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The dialects used by locals on a daily basis are Trinidadian English or a Creole English spoken in

Tobago. These dialects incorporate some of the languages which have been used over the
centuries on the islands. These include Indian, Spanish and some African languages as well as
French. Other dialects that have been in use include Patois, which is a blend of French and
Spanish and another Creole based dialect known as 'Coco Payol', a term which is also used to
describe those of Spanish heritage.

The government of the islands has been working to promote

other languages, particularly Spanish. The country's location
close to the coast of South America means that Spanish is also a
frequently used language on the islands, and many South
Americans go to Trinidad and Tobago in order to learn English
at one of the many language schools there.

Trinidadian English (TE) or Trinidad and Tobago Standard English is

a dialect of English used in Trinidad and Tobago. TE co-exists with both non-standard
varieties of English as well as other dialects, namely Trinidadian
Creole in Trinidad and Tobagonian Creole in Tobago. Both islands as one consider the
dialect as Trinbagonian Creole.

Trinidadian English was originally based on a standard of British English. Located in the
Americas, TE now uses many Americanisms, including apartment and trunk (of a car). It is
understandable by speakers of international standard English, although it uses a number of
terms that are unique to it (perhaps coming from Trinidadian Creole), such as "to lime",
meaning "to hang out". Speech in Trinidad (and, to some degree, in Tobago) may vary by
location and circumstance and is often remarked for its "sing-song" (i.e. a rising and
falling inflection) intonation.


Trinidadian English Creole is a creole language commonly spoken throughout the island
of Trinidad in Trinidad and Tobago. It is distinct from Tobagonian Creole – particularly at
the basilectal level[3] – and from other Lesser Antillean English creoles.
English is the country's official language (the national standard variety is Trinidadian
English), but the main spoken languages are Trinidadian English Creole and Tobagonian
English Creole. Both creoles contain elements from a variety of African languages.
Trinidadian English Creole is also influenced by French and French Creole (Patois).

Like other Caribbean English-based creoles, Trinidadian English Creole has a primarily
English-derived vocabulary. The island also has a creole with a largely French lexicon,
which was in widespread use until the late nineteenth century, when it started to be
gradually replaced, due to influence and pressure from the British.[5]
Spanish, a number of African languages (especially Yoruba), Chinese (mainly Cantonese,
with some Hakka, and now Mandarin) and Trinidadian Hindustani have also influenced the

Phonological features[edit]
Although there is considerable variation, some generalizations can be made about the
speech of Trinidad:

 Like a number of related creoles, Trinidadian English Creole is non-rhotic, meaning

that /r/ does not occur after vowels, except in recent loanwords or names from Spanish,
Hindi/Bhojpuri, and Arabic.[6]
 In mesolectal forms, cut, cot, caught, and curt are all pronounced with [ɒ].[7]
 The dental fricatives of English are replaced with dental/alveolar stops.[8]

Both Trinidad and Tobago[9] feature creole continua between more conservative Creole
forms and forms much closer to Trinidadian English, with the former being more common in
spontaneous speech and the latter in more formal speech.[10] Because of the social values
attributed to linguistic forms, the more common varieties (that is, more creolized forms)
carry little prestige in certain contexts.[11]

Example words and phrases[edit]

 bacchanal: to have a good time/drama
 back chat: insolence.[12]
 bad-john: a bully or gangster.[12]
 chinksin: miserly; distributing less than one could or should.[13]
 calypso: a musical or lyrical comment on something, particularly popular during
 dougla: a person having both Indian and African parentage.[12]
 full pelt: as fast as possible.
 lime: to party and hang out
 maco: someone who gets into other people's business.[12]
 maljo: an evil spell of misfortune cast out of envy.[13]
 pothound: a mongrel dog of no specific breed; mutt.[13]
 tabanca: heartbreak.[12]
 ups kabat: a type of game played with marbles.[14]
 vaps: a sudden or inexplicable move or statement.


Tobagonian is an English-based creole language and the generally spoken language

in Tobago. It is distinct from Trinidadian Creole and closer to other Lesser Antilleancreoles.



