We can’t write Patwa?!

One of the common objections that Jamaicans have to standardisation of our native language is this: People say words differently. There’s no way we can have a specific way to write all these words!

Well, it is true; there are numerous ways to say many words. Dialectal variation, the fact that Patwa exists in such close contact with English and (the big one) the fact that it is considered an inferior tongue, have all led to variations in words.

For example, there is the word ‘kum’ (the ‘u’ sounds like the ‘oo’ in ‘book’) vs. the more English-sounding ‘kom’ (sounds like ‘come)’. And, of course, the ‘country-sounding’ pronunciations: ‘ie’ and ‘uo’ (as in ‘kiek’ [cake] and ‘kuom’ [comb]), which are often replaced by more English phonologies.

But, the objection really holds no water when we consider the fact that the English language has a writing system. There are so many variations on how English words are pronounced. Let us consider the word ‘water’. To my ears, this word has been pronounces as ‘woe-ter’, waw-der’, ‘wah-ter’, ‘wua-da’… But every since one of these is spelt W-A-T-E-R.

I think American accents are very interesting, at least the ones I hear on TV. With the ‘t’ vanishing from the American pronunciation of the word ‘internet’, is there any wonder that Tyler Perry’s most iconic character, Madea, believes that the proper pronunciation of D-I-N-N-E-R is ‘din-ter’?

And that’s just a few examples. Basically, if we can have standardised ways to write English, then we can write Patwa. Plain and simple.

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4 Responses to We can’t write Patwa?!

  1. Nicky says:

    I don’t think it’s so much pronunciation at the end of the day, it’s about spelling. Water is still spelt w-a-t-e-r no matter how it sounds. However in patois, you have a lot of different spellings for the same word.


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