors. For example, many people still believe in the supernatural beings told in old folk stories of long ago. Our folk stories tells a lot about our "mix-up" languages (especially African), thus it is embedded in us as Grenadians that our vernacular language is not original, but our expression of it quite contrary. A few elderly people still identify with the patois language on the island, and even seek to teach it to the younger ones who are willing to learn. We also manifest our vernacular language through songs and dances. For example, on the island of Carriacou, the Maroon festival is an African traditional festival where people give thanks for life and the good production of their land (Grenada Board of Tourism, 2010). The African extracts can be seen in the African dances, big drums, and singing of African songs which is used to tell a story. Many of these songs are done in the native African language or French patois. During the Maroon festival, there is a food fest called "saraca" where many villagers come together to prepare a great feast at the break of dawn. Many African dishes are prepared: yams, potatoes, breadfruit, green bananas among others. At first the people make a thanksgiving offering for the great harvest season and pray for a successful on in the following year (Carriacoupetitemartinque.com, 2010). All of these are ways in which we preserve our oral tradition because the actions performed by the people tell part of the story of who we are.
On the negative side, in this twenty first century, some words and phrases from our vernacular language is considered wrong or bad and thus children are banned from using them. In certain cases, it is to the extreme where children are punished for using the Grenadian dialect (Hughes, 2004). In schools, only "Standard English" is taught and anything otherwise is evidence that "you're speaking bad." If one were to look at the criteria for getting into a college or university, Basic Standard English Language is a recommended one. Thus, children are molded from a very young age how to speak "properly." In the event of doing this, our vernacular language is almost extinct.
In conclusion, it is quite evident that Grenadians have various responses towards our vernacular language, which is a mixture of French, Spanish, British, European, and African phrases, and it has both positively and negatively affected our society and how we express our native language. With an overall view, we are very peculiar as to how and where we use of dialect. The Caribbean on a whole is being changed into what is known as Caribbean Standard English. Roberts (2007) describes this as "English which is characteristically Caribbean without being Creole English." We are slowly moving away from the vernacular language, and into something that is more internationally accepted. But however, we still do appreciate the history behind our native language and some people live to tell the stories of it.