Materials © for/by Peter L. Patrick. May contain copyright material used for educational purposes. Please respect copyright.


British Afro-Caribbean English:

A bibliography

Compiled by Peter L. Patrick

What’s Here, and What’s Not:

This list includes works on the rise of Creole-influenced speech among British-born and/or -raised speakers of West Indian background in Britain. It developed from a briefer bibliography by Mark Sebba (fc 2004), for whose work I’m grateful. Works on Jamaican Creole in a British setting are included here, and a couple of descriptive references on island Jamaican Creole are included (Cassidy & Le Page 1967, Patrick fc 2004b), since it is the fount from whence BrACE has sprung. I don’t list the many, many references on (Island) Jamaican and other Creoles here, nor any works on other types of ‘Black English’; neither do I include mass-media or popular writings – this list is research-oriented, and largely by/for (socio-)linguists. Library call numbers are given where available, and sometimes brief comments by me to help set the works in context. If you know of works (including your own) which you would like to see included below, please email me with full details (for contact info, see my homepage).

Names and Labels:

The variety has been called ‘British Black English’ (e.g. Sutcliffe 1982), but some authors have questioned the generality of this name; others have described ‘London Jamaican’ (e.g. Sebba 1993), but it is obviously spoken outside of London as well, somewhat differently. In fact, studies have been done in Bedford (Sutcliffe 1982), Bradford (Tate 1984), Dudley (by Edwards and Sutcliffe), Ipswich (Straw fc), Reading (Edwards) and Sheffield (Willis 1999) as well as London (Hewitt, Rampton, Rosen & Burgess, Sebba) and other cities. Despite a few attempts to be systematic, the literature does not distinguish adequately between ‘Creole’ and ‘English’ varieties: labels cannot be relied upon in this respect. To serve as a more general academic name, I suggest the term ‘British Afro-Caribbean English’ (BrACE), which is intended to have very wide and inclusive scope, encompassing both what some authors would prefer to call Creole and what others would agree is a local and/or ethnic variety of British vernacular English. I don’t intend BrACE as a popular term for self-identification (for more on terminology, see Baugh 1991 and Smitherman 1991 in my African American English bibliography).

There is no close relation between BrACE (=‘British Black English’) and US African American English (AAE, aka ‘Black English’ or Ebonics’). The former is derived directly from Caribbean English-related creoles within the last 50 years, and contact with speakers of AAE is an incidental, individual-level phenomenon (though there is some cultural influence of music, film, style, etc.). BrACE (like Jamaican Creole – both are often called ‘Patois’ or ‘Patwa’) is accepted by the science of linguistics as a language, and ought to be respected for its integrity. It needs to be said, however, that not all Britons of Afro-Caribbean heritage speak it, while there may be people of other heritage who do -- in particular, West Indians of e.g. Chinese or Indian background, or their children. Also, BrACE must be distinguished from the (very interesting) parody speech of entertainers such as Ali G, who build on existing stereotypes for effect (see Sebba 2003b below).

Some of my papers on this, and other, topics may be read online at



Bones, Jah. 1986. Language and Rastafari. In Sutcliffe & Wong, eds., 37-51. [A brief outline of the Rastafari movement in Britain, followed by a folk-linguistic view of Rasta Talk and the Word-Sound-Power concept.]


Bottomley, K. 1996. An evaluation of language policies relating to the use of Creole in the classroom. Unpublished BSc (Honours) dissertation, Department of Geographical and Environmental Sciences, University of Huddersfield.


Bourhis, Richard and Howard Giles. 1976. The language of cooperation in Wales: A field study. Language Sciences 42: 13-16.


Bourhis, Richard and Howard Giles. 1977. Children’s voices and ethnic categorization in Britain. Mondvo Lingvo Problemo 6(17) 85-94.


Bourhis, Richard and Donald Taylor. Towards a theory of language in ethnic group relations. In Howard Giles, ed., Language, ethnicity and intergroup relations, 307-349. London: Academic Press.


Breinburg, Petronella. 1986. Language attitudes: The case of Caribbean language. In Sutcliffe & Wong, eds., 136-148. [A quantitative, social-psychological analysis of correlation between ‘language perception’ and ‘person perception’, based on a study of 42 teachers in three inner-London schools, using structured interviews. Language perception appeared to depend on person perception. Teachers’ acceptance of negative-attitude statements to Black children’s language appeared to correlate inversely with the size of the Black school population. Negative and stereotyped attitudes predominated.]


Cassidy, Frederic G. and Rober B. Le Page, eds. 1967 (2nd ed.1980). Dictionary of Jamaican English. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.


