Why Not New Englishes?

I sometimes wonder why Ebonics is not considered a separate language altogether. There are some varieties of it spoken around here by some Blacks that are entirely incomprehensible to me. These same Blacks can easily switch and speak Standard English if they wish. I also wonder why the Englishes spoken in West Africa (or at least many varieties of it) are not considered separate languages. These people pretty much grow up speaking English from an early age, so it can’t be just regional accent of an L2 effecting their English. West African English seems to be evolving into its very own type of English. A lot of East Indian English seems to be evolving in the same way. These people also speak English from an early age, so it’s not just L2 accent. East Indian English seems to be taking its own trajectory. I often can’t make heads or tails out of West African English, and East Indian English is also often very difficult to understand. Thickly accented L2 English from other regions is often much easier to understand than these two. Within both West African English and East Indian English there are varieties spoken by more educated speakers that are often quite easy to understand. James Schipper noted in the comments that in Canada, interviews of ordinary citizens from Scotland carried subtitles. This may be because they were speaking Scots. Scots is now, according to Ethnologue, a completely separate language related to English. Keep in mind that there are three languages here: Scottish Gaelic, the Gaelic tongue related to Irish; Scots, the new language related to English yet not a dialect of English; and Scottish English, which is in fact a dialect of English. Spoken Scottish English is probably comprehensible to most of us, but Scots clearly is not. Scots was the language spoken in Trainspotting. There was a reason why that movie had subtitles! Keep in mind that the Caribbean English creoles have long since been split off from English. Jamaicans are clearly NOT speaking English, and interviews with them and movies about Jamaica often need subtitles. The Caribbeans are all speaking English creoles, which are not the same as the English language. They are separate languages altogether. James Schipper notes in the comments that when Quebecois French movies are shown in France, they are shown with subtitles. If this is so, then it may be time to split off Quebecois French into a separate language. Needing subtitles to understand a speaker on video is a pretty sure sign that you are dealing with a separate language and not a dialect.

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4 thoughts on “Why Not New Englishes?”

  1. I agree with everything except your conlusion that Jamaicans are not speaking English. I work with a group of Jamaicans and when they’re together in the break room I eavesdrop. It’s very hard to understand unless you concentrate, but it’s English. It’s fast and extremely modified regarding syntax, grammar, pronunciation, and contractions/colloquialisms. There are words that’re localisms interspersed here & there, like for Jamaican brands of liquor and food dishes, and secondary variations of local expressions like “blood clot” and “blood fill-in-the-blank”, but it’s root English. I don’t even hear occasional French or Spanish derivatives salted in, like I have in other countries. Try it sometime if u get the chance…listen in on some Jamaicans jabbering with each other and keep in mind that you’re listening to a speeded up and heavily modified English-based patois.
    I think it’s fun.

  2. Well, yeah, it’s an English creole that’s related to English, but it’s not English. It’s a separate language altogether. But the creole is based on English for sure. I don’t there are many or even any other languages that have gone into the mix, but I’m not sure.
    Ethnologue lists all of the Caribbean creoles as separate languages.
    Oh I have listened to it all right, and it’s true that one can make sense out of it, but I find the exercise to be one of frustration more than anything else.

  3. In Scotland, if you go five miles in any direction you encounter a dialect that no-one else understands, roughly based on English, but as if there has been little population movement in or out of each little region for 500 years, which is quite possible. There is actually no broad Scots; the poems of Burns are in the dialect of the county of Ayrshire, spoken only there and then. These days, I as a Glaswegian (from Glasgow, though living in London) find it really hard to understand Ayrshire people when they lapse into dialect, even though it’s little more than 20 miles away. The Edinburgh dialect in Trainspotting is also completely foreign to me, again from only 30 miles away. As for Shetland or Aberdeen… I worked with a guy from Aberdeen for a year, and only picked out about half a dozen words in that time – if he spoke to me I’d just look philosophical and utter ” Ay mate”.
    Funny that, although there are lots of accents in the USA, the language is so uniform when there are so many people from so many places. But maybe that’s why – they have to learn a standard dialect to communicate with each other.
    What’s it all about? “Nae cunt kens!” as someone put it in Irving (Trainspotting author) Welsh’s ‘the Acid House’.

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