Tel nou, Jumieka Taak a onggl wah huoral langwij, paas dong an tu an, chuu
wod-a-mout. Di fyuu piipl we chrai fi raiti raiti aal difrahn kain a wie tel ebribadi dis
kangkluud se i aad fi rait ah dis no bada widi. So wi no gat no moch badi a lichicha fi luk pan
muo dah fi Klaad Makie ah Luiiz Benit puoyim ah fyuu Nansi tuori. Iibn dem rait out ina
waah saat a hIngglish we no du jostis tu di soun ah powa a di langwij.
Tuu lingguis niem Kiasidi ah LiPiej dem divelop wah sistim fi rait out di piich fi
soun laik ou itaak. A disaya sistim, di Kiasidi-Lipiej sistim, wid likl madifikieshan
we yuuz pah disya sait. Di mien dipaacha a di yuus a h fi maak niezalaiz vowil
ina wod laik ah, deh, hih.
hEmfasaiz yu hiech dem,
yu hignarant haas.
Waneda hinovieshan wi mek a fi chrai riprizent di hinishal haspiriet,
ar h soun we kom bifuo muos wod we taat wid vowil. Dis shuo az luo kies
aitalik h.* Laik nof Wes Afrikan langwij, tuu vowil no fi kom tigeda,
so ef di laas wod hen ina vowil yu afi put h bifuo di nex wan. Sens Jumiekan
a wah huoral langwij we wi a-chrai tandadaiz, deni spel sens fi ritien di
huoral kualitidem az moch az pasobl. Chuu dis, wi uop fi hextablish
di haatagrafi fi rikaad ah prizaab di langwij fi pasteriti bifuo heni
muo a hit laas.
Fi meki libit iizia fi riid, wen di singl leta i miinin 'it'
okor, wi shubi pan di rilietid wod laka priifix ar sofix. Ef i a di sobjik igo bifuo
di voerb, ef a habjik igo baka di voerb. Egzampl de ina deh tuu
sentans. Wi fain se muos piipl a-kom frah hIngglish ah hout fi riid
i az 'I', fos posn singgiula.
Nof wie fi se di siem ting
Jumieka piipl no taak wan wie bot sebral, frah di Kwiin Ingglish, ar wa wi
kaal piiki-puoki, tu braad Patwa. Som tingz kiah se aal faib difrah wie, meki aal di muo
aad fi rait dong. So no rait wie no de fi se notn; idipen pah di piika hih bakgrong,
braatopsi ah hedikieshan, ah di hokiejan, ou hih se wa.
Askaadn tu di tiori a Daiglasia,
wen tuu langwij bokup, wan get ai stietos ah rait dong ahn yuuz faamal, wails di hada
wan chat muo, no rait dong, ahn ikansida luo. Ingglish a di ai wan deh kaal di
hakrolek wails Jumiekan uda bi di bazilek. Di tuu langwij sohtaim kriskraas ah mixop
fi gi wah hinbitwiin taakin deh kaal miizolek. Egzampl a di spekchrom a
hexpreshan lis out ina kalom dong biluo.
hUsh wan a yu?
Ef yu taak Jumiekan, yu kiah chek we paat pah di kantinyuom yu jrap ina bi ou yu kaal
soertn wod. Muos a yu wi taak miizolek, di honggl piipl we a kot bazilek uda muosli di
huola wan dem a konchri, har els deh lef konchri lang taim ah de a
hIngglant, Panamaa, Kyuuba ar dem plies de wepaat Jumiekandem maigriet. Iuda foni
ef iton out se a farin prizaab Jumiekan3.
*Dis a riisant inovieshan so iwi tek likl taim bifuo wi kiah hopdiet
aal a di piej dem. Si wid wi.
Until now, Jamaican has been an oral language passed on by word-of-mouth. The few who
tried to write it used a variety of spellings, making it difficult to standardize, and
therefore discouraging further writing and reading. There is no body of literature beyond
Claude McKay's and Louise Bennett's poems and a few Anancy stories. Even those are written
in near-English, which do not do justice to the sound and power of the language.
