English, Creole or Dialect?

Observing the way people here speak to each other, in a manner that is entirely incomprehensible to me, but then switch to standard English when addressing me, led me to some interesting research on the internet.

My question was, essentially, is Bajan a language or is it a dialect of English?

When people are speaking to each other, I think I can discern some of the words as English, but the speed, the accent and the apparent absence of consonants, usually defeats me as to meaning.  It is probably similar to the difficulties endured by a visitor to Glasgow encountering a native Glaswegian with a thick accent and a vocabulary full of local expressions.

My internet search however led me to a short article on the British Library website which discussed a bit of the history of the development of language in the Caribbean.  They suggest that when people with different native languages are forced together and need to communicate, a form of pidgin develops out of the sounds, structure and grammar of contributing languages.  No-one is ever a native speaker of pidgin, but when it becomes the established form of communication and there are children who grow up using that as the main form of communication, then the language develops in complexity as it has to cover more contexts and situations, and it becomes a creole.

At the same time, in Barbados, English is the official language of government and education, so the Bajan dialect has developed closely alongside English, with many crossovers.

So, I think the short answer to my question is, yes.

Leave a comment


  1. “incomprehensible to me”


    That is a bit of a surprise to me. You, bin all over de world and all. I’d have figured you good for a parachute trip anywhere and get by.

    When I was in the Windies, it took about three months to become proficient in the patios, but I understood them right off. Bajan is a bit diff to Jamaica, but only slightly so.

    Mayhap you are listening to closely with your ears and not permitting your eyes to catch the NVC’s instead? Not, saying. Just wondering.


  2. Hi Brendan, I’m getting by and communicating fine – but I am fascinated by language and the way the people here speak to each other is so fast and dense that I do find it passes in a blur of vowel sounds.


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