Language and Societies

ANT/LIN 5320 at Wayne State University

“Emerald Isle of the Caribbean”: Montserrat’s “Brogue” Examined

“Emerald Isle of the Caribbean”: Montserrat’s “Brogue” Examined

Samantha Malette

Although the small volcanic island of Montserrat has been under the control of the British for most of its colonial history, today the island stands out amongst its Caribbean neighbours as the purported “Emerald Isle of the Caribbean”, an identity formed as a result of the Irish culture of the island’s earliest European settlers, and continued by present-day commemorations of St. Patrick’s Day. This island identity has become integral to Montserrat’s contemporary tourism industry, especially in light of the recent volcanic disaster devastating the island. Historical claims exist, purporting the continuity of the Irish accent (or ‘brogue’) among Montserrat’s inhabitants, asserting language ties that remain between the 17th century Irish settlers and present day Montserratians. However, there is some debate amongst scholars as to the verity of such accounts. This paper attempts to expose the accuracy of claims purporting the continuity of local speech of Montserrat as having Irish brogue-like characteristics, situating the island within its historical and present-day contexts. The links between Irish and Montserratian identity, language, and culture are identified, discussed, and interpreted in order to determine the extent to which Irish influence has impacted the formation of Montserrat Creole English. Although a few historical records exist that mention the continuity of the Irish accent into the 18th and even 19th century, these texts must be interpreted critically. A few linguistic characteristics that are shared between Irish English and Montserrat English exist; however, these similarities cannot be used as definitive proof of direct Irish influence, given that these features are also shared among a wide range of Caribbean Creoles that do not possess the same overwhelmingly Irish colonial origins. Nevertheless, this does not detract from the substantial amount of toponyms, surnames, and Irish symbolism that remain persistent on the island today, firmly solidifying these cross-cultural connections. It is clear that although the Irish influence on Montserrat is based on historical evidence, the narrative through which this relationship persists is considerably more complicated than is initially presented.

April 6, 2015 - Posted by | abstract

No comments yet.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: