Research Papers

By Peter L. Patrick

University of Essex


Some of the papers which may appear on this page have been published in one version or another, others have not. All of them are my intellectual property. Feel free to read them and send me your comments. If a version of one has been published elsewhere, please cite the original publication and credit the publishers; if it has not appeared yet, please do me the courtesy of contacting me before you cite it in print, as I may be revising it. In either case, please respect the rights of the author (me) and publishers (if any).


Linguistic Rights in the Asylum Context

Individuals with varying types of language expertise – linguists with academic credentials, interpreters with different levels of qualification, native speakers with few or no academic qualifications – are increasingly involved in the determination of national, regional or ethnic origins of refugees as part of the asylum process. There is considerable controversy over the role, if any, that language experts and linguistic expertise should play in LADO (Language Analysis for the Determination of Origins), and each host nation differs in its practices. Attempts to draw up a minimum set of standards (Language and National Origin Group, 2004, link) - widely endorsed by linguists - have been both referred to and contested in legal proceedings. In this powerpoint from a 2014 seminar at the University of Essex, I explain and define key issues and developments. I contextualize LADO, discussing what linguists do and are, what we know and do not know, and the role of expert opinion in the judicial process; describe LADO and its origins; examine the institutional pressures and context of LADO; discuss the growing involvement of linguists, and the development of the Guidelines for Use of Language Analysis…; describe the controversy over the role of native speakers in LADO; offer my opinions on how LADO is conducted in the UK and what should be done to improve the process; and describe recent legal challenges in the UK, including a Supreme Court case in 2014 in which I participated as a consulting linguist.

A 2012 seminar at Edge Hill University (similar version given at Bayreuth University, ASNEL/GNEL) theorises the speech community at more length and contrasts the national order, dynamic and ‘enlightened’ speech community models.

This plenary address to the International Association of Forensic Linguistics 10th Biennial conference at Aston University (July 2011) takes apart a sample LADO report from the UK process, identifies four fundamental problems in LADO, and concludes with a review of progress since 2004 and a LADO wish-list.

For more information on LADO, please see the Language and Asylum Research Group (LARG) webpage.


Number Marking in Jamaican Patwa

This paper analyzes variation in the marking of number on plural nouns in mesolectal Jamaican Patwa (JP) in typological perspective. Number marking is one of only three variable features for which sufficient comparable quantitative data exist from Creole and African American English speech communities (Rickford 2006). Earlier theoretical claims for grammatical and functional principles to constrain variation in JP, and English-related Creoles generally (Bickerton 1975, Dijkhoff 1983, Mufwene 1986), are tested and found wanting. Many previous empirical studies lacked a valid, sufficiently nuanced taxonomy of surface forms which can reliably map onto the level of reference, and permit reorganization at a more abstract level capable of allowing generalizations. Quantitative analysis considers the choice between plural –z and non-marking on regular nouns (with possible co-occurrence of overt marker dem included as an independent variable) in light of the major claimed linguistic constraints – syntactic, semantic, pragmatic and phonological. Results are compared with other contemporary English-lexicon Creoles, African American Vernacular English (AAVE, eg Rowe 2005), and African American Diaspora varieties (eg Singler 2007). Two corpora are first analysed separately, then combined to form the largest database yet studied for number-marking in any single Creole, African American Diaspora, or African American Vernacular English-speaking community. Results show that number-marking with –z/zero variation is a robust part of JP grammar, operating according to a system that is markedly different from the redundant agreement of English, yet consistent across a wide spectrum of speakers. Moreover, the data contradict the various ‘Creole patterns’ put forth in the literature, and used as a basis for historical conclusions concerning AAVE and Creole genesis. Number marking clearly does not follow earlier accounts constraining it by referentiality of the NP. Neither is it a functional response by speakers to ease listeners’ comprehension task (cf. James 2001), and the ‘local disambiguation’ pattern (argued to be “quintessentially creole” by e.g. Poplack, Tagliamonte, & Eze 2000) does not hold of any of the varieties compared. Finally, this paper characterizes contrasts in levels of redundant marking across the JP Creole continuum, arguing that the same constraints hold for all speakers and illustrating the rise of systematic redundant marking across the speech community, thus shedding light on the nature of agreement in Atlantic Creole continua. (This powerpoint version was presented at a Stockholm University seminar in March 2009, and at the Eighth Creolistics Workshop in Giessen, April 2009.)


