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Caribbean Journal of Education

Creare: Re-imagining the Poetics and Politics of the Jamaican Creole Language Debates

Publication Date: 
April 1998

This paper takes up the Jamaican Creole/Standard English (JC/SE) debates and argues that they often reproduce false binaries between Creole and English and the oral and written. I map out some of their terrain by sampling editorials and letters from local newspapers, the Gleaner and the Observer, and offer up a brief history of the various positions of linguists and educators on the SE/JC question. It is clear that disagreements over language are symptomatic of larger conflicts: not only over the nature and function of language, and the relationship between language and schooling, but also the place of education in Jamaica's development, and even the directions national development should take. To rework the terms of the debate and develop a vision for creative language use in the Caribbean, I then move away from Creole as a linguistic process toward a poetics of creolization as outlined in the work of Edouard Glissant. Within this vision, literacy is imagined in light of creare, the creative potential (and root word) of Creole language and culture.

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