What I am going to talk about this morning is language from the Caribbean, the process of using English in a different way from the “norm.” English in a new sense as I prefer to call it. English in an ancient sense. English in a very traditional sense. And sometimes not English at all, but language.


We in the Caribbean have a similar kind of plurality: we have English, which is the imposed language on much of the archipelago. English is an imperial language, as are French, Dutch, and Spanish. We have what we call creole English, which is a mixture of English and an adaptation that English took in the new environment of the Caribbean when it became mixed with the other imported languages. We have also what is called nation language, which is the kind of English spoken by the people who were brought to the Caribbean, not the official English now, but the language of slaves and labourers, the servants who were brought in by the conquistadors. Finally, we have the remnants of ancestral languages still persisting in the Caribbean [Amerindian, Hindi, and African languages].

Kamau Brathwaite

Kamau Brathwaite, “History of the voice,” Roots (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1993), pp. 259–60.

Bryce Wilner