One example of this slang is how we call someone a horse (spelled “hoss”),
similar to the term “dawg” in many other parts of the world — basically, a way
to address a friend. So phrases like “waz di scene, hoss?” — “waz di scene”
meaning “what’s up” (see below) — are casually friendly and popular among the
“youts” (youths) of Trinidad and Tobago.

At the same time, the word has a certain infamy among the older generation, as it
seems as if it wasn’t used very much “in di ole days.” The rest of the Caribbean
appears averse to using it as well.

As with many instances of slang, no one I’ve ever spoken to can give a definite
answer as to how this particular meaning of “hoss” came about, or how it became
so popular here. One popular explanation is that “hoss” represents a friend in the
same way as “padna” (Trinidadian word literally meaning “partner” but
understood as “friend”), just as a horse is your riding partner.

Over time, the word “hoss” has taken on new meanings in Trinidad and Tobago.
Instead of just referring to a friend, it can be used in place of the word “weys” —
a term conveying disbelief or surprise (see below). Using “hoss” in this manner
is almost a combination of “weys” and “hoss,” since you’re typically attempting
to draw the attention of a friend. This use is signified by a placement of emphasis
on the word itself: “HOSSSSSSS, you see that?”

Here are some other examples of slang you’ll hear in Trinidad and Tobago:

“Bess” is a term that can mean either “awesome” or “sexy.” For example:

 “Dat girl rel bess.” – That girl is really sexy.

 “Dat rel bess.” – That’s really awesome.


“Weys” is an exclamatory term often used in moments of surprise, shock, or



“Lime” is a word used in Trinidad and Tobago and throughout the Caribbean as a
synonym for “a gathering” or “to hang out.” As a Trinibagonian, I can attest that
this word is built into our vocabulary. Indeed, instead of “No Loitering” signs,
we have signs that say, “No liming.” “Lime” can be used in many different ways,
as both a verb and a noun.

A few examples as a verb:

 “When we limin’?” – When are we going to hang out?
 “When last you lime with her?” – When was the last time you hung out with
A few examples as a noun:

 “You going to the lime tonight?” – Are you going to the get-together tonight?
 “I’m having a lime tonight.” – I’m having a get-together tonight.
And if you want to be really complex:

 “You gonna lime with her at the lime tonight?”– Are you going to hang out with
her at the get-together tonight?


“Owah” means “or what?” It’s commonly used at the end of a question.

 “You going to sleep owah?” – You going to sleep or what?

 “You like her owah?” – You like her or what?


This is an abbreviation for “Down di Islands,” pronounced “dong di islands.” It’s

a term used to refer to islands off the northwest coast of Trinidad. Many of these
islands have houses on them and residents typically go DDI on their own boats
on weekends and vacations.

You don’t have to own your own home or boat to go DDI, however. You can
rent a boat, find someone to go with, or befriend a local fisherman and anchor in
the middle of a bay or near a beach and have fun in the ocean. During weekends
and vacations, many young people can be found DDI, enjoying water sports, a
good lime, and the occasional DDI party.


“Wine” or “wining” is the name given to the dance of Trinidad and Tobago. It’s
similar to “grinding” in the United States and Europe. However, the movement
of the hips tends to be more fluid.
A common phrase directed at individuals who can wine very well is, “Yuh grease
yuh waistline,” which is supposed to mean the individual’s hips move so fluidly
it’s as if they were oiled.


“Bacchanal” is a term used most often to refer to drama. It can also mean having
a good time at a party, as heard in the very popular Carnival song in Trinidad and
Tobago called “Bacchanalist,” by Kerwin Du Bois.

Waz di scene

“Waz di scene” literally means “what is the scene?” but is understood as “what
are you doing?” or “what’s up?” Though similar, it should not be confused with
“waz your scene?” (see below).

A typical start of a conversation would include:

 “Ey, waz di scene?” – Hey, what are you doing?


“Wam” means “what happen?” and is synonymous with “Waz your scene?” Both
tend to be used in instances of indignation, though “wam” can also be used in a
friendly manner, as meaning “what’s up?”

