The Formalization of Jamaican Patios/Patwa


For more than a century Jamaicans are taught to reject their cultural dialect and embrace British english in order to gain economic, social and political opportunities.  Those who embrace this methodology strive while others are left disenfranchised.

Regardless of the stigma that prevented economic prosperity among the poorest of the population that speaks patwa, Afro- Jamaican culture continues to spread at an exponential rate, all the while dominating every facet of modern Jamaican society and other parts of the world.

What has become reassuring is the formalization of the dialect by local and international scholars. Its funny to read the written version of patwa and laugh because you cannot understand what is written.

Jamaican Students courtesy of Starkej2 from

So, how was this language developed?

Jamaican Patios (Patwa) is an English-based creole language with West African influences spoken primarily in Jamaica and the Jamaican diaspora.

The language was developed in the 17th century, when slaves from West and Central Africa were exposed to the vernacular and dialectal forms of English spoken by British slaveowners.  It exhibits a gradation between more conservative creole forms and forms virtually identical to Standard English.

Jamaican pronunciation is different from English, despite the use of English words.  Patois is similar to West African Creole because of the blending of African languages with European languages.

Jamaica is not immune to societal issues.  The most damaging is the disparity between the wealthy and the poor.  This stems from a lack economic and social opportunity that derive from from the poor inability to communicate in english and where they like.

There is a concerted effort by scholars in Jamaica and aboard woto formalize Jamaican Patios.  An example is the re-dubbing of a biblical movie that saw the Jesus character speaking patwa.

What does that mean for the Jamaican population? Will this shift offer any relief from the systematic discrimination they experience from employers and other institutions?  Let us know below.

Timothy is a staff writer for FiWEH Life, providing commentaries on various topics relating to the Caribbean diaspora with the popular blog "Labba Mout". Timothy has been with FiWEH Life from the very beginning and continues to provide his commentaries on emerging issues.
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