Dalphinis, Morgan. 1991. The Afro-English creole speech community. In S. Alladina and V. Edwards, eds., Multilingualism in the British Isles, vol. 2: Africa, the Middle East and Asia, 42-56. London: Longman.


Edwards, Viv. 1976. West Indian language and comprehension. Unpublished PhD thesis, University of Reading. [Includes attitude and matched-guise studies comparing West Indian to white working- and middle-class children’s speech, as judged by both children and teachers in Reading.]


Edwards, Viv. 1979. The West Indian language issue in British schools: Challenges and responses. London: Routledge and Kegan Paul. [One of the first examinations by a linguist of the use of Creoles in a British educational context. Not restricted to one language variety, and not really a descriptive study of BrACE.]


Edwards, Viv. 1981. Patterns of language use in the Black British community. English World-wide 2(2): 154-164.


Edwards, Viv. 1986. Language in a Black community. Clevedon, Avon: Multilingual Matters. [USA: San Francisco: College-Hill Press] [P40.5.B42 E38] [A model examination of language use by young people of largely Jamaican origin in Dudley, W. Midlands. VE takes great pains with research design and the collection of data in a variety of situations and to various addressees. Includes special attention to the construction of a quantitative ‘Patois index’ and to patterns of language choice, and the notion of competence as applied to use of a Creole which may not have been acquired natively but is nevertheless a language of heritage. Research carried out jointly with D. Sutcliffe]


Giles, Howard and Richard Bourhis. 1976. Voice and racial categorization in Britain. Communication Monographs 43(2): 108-114.


Giles, Howard. 1977. Language, ethnicity and intergroup relations. London: Academic Press.


Gilroy, Paul. 1987. There ain't no Black in the Union Jack. London: Hutchinson.


Hewitt, Roger. 1982. White adolescent Creole users and the politics of friendship. Journal of Multilingual and Multicultural Development 3(3): 217-232.

Hewitt, Roger. 1986. White talk, Black talk. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. [P 126.H4] [A study of oral communication in two inter-racial friendship networks in London neighborhoods. Hewitt is not a linguist (rather a sociologist, following Bernstein) but a careful ethnographic observer of language use.]

Hewitt, Roger. 1989. Creole in the classroom: Political grammars and educational vocabularies. In R. Grillo, ed., Social anthropology and the politics of language. London: Routledge.


Knight, Pamela. 2001. London Jamaican in the speech of two subjects. Unpublished BA (Honours) dissertation, University of Essex.


Knight, Pamela, Peter L Patrick, and Michelle Straw. Mss. “Difficult acts: Aspects of linguistic identity in urban Afro-Caribbean English communities.” Unpublished conference paper delivered April 2002 to Sociolinguistic Symposium 14, Gent. Submitted to volume on Multilingual Cities, ed. Mike Reynolds & Gibson Ferguson.


Le Page, Robert B. and Tabouret-Keller, Andrée. 1985. Acts of identity. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.


Local, John K., William H.G. Wells and Mark Sebba. 1985. Phonology for conversation: Phonetic aspects of turn delimitation in London Jamaican. Journal of Pragmatics 9(2): 309-330.


Mair, Christian. 2003. Language, code and symbol: The changing roles of Jamaican creole in diaspora communities. In Christian Mair, ed., Interactional sociolinguistics and cultural studies. Thematic issue of Arbeiten aus Anglistik und Amerikanistik 28(2):231-248. Tübingen: Gunter Narr Verlag.


Mühleisen,  Susanne. 2002. Creole discourse: Exploring prestige formation and change across Caribbean English-lexicon Creoles. Amsterdam and Philadelphia: John Benjamins.


Patrick, Peter L. Fc 2004a. British Creole phonology. To appear in A handbook of varieties of English. Vol. 1: Phonology, ed. Bernd Kortmann, Edgar W Schneider, Clive Upton, Rajend Mesthrie & Kate Burridge. (Topics in English Linguistics, ed. Bernd Kortmann & Elizabeth Closs Traugott.) Berlin, New York: Mouton de Gruyter. Draft online at Patrick’s papers site.


Patrick, Peter L. Fc 2004b. Jamaican Creole morphology and syntax. To appear in A handbook of varieties of English. Vol 2: Morphology and syntax, ed. Bernd Kortmann, Edgar W Schneider, Clive Upton, Rajend Mesthrie & Kate Burridge. (Topics in English Linguistics, ed. Bernd Kortmann & Elizabeth Closs Traugott.) Berlin, New York: Mouton de Gruyter. Draft online at Patrick’s papers site.