Confrontational use:

 “Wam to you?” / “Waz your scene?” – What’s the matter with you? Or, why are
you behaving like that?
Friendly manner:

 “Ey, wam?” – Hey, what’s up?


Phonological description 2.1. Introduction Firstly, we must acknowledge considerable

phonological variability in both islands and a situation of ongoing flux in the language varieties
caused by internal and external influences upon them alluded to in the previous section. It is
unclear whether the language varieties are achieving a measure of overall stability in relation
to one another or whether there is a steady process of decreolization brought about by the
overarching effect of English in education. In public contexts too, the upper mesolect is
merging to some extent with the Standard in general usage with the result that many
educators are not entirely clear on their separate and distinct features. So where we might still
expect to hear Standard English, as for example in church or school, a pseudo-acrolect is
emerging within which both grammatical and phonological features often show variability (cf.
Youssef, James and Ferreira 2001). Some speakers, constrained towards Standard, but limited
in its grammar, imitate a pseudo Standard ‘accent’ with which they are not very familiar, and a
great deal of variation results. It is worth noting again that we may link Trinidad and Tobago
more readily at the acrolectal and mesolectal levels but, beyond this, need to consider the
Tobagonian basilect separately. 2.2. Trinidad and Tobago: Acrolect and mesolect 2.2.1. Vowels
There has been little careful sociolinguistic study of the distribution of vowel sounds according
to features such as age, class, ethnicity and geography, but a notable exception is Winford
(1972, 1978). He was able to posit a system of vowel change in progress in Trinidad, with the
number of vowels in the system very reduced for older rural Indians and their descendants but
gradually The creoles of Trinidad and Tobago: phonology 515 broadening towards the norms
at the acrolectal end of the scale. He studied the variables (Œ˘) as in work (√) as in hut, (ç) as in
hot and (´) as in the unstressed syllable in father and found considerably more variation among
the rural community than the urban. Urban informants used the prestige variants,
corresponding with those documented in table 1 below, more than any other, but the rural
informants showed more variability with ‘significant patterns of age and ethnic differentiation’
(1978: 285). Younger rural speakers evidenced more use of the urban patterns than did older,
while the older rural speakers used the more stigmatized variants. The oldest rural Indians of
the lowest status group, whose first language was Bhojpuri, used highly stigmatized variants
absent from the urban varieties. Most evidenced was a generalized [a] for the variables above,
and here we notice an interesting correlation with the Tobagonian basilect. Winford
hypothesized that they had reduced the range of vowels available in the StE system
considerably at the time of first contact and that these were now in process of re-
establishment. As the reader will observe in the discussion below, however, a considerable
measure of vowel mergence does exist and persist across the more normative variety. With
such a measure of variation in mind we can proceed to table 1 below, which sets out Wells’ list
of 28 items with most typical norms represented. Where there are significant differences from
other national varieties these are bolded, and where there is a range of variation about the
norm this too is specified. Overall it will be noted that there is a tendency to produce as
monophthongs what in other national varieties are diphthongs. Four items are added finally
from the extended Foulkes/Docherty listing and one other, BARE: Table 1. Vowels of
decreolized varieties KIT [I] > [i] CLOTH [ç>ç˘] GOOSE [u:] DRESS [E] NURSE [:>ç] PRICE [aI]
TRAP [a> æ] FLEECE [i:] CHOICE [çI] LOT [ç>√>Å] FACE [e:] MOUTH [çU] STRUT [√>ç˘>Å] PALM
[a:] NEAR




˘] BATH [a:] GOAT [o:] START [a:] NORTH [ç˘] FORCE [ç˘] CURE [juŒ] HAPPY [> i] LETTER [´>√]
HORSES [I] COMMA [a>´>√] FIRE [ai´] BEER


