Abstract - Jenice Robertson

Caribbean Creoles have constantly been denied legitimacy as official languages. They have retained a legacy of inferiority due to colonial and neocolonial misrepresentations. Because of the low status of Jamaican Creole, its speakers are hesitant to make it their first language. Studies have shown that denial of one’s language can lead to racial identity confusion.

This study set out to explore self-perceived bilingualism among Jamaican Creole speakers and the negative feedback that is encountered within certain contexts. Negative connotations are often attached to non-standard accents and dialects and this creates stigmas within wider speech communities. Because of these stereotypes, immigrants are eager to eliminate their native tongue in an attempt to gain social approval.

A questionnaire was developed for the purposes of this research: it consisted of twenty questions with possible answers ranging from strongly agree, agree, neutral, disagree and strongly disagree. To qualify for this project, participants were required to be fluent in Jamaican Creole, displaying specific grammatical features characteristic of Jamaican Creole such as lack of ‘-s’ as plural marker (ex. ‘Two cat’), be active members of the club Brooklyn College-based Caribbean Students Union (CSU) and first or second generation immigrants. Sixteen participants- eight males and eight females- between the ages of 19 and 24 completed the survey.

Results indicate that the attitudes surrounding Jamaican Creole have improved compared to findings reported in the literature on Caribbean Creoles: about 50% of participants agreed to being bilingual and they were more likely to do so if they considered Jamaican Creole a language in its own right. Although Jamaican Creole has gained more legitimacy as a language, most participants agree that it should be reserved for certain contexts.

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