May 4, 2004 – University of Puerto Rico doctoral students are planning to conduct a first-of-its-kind study of the unique language patterns of people living on St. Croix and how those patterns have changed with increased American influence.
The linguistics students will review audio tapes made in the 1980s of senior citizens speaking Crucian Creole. Then they will compare those elders' style of speaking with how residents on the island speak today, UPR linguistics professor Alma Simounet said.
Under French, English and Danish rule, the island's enslaved and free Africans developed a complex Creole language that became spoken less and less with each successive generation, Arnold Highfield, a retired University of the Virgin Islands linguistics professor, said.
Highfield, who has been studying Crucian Creole since 1962, said it is in rapid decline due to increased exposure to American English via television, tourism, military service and study at mainland colleges.
The United States has become "our principal cultural input," he said. "This didn't just happen here. It's happening on every Caribbean island."
Crucian Creole, according to Highfield, has the spirit of African languages with European words. It is similar to speech patterns of the other U.S. and British Virgin Islands, he said, and is marked by dropping of the verb in a sentence and the distinctive formation of plurals and possessives. "He is smart" becomes "He smart." "Give me the books" becomes "Give me the book them." "That's John's" becomes "That John own."
There are also distinct pronunciations, Highfield said. "A lot of people think Jamaican sounds just like Crucian," he said, "but they are very different."
The UPR graduate students are to arrive on May 23 to begin their research.
Publisher's note : Like the St. Croix Source now? Find out how you can love us twice as much — and show your support for the islands' free and independent news voice … click here