Patrick, Peter L. 2003. Creole, community, identity. In Christian Mair, ed., Interactional sociolinguistics and cultural studies. Thematic issue of Arbeiten aus Anglistik und Amerikanistik 28(2): 249-277. Tübingen: Gunter Narr Verlag.


Pütz, Martin. 1987. Kommunikation im anglo-karibischen Gottesdienstritual. Eine ethnosemiotische Perspektive. Frankfurt: Verlag Peter Lang.


Pütz, Martin. 1989. British Jamaican English: The impact of ideology. In Martin Pütz & René Dirven, eds., Wheels within wheels: Papers of the Duisburg symposium on Pidgin and Creole Languages. Frankfurt: Verlag Peter Lang, 179-205.


Rampton, M. Ben. 1995. Crossing: Language and ethnicity among adolescents. London: Longman. [P 126.5.C6] [An examination of use by adolescents, in one SE England school, of different ethnically-identified in- and out-group varieties, including BrACE.]


Rampton, M. Ben. 1998. Language crossing and the redefinition of reality. In Peter Auer, ed., Code-switching in conversation, 290-317. London: Routledge.


Reichl, Susanne. 2002. Cultures in the contact zone: Ethnic semiosis in Black British literature. Trier: Wissenschaftlicher Verlag. (Orig. 2001 PhD thesis, Vienna.)


Richmond, John. 1986. The language of Black children and the language debate in schools. In Sutcliffe & Wong, eds., 123-35.


Rosen, H. and T. Burgess. 1980. Languages and dialects of London school children. London: Ward Lock Educational.


Sebba, Mark. 1986. London Jamaican and Black London English. In Sutcliffe and Wong, eds., 149-167.


Sebba, Mark. 1993. London Jamaican: Language systems in interaction. London: Longman. [PE3313 .S43 1993]  [A careful study which questions whether to consider the varety a type of English dialect or a London version of Jamaican Creole, and considers code-choice and -switching both within the family and among peers. Sebba’s origins as a student of LePage show in his interest in matters of identity.]


Sebba, Mark. 1995. Creole in Britain. Keynote speech from ‘Ways With Words’ language conference, University of Sheffield. On Sebba’s British Creole Resources site.


Sebba, Mark. 1996. How do you spell Patwa? Critical Quarterly 38(4): 50-63.


Sebba, Mark. 1997. Contact languages: Pidgins and Creoles. London: Macmillan. [A good general textbook which sets brief material on BrACE in the context of other contact varieties. See especially Chapter 7.]


Sebba, Mark. 1998a. Phonology meets ideology: The meaning of orthographic practices in British Creole. Language Problems and Language Planning 22(1): 19-47.


Sebba, Mark. 1998b. Meaningful choices in Creole orthography: ‘Experts’ and users. Text of invited keynote paper at colloquium on “Meaningful choices in language,” Hanover, November 1996. In  Schulze, R. ed., Making meaningful choices in English. On dimensions, perspectives, methodology and evidence, 223-234. Tübingen: Gunter Narr Verlag.


Sebba, Mark. 2000a. What is ‘mother tongue’? Some problems posed by London Jamaican. In T. Acton and M. Dalphinis, eds., Language, Blacks and Gypsies: Languages without a written tradition and their role in education, 109-121. London: Whiting and Birch.


Sebba, Mark. 2000b. ‘Writing switching’ in British Creole. In K. Jones and M. Martin-Jones eds., Multilingual literacies: Reading and writing different worlds, 171-187. Amsterdam and Philadelphia: John Benjamins.


Sebba, Mark. 2002. Creole English and Black English. On Sebba’s British Creole Resources site. [An A-level unit of instruction created by Sebba, it contains background on Creole varieties, grammatical and phonological characteristics, and exercises for students.]


Sebba, Mark. 2003a. Spelling rebellion. In J. Androutsopoulos and A. Georgakopoulou, eds., Discourse constructions of youth identities, 151-172. Amsterdam and Philadelphia: John Benjamins.


Sebba, Mark. 2003b. Will the real impersonator please stand up? Language and identity in the Ali G websites. In Christian Mair, ed., Interactional sociolinguistics and cultural studies. Thematic issue of Arbeiten aus Anglistik und Amerikanistik 28(2): 279-304. Tübingen: Gunter Narr Verlag.


Sebba, Mark. Fc 2004. British Creole morphology and syntax. To appear in A handbook of varieties of English. Vol 2: Morphology and syntax, ed. Bernd Kortmann, Edgar W Schneider, Clive Upton, Rajend Mesthrie & Kate Burridge. (Topics in English Linguistics, ed. Bernd Kortmann & Elizabeth Closs Traugott.) Berlin, New York: Mouton de Gruyter.


