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English Has Served As A Lingua Franca In A Multilingual Environment From The Earliest Stages

By Author: Alex Lee
Total Articles: 367

The increasing use of steam-driven ships and the opening of the Suez Canal voided the island's strategic purpose as a refreshment station. With the exception of a short-lived flax industry (which ended in 1965 when the British postal service switched to cheaper synthetic fibre), no industry has provided a viable means of sustaining the island. There is no airport and the single government subsidised ship that connected the island with the United Kingdom has changed its route to become more cost-efficient, now only serving Ascension, St Helena and Cape Town (the annual run to Tristan Cunha was cut as well). Today, many Saint Helenians (or 'Saints', as they call themselves) work on the military bases on Ascension and the Falkland Islands; since 1999, when the British Government conceded full citizenship rights to the islanders, they have full access to United Kingdom workplaces. This affected the community heavily, as perhaps up to 30 per cent of the population, mostly younger Saints, left the Breitling Replica island in search of better job opportunities.

What does all this mean for the sociolinguistic development of the variety and how can we use socio-historical information to assess its status First of all, it is important to note that StHE formed in an environment that was diverse and heterogeneous. Its most influential founders came from the British Southeast and Madagascar (with little, often insignificant, input from other groups). They interacted on a regular basis, though they were socially stratified, being either employees of the EIC or free or indentured planters, and carried different social statuses in the general community and their local communities (there existed differences between indentured labourers vs. free planters, government and administrative staff vs. soldiers, free blacks vs. slaves, Company slaves vs. planter slaves; cf. Schreier, 2008); some were transient (army personnel, practically all of the planters in the seventeenth century), others permanent (particularly so the slaves, whites only from the 1720s onwards). In terms of linguistic development, there is evidence that several varieties were spoken side by side: English, Portuguese, French, Malagasy, plus a number of non-identifiable Indian and African languages. Consequently, this supports Wilson & Mesthrie's (2004:1006) assessment that 'present-day St Helena English is the result of the contact between regional varieties of Southern British English, many of them "non-standard", and the rudimentary pidgin English ("slave fort English") that some slaves must have brought to the island', but it challenges it at the same time. While the identification of StHE's British heritage is certainly correct, the other inputs that contributed to language evolution on St Helena were much more than mere 'slave fort English', so that the scenario is much more complex.

Moreover, whereas the white population has always been English-speaking (or shifted to English quickly, e.g. the group of French Huguenots), the slaves maintained their languages while speaking English at an early stage of settlement history. There are attestations of individual bilingualism in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries (Portuguese in the early 1800s and Malagasy in the second half of the eighteenth century). Though the slaves continued using their own native languages amongst themselves, court records from the 1680s and 1690s suggest that nearly all of them had at least a rudimentary knowledge of English. At the same time, the slave community was stratified very early on (the distinction between slaves and freemen may have been an important factor here) and the blacks displayed diversity in English just as the whites did. Those immersed in and highly respected by the white community (such as house slaves or black freemen) were more acrolectal, whereas farm slaves housed with planter families in the more rural parts of the island were more basilectal (Schreier, 2008:133-4). Tag Heuer Women Replica In any case, English has served as a lingua franca in a multilingual environment from the earliest stages of the community onwards and language shift was completed in the nineteenth century, when St Helena had become 'an exclusively English speaking colony' (Schulenburg & Schu-lenburg, 1997:7). This must have been favoured by increased interaction patterns between the ethnic groups, which started in the 1750s and intensified when slavery was abolished in 1818 (see above).

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