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  • Cited by 2
  • Print publication year: 1991
  • Online publication date: June 2012

38 - Standardisation in a creole continuum situation: the Guyana case



Descriptions of the language situation in Guyana have tended to treat it as being made up of two maximally distinct language varieties, standard Guyanese English, on one hand, and Guyanese Creole, on the other, linked by a series of intermediate varieties (Allsopp 1958; Bickerton 1975). This kind of description, while capturing a particular aspect of the language situation, misses others. One such is the diglossic nature of the Guyana language situation. Varieties approximating to standard Guyanese English tend to be employed in the more public and formal situations of interaction. This contrasts with the more private and informal situations in which varieties approximating to Guyanese Creole tend to be employed. Another aspect not captured by an analysis which treats the Guyana situation as one involving a Creole-to-English continuum, is that speakers normally control more than one language variety. Such persons code-switch between the language varieties within their linguistic repertoires, depending on the social factors present within the speech event and the social functions associated with each of these varieties.

Standard Guyanese English operates as the sole official language of the country. What this means is that those speakers who do not have this variety within their repertoires or whose competence in the variety is limited, are effectively excluded from all forms of official communication. In these circumstances, it is clear that an alternative official language policy is necessary if one is to avoid the continued exclusion of non-English speakers from official communication.