Interesting Facts - Jamaica


Ettu – the Yoruba song and dance survives today in the parish of Hanover, Jamaica.

The Junkanoo festival takes place in Jamaica and other Caribbean Islands, on December 26 each year. Festival goers dress in a variety of costumes drawn from the cultures of the Twi, the Ebo, the Ga, the Yoruba and the Asante. During the festivities, everyone is divided into different groups. Each group has its own king and queen.


In Jamaica the language Patwa (Patois) is predominantly composed of words from the Akan languages of Ghana. There are also a number of words from other languages including Ewé, Hausa, Ibo, Ko, and Yoruba. The grammatical structure of Patwa is Akan.

Understanding Patwa

An Introduction to African-Caribbean Language and Communication

“In a linguistically consious nation in the modern world, we should see mother tongue as an asset, as something to be nutured ...” [Bullock(1975)]

Black people forcibly taken from Africa into slavery in the Americas managed to preserve some aspects of their cultures and scientific knowledge – African Survivals. Jamaican Patwa (Patois) today is an example of an African survival. Recognised internationally primarily through the spread of Ras Tafarianism and Jamaican music such as Mento, Ska, Reggae and Dancehall – Jamaican Patwa literature has influenced and positively inspired millions of people world wide.

Patwa (Patois) is an oral language. As with most oral languages, Patwa speakers rely on the use of non-verbal communication to supplement the spoken language.

“The existence of West Indian Creole is also part of the linguistic and cultural reality. The use of these languages does not depend on the existence of a written form, but on the demand for them as a means of communication”. [Community Relations Council (1982)]

The large influx of settlers from the Americas and the Indian sub-continent during the 1950's and 1960's, brought a variety of languages into the cultural diversity of British society. The diversity of languages spoken in Britain is even more widespread today with recent arrivals from parts of Africa, the Far East and Eastern Europe. Patwa speakers living in Britain share a bi-lingual like the speakers of all recognised languages share a bi-lingual experience. In the case of Patwa speakers this experience is largely home/school and home/society.


Many people have a misunderstanding. They think that Patwa is just a bad example of an English slang. The fact that many African-Caribbean people do pronounce some English words incorrectly, has been cited as evidence to support the assumption that Patwa is 'broken English'. Nothing could be further from reality. Such protagonists fail to appreciate the role Akan grammar plays in the development and use of Patwa as a language. People who are not African-Caribbean would not understand full verbal Patwa

Partly because of this many Patwa speakers have placed emphasis on speaking English with a tiny sprinkling of Patwa words. In terms of usage Patwa speakers tend not to pronounce certain letters of particular words. This happens:

1. because whether or not African-Caribbean people (particularly first generation settlers) attempt to speak English, they automatically and instinctively apply Akan grammar to their speech.

2. the use of silent letters is common to Akan languages.

Example Silent Letters

Silent 'h' Cath (short for Catherine) is pronounced Cat

Examples of full verbal Patwa sentences:

Ga Jang yanda, yu too manish. = (Go away from me, you are too forward/rude)

Mi kyaan mash up nuh more = (I couldn't feel worse)

Example of Patwa Grammar

African-Caribbean people tend to leave out prepositions and pronouns when constructing sentences:

"One day Brer Anansi and Jankrow goh a river fi wash 'kin".

"Linguistically Rasta English is in some ways like cockney rhyming slang in that it is a transformation of a dialect of the language concentrating principally on sound correspondences" . p.37, Roberts, P.A (1988)

In Hanover people still sing the Ettu – a Yoruba song and dance. “The songs serve the double purpose of enlightening and advising and the phrasings and words contain vestiges of an African language” .[‘Heritage spree’ explosion ( 13 October 1982) Ffrench, Jennifer The Weekly Gleaner (U.K.)]

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for more information on Words, Phrase, Sound Meanings and Some Common Male First Names


Jamaica is the first Caribbean Nation to be represented at a Football World Cup finals.

Further Reading

Bennett, Louise (1966) Jamaica Labrish, Kingston, Sangster.

Cassidy, F.G. & Le Page, R.B. (1980) Dictionary of Jamaican English, Second Edition, Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, Class No. 427.97292, LCCCN 78-17799, ISBN 0 521 22165 X

De Lisser, Herbert (1982) The White Witch of Rose Hall, London Macmillan Publishers Limited. ISBN: 0-333-34969-5

Garvey, Amy Jacques (1968) Garvey and Garveyism, New York, Macmillon, L.C.C.C.N. 70-108146.

Campbell, Horace (1985) Rasta and Resistance, London, Hansib Publishing