1996 - Allsopp's Caribbean Dictionary

Banner image of Carribean dictionary

 

The 'Dictionary of Caribbean English Usage' was compiled by Richard Allsopp, and was first published in 1996. It records a rich variety of words spoken in land scattered over 1 million square miles. While many of these words might sound strange (spranksious means bold or good-looking; a do-flicky is a gadget or tool), others such as suck (to experience hardship) and kill (to make ache with laughter) have become, for many of us in Britain, part of a familiar vocabulary.

The status of Caribbean English

In the introduction to the dictionary Allsopp explains that, for decades, teachers and employers in the English-speaking Caribbean had complained about the 'poor standard of English' used by the public. However, since the 1960s, scholars have recognised that these alternative versions of English have a validity of their own. Allsopp outlines the kind of questions that must be asked by the lexicographer of Caribbean English: What is the right/wrong  way to speak English in the Caribbea; How should local or regional words be judged, and who should judge them - Britain, North America, the 'international' community, other Caribbean states, teachers? Allsopp believed that a dictionary of Caribbean English usage would help to fix and promote the words and phrases used in these regions, words that are different from 'official' English but that are, in the Caribbean, essential components of everyday life.

Word gathering

The process of collecting words for the dictionary was complicated. Words were taken from a wide range of written sources: Caribbean literature, local histories, guidebooks, court records, folk songs and music collections. Also, a team of researchers carried out workshops, recording voices in 22 regions (from Guyana to Belize) speaking on a range of subjects - including architecture, nature, children's games, folk medicines, weddings, industry, and superstitions.

Richard Allsopp is linguistics scholar, and formerly worked at the University of the West Indies, Barbados.