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When you read a passage or hear some form of verbal communication, there are linguistic features which make an
impression on you. This is so because the words, graphs and symbols chosen and their arrangements are telling you
something about the writer`s/speaker`s purpose and context.

The use of various linguistic, grammatical, punctuations and features to convey the overall purpose of the
speaker/writer are referred to as language strategies.

In assessing the language strategy of a speaker/writer or in devising strategies of your own, you may want to
consider the following:

The Linguistic Features

These refer to the grammar, syntax, and vocabulary that the writer uses to convey his intended message. Consider
what the use of each of the following might mean:
 Type of language used: spoken or written, formal or informal, personal or impersonal, standard or
 The vocabulary used: prosaic or florid, simple or stilted, slang or formal, repetition of key words
and phrases?
 The phrasing and sentence structure: simple or complex, economical or verbose, direct or
 Connotative or Denotative use of language: words used emotively - to convey arouse feelings, to
suggest; words used referentially - to emphasize or state factual content; words which seem to primarily about
conveying facts but which are really intended to arouse emotions.
 Significant use of punctuation marks- eg. pause marks such as full stops, question signs,
exclamation marks and suspension dots.
 Lay-out of the page- use of banner headlines, newspaper (column) or broad-sheet lay-out,
advertising-copy layout, verse-lay-out, portrait or landscape lay-out.
 Typographical features- use of font sizes, bold face, capitals, spacing, indentation, italic/roman
 Use of pictures and graphics - help make written concepts plain; reinforce concepts; help to
stimulate for younger readers.
Function and Purpose of the Language

Identifying the type of writing (discourse) will help you determine its function. Consider if it
is narrative, expository, descriptive, dramatic, argumentative?

Read more here, on some common types of discourse and the purposes for which writers have used them.

The Context of the Language

Every time language is used to communicate meaning it takes place within a particular set of circumstances referred
to as the context of use. The context influences the way language is used and it includes:
 the subject matter or content to be communicated
 the purpose for the communication
 the writer`s/speaker`s awareness of her relationship to the audience
 the way the writer/speaker wishes or expects the audience to respond

Selecting Your Target Audience

To communicate effectively with your intended target audience, you must have a `sense` of that audience. You need
to know what they are like and what their expectations are. Here are some considerations:
 The age of the speaker/narrator and the effect on the audience/reader/listener receiving the
 The status or social background of the audience
 The knowledge background of the audience - how much or little do they know of the topic being
communicated and the level of their interest.
 The presence or absence of an emotional connection between speaker/writer and intended
audience - is it hostile, indifferent, cordial, intimate?
 The size of the audience being addressed - inter-personal or group communication?
 The degree to which the communication is intended to be public, private or intimate.

The following are definitions of language:
(i) system of communication between humans, through written and vocal symbols
(ii) speech peculiar to an ethnic, national or cultural group
(iii) words, especially employed in any art, branch or knowledge, or profession
(iv) a person’s characteristic mode of speech
(v) by extension, the articulate or inarticulate expression of thought and feeling by living creatures.

Language combines a wide variety of features and is the most precise and complex means of communication that

Language is one of a range of means of communication. It is not to be regarded as just another form of
communication. It is perhaps the most complex of all. It is flexible, dynamic, systematic, creative and socially
governed. It is to be distinguished from all other forms of communication, both human and non-human, because it
does more than simply communicate.

There is a popular misconception that language is just another form of communication. It is important to note that
language is not like other forms of communication and that in fact it is a peculiarly human phenomenon, though
many of its features are to be found in other forms of communication.

There are two types of languages: denotative and connotative language. Denotative language is language interpreted
literally while connotative language has emotive shades of meaning.

Functions of Language
 Language is a marker of evolution for the human species
 Language offers human beings the means of expressing themselves verbally.
 Language is extensive, meaning that the ability to speak separates us from all other species.
 Language stands as being widely creative.
 Language has identity, meaning that you begin to identify people based on his or her use of language. It creates
personal identity.

Characteristics of Language
 Language has a human characteristic. Only humans have the physical capability to pronounce the wide variety of
sounds that are used in world’s languages. Language must be sound based. However, it is not necessary to write it
to be considered a language. Communication must take place for it to be considered a language.

Mutual intelligibility: where information could be passed on and understand

Note that, in order for a language to become a standard form, it must be written.

 Language is verbal. It is based on recognizable sounds.

 Language is symbolic. This means that it uses words as representations or symbols of ideas. Most words have an
arbitrary, but mutually agreed relationship between the symbol and the meaning. Symbolism in language ensures
that ideas are easily shared among speakers of the same language. Dictionaries are actually records of the symbolic
meaning of the words in a language. They ensure that the symbolism remains consistent despite the advent of new
generations and new speakers.

 Language is systematic. Languages have structure. Each language has specific grammar rules and follow specific
word order. Unlike other forms of communication, language makes use of a number of different systems operating
at several levels.

1. Sound
Since some sequences of sound are not acceptable. Note that the spelling in some cases is not readily recognized
because it may not suggest a sequence of sounds that speakers of English recognize or use normally. Each language
has its accepted sound patterns that are easily recognizable to its speakers.
2. Grammar
Since some order of words, or parts of words, are not acceptable. The grammar of a language is a set of rules that
govern how the words of the language are put together to make meaning.
3. Semantics
Words have specific meanings and people cannot keep changing the meanings of words because they feel like it,
nor can they combine words which produce ridiculous combinations such as ‘green cow’. Such a form is only
possible as a figure of speech.

 Language is evolutionary. One manifestation of language change is the invention of new words. As humans invent
or discover new things and new ideas enter the world, new symbols have to be created to represent them.

Changes in meaning are another way in which language evolves. Generally, these changes occur when a significant
group of persons persistenly uses a word to mean something other than its traditionally accepted definition.

 Language has a maturational characteristic. As and individual grows older, their ability to produce and comprehend
language increases.