Pidgins, Creoles and Variation

This draft version of a chapter appeared in The Handbook of Pidgin and Creole Studies, edited by Silvia Kouwenberg and John V. Singler (2008, Blackwell: 461-487). In it, I argue that an understanding of linguistic variation underlies fundamental concepts in the field of P/Cs; distinguish 3 commonly-understood senses of ‘variation’, and their associated assumptions and understandings; outline the Labovian variationist framework and its contributions to P/C studies; consider the functions of variation in language, and specifically in P/Cs; explore what it means to claim that P/Cs exhibit “more variation” than older languages, and evaluate the claim; review the applications of variationist analyses to a range of Atlantic Creole speech communities and linguistic features; and, finally, argue that inherent variation in P/Cs and their input languages is not eliminated in the competition of forms and grammars that accompanies creolization, but is instead constrained to serve other functions than the purely communicative.

Change in /ai/ and /oi/ among Barbadians in South East England (with Michelle Straw)

The last in a series of papers co-authored with Michelle Straw in which we examine patterns of dialect retention, change and assimilation among three generations of Barbadian immigrants and their descendants in Ipswich, Suffolk. (This 2005 NWAV paper stems from Straw’s PhD thesis, which was completed 2006.) This paper takes acoustic measures (F1, F2) of the nuclei of front upgliding diphthongs in price and choice lexical sets for 24 speakers, evenly divided between Barbadian and Anglo heritage, male and female, and 3 age groups, as well as 8 other reference vowels. We find evidence for neither divergent changes nor retention of Creole structures, but rather that the Barbadian-descent speakers make fundamental alterations in vowel structure across three generations, targeting local Ipswich vowel patterns with remarkable rapidity and accuracy.

Jamaican Creole: Morphology and Syntax

This chapter is the most complete contemporary description of the grammar of Jamaican Creole, building on 1960s work by Beryl Bailey and others, and largely illustrated with data recorded by the author. This draft version appeared 2004 in 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.

British Creole: Phonology

This draft version of a chapter appeared 2004 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. This chapter is a preliminary description of the not-very-deeply studied phonology of a recent variety, British Afro-Caribbean English (sometimes called “British Black English”, “London Jamaican”, or as here, “British Creole”). See also my online bibliography of this variety.

Creole, Community, Identity

This paper reconsiders the original notion of acts of identity (Le Page & Tabouret-Keller 1985), which was based upon studies of variation in Atlantic Creoles, and explores its contingency upon particular features of the original data. The mission of exploring the formation of identity in ‘new’ societies is viewed from a perspective on the historical development of Creole speech communities. Variation in two (post-) Creole data-sets is analysed, for some of the same variables studied in Acts: one group (London Jamaican youth) is typical of that studied under the Acts paradigm in its diffuseness, while another (urban mesolectal Jamaicans in Kingston) is not. A typology of linguistic identity work is suggested – identity development, identity shift, and identity modification – differentiated by age and developmental processes, and by degree of reorientation. (This paper appeared in Christian Mair, ed. 2003, Interaction-based sociolinguistics and cultural studies, thematic issue of Arbeiten aus Anglistik und Amerikanistik 28(2): 249-277. Tübingen: Gunter Narr Verlag.)

Dialect acquisition by Barbadians in Ipswich: Acoustic analysis of /t/ glottalisation  (with Michelle Straw)

In this paper, arising out of Straw’s PhD dissertation (“Dialect acquisition and ethnic boundary maintenance: Barbadians in Ipswich”, funded by the ESRC), we consider one of the best-studied linguistic variables in British English dialects in recent years. Looking at glottalisation of (t) in word-final environments, we identify a previously-unreported pattern by Anglo speakers in Ipswich (departing from what we label the Diffusion Pattern, commonly found elsewhere in Britain). Using instrumental techniques and compon-ential analysis, following the lead of Docherty & Foulkes (1999), leads us to query earlier methods and categories for analysing this variable. We also discover that long-term Barbadian immigrants (whose island speech natively has frequent glottalisation, unlike other Caribbean Englishes) have neither acquired the Diffusion Pattern nor the Ipswich Pattern, but may be partly diverging and partly converging, though more research is required here. This present version developed from a paper given to the Conference on English Phonology in Toulouse, July 2002,  and was recently accepted to appear in Language Sciences.