Two linguists named Cassidy and LePage have developed an orthography, that reproduces
as closely as possible the sound of Jamaica Talk. It is the Cassidy-LePage system, with
some modification, that is used in this site. The main departure is the use of hn
to mark nasalized vowels in words like ahn, dehn, hihn.
hEmphasize your haitches,
you hignorant hass.
Another innovation we have made is to represent the initial aspirate, or h sound
which comes before most words that begin with vowels. This is shown as a lower case italic
h.* As in many West African languages, two vowels should not come together, so if
the preceding word ends in a vowel you have to put h before the next one. Since
Jamaican is an oral language which we are attempting to standardize, then it makes sense
to retain the oral qualities as closely as possible. By this means, it is hoped to establish
an orthography to record and preserve the language for posterity before any more of it is
To make it a bit easier to read, when the single letter i meaning it
occurs, we attach it to its related word as a prefix or suffix. Two examples are in that
sentence (See Jamaican text). We have found that most people come to this from English and
tend to read i as I, first person singular.
Many ways of speaking
Jamaicans have several modes of speaking, from the Queen's English, referred to as
"speaky-spoky," to broad patois. Some things are pronounced in up to five different ways,
making it all the more difficult to establish an othography. There is no one correct
pronunciaton; it depends on the speaker's background, upbringing and education, and the
occasion how s/he says what. According to the theory of
Diglossia, when two languages
interact, one is given high status, written and used formally, while the other may be
spoken more, not written and considered low. English would be the acrolect while
Jamaican would be the basilect. The two languages sometimes criss-cross and blend
to give an in-between speech known as the mesolect. Examples of the spectrum of
expression is laid out below.
How do you speak?
If you speak Jamaican, you can check where on the continuum you fall by how you
pronounce certain words. Most of you will speak the mesolect, the only people speaking
the basilect being mostly older ones in the rural areas, or those who have left the
country a long time ago and now live in England, Panama, Cuba or places where Jamaicans
migrated. It would be ironic if it turned out that Jamaican3 was preserved abroad.
*Since this is a recent innovation, it will be some time before we get to
update all the pages. Pardon the delay.
JAMAICAN WRITTEN THE ENGLISH WAY
We have, of course, all seen Jamaican represented in
writing, in the poems of Miss Lou, the dialogue in
newspaper cartoons, on posters and in slogans on tee-
shirts. Nearly always, however, the language is spelt as if
it were a form of English. When we see Jamaican written in
this way, we often hesitate a short while, sometimes trying
out a couple of pronunciations in our head, before we
recognise the Jamaican word intended by the spelling used.
JAMAICAN WRITTEN THE JAMAICAN WAY
Frederic Cassidy, a Jamaican linguist, developed in 1961 a
method of presenting the Jamaican language in writing. It
is a method that represents the sounds of the language as
faithfully as possible, without relying on the spelling
conventions of English.
It is an approach to spelling Jamaican that treats it as a
language in its own right rather than as a form of English.
His system has no silent letters anhd each letter or letter
combination is always pronounced the same way. The system
is, therefore, easy to learn.
However, it can be confusing to someone accustomed to
reading English and who thinks that Jamaican is a form of
English. Because Jamaican is a language in its own right
and not just a form of English, a word that is pronounced
the same in these two languages is often written
So, even though the Jamaican and English words for "bite"
are pronounced the same way, it is written as "bite" in
English and as "bait" in the Cassidy system for Jamaican.
This is confusing because this is the same spelling as the
English word "bait".
However, since Jamaican is not English, the sounds which
the letters carry in the Cassidy system for Jamaican are
different from those which they carry in English.
The equivalent Jamaican Language word for the English
"bait" is, in the Cassidy system, "biet". Confused? Keep
reading and everything will soon become clear.
The system presented below, which we will call "spelling
Jamaican the Jamaican Way", is one based on that developed
by Frederic Cassidy with some modifications.
SPELLING THE JAMAICAN WAY
Spelling the Vowels
There are five short vowels
| Single Vowel || Jamaican Word
|| English Translation |
| a || ban
|| band |
| e || bel
|| bell |
| i || sik
|| sick |
| o || kot
|| cut |
| u || kuk
|| cook |