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WIDE SARGASSO SEA:LANGUAGE

MEANING OF TERM CREOLE

• 18th c: Word appears in French, English and Spanish


Meaning: anyone born in the Caribbean
Early 19th c: Lady Nugent, wife of Governor of Jamaica, applied word “Creole” to
language
Noted in her diary: “The Creole language is not confined to the negroes”
• Jean Rhys uses “Creole” to refer to white people born in the West Indies
ORIGINS OF CARIBBEAN ENGLISH

• Contacts between British sailors and coastal West Africans date back to 16th c
• Pidgin English: -early communication
-limited number of English words
-a few simple structures, mostly commands reinforced by
gesture and mime
-discards structural complexities and exploits innate abilities to
communicate
-used by sailors towards slaves. Slaves learned and used the pidgin
CREOLE

• Creole arises when pidgin becomes a mother tongue.


• Eg: plantations established throughout the New World
• Creole languages: -utilise many of the simple structures found in pidgins
-more flexible and more developed than pidgins
-capable of fulfilling all linguistic needs of speakers
WHY JEAN RHYS EMPLOYS CREOLE

• Rhys knew Standard English and French


• Excellent command of creole English and French
• Uses creoles in her novel: a) to evoke a period when racial contrasts were
reflected by linguistic differences
• In the speech of black characters we hear echoes of Africa
JAMAICAN CREOLE

• Rhys selects certain features:


• A) Use of words of African origin
eg: “obeah”, “jumby”, “zombie”
• B) Use of sentences lacking verb “to be”:
eg: “Old time white people nothing but white niggers now, and black nigger
better than white nigger”
• C) Use of adjectives as both adjectives and nouns:
eg.“. . . because she pretty like pretty self”( because she is pretty as prettiness itself)
• D) Use of verbs without agreement: “it grow again”; “she creep and crawl like centipede”