If I reach by the library in San Juan via the Croisée on a Tuesday in February, walking with my tablet, it seems that if I went there and asked for some good literature on Maths, or to watch a film on Siparia, and then went to heng in a nearby parlour selling corn curls and chewing gum, and went home to have fish broth/tea, a tuna sandwich and cucumber and tomato salad, a cupcake with icing, crispy khurma, cocoa tea or coke in a tin, nearly everything I say or pronounce would be “wrong” (just because, ahm, why, exactly, according to who(m)?). Feeling stupid, and scratching my forehead, ketching meh tail, asking myself whappm and why; this is real buss and tief head, needing some medicine… Kinda rough to be wrong in my own country. It would be like watching someone else’s reflection in a mirror and saying “Daiz me!” or “That should be me…” Who sez. Off to charge my batteries, and find a nice Pollock zaboca or a shrimp roti to eat.
By the way, Shakespeare might have said “the cyat was hiding in the gyarden”. He might also have said buss, cuss, fuss, nuss, wuss, for burst, curse, first, nurse, worse, and more. These pronunciations were cool then too. He definitely would have heard hoss for horse.
Other varieties of English also have stress shifts. Not that external norms “validate” us, but it’s just good to know.
Other varieties of English also have vowel differences one from the other (even internally, like break
) – variety is the spice of life! See etymonline.com
for a nice explanation of meet/met, five/fifteen, house/husband, break/breakfast
Modern International Synchronic Variation
There is an increasing familiarity with and respect for General American norms, what with:
a) Miami around the corner (on the same continent), and with flights to London just too expensive;
b) the switch to American cable programming (and other media) away from British offerings; and
c) the lessening of national and Caribbean television offerings (and apparently either lack of contact with elders or a general scorn of preceding generations or both).
Unfortunately, all this contact also seems to parallel increasing distance from the older Trinidadian self almost to the point of mockery, scorn and derision, even complete lack of awareness of older local and national norms – calling them “old fashioned.” Such are some attitudes towards language change
Apparently, when some Trinis travel overseas, they find themselves looked on as a curiosity and a minority, and allow themselves to be laughed at, to be questioned (more like doubted), to be found cute and/or exotic (and not taken seriously), and through a lack of self-acceptance or self-understanding or both, quickly end up adopting another accent (and attitude) or adapting some of the time, instead of teaching others who we are. Let’s have some pride, be secure, and take ownership of our languages, people – we are 54 going on 55 years old as a nation.
This word has at least two pronunciations.
Forehead does rhyme with horrid. See “There was a little girl” by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (1807–1882).
Both are fine – Math is generally American. Pronouncing maths like [mats] is fine too (just like [monts] for months. It is called dissimilation. Pronouncing [kloz] for clothes is deletion.
*Schedule (it was originally sedule from Old French cedule, anyway)
Both pronunciations are fine (the one with the ‘sh’ sound is more British, the one with the ‘sk’ sounds is more US-based). I vote for sedule.
Phonology: Switching Sounds (Metathesis)
*Aks andAsk= they came from the verbs acsian and ascian from way back when.
*Crispy and Cripsy = almost like Waps and Wasp
*Film and Flim = Take the flim challenge and name 10 words that end with [lm], where the [l] is pronounced. (These can’t include balm, calm, palm, psalm and salmon which dealt with the [lm] problem by deleting the [l] in speech – some of them weren’t there from the start, and were even stuck in to look closer to their etymologies, like in balm, which came to English via French and is related to Modern French baume.)
Now name 10 words that start with [fl]. Which is easier and more common?
Other varieties handle this [lm] problem by breaking up the sequence with a vowel, like some varieties of Irish English. So, deletion, insertion and metathesis are all skilful coping strategies to deal with any pronunciation problem.
Kurma and Kumar are a type of metathesis too.
FYI or FOI (for our information), in addition to aks and ask, and waps and wasp, if flim and cripsy are wrong, then all English speakers should revert to hros for horse, brid for bird, tronado for tornado, brust for burst, birght for bright and udder such examples!
Phonology: Vowel/Syllable Deletion (Apocope)
The deletion of an unstressed vowel (leading therefore to a reduction in the number of syllables) is common and normal, as in chocolate which has two syllables these days (in English). The first syllable CHO is the main one and is stressed, the second one CO was the least stressed, and the last one LATE is not as stressed as the first. So the vowel in CO vamoosed and the consonant repped by C moved over to the last syllable, giving us CHOclate.