Sebba, Mark, Sally Kedge and Susan Dray. 1999. The Corpus of Written British Creole: A user’s guide. Online at University of Lancaster, Dept. of Linguistics and Modern English Language.


Sebba, Mark and Shirley Tate. 1986. ‘You know what I mean?’ Agreement marking in British Black English. Journal of Pragmatics 10: 163-172.


Sebba, Mark and Shirley Tate. 2002. ‘Global’ and ‘local’ identities in the discourses of British-born Caribbeans. International Journal of Bilingualism 6(1): 75-89.


Sebba, Mark and A.J. Wootton. 1998. We, they and identity: Sequential vs. identity-related explanation in code-switching. In Peter Auer, ed., Code-switching in conversation, 262-289. London: Routledge.


Straw, Michelle and Peter L. Patrick. Fc. Dialect acquisition of glottal variation in /t/: Barbadians in Ipswich. To appear in Language Sciences. Draft online at Patrick’s papers site.


Straw, Michelle and Peter L. Patrick. 2003. Variation in glottalisation of (t) in Ipswich. Unpublished conference paper delivered to NWAVE-32 conference, 9-12 October 2003, Philadelphia PA. Online at Patrick’s papers site.


Sutcliffe, David. 1978. The language of first and second generation West Indian children in Bedfordshire. Unpublished M.Ed. thesis, University of Leicester.


Sutcliffe, David. 1982. British Black English. Oxford: Blackwell. [PM7874.G7 S97 1982]  [The first and one of the best linguistic studies (of the Bedford variety), this book integrates a brief grammatical description, a consideration of the continuum and nature of the systems involved, some texts, and a sociolinguistic overview of language identity & education. Sutcliffe’s interest was first aroused as a school teacher; his emphasis on Creole maintenance and non-London studies produce a very different picture from Sebba’s work.]


Sutcliffe, David & Carol Tomlin. 1986. The Black churches. In Sutcliffe & Wong, eds., 15-31. [A brief description of Caribbean Pentecostal churches in Britain, with ethnographic description of the speech events in the service, and comments on the use of Creole and English.]


Sutcliffe, David and Ansel Wong, eds. 1986. The language of the Black experience. Cultural expression through word and sound in the Caribbean and Black Britain. Oxford: Blackwell. [An uneven collection of articles, both cultural and sociolinguistic, by writers both from within and without the British Black speech community.]


Sutcliffe, David with John Figueroa. 1992. System in Black language. Clevedon, Avon: Multilingual Matters. [P40.5.B42 S88 1992] [A more detailed examination of ‘British Jamaican Creole’ structure, including clausal syntax and intonation, as well as fuller historical background on Creoles and a consideration of change and stability issues. Introduced by the late poet and educationist John Figueroa.]


Tate, Shirley. 1984. Jamaican Creole approximation by second-generation Dominicans? The use of agreement tokens. Unpublished M.A. thesis, Department of Language and Linguistics, University of York.


Wells, John C. 1973. Jamaican pronunciation in London.  Oxford: Blackwell. [An early and rigorous study focused on the speech of adult immigrants from Jamaican who underwent long-term accommodation to London English; thus, not about a nativised variety.]


Wight, James, and R.A. Norris. 1970. Teaching English to West Indian children: The research stage of the project. Schools Council Working Paper 29. London: Evans/Methuen Educational. [This monograph, presumably out of print, is a report on the first 18 months’ research of the ‘West Indian Project’ based at Birmingham University, focusing on children of West Indian background aged 7-9, whether born in England or in the West Indies (as preliminary research suggested no significant difference).]


Willis, Lerleen. 1999. Bilingualism in African-Caribbean young people in Sheffield: A micro-level study of bilingual interaction in friendship groups. Unpublished Ph.D. thesis, Department of English, University of Sheffield.


Willis, Lerleen. 2002. Language use and identity among African-Caribbean young people in Sheffield. In Paul Gubbins and Mike Holt, eds., Beyond boundaries: Language and identity in contemporary Europe, 126-144.  Clevedon, Avon: Multilingual Matters.


Wong, Ansel. 1986. Creole as a language of power and solidarity. In Sutcliffe & Wong, eds., 109-122.


Wright, Fiona J. 1984. A sociolinguistic study of passivization amongst black adolescents in Britain. Unpublished Ph.D. thesis, Department of Linguistics, University of Birmingham.


African Diaspora Englishes Research Group

Bibliography of African American English

African American English homepage

Mark Sebba’s British Creole Resources

Jamaican Creole transcriptions

Peter L. Patrick's homepage

65 entries

Last updated 18 January 2005