Tuesday, 7 April 2009

JCTP: Some Questions & Answers

Below are some questions Vicky Spencer, a P.hD. Candidate student in the UK, posed to the General Secretary of the Bible Society of the West Indies, Rev'd Courtney Stewart, who, in turn, passed them on to me. My response is in red.

(1) Opposition
-Have you had much resistance in Jamaica or is there generally great support for the translations?

There has been much resistance for the translation here in Jamaica. However, when compared with previous announcements the BSWI’s plans to translate the Bible into Jamaican Creole (JC), it appears that the number of persons in support of such a venture is growing. One could postulate that the growth in support is not surprising seeing that Language Attitude Survey, 2005, revealed that a growing number of Jamaicans are becoming more comfortable at affirming their language.

(2) Questions about standardization of Patois

-The translation into Patois will surely help lead to a standardization of Patois in both spoken and written form. Is there already an ‘established’ form of Patois, or how uniform is Patois in Jamaica?

I’m not sure what is meant by “established.” Nonetheless, I presume you are referring to things such as an approved orthography, standard grammars, etc.

An orthography has been approved by the Jamaican Language Unit, UWI, and has been in use for many years. On the formal level grammars have been written but, unfortunately, for the benefit of academics. Seeing that JC is one of the most researched Creoles in the Caribbean, a linguist could draw on the various aspects of the language, which have been studied and produce grammars for popular usage.

The need remains for a dialect of JC to be chosen as “official.” Most likely, the most prestigious form will be chosen – the Kingston variety (or something close to it).

-What are the perceived effects of standardization on further spoken/ written Patois?

 Preservation and stabilisation of language
 Language development
 Further opportunities for systematic study
 Cultural preservation and enrichment
 Enhancing and sustaining a sense of identity and worth
 Facilitating literacy -information booklets, documenting traditional cultural knowledge...
 Change attitudes – towards language / language users…..justice

Do you expect Jamaicans to start writing and publishing works in the Patois and for it to become the language of education etc?

Yes! (P.S. I’m not sure everyone at BSWI shares this view.)

-Is there an existing wealth of Patois literature (songs/ poems) being used to Feed into the Bible translation or are the translators primarily working from Scratch? (if so please could you attach an example?)

I’m afraid I don’t understand the first question! But let me give it a try. JC is primarily an oral language, as such very little is available in terms of literature – in comparison to English, for example. However, at present more and more of our songs, poems and other genres are being written. Whilst JC has not enjoyed a long or robust life in terms of print media primary to now relatively speaking; audio media has helped in the preservation promotion of our language.

We are working from scratch in that no one has done a translation of the Bible into Jamaican Creole before. (However, had we a long or established literary tradition, we would have had to start our translation from scratch, if there were no previous translations of the Bible into JC.)

-How do you account for diversity in Patois between different communities and How this affects the standardization process?

We find reassurance in the fact that diversity exists in every language and that we are on a journey each “major” literary language has been on before! As I said before: “The need remains for a dialect of JC to be chosen as “official.” Most likely, the most prestigious form will be chosen – the Kingston variety (or something close to it).”

(3) Influence of the King James Bible

-How much do the translators want to echo what is in the English versions into Patois? I.e. Do certain phrases which are renown in the English translation Want to be preserved in Patois? Or is the idea to create a new Patois Bible Directly from the original Greek/ Hebrew without the influence of existing English translations?

(In the attached document, please see the information under the heading “Source Texts.”) Seeing that the issue of acceptability is very important to us, we cannot disregard English translations, particularly the version which Jamaicans revere most – the AV also known as the KJV.

The translators' goal is to produce a Jamaican translation of the Scriptures which is accurate, natural, comprehensible and acceptable; consequently, there will be no hesitation to depart from the syntax of New Testament Greek (or the AV for that matter), but if, on the other hand, it is possible to convey the meaning of the original naturally in Jamaican, by translating more or less literally, they will follow the word order and clause structure of the original (or an English translation, if necessary).

(4) Other general questions

-I was having an interesting discussion with my dissertation supervisor about How, or if, Rastafarian culture and their interpretation of the Bible has an Impact on Jamaican Patois? To what extent does their religious language Influence Patois and how the Bible Society counters that influence?

It is true that Rastafarians have demonstrated creativity in the way in which they invent words which reflect their own ideology and religion. Nonetheless, I’m not sure how much the “dialect” (???) of JC spoken by Rastafarians has affected the form spoken by Jamaicans on a whole.

Certainly, our translators will avoid words and expressions which are deemed distinctively “rasta.”


