Jamaican Patois is a language spoken by the inhabitants of Jamaica. It began as a pidgin language to facilitate communication between slaves imported by the British colonial power and their masters. It drew the majority of its vocabulary from English. The grammar and phonology underwent significant mutations due to the influence of the slaves' West African languages. Contemporary Jamaican Patois has mostly been influenced by British and American standard English.

Despite impressions from movies such as Cool Runnings and pop-culture figures like Miss Cleo, Jamaican Patois is more than an accent, or even a dialect. It is not mutually intelligable with standard English in regular spoken form, and just barely intelligable when slowed down and excised of idioms. Even then, a great deal of meaning is lost without translation. It has its own (rather patchy) orthography, and even a nascent literary tradition as the country transitions away from using standard English for writing. The language possesses a level of complexity easily comparable to any other language, certainly elevating it beyond the status of a pidgin. The great similarity of vocabulary and shared aspects of grammar between Jamaican Patois and English certainly leave room for debate, but it is my personal opinion that Jamaican Patois should be considered a different language.


The Jamaican Patois system of pronouns differs significantly from that of English. Pronouns take only one form. They do not change according to function in the sentence in most cases, the exception being a reversion to older pronomial forms in the Dative case. Possession is indicated by conjoinment, there are no specific possessive pronouns in Jamaican Patois. The standard third person singular pronoun is gender neutral and is listed below. There is still, however, common usage of normal English gendered pronouns (hi and shi). This aspect of the language is still evolving. Unlike standard English, Jamaican Patois makes a consistent distinction between singular and plural second person.

                   sing.  plur.
1st per.          | mi  | wi
2nd per.          | yu  | unu
3rd per. common   | im  | dem
3rd per. objective| i   | dem


Nouns in Jamaican Patois take English's eschewing of inflection to its logical conclusion. They inflect for neither plurality nor possession. Animate nouns (those describing living things) may be made plural by affixing '-dem', as in bway (boy) to bwaydem (boys) or preacha (preacher) to preachadem (preachers). Jamaican Patois still makes use of the definite article 'di' in similar fashion to English.


Jamaican verbs do not conjugate with respect to person or tense. They are instead modified through tense and aspect markers. The bare form of a verb expresses habitual action, past tense, or future tense. The addition of the particle 'a' before the verb makes it present progressive. Similarly, the particle 'en' makes a verb pluperfect or past perfect. Combining the two into the particle 'ena' yields the past progressive.
Im talk -- He talks, He talked, He will talk
Im a talk -- He is talking
Im en talk -- He has talked, he had talked
Im ena talk - He was talking
The Jamaican Patois copula is also 'a'. It is used as an equivicator, for example Mi a di teacha (I am a teacher) and must be paired with the definitive article. There is a unique locational verb, 'de', when used to express static existance in, on, or at something. 'Mi de a yaad', "I'm in the yard."


Jamaican Patois adjectives work in the same way as English adjectives. They have two inflectional endings, '-a' for comparative and '-is' for superlative. Irregular adjectives have mostly become regular.
guud -- good
guuda -- better
guudis -- best
The adjective can shift roles and become a verb, much like in Japanese. Thus, a copula is never needed when equating a subject with an adjective, for example 'Mi taiad' translates as "I am tired."


Jamaican Patois mostly uses the same prepositions as English, with significant but regular phonetic modifications. It has merged all of its locational prepositions under 'a', which can also indicate movement towards. 'Mi a go a skuul', "I'm going to school." The infinitive still preserves the original preposition 'to'.

Jamaican Language Site - http://www.geocities.com/slybabykim/areas/linguistics/hum_132_final_paper-is_jamaican_creole_a_language.pdf
Jamaican Creole and Standard English Contrasted - http://www-user.tu-chemnitz.de/~wobo/jamaika/JC_SE.html

Log in or register to write something here or to contact authors.