Historical Origins of Jamaican “Patois English”

Although the official language of Jamaica is English, Jamaicans speak an English dialect called “Patois English”, which has roots in primarily British English, but also Asian and African languages, due to the melding of Jamaicans’ diverse cultural ancestries. Moreover, the “Jamaican Patois” dialect first arose out of a cultural expression of the Jamaican people and rebellion against their cultural roots and ethnic oppression. In addition, the Jamaican “English Patois” dialect is a colorful language that is spoken by people that possess a flair for vivid imagery, ridicule and irony, down-to-earth humor and raunchy curse words.

Jamaican “Patois English” is often very difficult for English-speaking travelers to Jamaica to understand, due to the rapid pace at which they speak, as well as the unique variety of local “Jamaican Patois” phrases and slang words, such as “dem”, which can be used as a modifier to pluralize persons or things. For instance, “yuh new fren dem” will accompany you to the place “dem that you” need to visit “. In addition, “dem” can refer to a female; whereas males are often referred to as “im“ in Jamaican “Patois English”. The Jamaican “Patois English” dialect is also very interesting in that local native Jamaican “English Patois” speakers also tend to speak like New Yorkers, since they often drop the r at the end of words, such as dollar (i.e. “dolla”) or water (i.e. “wata”). Some other popular Jamaican “Patois English” words that you might hear while on vacation in Jamaica, include: “nyam” (eat); “bickle” (food); “go sport” (socialize); “jam” (hang out”), Ital stew” (a salt-free Rastafarian vegetarian dish) ; “skanking” (Rock to Reggae music); “Idren” (friends), and “reasoning” (discussion).

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