Ina Mi Gutumaa said...

Borchram, we yu miin bai di Kingston varaiyati a patwa? Frahn we mi nuo, toun piipl vokyabileri shaat no baksaid, an fi dem patwa muo kluosa tu di akrolek dan di bazilek. So chrai klier op da wa de fi mi--- kaa mi no si wa muo sofistikietid bout fi dem patwa.

Bertram Corner said...

Mi fiil we yu a se bot riid mi da puos ya an wi chanslishan advaiza rispans: http://bertramgayle.blogspot.com/2008/07/hegemony-of-kingston-jamaican-bible.html

Mek mi nuo ef yu av kwestiyan siem wie.

Ina Mi Gutumaa said...

Mi riid i, bot mi stil no klier pahn sitn.

Ef wen yu se Kingston Varaiyati yu miin se yu gwaihn yuuz di muos kaman wan, den mi de pan di siem piej az yu.

So fi egzampl, mi an muos piipl we mi nuo (miebi a jos phn fiwi said, mi no shuor) yuuz "a" fi di prezent kantinyuos maaka. Dat a no fi se "de" eni les valid, faa mi uda stil yuuzi ina direk spiich, ahn wat nat. Bot mi uda figa se unu uda yuuz di "a" chuu i muo papyula.

Nou ef yu miin se yu gwaihn chuuz di wie we kluoses tu di akrolek, jos chuu muo pipl taak i, den mi kyaahn aksep dat (puo mi, kaa mi kyaahn chienj notn). A di en a di die, wi a shiep di langwij, and piipl ago gruo muo yuuz tu fi a taak da wan wie de... Bot a di bazilek mi a difen. Toun piipl se, kokonot oil, bot konchri piipl se kuoknat ail. Nou we yaa chrai tel mi se, yaago yuuz kokonot oil ina di baibl?

Mi av a fren ya a skuul wid mi, an mi afi a tiich ar wod ina patwa, kaa shi neva ier dem yet!!

Evribadi av biesik grama dong pat, bot nof toun piipl we mi miit taak Inglish ahn Patwa laka dem a siem sitn. Most Jamaicans do too, granted, but I would hope that your translations would uphold the uniqueness of the Jamaican language, at its most divergent from English.

Mi se "ano so i gwaihn go," "ano so it ago go." Both are understood by the average Jamaican to mean the same thing. Nou tel mi sitn nou, wich wan yuuda yuuz ina di Baibl? Kaa mi stil no nuo we yu miin wen yu se "Toun varaiyati".

Bertram Corner said...

Mi nuo wa yu a se an mi tingk se wi de pan di siem piej. Wi kyaahn yuuz di basilek no muo dan wi kyahn yuuz di akrolet! Wi afi fain wan migl grong - mesolek. Bot aal wen wi se wi gwai yuuz mesolek, i no so iizi ka wi ha muo daa wan faam fi som mesolek ekspreshan - laik "wehn" aar "did" we shu se sopn apn iin a di paas. Buot a dem papula bot wich wan fi yuuz?!

So wa wi yuuz fi gaid wi? Wel, aks wi wan aneda sopn laik: "Piipl fraa konchri an toun kyahn andastan da chanslieshan ya an uda aksep i az riil Jamiekan taakin?"

Ef wi go strit Basilek muos piipl naa go andastan gud an kwik inof!

Nou bout wa yu se bout "ano so i gwaihn go" an "ano so it ago go." Mi fi, mi yuuz di fi fos wan...mi aadli se "it." Bot mi tingk muos piipl uda yuuz "it." Due "it" kluosa tu Inglish, wi no afi mek di wan wod ton wi aaf...wi kyah mek di kanchokshan elp wi mek a chais. Nou, di kanschokshan a di siem an i sound laik riil Jamiekan so wi uda yuuz di tuu a dem!

Nou, wi ha waa likl prablem - spelin! Wa wi fi rait, "i" or "it"? Ka nof piipl si "i" an uol iip a piipl se "it." Maata fak, evribadi we mi nuo yuuz di tuu a dem dependn pan wichpaat iin a di sentens di word de! Wich wan a dem tuu sentens ya yu uda yuuz: "Mi si i" ar "mi si it"?!

So far, wi disaid fi rait "it" an lef it op tu piipl fi lef aaf di "t" ef dem waa. I no so strieng yu nuo, i apn iina evri langwij. Tek “bottle” in a Inglish! Som piipl lef out di “t” soun an se “bole”!

Ina Mi Gutumaa said...