] EIGHT [e:] METER [´>√] BARE


] Most of these features of the vowel system of the normative national Trinidadian and
Tobagonian variety are adapted from a chart compiled by Ferreira for Youssef, James and
Ferreira (2001) which was verified and extended for this paper. In put- 516 Valerie Youssef and
Winford James ting it together she drew upon her own native speaker competence as well as
on that of Solomon (1993) and on the work of Allsopp (1996). Ferreira isolated 22 phonemes in
comparison to 17 isolated by Winford (1978). Vowel length is one of the most variant features
in Trinidadian and Tobagonian speech. The most striking difference with other StE varieties is
the low incidence of [Q]. Often it is lost in one place so that, for example, [a] and [Q] may
merge rendering heart and hat the same, and then length may be reintroduced elsewhere, e.g
in a word like salad, pronounced /sQ»la˘d/ with stress on the final syllable. (In the Tobagonian
basilect, however, heart and hat are distinguished by vowel length and salad has two short
vowels.) There is a tendency towards neutralization of complex vowel sounds particularly in
combination with [´] and occurring word finally. These produce homophones that are
distinguishable by context and include beer and bear, peer and pear and similar combinations.
Solomon (1993: 15-16) has observed that acrolectal speakers may have either [i] or [E] before
[´] but not both and suggests that education may be a critical factor with women outstripping
men in production of [E´] particularly on the Trinidad radio. He believes that this variant
correlates with a higher level of education and is more prestigious, but admits to a general
increase in the use of [i´] in the media for both sexes. In the mesolect and increasingly in the
acrolect [e:] is produced. In the Trinidadian mesolect it is generally recognized that the vowel
sounds in cut, cot, caught and curt may not be distinguished with the sounds /√/, /Å/, /ç/, and
/Œ/ rendered as the single back open rounded vowel /Å/. Other neutralizations in the same
vowel group produce the following: – [Å] and [√] in StE as in body and buddy merge in [√],
rendering these items as well as others like golf and gulf homophonous. Sometimes, however,
there may be a lengthening resulting in the following merger of [Å] and [ç]; body and bawdy
become neutralized, long becomes “lorng”. – [з ] and [√] merge so that bird and bud are
homophonous. The major other neutralizations, which do not hold for all speakers, are as
follows: – [A] and [a] in SE as in ask and axe (where metathesis can also occur) merge in [a]; –
the vowels in harm and ham, become homophonous with the use of [a]. – the vowels in bit
and beat become homophonous with the use of [i˘]. Warner (1967) associated these last two
mergers with French Creole, Spanish or Bhojpuri influence, but today they are more
generalized allophonic variants, as real contact with these disappearing languages rapidly
diminishes. The creoles of Trinidad and Tobago: phonology 517 Other characteristic vowel
sounds occur in words like down and sound which are rendered [dÅN] and [sÅN] respectively.
Most usually the vowel is nasalized. 2.1.3. The consonants The consonants show much less
variation than the vowels, being mostly shared between Creole and English. As with other
Caribbean Creoles, in both Trinidad and Tobago there is the shift to representation of [T] as [t]
and [D] as [d] across the board, and these features are ceasing to be stigmatized even in
pseudo-acrolectal speech. In Winford’s study in the 1970’s he found variation in the
alternation among these variables in predictable patterns according to class and style, but in
2002 [t] and [d] as norms are a recognized and accepted part of pseudo-acrolectal speech with
these variants having become markers with no censure attached to their use. Final consonant
clusters which exhibit the same voicing quality are reduced in all Caribbean creole varieties
and Trinidad and Tobago are no exception. This is particularly the case with final /-t/ or /-d/
(although not [-nt]), and unusual with /-s/ or /-z/. As Labov (1972a) has pointed out for African
American and Winford (1972) for Trinidadian, items that omit these behave differently
according to their grammatical status, however, and are more likely to be retained when they
represent a grammatical meaning, e.g. passed as opposed to past. From Winford’s (1972) data
