Language ideologies in Barbados: Processes and paradigms

Janina Fenigsen

Abstract

Barbadian ways of speaking draw their stylistic richness from intertwined and differentially valued resources of Creole (Bajan) and Barbadian English. Barbadians (and linguists) interpret this formal diversity through two ideological paradigms. One (labeled in Bajan, “adjusting to suit”) corresponds to linguist’s “register”. By attending to laminations of individual repertoires and to skills of their selective contextual deployment, the paradigm indexes the richness of speakers’ resources. The other paradigm interprets the stylistic diversity of speakers’ repertoires in essentializing, “sociolectal” terms that iconically link social categories and polarized language varieties. By exaggerating the distinctiveness of language varieties and by turning them into unambiguous indices of fixed social personae, the paradigm colludes with the hierarchies of linguistic and social prestige. These paradigms and hierarchies can be approached in terms of historical processes that defined their social and linguistic targets. Such a framework, however, neglects institutional sites pivotal in the continued production of cultural orders of language - the literature, media, and theater. Within these sites, characterized by hightened metadiscursive awareness, ideological tensions surrounding language and its couplings with social, racial, and national identities are scripted and launched into public domain. Macrohistorical explanations also neglect the processes that turn specific linguistic forms into emblems of Barbadian language varieties while erasing others. By considering strategies and practices of (re)allocation of linguistic styles to characters in literature, journalism, and theater, I explore sociocultural and semiotic underpinnings of drawing Creole and Barbadian English forms into production of linguistically marked social identities and socially marked language varieties.

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