A subsequent paper summarises and adds to this research by analyzing word-medial environments:

Variation in glottalisation of (t) in Ipswich  (with Michelle Straw)

This .pdf file reproduces the paper we gave at the NWAVE-32 conference, 9-12 October 2003, further developing the line of research just described. In addition to expanding the environments for glottalisation, we here present spectrographic evidence. This paper highlights the processes we  believe to be at work for the two generations of Barbadian speakers studied to date in Ipswich: long-term accommodation for the oldest, dialect acquisition for those who came as children, and perhaps phonological change (the development of new elements in the grammar, and possibly even of a distinctive ethnic dialect of Southeastern British English). We note that in word-final environments,  the Barbadians appear to show the “Ipswich pattern” for one variant of glottalisation, but not for classic glottal stops; while in word-medial, they show a wider range of variants, and diverge noticeably from local Anglo speakers.

The Meaning of Kiss-teeth (with Esther Figueroa)

This paper examines an everyday Caribbean oral gesture, an example of African cultural continuity across the Diaspora. Kiss-teeth is an inherently evaluative and inexplicit paralinguistic element with a sound-symbolic component, which participates in a system of indirect discourse. We look at geographical distribution and diffusion in the Americas, and consider the shared pragmatic functions of the set of related signs – an interactional resource with multiple possibilities for sequential organization, often used to negotiate moral positioning among speakers and referents, and closely linked to community norms and expectations of conduct and attitude. We illustrate with data ranging from historical to contemporary, oral to literary, monologic to interactional. Papers drawing on this article were presented to the Society for Pidgin & Creole Linguistics (4 January 2002 in San Francisco) and the Society for Caribbean Linguistics' 14th biennial conference in Trinidad (16 August 2002). A briefer Powerpoint presentation on this topic, given at Sociolinguistic Symposium 15 in Newcastle upon Tyne on 2 April 2004, is available here.


Competing Creole Transcripts on Trial (with Samuel W. Buell)

A criminal prosecution of Jamaican Creole (JC)-speaking ‘posse’ (=gang) members in New York included evidence of recorded speech in JC. Clandestine recordings (discussions of criminal events, including narration of a homicide) were introduced at trial. Taped data were translated for prosecution by a non-linguist native speaker of JC. Defense counsel disputed the veracity of these texts and commissioned alternative transcriptions from a creolist linguist, who was a non-speaker of JC. Prosecution in turn hired another creolist (the author) a near-native speaker of and specialist in JC, to testify on the relative accuracy of both sets of earlier texts. Differing representations of key conversations were submitted to a non-creole speaking judge/jury, both linguists testified, and defendants were convicted. The role of linguistic testimony and practice (especially transcription) in the trial is analysed. A typology of linguistic expertise is given; effects of the language’s Creole status and lack of instrumentalization on the trial are discussed. (Lead author submitted expert testimony as a linguist; second author tried the case as Assistant US District Attorney for the Eastern District of New York, Brooklyn NY.)


The Speech Community

This paper, which developed out of the one below on "Caribbean Creoles and the Speech Community", was given at NWAVE-28 in Toronto, 17 October 1999, and at greater length to the Dept. of Theoretical and Applied Linguistics at the University of Edinburgh, 20 January 2000. A revised and much extended version is published in JK. Chambers, P Trudgill and N Schilling-Estes, eds. 2001, Handbook of Language Variation and Change from Blackwell. In it, I trace the history of the speech community, a core concept in empirical linguistics, which is at the intersection of many principal problems in sociolinguistic theory and method. I consider its development and divergence, survey general problems with contemporary notions, and discuss links to key issues in investigating language variation and change. I do not offer a 'new and correct' definition, nor reject the concept (both are misguided efforts), nor do I exhaustively survey its applications in the field (an impossibly large task).

Language, Faith and Healing in Jamaican Folk Culture

This paper, originally prepared for a volume on Contemporary Approaches to Language and Religion and recently issued in Essex Research Reports in Linguistics 26 (Nov. 1999), reconsiders a narrative of supernatural healing told by Coppa, a cane-cutter from St. Thomas in Eastern Jamaica. (Coppa's account was analyzed as creatively using the Rasta Talk register in Patrick and Payne-Jackson 1996, Journal of Linguistic Anthropology 6 (1), 1-38.) Coppa's healing story draws on elements of several distinct spiritual and occult traditions in Jamaican folk culture; linguistically, however, it relies on Rastafari discourse, although Rastafarians often oppose themselves to other Jamaican religions. The reasons for this fusion, and the nature of his use of Rasta Talk, are explored. (Arvilla Payne-Jackson and I presented earlier versions of this to the Society for Pidgin and Creole Linguistics and the Society for Applied Anthropology.) This paper is also web-published through the Virtual Institute of Caribbean Studies (where it is available as a PDF download). Visit their Papers section 3, Caribbean History and Culture.

