Argue logically for Patois
THE EDITOR, Sir:
Professor Carolyn Cooper's article in The Sunday Gleaner, April 17, 2011, titled 'Patwa rights', is a most entertaining piece. In her usual style, Professor Cooper communicates her opinion on matters about which she has some vested interest, academically or otherwise. This time, she adds to the ongoing debate about Jamaican Patois and its place in society.
Unfortunately, Professor Cooper begins her article by making a statement about law. Says she: "Believe it or not, the Jamaican Constitution covertly acknowledges the fact that 'Patwa' is, indeed, a national language." She then goes on to quote a section of the Constitution which deals with the rights of an arrestee or detainee, highlighting that there is a requirement that throughout the entire process of arrest and detention, the arrestee is guaranteed a right to understand the process in a language which he/she understands.
I respectfully submit that by Professor Cooper's logic, French, Spanish, Latin, Pig Latin, Mandarin, Japanese, Djab Wurrung, Wergaia and every language ad infinitum would be a national language even if only 'covertly acknowledged' by the Jamaican Constitution. Evidently, this logic produces an unacceptable result. That Patois has pre-eminence as a national language is not, based on that section quoted, a function of law.
Professor Cooper goes further to recount a tale about her encounters with a magistrate of the courts. Her tone, though hilarious, was particularly biting. Based on the events she described about two persons who misunderstood the judge, any well-thinking person would see that the logical thing to have done is for him to have asked the judge for clarity if he did not understand what was said.
Those who champion the call for the elevated status of Patois must be careful to construct balanced and logical arguments. This is particularly so when such arguments are meant to be printed in a newspaper of high repute. Opinion or not, intellectual fraud is unacceptable, regardless of the language in which it is communicated.
I am, etc.,