The Jamaican Language Unit

About JLU

The Jamaican Language Unit (JLU) is a Unit in the Department of Language, Linguistics and Philosophy, UWI, Mona, with effect from September 2002.

In May, 2001, representations were made to the Joint Select Committee of the Parliament of Jamaica on the draft Charter of Rights (Constitutional Amendment Bill) on the need to include within the charter freedom from discrimination on the grounds of language. The point was made that many citizens of Jamaica lack competence in English, the language in which services of the state are normally provided. The vast majority of such persons are speakers of Jamaican, widely referred to as Patwa. It was argued that failure to provide services of the state in a language in such general use or discriminatory treatment by officers of the state based on the inability of a citizen to use English, was a violation of the rights of citizens so affected. The proposal was made that freedom from discrimination on the ground of language be inserted into the Charter of Rights. To support such a right, it was recommended that a language planning agency be set up to deal with issues such as:

  1. a standard writing system for Jamaican,
  2. the development of technical and administrative terminology in the language for use by officers of the state,
  3. the monitoring of state agencies with respect to the non-discriminatory provision of services in the two languages in general use, i.e. English and Jamaican,
  4. public education on the language issue.

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