he was able to order such clusters according to frequency, showing some phonological
constraint, but also, for speakers in the middle class, grammatical constraint. A variable which
shows little social or stylistic stability is final -ng, which is realized word-finally as either [n] or
[N]. The consonantal features outlined thus far are becoming increasingly consistent in usage
across the social and stylistic board. Less frequent are the variation between [v] and [b] as in
[bEri] for very, and the palatalization involved in the production of [tS] for [tr] as in [tSri] for
tree. Metathesis commonly occurs in voiceless clusters like ask which is rendered [aks], and
crisp realized as [kips]. For older Indian speakers there is aspiration on voiced stops, as in [bh
Aji], bhaji, a leafy spinach, cited by Winer (1993: 17) from Mohan and Zador (1986). These
sound types have all become stereotypes associated with rural and Indian speech. The
variation on /r/, as for example when it is rendered [w], is derived from French Creole and the
retroflex flap [”] from Bhojpuri. Trinidad is distinguished for its non-rhoticity, in this contrasting
with neighbouring Barbados and Guyana, as well as Jamaica. Wells (1982: 578) has noted that
metropolitan English had become non-rhotic at the time when English was established in
Trinidad but this connection remains speculative. It is also distinguished by the palatalization
of velar consonants /k/ and /g/ so that [kja‚] represents can’t and [gjA˘dEn] represents garden.
In this feature there is no clear style or social differentiation (Solomon 1993: 181). But it is
found more in rural Indian- 518 Valerie Youssef and Winford James rather than rural African
speakers, with less clear-cut distinctions in urban areas (Winford 1972; Solomon 1993).
Solomon suggests that it is word particular, being obligatory in can’t, and rare in words like
calypso and ganja. 2.3. Tobagonian basilect 2.3.1. Vowels A number of vowel sounds are
particular to Tobagonian and occur mostly in the basilect in the shortest words and in function
words. Where the basilect and the mesolect share a pronunciation it is usually on distinctive
content words. The table of words equivalent to table 1, which displays acrolectal and
mesolectal vowels, is presented below in table 2 but it should be noted that the basilect
variants are not consistently produced in the reading of a Standard English text or word list.
The variety in question is not used for reading purposes and informants necessarily shift
varieties in reading. Table 2. Vowels of the basilect KIT [I] CLOTH [A˘] GOOSE [u:] DRESS [E]
[er] EIGHT [e] METER [A] BARE [er] Major vowel oppositions according to variety and territory
include the following: Tobago’s basilect retains [a˘] for Trinidad’s [ç>ç˘] cloth, lot, north. Also
characteristic are [o], e.g. force, for Trinidad’s [ç˘] and [ai] e.g choice for Trinidad’s [çI]. Among
consonants the occurrence of [/] word-initially for general English [h] is prevalent. [a] is the
most frequently occurring Tobagonian vowel. It is used in a vast number of words where the
vowel sounds [Q], [´], and [Å] would be used in British English. Table 3 below, adapted from
Youssef and James 2002, gives examples of words it is used in as compared to corresponding
words in Standard English. The creoles of Trinidad and Tobago: phonology 519 Table 3.
Tobagonian [a] on English words Monosyllabic æ words Stressed syllable æ of non-
monosyllabic words Monosyllabic ç- words in non-monosyllabic words Stressed syllable ç- in
non-monosyllabic words hat, cat, back DA.ddy, HA.ppy, PAM.per flop, long, knock (> flap, lang,
knack) CO.llapse, wa.TER, to.LE.rant (> CA.llapse, war.TA,) BO.dy, FO.llow, CON. fi.dent (>
BA.dy, FA.llow, KAN.fident). (Relevant syllables in non-monosyllabic words capitalised) In the
first two categories of words, [a] is general Tobagonian but for the third it is purely basilectal;
[a] gives way to [å] in both mesolectal and acrolectal usage (though, for [´] words, it may be
retained). [a] is an unrounded sound while its mesolectal counterpart is rounded [å].
Apparently because of this varietal distinction, [a] is, to an extent, socially stigmatised. There
are two diphthongs that occur particularly in certain word types in basilectal speech; these are
[ai] (e.g. bwai> ‘boy’, spwail> ‘spoil’), and their counterparts in mesolectal speech are
respectively [oi] and [ai]. [ei] is associated particularly with the towns of Charlotteville and
