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Jan 31, 2006

Kriol grammar book shows distinctiveness of language

Story PictureIt’s called “The Song of Kriol: A Grammar of the Kriol Language of Belize” and this latest effort from the Bileez Kriol Projek is sure to stir up discussion. Compiled through the collaborative efforts of Belizeans and international linguist, Ken Decker, the book is designed to reveal the inner workings of Kriol. According to local activist Silvana Woods, the research has revealed just how distinct Kriol and English are as languages.

Silvana Woods, Kriol Projek
?Dis book no di tell yu how fu talk Kriol. The whole role of coming up with a dictionary, whether it?s Webster, Oxford, or the Kriol dictionary, it?s not to tell people how to talk but to describe the talking but to describe the talking you done meet. And every five years or so you upgrade yu dictionaries, like any dictionary does because you haf to react to the dynamism that is a language, languages change. The English we talk today was once considered bastard and dialect. Pirates used to be spelled P-Y-R-A-T-E-S. And so languages change, they evolve as people evolve, as technology adds new words to the vocab. But you see, why English is one of the three international languages is that if you look at the history of that language, it gobble, gobble gobbled up all the languages and words that it found and just added it to its vocab. So you?ll have a word like rendezvous which has an origin in French and you?ll have a word like sky, origin from Norwegian and so on. So it just gobbled up. That?s why it takes people about three years to master English if it?s not their first language and about six months to master any other language, all variables being equal. So what this grammar book is doing is saying, this is the structure of the language, it?s not telling you how to talk, it?s describing the way we talk anyway.?

Janelle Chanona
?Now is this a local effort because I see Mr. Decker?s name, but is there a team that is going to be stay behind to make sure that we do those upgrades that you?re talking of??

Silvana Woods
?Absolutely, in fact I am very privileged and honoured to be able to say that the University of Belize and the English Department, people like Elma Arzu, Tracy Sampson, Ms. Paulino, Mr. Pott are all behind this effort, along with our Dean, Vilma Joseph at the University of Belize whose major is in the study of first languages, to recognise and find educational uses for all this knowledge and information. And in fact, at the English Department at the University of Belize, this book is already in use. It?s already on the reserve list readings for the students of linguistics and English to show them that the patterns of Kriol vary from the patterns of English. So you need to learn English, but you need to understand you have to learn it because you don?t automatically know it. It?s different from the patterns that your Kriol uses.?

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Viewers please note: This Internet newscast is a verbatim transcript of our evening television newscast. Where speakers use Kriol, we attempt to faithfully reproduce the quotes using a standard spelling system.

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