It would be difficult to standardize Guyanese Creolese

Dear Editor,

Much has been written on Guyanese Creolese. One mistake that several writers make is that there is one Creolese language or dialect. Let it be understood there is not one Creolese dialect but several. Rural and urban based Creolese are different with variations in each. African and Indian Creolese also has differences, although groups living in the same community understand each other. And even in the rural communities, Creolese in Essequibo is different from that on the Corentyne.

I was at a function in Georgetown last year when a few African speakers spoke in Creolese which I could not understand. That kind of Creolese is not and was not spoken in rural Corentyne where I was raised. Some other Indo-Guyanese standing next to me who are Georgetown based also could not understand the Creolese spoken by the African speakers. Foreign based Guyanese also could not related to the Creolese. It had to be translated by Africans into standard English. Urban based Indians often laugh at or ridicule the Creolese spoken by rural Indians. Ditto the attitude of urban Africans towards Creolese spoken by rural Africans.

On the Corentyne, in the rural areas, Africans, Chinese, Portuguese and Indians understand each other’s Creolese. But the same cannot be said of outsiders from far distances. For example, I remember when students from Essequibo or Canal were at the Port Mourant Training Centre, it was difficult to understand their Creolese and for them to understand ours. When I visited Essequibo and West Demerara, it was with some difficulty I related to their Creolese. I spoke standard English with them.

I have travelled to Uttar Pradesh often over the last thirty years to conduct research on indentured labour and I have found in my interactions that there is a variation in the Bhojpuri spoken around every 25 km. Similarly, there is variation in Guyanese Creolese in far away or in segregated communities.

As it is for Bhojpuri, which is not a written language but an offshoot of Hindi, it would be most difficult to standardize Guyanese Creolese or even construct a Creolese dictionary or make it into a formal language. More than likely, it would exclude large swaths of Creolese given the variations that exist among Guyanese.

Yours faithfully,

Vishnu Bisram

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