Speyside in the eastern part of Tobago and with Bethel and Plymouth in the west. There are
two single vowels in all varieties that seem to be reduced monophthongal versions of English
diphthongs: [e˘]/[e] ( ‘how’. Because Tobagonian speech involves an interaction of three
varieties which share the same general lexicon, it is impossible to totally separate basilect or
mesolect, and so it would be difficult to specify all the vowels that occur in basilectal speech.
The short vowels that occur most in function words in basilectal speech are the nasal vowels (ĩ,
ữ, õ and ã ) and oral [a]. The long vowels that occur most in basilectal speech are nasal [ã:] and
oral [a:], [o#:], and [e#:]. Examples of all these sounds are given in the following: [ĩ]e.g di
(remote past marker, reduced form of did e.g. he di go) [ã] e.g. an (shortened form of and) [ữ]
e.g. kữ (reduced form of couldn’t) [õ] e.g. [dõ] (a reduced form of don’t) [ã:] e.g. [wã:] (a
reduced form of wan ‘one’) A striking feature of fast basilectal speech is the lengthening of the
single vowels [a], [o], and [i] in association with pronoun subjects or the negator no; these are
full words that end in a short vowel, which is then incorporated in the lengthened 520 Valerie
Youssef and Winford James vowel. These vowels at the same time represent words. /a/ is both
a copula and an imperfective marker; /o/is a future marker that has lost its onset g (go > o);
and /i/ is the remote past marker that has lost both its onset /b-/ and its coda /-n/ (bin > i).
2.3.4. Consonants The most distinctive Tobagonian consonant sound is ///. It may be heard in
the pronunciation of words like [/ows] ‘house’, [/ow] ‘how’, and [soo/m] ‘something’. In
addition, the word-initial consonants [h], [b], [d], [g] and [y] are most usually dropped in
basilectal Tobagonian speech. In the speech of some speakers, the h- is absent from all English
words containing it—a phenomenon that is not unusual in speakers of a range of non-standard
English dialects across the world. Examples of content words with this form are: home > ome,
house > ouse, hot > at, hat > at, hit > it, hoe > oe, hand > an(d). The h- is absent from
monosyllabic words, and the stressed syllable of non-monosyllabic words such as appy. For
function words we find the unstressed-stressed pronoun pair hi-hii > i ‘he/his’ and ii
‘he/him/his’, and huu > uu ‘who’, which may occur as an interrogative pronoun, relative
pronoun, or clause intensifier. Syllable structure differs in Tobagonian from both Trinidadian
and StE in that, word initially, there is only a single sound produced rather than a cluster;
hence we find: [fr-]> [f-]. In adult speech, this feature is limited to from > fom/fam, which is
the only function word in English that starts with the cluster [fr-]. Whereas /s/ can be the first
of up to three consonants at the onset of a word in English, in basilectal Tobagonian speech it
may be dropped, for example, from words like skin, squeeze, smell, spit, and start (> kin,
kweeze, mell, pit, and tart). [s-] is not dropped when it combines with the liquids and semi-
vowels [r], [l], [w], and [y]. In even the most acrolectal speech in Tobagonian (but not in
Trinidadian), the single-initial consonants b and p are lengthened by the addition of bilabial [w]
to become [bw-] and [pw-] before the diphthong [oi] in a small group of words that include
boy > bwoi, boil > bwoil, boycott > bwoicott, spoil > spwoil, and poison > pwoison. The shift
from [v] to [b] recorded variably for Trinidadian also occurs in basilectal Tobagonian. It is found
in words like the following: crave > crabe, love > lob, governor > gobna, and heavy > (h)eaby.
As the list suggests, it occurs wherever the [v] may occur in a word. The shift does not seem to
be motivated by any special phonological conditioning. When a fricative gives way to a plosive
there is a change in lip movement which historically was important for registering negative
emotions visibly. The cluster [-lf] is reduced to [-f] in the grammatical word self as the latter
compounds with pronouns, even, and adverbs of place and time. The creoles of Trinidad and
Tobago: phonology 521 Basilectal Tobagonian speech also evidences the dropping of final
single-consonants especially the nasal ones, from grammatical words. In the second syllable of
words, and intervocalically, [t] is replaced by [k] and [d] by [g]. The effects are seen in the
following words: little > likku, bottle > bokku, riddle > riggu, middle > miggu, handle > ha[]gu,
