patois and language

In my World In Issues in Lit class we’ve dealt with language a lot recently. After reading a novel that utilized Indian dialect heavily we’ve begun analyzing poetry that makes use of Jamaican patois as an empowerment tool. In times of colonization, Jamaican dialect and patois were looked down upon by the British as signs of illiteracy and lack of education. For a long time after colonization patois carried a negative stigma, but writers started using it as a cultural empowerment tool. Embracing patois was a way to take back Jamaican identity and embrace the language of the area. The high importance of patois to Jamaican culture and language in general to cultures across the world has caused me to wonder– what would be lost if the world integrated to a level where a single language was spoken?

Language hasn’t only been important in the relationship between Jamaica and the British Empire, but around the globe as a whole. Many cultures use language as an important identifier. Language can prove to be a barrier to communication but at the same time it serves to  enrich societies and is an important link to history and origin. However, as globalization continues on language is becoming more and more homogenized. Through the internet a click of a button can translate an entire page of text into your own language. English seems to be the most pervasive language as more languages die out and more countries include English in their education curriculum. As levels of communication and culture blending continue to rise throughout the globe, the question arises: will we eventually speak only one language? Honestly I don’t think I have nearly enough knowledge on this topic to provide much insight but the idea doesn’t seem too far off. Communication and interaction across the globe would be made much easier and more convenient. I think countries would definitely still maintain a sense of culture (even within the language itself- i.e. dialects) if the globe was united in a single language, but a change that large would be gradual and is a long way off. Overall, a meshing of language could be seen as positive (effective, easy communication worldwide) or negative (loss of culture and identity). In sociology we often discuss anomie (a lack of standards that guide people as how to behave that often occurs when a big change takes place), and it would be very easy to link this concept to the large change that would occur if the world was to adopt a single language. Overall, I personally think it would be kind of sad if there was only one language, because language is such a culturally rich element that has had importance in histories around the world.

5 Responses to “patois and language”

  1. Prof.Glaw Says:

    Language is one way we define “insiders” and “outsiders.” If we all spoke the same language what else could we use for that distinction?

  2. Prof.Glaw Says:

    You might also find this post interesting!

    http://blogs.the-american-interest.com/wrm/2011/10/01/staff-book-review-american-nations/

  3. ellenpeiser Says:

    Hey, emily, im in that english class too. And ive been thinking a lot about language and globalization. what do u think about foreign language requirements in our education system?
    Personally I don’t think it works too well because we don’t really use it on a regular basis. Whereas if we were in Europe and in close proximity to different countries with all different languages we might be more apt to be bilingual. Same if there is a parent or grandparent that speaks a different language. What do you think?

  4. Emily Humberson Says:

    @Prof.Greenlaw- I think there will always been culture and probably dialect distinctions to detect “insiders” and “outsiders”, though it’s certainly odd to imagine everyone speaking the same language.

    @Ellen- Personally I think language requirements are beneficial, but mostly because it opens students up to different cultures through a unique standpoint. History teaches us about other countries’ pasts, but language really opens us up to who they are. Though I definitely agree with your point about how difficult retention can be, I’m not sure how much help being close to other countries is. We are close to Mexico and parts of Canada that speak French- but I haven’t (and know very few people) who have had enough interaction with them to pick up on anything. Though living in a bilingual house would definitely be beneficial.

  5. Mellow Musings » midterm reflection Says:

    […] beyond the definition and apply the concept not only to my life, but to world issues in general (http://emilyhumberson.umwblogs.org/2011/10/01/patois-and-language/ and http://emilyhumberson.umwblogs.org/2011/10/12/global-responsibility/). In the beginning of […]


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