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The Hurricane Speaks

Presenter Melvyn Bragg
For the poet Edward Kamau Braithwaite the legacy of the English language is something from which he, in his tropical landscape must break free because, as he wrote, "the hurricane does not roar in pentameters." Melvyn Bragg heads off to the Caribbean where he meets a number of linguists who are mapping out an ambitious plan to make Creole the official language across the whole of the English-speaking Caribbean. But how would this work in practice? He travels across the region ending up in St Lucia where he discusses the use of Creole and standard English with Nobel Prize-winning poet Derek Walcott, one of the most skilled exponents of the English language today?

Sabina Park cricket ground, Jamaica
The cricket ground in the West Indies illustrates the marriage of English and Caribbean cultures. Sabina Park, Jamaica's top cricket venue, offers a colourful showcase for the mixture of cultures and languages - English and the local language of Creole. audio clip

West Africans imported into the Caribbean to work on sugar plantations
What was the path that led English to the linguistic continuum to Creole? English arrived with settlers in the 1620's and the first West African slaves were imported to work on the sugar plantations a generation later. There is controversy whether Creole can be linked to a simplified English spoken between sailors and slaves on the ships that brought the Africans to the plantations.

What is certain is that many words were 'borrowed' from the indigenous population.
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Bridgetown, Barbados
Creole isn't uniform. There are a varied set of Creoles in the Caribbean: Barbados is closer to standard English while Jamaica has a more distinct local language.
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Melvyn Bragg and Derek Walcott
Derek Walcott, the Nobel prize winning poet, symbolises the complex racial and cultural mix of the Caribbean. He believes that English and Creole are of equal importance, although he does admit that he generally thinks in English.

In conversation with Melvyn Bragg, Derek Walcott re-worked some of his award winning epic poem, 'Omeros'.
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Kingston, Jamaica
The poet Edward Kanu Brathwaite praises the natural vernacular of the Caribbean. He contrasts it with the British poetic rhythms and feels that the natural rhythms of the region are better suited to self expression. Adapting calypso rhythms has worked well. audio clip

Joan Andrea Hutchinson
Creole developed primarily as English words were used by the African slaves. The language , though, has maintained its African structure. Standard English has also developed its own localised intonations.

Joan Andrea Hutchinson is a young poet who has championed Jamaican Creole. she follows in the steps of Louise Bennett who highlighted Creole on the world stage. Joan strongly feels that Creole is a distinct language itself rather than, say, a dialect.
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Derek Walcott
Some academics are proposing making Creole an official language across the entire region. Derek Walcott, though, is wary of political decisions affecting the use of language and sees this hope as a romantic ideal. audio clip

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