 Language is non-instinctive. It needs to be learnt through communicative interaction with others. While humans are
born with the ability to acquire language, they can only do so through imitation.
 Language is dynamic. Language is constantly changing. It has great flexibility and can vary according to certain
social or geographical factors.

Language and A Language

 Language (generic) is a vehicle of thought, system of expression. The principal means used by human beings to
communicate with one another. Language is primarily spoken, but it can also be written.
 Language is the verbal form of human expression.
 Language is a purely human and non-instinctive method of communicating ideas, emotions and desires by means of
a system of voluntarily produced symbols.

 A language (individual) is a set of elements and a system for combining them into patterned sentences that can be
used to accomplish specific tasks in specific contexts. Examples: to greet friends, argue, ask the time.
 A language is any distinct system of verbal expression, distinguished from other such system by its peculiarities of
structure and vocabulary – i.e. every language is distinct from other languages because of these features.
 A language is one recognizable, identifiable or accepted entity used by one or more communities of speakers.

 A language community is all the speakers of a particular language.

 A language family is a group of languages that have all developed from a single ancestral language.

Purposes of language
1. Expressive purposes
Language can be used simply to express one’s feelings, ideas or attitudes, without necessarily taking a reader or
listened intro consideration. When language is used in this way, the speaker is not trying to effect change in an
audience or elicit response. He/she is merely giving vent to emotion or needs. Diaries and journals are obvious
examples of language used for expressive purposes.

2. Informative purposes
Language is employed with the intention of conveying information to others. This purpose is used to convey ideas,
truth statements, instructions, abstract and complex propositions and to aid understanding. Therefore, a news
broadcast, a bulletin board or a textbook are all examples of language being used for this purpose.

3. Cognitive purposes
When language is used cognitively, it is with the intention of affecting the audience in some way in order to evoke
some type of response. Therefore, when one uses language to persuade, entertain, stir to anger or arouse sympathy,
one is using language for cognitive purposes. Jokes, political speeches and horror stories are different examples of
ways in which language can be used cognitively.

4. Poetic purposes
Language used in literary, stylistic or imaginative ways is poetic. The user focuses on the structure and pattern of
the language and places emphasis on the manner in which language is manipulated.

5. Phatic purposes
Language is used simply to establish or maintain contact among people. This use of language is most obvious in
spoken communication. Language used for phatic purposes does not necessarily seek to generate a meaningful
response. Although the phatic purpose of language does not often apply to written communication, in the case of
letter writing, the greeting and closure are phatic. Informal or friendly letters and email may also use expressions.

6. Metalinguistic purposes
This is the use of the language to comment on, refer to or discuss language itself. A critique of a speech is

7. Social purpose
Sometimes when language is used, it has more to do with certain cultural or ceremonial conventions that relate to
social interaction in a particular community.

8. Identifying purpose
This is seen in the use of slogans, chants, anthems, nicknames and other terms that allow for expression of personal
or group identity.

9. Ritual purpose
This language offers the possibility of exercising control over certain aspects of life.

10. Aesthetic purpose

Aesthetic use of language in its absolute form (for example, experimental poetry) exploits qualities of language such
as sound and pattern, but may invite a variety of different interpretations and responses.

11. Persuasive purpose

The persuasive purpose is used to convince, or persuade, the reader that the opinion, or assertion, or claim, of the
writer is correct or valid.

Although any speaker of a language could communicate with any other speaker of the same language, these people
often do not all speak the language in the same way. The way in which language is used often varies from group to
group, from one situation to another, and from individual to individual. The language used may also vary in relation
to the intent of the speaker or the purpose of the communication or even the nature of the relationship between the
speaker and the audience.

 Variation is the changes in language in response to various influences. For example: social, geographic, individual
and group factors.
 Some factors influencing language variation are social pressures, development in technology, geographical location,
political and economic status.
 How do varieties develop?
They develop where there is limited communication between different parts of a community that share one
language. Geographical boundaries, isolation, political conflict or military hostilities may lead to sustained loss of
contact between groups so that changes in the language are not shared by all speech communities.

 Dialect is a variety of a language spoken by an identifiable subgroup of people, i.e. dialects can be characteristic of
geographic, regional, ethnic, socio-economic or gender groups; any version of a language spoke by a particular
geographic or social sub-group, e.g. British Standard English, Cockney English, Yorkshire English, Trinidad
Standard English, American English, Dominican Standard English.
 Sometimes, as a language evolves, one particular dialect becomes dominant. This is usually due to the fact that it is
the dialect spoken by the people with the economic power or greatest social influence in that society. In this case,
their dialect becomes accepted as the standard variety of that language. Therefore, the standard variety becomes
the one used for writing and other formal purposes and is often given prestige over the other varieties.
 No one variety of a language is superior to another and that every language is really a collection of dialects.
 A group of people who speak the same dialect is known as a speech community.
 Although two person may speak the same dialect, their accents may be different. An accent is simply a variation in
pronunciation. Accents can be regional or social.
 Dialects differ from one another by semantics (word choice), syntax (sentence structure), grammar and morphology
(word forms).
 No matter what dialect is spoken by a speech community, each user is capable of manipulating that dialect in
relation to the context of communication. Depending on whom you are speaking or writing to, you can vary the way
you express yourself. This type of language variation is called code switching. This is the ability to manipulate
between the standard and non-standard dialect based on the social setting.
 Dialectal Variation refers to a person’s conscious choice of dialect which can be the variation of Creole or
Standard English. Choice of dialect is chosen based on the speaker’s status, educational background, emotional state
and attitude towards the dialect.
 The three different types of dialects are basilect, mesolect and acrolect.
 Basilect is a basic form of the dialect spoken by the group at the bottom of the social ladder.
 Mesolect is a midway point between basilect and acrolect.
 Acrolect is a dialect that is closest to the standard European language spoken by the groups in close contact with
most powerful sector of the society.
 Jamaican Language Continuum
This is the range of languages and language dialects spoken in Jamaica. This range is represented as a continuum
1. Not every point on the continuum is a separate language
2. Jamaicans will switch from one to the other continuously in conversations and in different situations
3. according to some persons, the Creole is continuously changing and becoming more like English.

