Patwa: t->ch, d-> d, n->ng

When I was first learning the standard way to write Jamaican Creole (Patwa), I have to admit, I didn’t think some things made sense.

To us Jamaicans, the ‘t’ sound becomes a ‘ch’ sound when it comes before an ‘r’, and the ‘d’ becomes ‘j’ in the same environment. (Americans and British English speakers of English compensate for this, by making the ‘r’ voiceless, if I recall. Accents are interesting!)

So… I wondered; if this is a matter of accent, a linguistic process, a ‘rule’ of our speech, why does it need to be distinguished on paper? And then, I remembered:

Sometimes, the ‘r’ is dropped altogether, leaving the ‘ch’ or ‘j’ right where it is. So, you get:

‘chruu’ -> ‘chuu’ (true), “A chuu yaa taak.”
‘jrongk’ – > ‘jongk’ (drunk) “A jongk yu waahn jongk mi?”

So… that makes sense. But there’s another one that I didn’t really agree fully get 100%. In certain environments, ‘n’ becomes an ‘ng’. It happens in various languages, including English and Japanese.

English: Try saying ‘pink’ without making the ‘ng’ sound. It’s weird, right?
Japanese: ‘ん’ is pronounced as an ‘m’ before b- and p- (bilabialmorae , ‘n’ before n-, s- morae and others, ‘ng’ before k- morae, etc.

(Meaning: in Japanese, せぱい is pronounced sempai, せせい is pronounced sensei; even though they have the same first syllable meaning-wise [輩, 生 respectively].)

So, since this happens across languages, why differentiate it, I wonder…? In Patwa, ‘pink’ is written ‘pingk’, ‘mango’ is written ‘manggo’…

But I think I understand why that’s done, too. This way, it’s easier to tell if there’s a ‘g’ sound there after the ‘ng’: so we more easily see :ng vs ng-g.

For example: ‘singer’ is ‘singa’ (sing-a), while ‘mango’ is ‘manggo’ (mang-go).

So, for all the people who think Patwa cannot be written, it can! And it makes a lot more sense that crazy old arbitrary English!

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