gentlemen > jenkumen. Voiceless [t] becomes voiceless [k], and voiced [d] becomes voiced [g].
The movement from front to back consonants seems motivated by the back vowel [-u], with
which syllabic [l] is produced. This change may also be heard in some mesolectal Trinidadian
speech. 2.4. Suprasegmental features The most common lay reaction to Trinidadian speech
world-wide is that it is ‘singsong’. Associations have been made very broadly to Welsh as well
as to African tone languages (e.g. Carter 1979) and, for Trinidad specifically, some speakers’
intonation patterns have also been linked with Spanish, French creole, and Bhojpuri. The
current and overall reality is a prosody which has been adapted through all these influences,
and which is, at this point in time, peculiarly ‘Creole’. Trinidadian and Tobagonian also exhibits
a peculiar intonational characteristic in mesolectal speech of a rising intonation at the end of
an utterance as if the speaker is in doubt or questioning (cf. Allsopp 1972). It may be that the
speaker is seeking a responsiveness in the hearer as he/she does when using the very popular
local tag Right? Solomon (1993: 34) identifies pitch as the critical prosodic feature rather than
stress although he admits it is difficult to abstract pitch from tone. Winer (1993: 19-20) also
notes ‘a higher and wider’ pitch range than in StE and ‘less degree of fall at sentence end’. The
features of pitch and stress are confounded between English and Trinidadian speakers, the
former hearing Trinidad pitch as stress. Solomon (1993: 34) equates the system with the
Guyanese one as described by Allsopp (1972). The result is that disyllable words are most often
either high-low or low-high, the latter being the more common and older pattern; in trisyllable
words it is common to find a low-low-high or high-high-low pattern. Solomon has described
longer items, as characteristically either low-low-high-high or, when they break into two, as
low-high-high, low-high. All this can often result in a change of the characteristic English
pattern such that unstressed syllables in that variety often come to carry high pitch in
Trinidadian. The most common patterns in Trinidadian overall are low-high, low-low high and
low-high high, and this creates some contrasting patterns with many varieties of Standard
English, e.g (Capitals indicate stress, apostrophes denote pitch) COCKroa’ch, MAChine;
TRInida’d; CARpe’nte’r. Interesting contrasts may be observed between ’opponent and
cha’racter, ’component and com’merce. These features of the language 522 Valerie Youssef
and Winford James can cause difficulty in comprehension for speakers of other varieties and
the inconsistencies are very challenging for learners of the Trinidadian variety. James (2003)
analyses the role of tone in the organisation of grammatical morphemes in a number of the
subsystems of TobC. Among his findings about tone are that: a) In TobC tone is morphemic in
the case of the homophones kyã ‘can’ vs. kyã ‘can’t’); b) In TobC tone distinguishes emphatic
from non-emphatic meanings in the homophones dèm vs. dém; c) In TobC tone typically
combines with rhyme length to distinguish the members of emphatic-nonemphatic pairs—high
tone with long-vowel and vowel-consonant sequences, and low tone with single vowels (e.g.,
shíí vs. shì and dém vs dè); d) In TobC tone is differentially associated with certain grammatical
(sub)categories, with low tone associating with the definite article dì, the singularising article
wàà, certain preverbal articles (e.g., imperfective à and future gò), the third person singular
general object pronouns àm / òm, certain prepositions (e.g., à and pàn), and
infinitival/possessive fù; and high tone associating with negators (e.g., nó and

), emphasiser dúú, interrogative / relative wé, demonstrative dà(t), certain prepositions (e.g.,
tón ‘according to’, gí ‘to/for’), intensifier húú, reportive sé, and certain preverbal particles
(e.g., completive dón and passive gé); and e) In TobC tone is variable on suffixes (e.g., sèf, séf)
and the morpheme wan, among other morphemes, depending on where they occur in the
syntax. All in all, prosody contrasts markedly with other English varieties; the tendency to
shared tonal and intonation patterns across Caribbean Creoles undoubtedly links back to the
sharing of a common African tonal base despite the fact that no direct and precise links now

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