Basilect. is the form of Creole with more African derived features than other forms. The first point on the
continuum. It is most often spoken in rural areas and by uneducated persons.

Mesolect is a form of Creole with more English derived features than the basilect. The point on the continuum next
to the basilect. It is most often spoken by urban and educated persons.

Acrolect is the last point on the continuum. An example is Jamaican Standard English. It is most often spoken in
formal situations.

 A register is the form of a language in which one may choose to speak, where “form” refers to ranges in formality
and informality.
 Standard English is a formal register, Jamaican Creole is a more informal register.
 Words used to refer to informal register include: colloquial, vernacular.
 A register is also a language variety associated with a particular situation of use; the range of language choice
available for use in different situations.
 One may choose to use an entirely different variety or dialect of a language from one situation to the next. The
variety of language that you use at any given time is your register.
 Choice of register also generally reflects the speaker’s/writer’s relationship with the audience.
 The ability to change your register is an important life skill.
 There are five types of registers:
1. Frozen Registers
Used in print and public media, sermons, pledges, prayers. The language of the register is fixed and unchanged. No
direct response from a reader or listener is expected.

2. Formal or Academic Registers

Used in formal social settings and interviews. It is the language of seminars and lectures, ceremonies, public
speaking and conversation between strangers. This register almost always uses Standard English. The sentence
structure and vocabulary are complex but more easily understood in general than some forms.

3. Consultative Registers
Used in situations where the listener is expected to give some feedback. Example: a doctor visit, interview,
counseling, client-lawyer. This register indicates that the speakers are not intimately related but that there is
sustained communication between them. Standard and non-standard forms of language may be used as the speakers
may switch codes to relate more easily to each other.

4. Casual or Informal
Used when talking with friends and acquaintances in a non-formal setting. This register is usually recognized by the
slangs used. The topic of discussion may be general and there is a conversational tone reflected in the use of
colloquialisms (a word or phrase that is not formal or literary and is used in ordinary or familiar conversation.) and
slang. There may be attempts to code-switch to adopt the dialect of the person.

5. Intimate Registers
It is the language of persons who are very close. This is usually marked by specialized words or expressions only
understood by the parties involved in the intimate relationship. Communication is aided by non-verbal elements and
reference may be made to unspecified topics and situations. There is evidence of intimacy in the use of nicknames
and terms of endearments as well as expression of personal emotions. Incomplete sentences, interruptions,
shortened responses and unexplained references are the norm.

 This is the dialect used for education and other formal or official purposes.
 How does a dialect become a standard?
It is spoken by the dominant group in the society thus it commands the most prestige and becomes the target to
which people aspire. Education, publishing and an established body of literature enhance the status of the
prestigious dialect and it emerges as the standard and is often supported by economic, political and social factors.
 The term Creole originally meant a person of European parents who had been born and raised in a colonial territory.
Later, it was used to refer to anyone native to these countries and then it became the name of the language spoken
by these people.
 A Creole is a language that is as a result of contact between Africans speaking different native languages and
Europeans speaking different varieties of European languages. Or it is the set of varieties which have their
beginnings in situation of contact where groups of people who do not share a common language are forced to
communicate with each other.
 A Creole is a language that comes into being through contact between two or more languages.
 The substrate of Creole is the grammar of the African languages while the superstrate of Creole is the vocabulary of
European languages.
 It is the set of varieties which have their beginnings in situations of contact where groups of people who do not
share a common language are forced to communicate with each other.
 When people who speak different languages find themselves in a situation where they have to communicate with
each other for purposes of trade, business or to survive, these people usually devise a form of language
communication called a pidgin. A pidgin is a system of communication that has grown up among people who do
not share a common language but need to trade or conduct business.
 Pidgins are not ordinary languages since they are normally used only for communication between persons from
different speech communities. However, in some case, a pidgin begins to be used as the first language of people in
the same community.
 The pidgin may then become a native language; it acquires the more complex grammar of a full language and is
referred to as a Creole.
 Therefore, all Creole languages start as pidgins. Sometimes Creole languages are referred to as patois or patwa.
However, the word patois can be used as synonym for any non-standard variety or local dialect, including pidgins.

Characteristics of English Creole Languages

 Nouns, verbs and pronouns are not altered in form to indicate plurals, tense, person or case.
 Creole uses the plural marker ‘dem’ without changing the noun in any way.

Singular Plural
Standard English Girl Girls
Creole Gal/ gyal Dem gyal/ de gyal dem

 Creole does not utilise an auxiliary verb to indicate change in person. However, the Creole differentiates between
the second person singular and plural by inserting ‘all’ in the latter case.
Standard English Creole
1 person singular I am eating I eatin
2nd person singular You are eating You eatin
3rd person singular He/She/It is eating He/She/It eatin
1st person plural We are eating We eatin
2nd person plural You are eating You all/All you eatin
3rd person plural They are eating Dey/Dem eatin

 Another characteristic of Creole grammar is its use of predicate adjectives.

Standard English English Creole French Creole

I am tired I/me tired Mwen las
He is sick He/him sick E malad
You are thirsty You tired Ou swef

 The use of double negatives is another characteristic that Creole shares with Standard French (and Spanish) but not
with Standard English

Standard English Creole Standard French

I’m not doing anything I not doin nothing Je ne fais rien

 Creole does not reverse word order to indicate the interrogative form of a sentence

Standard English Creole

You have eaten You eat already
Have you eaten? You eat already?


