The acrolect in Jamaica: The architecture of phonological variation

G. Alison Irvine-Sobers


An ability to speak Jamaican Standard English is the stated requirement for any managerial or frontline position in corporate Jamaica. This research looks at the phonological variation that occurs in the formal speech of this type of employee, and focuses on the specific cohort chosen to represent Jamaica in interactions with local and international clients. The variation that does emerge, shows both the presence of some features traditionally characterized as Creole and a clear avoidance of other features found in basilectal and mesolectal Jamaican. Some phonological items are prerequisites for “good English” - variables that define the user as someone who speaks English - even if other Creole variants are present. The ideologies of language and language use that Jamaican speakers hold about “good English” clearly reflect the centuries-old coexistence of English and Creole, and suggest local norms must be our starting point for discussing the acrolect.


Author Biography

G. Alison Irvine-Sobers

Alison Irvine-Sobers studied linguistics at The University of the West Indies (UWI) and the University of York. Her work has focused on Jamaican English and the phonological variation found in what has been referred to as the acrolect. In 2007 she received the prize for Most Outstanding Graduate Student Thesis (UWI). She currently lives in Washington DC, where she teaches Discourse Analysis and Sociolinguistics at the graduate level at the UWI Open Campus. She is also involved in human rights research, particularly to assist Jamaicans in the UK and the USA facing deportation.


October 25, 2018
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Irvine-Sobers, G. Alison. 2018. The acrolect in Jamaica: The architecture of phonological variation. (Studies in Caribbean Languages 1). Berlin: Language Science Press. DOI: 10.5281/zenodo.1306618


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