Indigenous Languages in the Caribbean

ALLEYNE, Mervyn C. (PP#3, June 2004).

Abstract : The presentation examines general issues related to the indigenous languages of the Caribbean region, including those which were spoken in the islands but no longer are, and those currently found in Guyane, Suriname, Guyana and Belize. It first discusses the marginalisation of these languages and their speakers and the need to correct the warped social psychological attitudes implied in the designations used to refer to them. The imperative for studying these languages is both scientific and moral. Studies of language structure are urgently needed both to add to the store of scientific knowledge of human culture and cognition and to aid in social development engineered by the peoples themselves. Sample illustrations of interesting structural features are given. The genetic classification of the languages through appropriate historical comparative methodologies is another area which needs to be pursued. In all of this, the peoples themselves must be fully involved not as passive subjects but as leading actors.

About the Author :

DR. MERVYN C. ALLEYNE , Professor Emeritus of the University of the West Indies, is currently based at the Universidad de Puerto Rico, Río Piedras . A pioneer in Creole Studies, Professor Alleyne's main research interests are Caribbean language and culture. He is an honorary member and former President of the Society for Caribbean Linguistics (19901992), and an Honorary Fellow of the Linguistic Society of America since 1996. He has recently published Syntaxe Historique Créole (Editions Karthala, 2000), The Construction and Representation of Race and Ethnicity in the Caribbean and the World (UWI Press, 2002) and The Folk Medicine of Jamaica: A Source of Healing with Arvilla Payne-Jackson (UWI Press, 2004).

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