English Creole Caribbean Standard English

Unmarked count nouns with generic meaning, for example,

Pluralised count nouns with generic meaning, for example,
mango sweet mangoes are sweet

Unmarked action verbs with past time reference, for example,

Past-marked action verbs with past time reference, for
she pinch me and run outside example, she pinched me and ran outside

Preverbal markers, for example, ben/bin/wen/did (pastAuxiliaries and suffixes, for example, did/-ed (past),
marker), go (future marker), a (marker of continuous and
will/shall (future), -ing (continuous), simple present tense
habitual), does (marker of habitual) forms (cook, cooks)
Subject-adjective structures, for example, mi sick, di mango
Subject-copula-adjective structures, for example, I am sick,
sweet the mango is sweet

Inversion of subject and auxiliary in question formation

Subject-verb word order in question formation, together with
together with rising intonation, for example, have you
rising intonation, for example, you done cook di food?
finished cooking the food?

No voiceless ‘th’ sound at the end of words or syllables;

a ‘t’ ‘th’ sound at the end of words or syllables, as, for
or ‘f’ sound instead, as, for example, in fif, wit/wif example, in fifth, with

 Phonology is a branch of linguistics concerned with the systematic organization of sounds in languages
 In the case of English-based Creole, the most distinctive differences in sound combinations are observed in sounds
that occur in Standard English but not in the Creole.
 A very obvious one is the ‘th’ sound, which does not exist in Creole. It is replaced by either the ‘d’, ‘t’ or ‘f’ sound,
depending on its postion in the word and the presence or absence of other non-English influences on the Creole.
 Creole also dispenses with the final consonant in the words that end in ‘ing’ or with ’d’.
 In some cases, an English sound combination is not dropped but reversed, for example: ask becomes aks and film
become flim.

English Creole* Caribbean Standard English

No voiced consonant clusters at the end of words,

for consonant clusters at the end of words, for
example, -nd > n, as in han, san example, -nd, as in hand, sand

No voiceless consonant clusters at the end of words, Voiceless

for consonant clusters at the end of words, for
example, -st > -s, as in tes, wris; -ft > f, as in left;example,
-; - -st, as in test, wrist; -ft, as in left; - ghed, as in
ghed > gh, as in laugh; -ped >p, as in leap laughed; -ped, as in leaped

No voiceless-voiced consonant clusters at the end of

words, for example, -sed > s, as in miss; -ghed, gh, as consonant clusters at the end of
in laugh; -ped>p, as in leap words, as in missed, laughed, leaped

No voiced ‘th’ sound at the beginning of words or

Voiced ‘th’ sound at the beginning of words or
syllables; a ‘d’ sound instead, as, for example, in dey,
syllables, as, for example, in they, them, la.ther
dem, la.der
No voiceless ‘th’ sound at the end of words or
syllables; a ‘t’ or ‘f’ sound instead, as, for example, in ‘th’ sound at the end of words or syllables,
fif, wit/wif as, for example, in fifth, with

* It should be noted that some of the English Creole characteristics are at times carried over into Caribbean
Standard English.

 The vocabulary (lexicon: list of all the words in a language) of Caribbean Creole English is derived primarily from
Standard English. However, a number of words used in Creole speech are related to cultural influences from other
European, Amerindian, African, East Indian and Chinese languages.
 Like any other language, the vocabulary of Creole is dynamic and reflects changes that arise out of social
movements such as Rastafarianism or the incorporation of prevalent slang.


English Creole Caribbean Standard English

Peculiar words and phrases (for example, pickney, nyam,

cou- child, eat, cou-cou, confused, pudding and
cou, bazodi, puddin and souse, nose-hole, eye-water, door-
souse, nostril, tears, door/threshold, bring along, waste time,
mouth, walk with, spin top in mud, hit somebody for six,
best or prevail over someone, give someone a look of anger,
watch somebody cut-eye) disapproval, envy, etc.

Shared words but different parts of speech, for example, stink

Shared words but different parts of speech, for example, stink
(n, v), over (prep, adv), out (adv, prep), sweet (adj, (n)
(adj), over (v, prep, adv), out (prep, adv), sweet (adj, v, n)

Shared words but different meanings, for example, miserable

Shared words but different meanings, for example, miserable
(=ill-tempered, (playfully) annoying), ignorant (= ill- (= wretched), ignorant (lacking in acknowledge)
Challenges Faced in Choosing Creole over the Standard Language
 The standard language has an established tradition of written literature, while Creole has mainly oral tradition and a
short history of written literature.
 The standard language has published dictionaries and grammar while Creole has a few recently published
 The Standard language is the accepted medium of education, while Creole is rarely used as the official language in
 The Standard language is globally recognized as the official national language, while Creole is recognized as
official in few regions.
 The Standard language is the most prestigious (inspiring respect and admiration; having high status) dialect of a
language, while Creole which is composed of African sound, phrases and sentence patterns and mainly European
lexicon (vocabulary) is not viewed as prestigious.
 The Standard language has had centuries of evolution and it borrows words from other languages, however, the
Creole is a result of sudden forced change.
 The Standard language has a complex system of rules but Creole has simplified rules.
 The standard language enjoys stability and uniformity, while Creole moves from decreolization to creolization
continuously (a language continuum is said to exist when two or more different languages or dialects merge one
into the other(s) without a definable boundary)

Language in Society

Factors influencing Language

1. Historical Factors
The language situation in any country can normally be linked directly to historical factors. These are often related to
colonization or migration.

For example: French and English are spoken in Canada today because it was the scene of several conflicts between
France and English in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries.

Colonisation is the greatest factor responsible for the spread of certain languages from more homogeneous
populations to distant and diverse geographical locations

2. Social Factors
The social dominance of a group ensures that its dialect becomes the one that assumes the place of important in the
society and is considered to be the standard language of that society. Language is also dynamic and never static
unless there are no more speakers of that language. Much of the dynamism of a language is a result of constant
social change and the emergence of new cultural phenomena as a result. However, the elements of social and
economic class always affect attitudes to and choice of language.

For example: individuals seeking to be recognized as part of a certain social group may deliberately cultivate the
language or dialect of that group although they do not normally speak that dialect.

Sometimes a person may switch from one variety of language to another throughout the day as he/she interacts in
different social settings.

3. Cultural Factors
Global movement of people (globalization) has been a major influence on language. Many migrants and refugees
are eager to assimilate quickly as much of the new culture as they can, to facilitate their ability to fit in with their
society. As generations are born into the new culture, much of their original language is lost.

