Dread Talk

Dread Talk: The Language of the Rastafari

Copyright Date: 2000
Pages: 96
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  • Book Info
    Dread Talk
    Book Description:

    Dread Talk examines the effects of Rastafarian language on Creole in other parts of the Carribean, its influence in Jamaican poetry, and its effects on standard Jamaican English. This revised edition includes a new introduction that outlines the changes that have occurred since the book first appeared and a new chapter, "Dread Talk in the Diaspora," that discusses Rastafarian as used in the urban centers of North America and Europe. Pollard provides a wealth of examples of Rastafarian language-use and definitions, explaining how the evolution of these forms derives from the philosophical position of the Rasta speakers: "The socio-political image which the Rastaman has had of himself in a society where lightness of skin, economic status, and social privileges have traditionally gone together must be included in any consideration of Rastafarian words " for the man making the words is a man looking up from under, a man pressed down economically and socially by the establishment."

    eISBN: 978-0-7735-6828-0
    Subjects: Religion

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. I-VI)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. VII-X)
  3. Foreword to the First Edition
    (pp. XI-XII)

    InDread Talk, Velma Pollard not only introduces “a discussion on the language that has evolved … particularly on the lexical items that have emerged as a result of the impact of the movement on the Jamaican speech situation”, but also offers what may in time be a seminal work of importance to Caribbean lexical classification. If “siin aiya” translates, as she informs us it does, “Yes brother, I agree with you”, then this represents just one example of a category of lexical items that bear new meanings for listeners from non-Rastafarian constituencies. There are also words which bear the...

  4. Preface
    (pp. XIII-2)
  5. 1 Dread Talk – The Speech of the Rastafari in Jamaica
    (pp. 3-17)

    The history and sociology of the Rastafari in Jamaica have been the subject of enough literature² to legitimize Rex Nettleford’s comment that the movement is “one of the most significant phenomena to emerge out of the modem history and sociology of Plantation America, that New World culturesphere of which Jamaica and the Caribbean are a part.”³ This chapter introduces a discussion on the language that has evolved and particularly on the lexical items that have emerged as a result of the impact of the movement on the Jamaican speech situation.⁴ It is necessary, however, to restate the sociohistorical fact that...

  6. 2 The Social History of Dread Talk
    (pp. 18-52)

    The notion that language should not be separated from its social context has become a commonplace in recent linguistic research. This notion is nowhere more important than in the study of Creole languages, whose very existence has been the result of historical phenomena determining certain social necessities. Dread Talk is a comparatively recent adjustment of the lexicon of Jamaica Creole to reflect the religious, political and philosophical positions of the believers in Rastafari.¹ Its earliest expression was within this closed group; its use was highly selective (available only to those who shared particular beliefs). The language was in fact “organic”...

  7. 3 Rastafarian Language in St Lucia and Barbados
    (pp. 53-68)

    Half a century after its revelation among the Jamaican poor, Rastafari, with its distinctive way of life, has spread to the cities of the Eastern Caribbean. Inevitably, the language that articulates the philosophy of Rasta has spread with it. This chapter discusses the language of Rastafari in two Eastern Caribbean territories, Barbados and St Lucia,¹ commenting specifically on lexico-semantic change evident in the language as it moves from the environment of Jamaica Creole to interact with the Creoles of these two territories. A brief comment on Rastafari and on the common history of the Caribbean is in order as a...

  8. 4 Dread Talk – The Speech of Rastafari in Modern Jamaican Poetry
    (pp. 69-85)

    Brathwaite (1979), writing about Caribbean poetry of the 1960s, says that it released the “revelation of the word”. The poet he singles out as exemplifying that revelation is Bongo Jerry, the best known of the Rastafarian poets of the sixties. And that is just, for when mention is made of the “word” in the language of Jamaica it is to the Rastafari that one immediately looks, since that group reorganized the vocabulary of Jamaica Talk to force the word to reflect a particular philosophy, a particular point of view. The requirement was for a certain consistency of meaning, and a...

  9. 5 The Lexicon of Dread Talk in Standard Jamaican English
    (pp. 86-95)

    The protean nature of the lexicon has been attested to in descriptions of contact between languages in varying social and political situations. Early examples abound in histories of language on the European continent. Creole languages, born of European expansion and European exploitation, illustrate the ease with which European words have fitted themselves into West African grammatical systems. The ways, however, in which languages have affected each other have rarely been examples of what speakers want to happen but rather of what has happened in spite of speakers. The often-quoted words of Dr Johnson – “to chain syllables and to lash...

  10. 6 Globalization and the Language of Rastafari
    (pp. 96-108)

    In the last seventy years or so, Rastafari, a new world twentieth-century socioreligious movement that spoke-first to the Jamaican poor, has spread not only to the rest of the Caribbean but outside of the region to North and South America, Europe, Africa, Asia and the Pacific. Frank Jan van Dijk (1998), in his article “Chanting Down Babylon Outernational”, gives a comprehensive and enlightening review of Rastafari communities outside Jamaica. van Dijk identifies migration and travel as one route by which the philosophy of Rastafari spread but also points to radio and television waves as a means by which “the message...

  11. The Road of the Dread
    (pp. 109-110)
  12. Bibliography
    (pp. 111-117)