Complementation and the creole continuum in the Eastern Caribbean
journal contributionposted on 2023-06-28, 03:33 authored by James WalkerJames Walker, M Meyerhoff
This article examines complement clauses in the Caribbean English spoken in Bequia (St Vincent and the Grenadines). Despite a small population (about 5,000), physical proximity and pervasive kinship ties across villages, Bequia English is characterised by considerable inter-group differentiation, suggesting the existence of a (post-)creole continuum. We analyse variation in the complementisers used to introduce finite (that, zero) and non-finite subordinate clauses (for, to, zero) and relative clauses (that, wh-forms, zero) in recorded conversations with 26 speakers from four villages. While frequency of complementiser use differs markedly across villages, patterns of variation do not present a straightforward continuum between more (Standard-)English-like and more creole-like speech. Examination of the linguistic constraints conditioning complementiser choice provides evidence for distinct emergent endonormative patterns for Bequia English that belie the superficial differences between villages. We argue that linguistic details serve as a common means of expressing a highly local variety of English.