What Is Jamaican Patwa? 

Jamaican Patwa, known locally as Patois (Patwa or Patwah) and called Jamaican Creole by linguists, is an English-based creole language with West African influences, spoken primarily in Jamaica and the Jamaican diaspora.

Jamaicans refer to their language as patois (or patwa/patwah). The term refers to the local dialect – a rough form of speech that developed back from the 17th century when slaves turned the slaveholders dialect and vernacular on its head, forming their own language.

It sounds like English, but  not fully-formed, as Jamaican pronunciation and vocabulary are significantly different. Yes – there’s a lot of English derivateives and words, but mix it all up with West Africa’s creole and pidgin languages – and you get some idea.

So – now it’s the new school term, we’re taking a brief look at the lingo to see how much you know!

First – let’s do the alphabet phonetically, as pronounced in the language:

Hay…….Bee……Cee……Dee……Hee……Heff……Gee……Haych……Hi……Jay……Kay……Hell……Hemm……Henn……Hoe……Pee……Quu……Harr……
Hess……Tee……Hue/Jue…….Vee…..Dub’low……Hexx……Why……Zed/Zee

Forming Sentences:

Yes – there’s a subject, a verb and an object, but they don’t agree like they do in English.  The verb doesn’t change with the subject. Here’s a few examples:

Mi run (I run)
Im run (he runs)
Dem run (they run)
Eyah run (it runs)

 

Plurals
In English, when there’s more than one of something, the ending changes of the word. Baby – babies; bag – bags; sheet –sheets  etc.

In patois, you pluralise something by adding ‘dem’ to the start of the word, or adding ‘nuff’ at the beginning.

Plate dem (plates)
baby dem (babies)
Nuff banana (many bananas)

Pronouns

There’s no difference between he and she in Jamaican Patois. Someone could say ‘im frack look good’ – and it means her frock (dress) looks good.
Or ‘im fada gaan’ – his father’s gone.

You’re unlikely to speak convincing patois unless you spend years with the locals, but it’s a fun introduction if you’re planning to go on holiday there soon. And there’s lots more resources out there. Here’s dem helpful link to continue your linguistic journey.

Expressions and sayings:
http://jamaicanpatwah.com/dictionary/category/jamaican-expressions

Explanation of the language:

http://jamaicanpatwah.com/b/how-to-speak-jamaican-patois#.WUFwMIzys2x