Crash course is speaking Jamaican dialect “a wah dis man?”

The Jamaican dialect is very colourful and fun to listen. It can be hard to understand and even harder to speak, but it’s an interesting mix of English and native African languages. Jamaicans generally speak good English, but listening to them speak to other Jamaicans can be very fascinating. They mix standard English words with their dialect Patois “Patwah”. Reggae music has spread their dialect all over the world. The dialect has become popular in London and is used in everyday communication amongst the youth and in popular slangs.

Jamaican Patois is too broad a topic for one blog post, so I’ll focus on an aspect of the language I find particularly interesting: weak vowels. Also termed “unstressed” or (with a slightly different meaning) “reduced,” these are vowels such as the “a” in afraid, the “a” in comma, or the “e” in pocket. Such syllables get less emphasis in most accents of English.

But as with many creoles, Jamaican Patois has a more interesting array of such vowel sounds than Standard English does. Where Americans and Brits uses a schwa sound, Patois assigns these unstressed syllables to an a, e, i, o or u sound depending on the context.* And it’s not predictable from standard English spelling which of these is assigned to which vowel.

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