Where does Patwa Come from?
Jamaican Patois or “Patwa” is the language that is used by most Jamaicans in non-professional everyday conversation. It’s a strange language at that because it has so many loan words from many different languages and at the same type sounds similar to Jamaican English. The Language if it can be called that can be traced back to the way in which Jamaica got started as a country. Because of the diversity throughout history there have been many different people with different cultures being in Jamaica.
The First People That was to influence Jamaican Patwa as we know it today would be the Arawak or the Taino Native Americans. These indigenous tribes were the peace loving People that were living in Jamaica and a few other Caribbean Islands before the arrival of the Europeans. There are a few words that they use that can be found in modern Day Jamaican Patwa.
Then As time went on the Spanish came and made the Island of Jamaica their Colony and for a while all seemed well. They imported Africans and those Africans added to the production of the country. The Spanish added words to the Jamaican Patois language and so did the Africans. In fact the Africans had arguably the most influence on the language itself. The many different tribes that came here added a different word. For example the Jamaican Patois Word for eat which is nyam can be traced back to the African language called Wolof. The Spanish had the word pickney which is a small child. This can be traced back to the word pequeno which is small in Spanish.
After the British conquered the island, They themselves brought their English language and with that, more influence on the Jamaican patois language. The British brought with them Irish indentured servants and that’s why sometimes people say that Jamaicans have an almost Irish way of speaking English. The British and the Irish started bringing over indentured servants after the slave trade stopped and so that is why you can find many Indians, chinese, Lebanese and even continental Europeans today in the country. Each of them brought their culture and mixed in with the local Jamaican culture and they each also brought their language and it was mixed into Jamaican patois.
So whenever you hear Jamaican patois, either from a Jamaican on the street or through reggae or dancehall music. Try to find where the words they are saying originated from. I think you might be surprised! Please drop me a comment to tell me what you thought of this article.