For example: In the case of Hispanic populations in the US, a form of language has evolved that features aspects of
both Spanish and English. The name ‘Spanglish’ has been coined for this phenomenon, but linguists would refer to
it as ‘code mixing’.

While acculturation, or assimilating, of the new culture affects the language of immigrants, sometimes the language
of the host country also undergoes changes as a results of the new cultural influences.

For example: Several Spanish words have become part of everyday English language (taco, piñata)

The coexistence of different languages from different cultures in a society results in linguistic changes in all the
languages. However, the nature of the cultural change determines which language is more widely influential and
what types of change takes place.

For example: In the case of the USA, the fact that some states may well have more Spanish than English native
speakers will be largely instrumental in how language develops there.

4. Political Factors
The official language of a country is normally indicated in the national constitution or other official sources.
Recognition given to other languages is also a political or government decision. Most countries maintain the
assigned status of their languages regardless of political changes. However, in some countries, language is
significantly influenced by political events.

Language policies typically define a government’s plan regarding the approach to the treatment of language in the
specific country. The policy may either promote or discourage the use of a particular language or languages and in
some cases it is designed to protect an ethnic language that may be in danger of disappearing.

Political influences on language can determine the extent to which minority languages or dialects are accepted,
recognized or utilized in a society.

For example: In Quebec, Canada, the provincial government stipulated that only French should be used on street
signs and in places where bilingual signage was allowed, the English letting had to be significantly smaller and
within stipulated dimensions.

Turmoil and violence can arise out of political disputes over language as seen in Sri Lanka and Turkey.

Roles of Languages
 There are several roles of languages such as social, political, ethical and psychological.

Positive Uses of Language Negative Uses of Language

To assert authority Discrimination against Others:
To make an unjust or prejudicial distinction in the
treatment of different categories of people
To mark identity To alienate:
To make someone feel isolated or estranged
To mark solidarity (unity) To ridicule:
The subjection of someone or something to
contemptuous/scornful and dismissive language or
To make social linkages To mark social biases::
The tendency of survey respondents to answer
questions in a manner that will be viewed favorably by
To promote cultural awareness To make face threats
To put or keep someone in a powerless or unimportant
position within a society or group

Language Situation in the Caribbean

 The language situation in the Caribbean is the result of a highly stratified plantation society as well as severe social
and geographical isolation of subgroups.
 The Caribbean is often described as a complex linguistic region, largely because its complicated history has resulted
in an array of languages, dialects and vernacular forms that provide rich material for study by linguists from far and
 The original inhabitants of the region had their own wide range of languages, some of which are still spoken by
small groups in places such as Guyana and Suriname.
 Many Caribbean people are not aware that there are significant Amerindian influences on their way of life and
language today.
 The arrival of the European colonists in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries meant that non-indigenous languages
began to take root in the society. It is important to note that many of these Europeans were themselves speakers of
non-standard dialects and no one variety of English, French, Portuguese, Dutch or Spanish was spoken.
 When the need arose for cheap labour to work on the plantations, Africans were captured, enslaved and imported
primarily from countries along the west coast of Africa. Many of them were also speakers of various non-standard
dialects of their own languages. However, in order to minimize communication among the enslaved Africans as a
security measure, plantation owners made sure that they purchased from a variety of ethnic groups so that few
Africans speaking the same language could be found on any one plantation.
 After the emancipation of the enslaved Africans in 1838, estate owners began recruiting indentured labourers from
India, China and some Portuguese territories with the last major group arriving from Syria and Lebanon.

Official Languages Country Popular Language Other Languages

Cuba Spanish
Spanish Puerto Rico English/Spanish
Santo Domingo Spanish
French Guiana
French Guadeloupe
French Lexicon Creole
French and Haitian Haiti
St. Lucia
English Lexicon Creole
Belize Spanish, Garifuna, Mayan
Anguilla French Lexicon Creole
Grenada Arawakan, Cariban, Warrau
English Lexicon Creole
Nevis French Lexicon Creole
Petit Martinique
St. Kitts
St. Vincent
Trinidad and Tobago
English Lexicon Creole,
Hindi, Urdu, Javanese,
Suriname Sranan, Tongo, Ndjuka,
Amerindian Languages
Bonaire Papiamento Spanish, English

Attitudes to Caribbean Language

 Language clearly plays a major role in all aspects of society with the most obvious being its social role of allowing
people to relate to each other in all facets of their lives: to share information, emotions and ways of lives.
 Some people may form impressions of your personality, emotional state, geographic origin, age or socio-economic
status from the language you use and the way you use it. Some impressions may be formed largely because of
societal and personal attitudes to certain types of language. Therefore, people often adopt certain linguistic
behaviours that they believe would create more favourable impressions of themselves.
 In Caribbean society, there are varying attitudes to language. Because of our history, people of the region tend to
place a high premium on the standard languages or, as we have notes before, the languages of power and economic
might. Many people believe that upward mobility is largely dependent on one’s ability to fit in with the predominant
socio-economic class, and language is the main signified of this fit.
 Attitudes to language may vary from one sector of the society to another and some people demonstrate self-
conscious behaviour when speaking the standard language. This is largely a result of the fact that in most societies
one is often judged on the basis of the variety of language that one speaks. This is even more prevalent in societies
with a colonial legacy, like the Caribbean, where certain dialects are associated with the institution of slavery or
 Increasingly, educators are becoming aware that a person’s native language is an integral part of who that person is
and marginalizing that language can have severe damaging effects on that person’s psyche. Many linguists
consistently make a case for teaching native languages alongside the target language so that children can clearly
differentiate among the codes and hence be less likely to mix the two.

Language in International Situations

 Language is an important means of creating and recognizing identity. Our sense of self and our sense of community
are tightly tied in with the language we speak.
 You may have noticed that, very often when individuals are in foreign countries, the moment they encounter
someone from ‘home’ they immediately revert to their original dialect of way of speech.
 Language, in this case, creates a sense of ethnic community, or of belonging to a group, and immediately assuages
the feeling of being an outsider in a foreign land.

