One Language or Two?

HOLBROOK, David J. (OP No.31, Mar 2005)

Abstract: The islands of Grenada and Carriacou are two of the three inhabited islands that make up the nation of Grenada. An English-lexifier creole language is spoken on both islands, but previous research has focused on the speech of Carriacou, with very little having been done on Grenadian English-lexifier Creole. The research that has been conducted has focused solely on the English-lexifier creole of one island or another with little or no reference to each other. Separate names have also been used in the literature to refer to the creole(s) of these two islands. This gives the impression that there are potentially separate and distinct English-lexifier creole languages spoken in Grenada and Carriacou.

This paper addresses the issue of whether there are two separate creoles spoken in these islands, or one. This is done through a comparison of the markers used of some of the grammatical features of the creole(s) of Grenada and Carriacou. The markers that were chosen for comparison were those that would most likely be frequently used and therefore would potentially have a greater effect on intelligibility. Those features compared are some of the markers of the verbal system (both active and stative verbs), relative clause markers, serial verbs and other multiple verb constructions, infinitive markers, some aspects of question structure, quotation formulas, prepositional relationships, the pronominal system, articles and demonstrative pronouns, plural marking of nouns, and negation. This, of course, is not a comprehensive comparison of grammars, but it does show that there is little difference between the creole(s) of the residents of these two islands. The main differences lie in frequency and distribution of use of shared markers. Where there are shared markers, that is, where two markers are part of the repertoire of residents of both islands, residents of one island tend to use a particular marker more frequently than another, and vice-versa for the other island.

About the Author

DAVID J. HOLBROOK , a former member of SIL International , has done language research among the creole languages of the Eastern and Southern Caribbean for over a decade. He has an MA in Linguistics from the University of Texas at Arlington , and received his PhD in Linguistics at The University of the West Indies, St. Augustine , Trinidad & Tobago in 2006.

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