Volume 32, Issue 1
  • ISSN 0172-8865
  • E-ISSN: 1569-9730
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This paper contributes to a small, but quickly growing body of literature that looks at orthographic variation as a semiotic resource with which social stances and relations are expressed and created. First, we analyze a corpus of blog and email writing from Jamaica and its diaspora — two settings in which both Jamaican Creole (JC) and a local standard of English are in use. Here, spelling is studied quantitatively as an expression of community-level attitudes toward JC in different settings. In a second step we draw on findings from a survey on attitudes toward language varieties and spelling variation among writers of Creole and English, contextualizing the quantitative analysis. Our findings indicate that diasporic writers make use of nonstandard spellings in a way that marks those lexical items as non-English (thus: as Creole) that are part of the historically shared lexicon of JC and English but whose meanings and functions have come to differ in the two varieties. By contrast, writers living in Jamaica prefer using spelling choices to mark codeswitches between English and Creole, and thus to construct symbolic distance between the codes. A comparison between genders shows women to make a more systematic use of nonstandard spellings according to linguistic constraints than men do.


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  • Article Type: Research Article
Keyword(s): computer-mediated communication; diaspora; gender; Jamaican Creole; orthography; survey
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