Choice of language
 While attitudes to local dialects have been slowly changing, many people still associate the use of Creole with
negative images and believe that its use should be relegated to specific circumstances and occasions. However, the
fact that non-standard language varieties are the most widely spoken in the Caribbean makes them the choice of
persons trying to get information to large sections of society.
 A language variety is usually chosen because of its perceived social function.
 Such factors which influence the choice of language and communicative behaviours in interactive situations are:
1. Audience
2. Message
3. Purpose
4. Occasion
5. Gender
6. Age

Arguments Against Creole as a Language

1. Creole is the language of the lower class, uneducated, powerless, country folks and people whose ancestors were
African slaves in the Caribbean.
2. Creole is the language of comedy. Creole is used in the arts and can therefore often be seen as ‘substandard’ or
3. Creole cannot be written as here is no consensus on an official written form.
4. Creole language varies from island to island
5. Creole has little or no prestige*.
6. Creole is stigmatized as a ‘bad’ or ‘improper’ way of speaking.
7. Creole offers no form of social mobility.
8. Working in a foreign country requires the use of Standard English

Arguments For Creole as a Language

1. There is mutual intelligibility. Information could be passed from one person to another and easily understood.
2. There is a structure of the linguistics: rules of grammar and pronunciation, syntax (sentence structure), semantics
and lexicons.
3. It can easily show emotion.
4. For a language to be considered official, it must be written. Creole is in fact a written language since a dictionary

*Prestige: The level of respect accorded to a language or dialect as compared to that of other languages or dialects
in a speech community. The degree of esteem and social value attached by members of a speech community to
certain languages, dialects, or features of a language variety.

Overt prestige: Using the standard language as well as having a prestigious accent.

Covert prestige:e One that is generally perceived by the dominant culture group as being inferior but which
compels its speakers to use it to show membership in an exclusive community. It allows people to identify with
others based on age, gender, regional or cultural forms.

How does a language acquire prestige?

Its speakers occupy a dominant role in the society.
It affords its speakers access to economic power and upward social mobility.
It is the recognized language for education.
It has value as the instrument of technological innovation.
There is a significant body of written work using that language.

Technology, Culture and Communication

 Culture influences the ways in which people communicate and the technology they select as part of that
 The ways in which we communication evolve out of the nature of our culture and the type of communication
technology available to us.
 Technology alters and shapes out culture while it influences the decisions and choices people make regarding

Technology and Communication

 Technology can be defined as the technical means that people use to improve their surroundings.
 The first major technological phenomenon associated with communication was the invention of the printing press in
the fifteenth century. The printing press facilitated the spread of information in all areas of human life. It was also
able to influence human thought.
 For a long time, the only mass communication medium was print, until the invention of the electromagnet in 1825
kick started electronic communications: telegraph, telephone, radio and television.
 However, it is hard to imagine that there can be anything to revolutionise communication to the extent that the
Internet and other modern electronic media have done.
 Technology has enhanced our lives by offering multiple options for our modes of communication and by affording
us the opportunity to exist in a virtual world in which we can potentially communicate with everyone else.
 Apart from the array of available modes of communication, we are also faced with large volumes of information
that needs to be sorted, processed, filed, responded to or utilized. Therefore, comprehension skills must be deployed
in several areas at once.
 It is also important to develop expertise in the use of all communication tools at your disposal so as to select the
appropriate mode and to observe the required etiquette for modern communication. These skills are referred to as
interactive skills which is defined as ‘the generation of meaning through exchanges using a range of contemporary
tools, transmissions and processes.’

Technology and Culture

 One of the greatest impacts of technology on culture has been language.
 If the Internet reflects the language of the dominant economic power, then speakers of other languages are forces to
adapt or remain at a disadvantage.
 Technology is responsible for the influx of a large number of words into the English language. For example:
blogger, google, wiki. However, the majority of technology-associated words are adaptations of vocabulary already
in use. For example: netbook, homepage, facebook, software, youtube. Many abbreviations have also been accepted
as words. For example: USB, HTML, mp3. An entire new language known as Netlingo has evolved to facilitate the
speed with which conversations now take place.
 The development of technology has an impact on the culture of a society by influencing or changing the way in
which things are done. As a society becomes more technology driven, there is a need to communicate faster and to
transfer larger amounts of information. Therefore, traditional means of communication are either abandoned or
adapted to suit the new technology.
 In the same way technology affects writing and speaking communication, it also influences reading behaviours.
Many people now own electronic readers on which they can download books and other documents. This means that
certain cultural practices such as going to the library are abandoned.
 Listening behaviours have also been influenced by the changing technology. Music has been more portable as the
vinyl record was replaced by the audio cassette, then iPods.
 Technology impacts on the way we learn and impart knowledge. Paper charts, chalk and chalkboards are replaced
by slideshows and videos.
 Social interaction has also been influenced. The television has been blamed for a number of cultural changes such as
increased antisocial behaviour and less community interaction since people tend to spend more time indoors.
 Business culture has been modified. You are more likely to hear of a sale through electronic media. Daily offers and
special also fill your email inbox.
Culture and Communication
 Culture refers to common practices and beliefs held by a specific group.
 Differences in culture are visible when one looks at the folk tales and proverbs of the different countries. There are
similarities in the presence of these supernatural beings but they point to a slightly different cultural experience.
 The history of the Caribbean is one that clearly illustrates the relationship between language and culture. There are
French, Dutch, English Creoles throughout the Caribbean. Additionally, the Caribbean countries illustrate the effect
of culture on language in the place names in various islands.
 The names of our food have also been influenced by culture. In Guyana and Trinidad, a significant Indian presence
in the foods eaten there.
 Currently within the various countries of the Caribbean, there has been significant movement of people which has
led to changes in the language patterns in those countries.
 Another influence of culture on language is seen in the spelling of words. For example: centre/center,
organize/organise, cheque/check. While the understanding is that neither choice is an example of misspelling, the
writer should be consistent in the use of American Standard or British Standard.
 In the world of business, language and culture can play a very important part in shaping the effectiveness of
communication. Language can be a barrier to communication especially when the individuals on two different sides
speak a different language which leads to poor business interaction.
 The dynamic nature of language makes it adaptable to changes in the culture and worldview of its speakers. For
example: the issue of political correctness.
 Many terms and expressions that were once commonly used are now deemed to be offensive or detrimental to the
sense of identity of minority groups. Widespread access to the media has made people more aware of how labels
attached to certain behaviors and lifestyles can lead to stereotyping which prevents certain groups from enjoying all
the opportunities available in modern society. For example: it is better to say "people of colour" and "visually
impaired" and "plus size"

