Honorary Members

Professor Mervyn Alleyne (1933-2016)

Awarded 1998
Mervyn Coleridge Alleyne (Trinidad and Tobago) was a sociolinguist, creolist and dialectologist whose work focused on the creole languages of the Caribbean. Mervyn Coleridge Alleyne was born in Trinidad on 13 June 1933. He attended Queen's Royal College in Port-of-Spain and later won a scholarship to the fledgling University College of the West Indies, Mona, Jamaica which he entered in 1953. After graduating from Mona, Alleyne obtained a PhD from the University of Strasbourg, France. He returned to Mona as a lecturer in 1959 and has been one of the longest serving members of staff at the University of the West Indies.


Mervyn Alleyne was Professor of Sociolinguistics from 1982, and Professor Emeritus upon retirement. Following his retirement from Mona, Professor Alleyne taught for three years at the St. Augustine Campus of The UWI until 2003, after which he began a new career at the University of Puerto Rico where he functioned until 2014. He was also the Humanities Scholar (2007) at the Cave Hill campus of The UWI. Source - Caribbean Language Issues Old and New - Papers in honour of Professor Mervyn Alleyne on the Occasion of his sixtieth birthday (edited by Pauline Christie, Kingston: UWI Press, 1996).

Research Profile
It is as a pioneer in Creole Studies, however, that Alleyne made his real mark. He was one of the few Caribbean born participants in the second ever International Conference on Creole Languages held at Mona in April 1968, the proceedings of which were published in 1971 in Pidginization and Creolization of Languages edited by Dell Hymes. His paper “Acculturation and the Culture Matrix of Creolization” elaborated some of the themes which were to characterize his later work, namely his disagreement with the idea that creoles necessarily develop from prior pidgins and his not unrelated view that the considerable variation manifested among them can be explained by differing degrees of acculturation among Africans who came in contact with Europeans. In his opinion, such variation existed from the inception of these languages. To use his own words, "From the outset a kind of linguistic syncretism took place out of the clash with West African languages of certain West European languages in their full morphological and syntactical forms. The precise nature and degree of this syncretism depends on the way in which the cultural situation developed in each area in the Caribbean and elsewhere." (1971: 170). Alleyne repudiated the use of the term creole, arguing that its meaning is unclear. He carefully avoided it in his book Comparative Afro-American (1980), arguably the most quoted source on the relevant varieties. In addition to its detailed comparison of structural aspects of Sranan, Saramaccan, Jamaican, Guyanese, among others, this work reveals, not for the first time, his preoccupation with the Black experience as a whole, and with the autonomy of Black culture. His fascination with the correlations between the linguistic picture and other aspects of culture, such as religion, is again manifested in Roots of Jamaican Culture (1988). A committed substratist, he considers it axiomatic that in change arising out of the kind of language contact that existed between African and European, “there will be transmissions or continuities from the native languages of the people undergoing linguistic change” (1980: 139), even if in some instances these are eventually discarded. He was also a dedicated Caribbeanist, working on the various languages of the region, publishing in French and Spanish as well as English, and studying languages of the French- and Spanish-official of Caribbean. Source - Caribbean Language Issues Old and New - Papers in honour of Professor Mervyn Alleyne on the Occasion of his sixtieth birthday (edited by Pauline Christie, Kingston: UWI Press, 1996).

Humanities Scholar, The UWI, Cave Hill Campus Barbados, 2007
Honorary Member, Society for Caribbean Linguistics, 1998
Honorary Member, Linguistics Society of America, 1997

Select Publications

1980a. Comparative Afro-American: An Historical-Comparative Study of English-Based Afro-American Dialects. Ann Arbor: Karoma.

1980b. Introduction to Theoretical Orientation in Creole Studies, edited by A. Valdman and A. Highfield. New York: Academic Press.

1982. Theoretical Issues in Caribbean Linguistics. UWI, Mona: The Language Laboratory.

1984. Epistemological foundations of Caribbean speech behaviour. Caribbean Journal of Education 10 (1): 1-7.

1986. Substratum influence: guilty until proven innocent. In Substratum vs. Universals in Creole Genesis , edited by P. Muysken and N. Smith, 301-15. Amsterdam: John Benjamins.

1987. Predicate structures in Saramaccan. In Studies in Saramaccan Language Structures , edited by Mervyn Alleyne, 71-78. UWI, Mona: Folklore Studies Project.

1988. Roots of Jamaican Culture. London: Pluto Press.

1993. Continuity vs. creativity in Afro-American language and culture. In Africanisms in Afro-American Language Varieties, edited by Salikoko Mufwene, 167-81. Georgia: University of Georgia Press.

1996. Syntaxe Historique Créole . Paris: Karthala/Presses Universitaires Créoles.

2002. The Construction and Representation of Race and Ethnicity in the Caribbean and the World. Kingston: UWI Press. 2004, with Arvilla Payne-Jackson. Folk Medicine of Jamaica. Kingston: UWI Press.

1961a. Language and society in St. Lucia. Caribbean Studies 1 (1): 1-10.

1961b. Caribbean language study. Caribbean Studies 1 (1): 19-20.

1963. Communication and politics in Jamaica. Caribbean Studies 3 (2): 22-61.

1965. Communication between the élite and the masses. In The Caribbean in Transition, edited by F. Andic and T. Matthews. Rio Piedras: University of Puerto Rico Press.

1966. 1969. L'influence des dialectes régionaux français sur le créole français d'Haïti. Revue de Linguistique Romane 33: 254–69.

1971a. Acculturation and the cultural matrix of creolization. In Pidginization and Creolization of Languages , edited by Dell Hymes, 169-86. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

1971b. The linguistic continuity of Africa in the Caribbean. In Topics in Afro-American Studies , edited by Henry Richards, 12?28. Buffalo: Black Academy Press.

1972a. Panorama de la lingüstica y ense?anza de idiomas en el Caribe. Caribbean Studies 12: 5-14.

1972b. Langues créole-dialectes néo-romans ou dialectes néo-africains. Actes du 13e Congrès International de Linguistique et Philologie Romanes: Résumés de Communications, 1081–89. Québec : Presses de l'Université Laval.

1975. Some aspects of the traditional non-formal system of communication in the Caribbean. In Communication and Information for Development Purposes in the Caribbean Area , 11-16. International Broadcast Institute.

1976. Dimensions and varieties of West Indian English and the implications for teaching. In Black Students in Urban Canada , edited by V. Doyley, 35-62. Ontario Ministry of Culture and Recreation.

1979. On the genesis of languages. In The Genesis of Language, edited by Kenneth C. Hill, 89?107. Ann Arbor: Karoma.

Around the Web

An Interview with Mervyn Alleyne. UPRRP, posted 2014.

"The Interdisciplinary Scholarship of a Caribbeanist: A Tribute to Dr. Mervyn Alleyne" discussion panel organized by the Institute of Caribbean Studies, held on Oct 20, 2011, UPR-RP. Dr. Nicholas Faraclas, Dr. Silvia Kouwenberg, Dr. Lowell Fiet, Dr. Mervyn Alleyne (Click above to listen. Audio only). Linguistics for the Caribbean Region: An Interview with Mervyn Alleyne.


View Tributes to Mervyn Alleyne
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