This is the reason for the way we pronounce these words and more (like other speakers of English, except for many Americans who prefer to keep all syllables):
Phonology: Insertion (Epenthesis)
Icing, fishing and flowering sometimes get an extra consonant, and athlete and translation sometimes get an extra vowel. The process is called epenthesis. Insertion and deletion processes fix syllable structure to match existing syllable norms or templates, sometimes by analogy with similar sounding words.
For most speakers of English, the “s” in news by itself is different from the “s” in newspaper. In the second instance, it sounds like an [s], but in the first, like a [z].
It’s okay if pigtail sounds like picktail and Princes Town sounds like Princess Town. It’s for ease of articulation and the [g] in pig is becoming a [k] to match the [t] in tail, and the “s” (really a [z]) in Princes is trying to sound more like the [t] in Town.
Assimilation explains punkin for pumpkin, and sangwich for sandwich.
Assimilation also explains choon for tune, and Chuesday for Tuesday (and historically explains why sure and sugar have an sound at the beginning).
The digraph has two distinct pronunciations, as in thigh [θ] and thy [ð]. But it can also have a third, namely, [t] as in Thames and Thomas (cf. Tom, the nickname for Thomas, and not Thom), and in Anthony (now being pronounced with the [θ] on this side of the Atlantic, although the nickname remains Tony, and not Thony).
TH-sounds can be “stopped”, that is, speakers can exchange voiceless [t] for [θ] in tings for things and voiceless [d] for [ð] as in dese for these. Many varieties of English stop TH-sounds, as in New York English, Irish English, Indian English, Nigerian English, Filipino English and many more. The voiceless TH-sound can also be “fronted” as in fish brof for fish broth.
These two sounds, [θ] and [ð], have been variable for a long time. Mother was originally modor, and father was originally fader in Anglo-Saxon times. (In Dutch, the words are moeder and vader.) Someone writing about the author of a thesis on theatre in mediaeval times would have said the autor (Latin via French) of a tesis on teatre (both originally Greek words via Latin and French). It was okay then, but not so okay now. So which are better, archaisms or neologisms, and why? Answer = neither.
Mixing Up Words and Pronunciations
Meaning change is obviously not a “mispronunciation”, but this is a brief response to those who commented using these words as examples. Some are British vs American usage or pronunciation, and some are creative innovations from right here.
*Allyuh (second person plural pronoun)
*Canerow and Cornrow
Both are fine. We grow (or used to grow) cane in rows here.
*Carry and Take
Yes, we CAN carry someone to the grocery.
Grocery (and its various pronunciations) is fine.
*Sweetdrink and Softdrink
And sweedrink is fine (nobody says the in Christmas), or seedrink(nobody pronounces the in two, answer or sword – okay, well, some mix up sword and sward) or seejink(the sounds like anyway) are all fine. And ask for a soda here, you will get a club soda.
*Tea – any hot beverage (even marijuana, no?)
The word tea in English came to English from an Amoy Chinese word in 1644, meaning “a hot aromatic beverage based on leaves.” It is related to chai from Mandarin Chinese, both words beginning with an coronal stop consonant, and ended with a front vowel (so, technically, chai tea is historically and etymologically redundant, but there is nothing wrong with redundancies – English has lots of them).
Other varieties of English have two or three meanings for this word. The second meaning is a semantic extension of the word to mean “mid-afternoon social meal time at which tea is served”. The third meaning includes non-leaf-based hot teas.
T&T and elsewhere throughout the Caribbean* have another use of the word tea. It’s called semantic extension, lexical creativity, word stock expansion, etc.
*P.S. If it’s so widespread in our region, it either means we all inherited it from a common source (usually Indigenous Amerindian, Western European or West African), or we borrowed it from others up the archipelago.
*Windscreen and windshield
We used to say take away (like others elsewhere), but now with exposure to the US, and all the American fast food chains here (over 15 of them), and their fixed branding, “take out” seems fixed to stay in some places for take away food.
It’s also okay to say bonnet and trunk. The British say bonnet and boot, and Americans say hood and trunk. We do our own thing. Plus we walk on pavements and have sidewalk sales, live in apartments called flats, and much more.
Read more in one of our blags here
, and a brilliant article by John Holm
on the English origins of some aspects of Caribbean speech and lexicon, “Sociolinguistic History and the Creolist” in Historicity and Variation in Creole Studies
(edited by Highfield and Valdman), 1981.
BTW, gallery, moreish and pawpaw are all English words.
Not a ting wrong wit Language Variation and Change! It is all OKAY.