MODULE 3 - Speaking and Writing

THIS MODULE seeks to teach you how to use the structures of Caribbean Standard English correctly and
appropriately, as well as with a degree of elegance. You will also be required to produce different types of
communication relevant and appropriate to your social, academic, professional and vocational needs.

Reading, writing, speaking and listening are the four ways in which we use communication and you should be able
to express your self in speaking and writing with precision, accuracy, clarity and fluency. Essentially, for
communication to take place, both writing and reading skills must be employed. Similarly, speech communication
does not end with speaking. For communication to effectively take place, the receiver/audience must employ
listening skills.

It is important, then, for you to be able to not only write and speak effectively, but also to read and listen effectively.
Without effective communication skills, we are at a disadvantage in situations that involve other people.

Communication has been defined as the process of people interacting through the use of messages [Zeuschner:
1997]. Also it has been referred to as the process of human beings responding to the symbolic behaviour of other

Ø A close observation of them reveals that communication is a process [not an event], it involves people, it involves
interaction among people and it involves the use of messages.

Ø As a process, communication is dynamic, continuous, irreversible and contextual. It is inevitable, that is, it is sure
to happen and cannot be altered or revoked.

Ø All communicative events involve content and relationship. Content refers to the substance of the message while
relationship tells of the receiver and sender and how they perceive their interaction.

Ø Finally, communication happens in a setting or context and it is from such that much meaning is derived. Context
may be defined as a culture, location or a relationship.

Elements in the Communication Process

Within the process of communication there are five primary elements, because communication is a process, there
are certain elements of this process that are present in every communication act. These elements must be involved in
order for communication to take place:

* Receivers/ Decoders
* Messages
* Channels and Mediums
* Feedback


1. Sender (also called source or encoder)

As the word suggests, the sender is the person/group with whom the message originates. The sender conceptualizes
the message. That is, she determines what the content of the message will be, the best form for the message to take
and the best way of getting the message across.

2. Message

This is the content of the communication process. Before the communication process begins, there must be an idea
or body of knowledge that needs to be communicated

3. A. Medium
This is the method that someone chooses to convey her message. Will you use e-mail? Speech? Gestures? A poster?
B. Channel
Channel is closely associated with medium. This is the means by which your message is conveyed. For example, an
e-mail is a medium, whereas the internet is a channel; speech is a medium, but radios and loudspeakers are
channels; gestures are a medium, your hands act as their channel; finally, a poster may be your medium, but the
poster-board and ink are your channels.
4. Receiver (also called decoder)
Eventually your message arrives at the receiver. This is the person responsible for interpreting your message and
taking some sort of meaning form it. The receiver is the main goal of any communication act.

5. Feedback
After the receiver interprets the sender’s message; she then provides feedback to the sender. This is the receiver’s
response to the message and is essential in that it alerts the sender to whether or not the message has been
accurately/effectively received and interpreted.


Communication is described as a process because there are certain stages that it must follow in order for effective
communication to take place. If any of the steps are neglected communication will not take place. The process is
both cyclical (going in a circle/cycle) and transactional (has to be performed).

The event begins with the conceptualization/thinking of the message and this is the sender's role as the originator
of the message. In addition, after the sender has thought of the message, it is the sender's task to encode the
contents of the message (putting it in a form that the receiver can understand). After which the sender selects the
medium (what form it will take) and channel (what device will be used) through which the message will be sent so
that the receiver will be able to receive it. The receiver's role is chiefly to receive the message and to decode it
which shows that the message was received. After which the receiver will try to interpret/understand the message
sent to him/her. The receiver will then provide afeedback/answer to the sender. Without this feedback
communication has not taken place.

It is very important for you to understand that both the sender and the receiver conceptualize, encode, select
medium and channel, decode, interpret and provide feedback in all communicative events.

Facilitators and Barriers to Communication

Barriers: Often during communicative events there is some sort of interference or blockage to interaction. These are
commonly referred to as barriers to communication and may be internal or external in nature.

Internal barriers include: daydreaming, anxiety and hunger, headache, depression.

External barriers include: noise from a lawn mower, gestures, attire, posture, chatting, spilled beverage on a page
and choice of words.

Some common barriers to communication are:

i. A language barrier
ii. A channel that is inaccessible to the receiver
iii. The message is ineffectively encoded or the meaning is ambiguous
iv. The medium is inappropriate to the message

Facilitator: These are factors that may influence the effective conveyance of messages positively or negatively.
Anything that helps to ensure an effective transfer of messages is called a facilitator to communication. Anything
that hinders this effectiveness is a barrier to communication
Some common facilitators to communication are:
i. choosing a familiar language
ii. Using an accessible channel
iii. Ensuring that the medium is appropriate to the message
iv. Using audio/visual aids to enhance the encoding of the message


In general, human beings communicate using two main forms: verbal communication and non-verbal
communication. There are two main ways in which human beings communicate verbally, that is, through speech
and writing.

Verbal communication, simply put, is any form of communication that uses words in order to convey meaning or
transmit messages. Essentially, verbal communication is either speech or writing. There are four main skills that
human beings put into practice when engaging in verbal communication: reading, writing, speaking and listening.
Any verbal communication involves at least two of these skills.

