“Flying at half-mast”? Voices, genres, and orthographies in Barbadian Creole*

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Bajan, a Barbadian creole, has no standard orthography. It is written and published in a variety of spellings, and its readership and the generic scope remain limited. The reception of Bajan texts is regimented by the history of representational practices that used non-standard spelling as parody. Because within the cultures of script linguistic prestige depends on the existence of a robust range of written genres, this reception hinders the raising of the prestige of Bajan. The relationship between Bajan spelling and its prestige, then, comes around a full circle: the lack of standardized orthography reinforces the low prestige of Bajan that prevents its emergence. Because the low prestige restricts social mobility of lower-class Bajan speakers, it reinforces social hierarchies. Thus, the interpretive practices of the readers whose stance toward Bajan texts is not determined by spelling are particularly interesting. I consider such alternative readings and propose how to account for them.


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