Caribbean Creoles and the Speech Community

This is the 2nd in a series of 4 papers summarizing and enlarging upon the findings of my research since 1989 in a neighborhood of Kingston, Jamaica, which is reported in full in the book Urban Jamaican Creole (see below). This one focuses on enriching the classic variationist conception of the speech community in order to adequately account for the heterogeneity of varilingual Caribbean Sociolinguistic Complexes. (In a more recent paper, see above, I extend the program of reconsidering the speech community concept.) This talk was given 21st August 1998 to the Society for Caribbean Linguistics' 12th biennial conference in St. Lucia, and in longer form at the Center for Research in Linguistics of the University of Newcastle, on May 4, 1999 ("Speech Communities and Creole Continua"). A revised version appeared in June 2002 as Occasional Paper no. 30 of the SCL.

Testing the Creole Continuum

This is 3rd in the series of 4 papers just noted. It evaluates the creole continuum's usefulness in accounting for variation in an urban creole, focusing on John Rickford's (1987) criterion of (non-)discreteness: whether the grammars of different speakers are separated by sharp breaks or are related in a gradient manner. The basic result is that basilectal and mesolectal grammars differ from each other sharply, but above this juncture variation is continuous and non-discrete. This talk was given 2nd October 1998 at the NWAVE-27 conference at the University of Georgia in Athens, Ga. A revised version appeared in the U. Penn Working Papers in Linguistics, Vol. 6.2: Selected papers from NWAV(E) 27 (pp109-120).

Social Status and Mobility in Urban Jamaican Patwa

This paper, 4th in the series of 4 noted above, focuses on John Rickford's (1987) second criterion for the creole continuum, unidimensionality, the central sociolinguistic claim on which the continuum hypothesis rests. When social factors are correlated with linguistic patterns for a number of linguistic variables, can speakers be ordered in a regular way on both axes? How well do social characteristics explain the patterned choices that speakers make? Do social factors cohere or diverge: do they lie along a single dimension, or is a multi-dimensional space required to model their correlations with linguistic production? How exactly does that work? This paper tests the notion that variation in linguistic behavior correlates with social stratification for a major Caribbean urban center (Kingston) in order to discover what, if any, systematic relation holds between the two dimensions for this speech community. This paper was given at the University of Manchester in March 2000, and at the Society for Caribbean Linguistics' 13th biennial conference  in August 2000 -- fittingly in Kingston, Jamaica.

Recent Jamaican Words

Based on a lexicon, much of which was published in American Speech [70(3):227-64, 1995], but with some updating of items. Here I make some additions to the work of the landmark Dictionary of Jamaican English (1967, rev. 1980, ed. Frederic G. Cassidy and Robert B. Le Page; Cambridge University Press). This paper is dedicated to the late Fred Cassidy, who passed away in summer 2000, with thanks for his help and friendship. Elements from this lexicon will appear in various forms in the forthcoming supplement to Richard Allsopp's Dictionary of Caribbean English Usage, and in the forthcoming revision to the Oxford English Dictionary.

Creoles at the intersection of variable processes:

(TD)-deletion and past-marking in the Jamaican mesolect

This slightly revises a paper originally published in Language and Variation and Change [3(2): 171-189], updating references. It analyzes one of the best-known phonological variables in English, for a Caribbean English-lexified Creole (it was the first such examination), and compares it to American English non-standard dialects. It outlines the interaction of phonological deletion processes with variable grammatical marking processes, in which JC differs greatly from all varieties of AmEng. William Labov discusses the solution I developed here as a technique of quantitative reasoning he calls “triangulation” (p10, online version). The literature on the (TD) variable can be explored online, and I have written a general introduction to the variable, both of which serve as background or expansion for this paper. The subject is treated in greater length in chapters 5 and 7 of Urban Jamaican Creole, see below, where I make the case (barely mentioned in the LVC version) that I have not assumed that phonological deletion processes apply in JC – as several creolists have mistakenly claimed - rather, this is the conclusion to an empirical investigation supported by large amounts of data and statistically significant effects.

Urban Jamaican Creole: Variation in the Mesolect

Information (including table of contents) for my 1999 book, published by John Benjamins of Amsterdam in the series Varieties of English Around the World.


 Peter L. Patrick's homepage

Last updated 22 January 2016