In the Jamaican diaspora, the use of Jamaican Creole, or 'Patois,' in conversation has come to mean fundamentally different things than in Jamaica. For example, Caribbeans in Britain, but also blacks from other cultures and even whites, use Patois as a 'we'-code in codeswitching and language crossing for identity statements related to very fundamental categories: race and skin colour, outsider status, or belonging to certain 'cool' subcultures (Sebba/Wootton 1998, Rampton 1995 and 1998). In Jamaica, where the speakers of Patois form a homogeneous, majority group, the code performs hardly any of these discourse functions.
Instead, it is used in rather complex processes of indexing cultural values and concepts. Their analysis depends on ethnographic study. My analysis focuses on narrative in informal, private communication and reveals that the personae and narrative structures of Jamaican and African oral literature (cf. folk tales of 'Anansi,' the spider trickster) form a cultural backdrop toward which writers and addressees implicitly orient. Patois is the means of making it relevant.
My data is a corpus of e-mail and other computer-mediated communication (CMC) written by Jamaicans 'at home,' contrasted with other CMC that uses Patois.
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