Language is the one thing that all four verbal communication skills have in common; it is a specifically human form
of communication that uses symbols to represent ideas and concepts.

Non-Verbal Communication is the form of communication that does not involve the use of speech or writing. In
effect, non-verbal communication is the use of voice, space, objects, movement, time and the five senses to convey
meanings that without using words. Because the types of non-verbal communication focus on physical actions and
manipulations to convey meaning, they are often referred to as communicative behaviours.

Non-Verbal/Communicative behaviours comprise the following:

Vocalics: refers to the use of voice in communicating messages. This does not include actual words, but
modulations in tone of voice, rate of speech, pitch and non-verbal utterances. Because vocalics is often used in
conjunction with speech communication (i.e. – verbal), it is often referred to as paralanguage.
Proxemics: is the use of space to communicate. Standing close to someone may indicate that you like her; likewise,
changing seat during an exam may indicate that you suspect your neighbour of cheating or some sort of discomfort.

Artifacts: are objects that convey some sort of message about you. These include clothes, jewellery, home
decorations, book bags etc.

Movement: incorporates several movements of the body – eye contact, facial expressions, posture and gestures all
communicate information. Failing to meet eye contact when speaking to a parent may indicate nervousness, shame
or the possibility of untruthfulness; sitting straight in a chair could indicate attentiveness.

Chronemics: refers to the use of time. By being early for class you show respect for the teacher and fellow
classmates; similarly, a teacher who arrives consistently late for class is exhibiting a lack of respect for her students
and profession.

The five senses: (sight, hearing, touch, taste and smell) are also used in non-verbal communication. For example, a
normally good cook who over-salts a dish for her cheating spouse may be using taste to indicate her unhappiness or
There are also six functions of non-verbal communication. That is, we use non-verbal communication for six
main reasons.

i. Substitute: is where we use non-verbal communication instead of, or to replace verbal communication. Waving
goodbye instead of saying it out loud is one example of this.

ii. Reinforce: We also use non-verbal communication to reinforce or complement our verbal communication.
Pounding your hand onto a table when arguing may reinforce whatever point you’re making.

iii. Regulate: is used mostly in conversation to control the flow of messages. Raising your hand to answer or ask a
question in class helps to regulate the communication going on in the room.

iv. Contradict: Sometimes we use non-verbal communication to contradict our verbal communication. The most
common example of this is using vocalic sarcasm – when you say one thing, but your tone of voice says the

v. Manage impressions: We often manage impressions through the use of non-verbal communication. The way
we dress, for example, often coincides with the impression we want others to have of us.

vi. Establish relationships: Finally, we use non-verbal communication to establish relationships. The wearing of a
wedding band is a non-verbal indication that the person is married.


Communication takes place in a variety of settings or contexts. The context is the setting/environment, place where
communication takes place. The following are various contexts where communication may take place.

Intra-personal: Communicating within one’s self. E.g. Thinking, daydreaming, solving problems, imagining. Also
includes all physical feedback mechanisms, such as sensations of hunger, pain, pleasure.

Interpersonal: The interaction of two or more people. The one-on-one setting, direct contact of one person with
another person. E.g. interviews, conversations, intimate communication.

Academic: This communication takes place in an educational setting where persons communicate mainly to
disseminate educational information. E.g. Lecturer speaking to a class, essays, research paper, internal assessment.

Small-group: Interaction between 4-6 people. It is one of the most important communication settings and exists
everywhere. It requires the following conditions: Leadership, Equal sharing of ideas, Peer pressure, Roles & norms,
Focus on a common goal.

Public communication: When one person talks to several others and is the dominant focus of the communication.
E.g. speaker and an audience – speech, debate, general devotion. Defining characteristics: One person is identified
as the primary sender of messages and others function primarily as receivers of those messages.

Mass communication: This communication begins to function when a message needs help to get from its source to
its destination. Some form of medium is needed to connect the sender to receiver. Media may be print
(newspaper/magazine), electrical (radio, television, video), or electronic (computer modem)
Inter-cultural communication: Sometimes called “cross-cultural communication” This context describes what
happens when the sender of a message is from a different cultural background than the intended receiver. E.g. a
person can communicate with someone who does not share the same culture; communicating across social sub-

Organizational communication: Focuses on inter-personal, small-group, public and mass communication as they
interact in a complex, multi-group setting. E.g. business, government, and educational institutions.


There are two main ways in which human beings communicate verbally, that is, through speaking and writing.

SPEAKING: is the vocalized form of human communication through the use of uttered sounds for auditory
communication. It is based upon the syntactic combination of lexicons and names that are drawn from very large

WRITING: is the representation of language in a textual medium through the use of a set of signs or symbols such
as letters that express some meaning.

SPEAKING: Oral Communication

TYPES: Expository speeches, Conversations, Face –to face, Interview, Meeting, Oral Briefing, Public address,
Oral Presentation, Telephone Call, Conference, Training Session etc.

Direct medium of communication
 advantages of physical proximity and usually, both sight and sound of sender and receiver; allows instant
interchange of opinion, views, attitudes – instantaneous feedback

 easier to convince or persuade

 Allows for contribution and participation from all present.

More difficult to hold ground in face of opposition
 more difficult to control when a number of people take part

 lack of time to think things out – quality of decision making may be inferior

 often no written record of what has been said

 Sometimes disputes results over what was agreed.

WRITING: Written Communication

TYPES: Essay, Journal, Diaries, Letter, Memorandum, Report, Abstract, minutes, Article, Press Release

 Provides written record and evidence of dispatch and receipt

 capable of relaying complex ideas

 provides analysis, evaluation and summary

 disseminates information to dispersed receivers

 can confirm, interpret and clarify oral communications

 Forms basis of contract or agreement.

 Can take time to produce

 can be expensive

 communication tends to be formal and distant

 can cause problems of interpretation

 instant feedback is not possible

 once dispatched, difficult to modify message

 Does not allow for exchange of opinion, views or attitudes except over a period of time.