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Caribbean Journal of Education

Code Switching and Code Mixing Language in the Jamaican Classroom

Publication Date: 
April 1998

English is the official language in Jamaica as in all the Anglophone Caribbean islands. It is the language of the law courts, the banks, the established church, for example. It is the linguistic badge which one wears when one wants to identify with a certain level of sophistication, of linguistic competence, and of having “arrived” in a highly stratified society. Jamaican Creole, an English-related Creole, is the language of the people. It is the language they use in day-to-day relaxed situations. It is the language Jamaicans of all classes turn to when they are away from home and feel the need to establish their identities. 
Jamaican English (JE) and Jamaican Creole (JC) complement each other in the Jamaican environment, and the speaker shifts from code to code or mixes codes as the specific situation requires. Code switching is an integral part of the behaviour of the Jamaican speaker as of speakers in most multilingual societies. There are very few Jamaicans, even those who consider themselves “English speaking”, who in day-to-day discourse do not speak some variety of JC. Equally there are few JC speakers who do not feel the necessity to use English or their best approximation to it when they find themselves in formal situations.

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