Bwai mi get we yaa se, bot mi no laik di aidiya a di miizolek--- dat a fi wen piipl a taak, an a bab ahn wiiv kraas frahn Inglish tu Patwa, ahn evriwe inbitwiin.

Bot wen i kom tu we wi rait dong, mi prefa fi yuuz di bazilek, we mi nuo fi bi di muos aatentik faam a Patwa.

En unu dipen tumoch pahn Inglish kanchokshan, dat ago onggl gi piipl muo riizn fi se Patwa a simpl Inglish, az opuoz tu fi rekagnaiz i fi di wuoliip a yuunik prapati dem we di langjwij gat.

Di "yu chat bad iihn" mentality stil gwaihn de bout ef yu disaid fi lijitimaiz di miizolek uova di bazilek, jos chuu muo piipl taak i. Dat de apruoch aarait fi di baibl, kaa yu waahn riich piipl ina di langwij we dem nuo ahn yuuz di muos, bot wen i kom to karikyulom bildin, ahn wen wi jraa di lain dem fi grama, ahn aatagrafi ahn vokyabileri, mi no fiil se wi fi tek dat de apruoch de we yu a difen.

Mi si i?

Mi si it?

Mi no se non a dem de. "It" mi no laik ina jenaral-

Mi se "mi siit" Yu siit duo? Mi no kom kraas nof piipl we separiet dem de silabl de--- then again, I only interact with people from St. Mary.

Ammm. Are you standardizing the language, or are you creating a version of the bible for use by Jamaicans. I know you need some kind of standard to work with, but more specifically, I want to know the extent that you personally hope/ think this translation will influence the construction of the language. I'm scared, because the bible has worked well to legitimize languages, and make people literate---but I would not like if that was at the expense of the basilectal form, which I love dearly, and am just now coming learning to appreciate.

The "toun" form hinges more heavily on English constructions, and considering the history of language discrimination in Jamaica, I do not believe there exists compelling justification for using their mesolectal form.

In any case, I believe rural Jamaicans are more welcoming of the idea to legitimize the language they speak... Evri taim u menshan toun patwa mi krinj, kaa nof a dem gruo op ina yaad we a bie inglish taak, an so fi dem patwa mix op wid Inglish muo dahn se fimi (besides the lexicographical similarities of course- dat a wahn wod bwd? ki ki).

In any case, what can I do.

Mi fiil se som wie som ou mi ahn yu de pan di siem piej--- a jos chuu mi no riili andastan we yu miin bai di toun varaiyati. Mi naav no prablem wid piipl a yuuz "it" or "de" insted a "a"--- yaa muo dahn wan wie fi se nof tingz, an dat jos ad kola tu di langgwij. Frahn piipl andastan, ahn av a wie fi rait we dehn se, den mi kris.

Bertram Corner said...

Mi andastan we yu a se but mi tingk se wi fi yuuz di faam we ebribadi fram konchri an toun andastan - wi no wan fi lef nobadi a wanda wa sopn miin. So, aal duo wi wahn fi ha riil patwa wi mosn mek piipl we no laik di chanslieshan muuv mek wi go faar out pan di ada said a Inglish. Patwa sentens rait difrant fram Inglish aal duo som piipl we nuo ongl Inglish uda andastan. Bot dat no se...enibadi we nuo Spanish kyahn andastan Puotigiiz an di ada wie roun...siem ting go fi Naarwiijan an Danish! Bot wich Spanish ar Puotigiiz sumadi uda se di Puotigiiz an Spanish a di siem Langwij - wan iiziya dan di ada?!

Re: "Mi siit" vs "Mi si it" dat kaina bring out wa mi did wahn fi se: should we write what is actually said or what is heard?! What is said is "Mi si it" what is heard is "Mi siit." Mi se di siem ting yu unda se, bot pan piepa mi rait wa mi achuali se - mi+si+it, ka in chuut an in fak, siit a tuu word an wi jain di vowel dem.

By "town variety" I mean the form of Jamaican Creole - note, not modified English - that is spoken in urban Jamaica, particularly Kingston and its environs. This doesn't mean that other varieties will never be used or that they will be wiped out.

Take the English language in the UK where there are so many dialects of English - some not so easy to understand! Now the Brits have chosen one of their dialects and its pronunciation is generally taken as a model for foreign learners or as a codified basis for comparison with other varieties. This dialect is called Southern British English (SBE). It's the type used textbooks and on BBC.

So we are doing nothing new. It’s route languages usually take.

Mi tingk se di Jamiekan Baibl a go afek ou di langwij divelop, yes, but i no ago (naago!)get rid a di ada patwa vorzhan dem!