By Danielle Swain
The University of Guyana (UG) launched the Dictionary of Caribbean English Usage School Edition at their second Diaspora Conference on Tuesday.
Published by the University of West Indies Press, the book was edited by Guyanese academic Dr Jeanette Allsopp, and the late Dr Wendy Griffith-Watson – the first female Chief Education Officer of the Ministry of Education, Barbados.
Dr Allsopp described the launch as an “emotional moment” reflecting on her time as a lecturer at UG in 1963 during its early Queen’s College days.
“The point to be made is that all these items reflect our linguistic and our cultural heritage because language is culture.
“We have been fragmented…our linguistic psyche has been bruised enough by the colonial masters for us to feel…that our language is inferior. It is not,” said Allsopp.
Like the original Dictionary of Caribbean English Usage, the School Edition provides the labels for a variety of items across the Caribbean society and illustrates the richness and variety to be found in Caribbean life and both the similarities and differences between territories.
The school edition also breaks down the linguistic sophistication of the first book, making it more accessible to all Caribbean people.
The first of its kind, the book is a promise fulfilled to Dr Allsopp’s late husband Dr Richard Allsopp, also a Guyanese and retired Reader and Honorary Professor of Caribbean Lexicography at the Cave Hill Campus of the University of the West Indies.
Honouring the couple’s work in regional lexicography, the Allsopp Centre is named after them at the UWI’s Cave Hill Campus in Barbados. Lexicography is the activity of compiling dictionaries.
Dr Richard Allsopp edited the original Dictionary of Caribbean English Usage published in 1996.
His research began in the 1940s when he studied in the United Kingdom and learnt that his “standard English” was oftentimes not when he was corrected by lecturers for using phrases like “the rain held up.”
Giving a detailed account of the thematic structure of the dictionary, Dr Jeannette Allsopp said it reflects the Caribbean environment, lifeways, customs, traditions, artefacts, cooking utensils, architecture, music, dance, musical instruments, dishes, folklore, festivals, religion, organisations, national orders, national symbols etc.
Complete with pictures, territorial labels, descriptions, encyclopaedic information, and etymology, Allsopp mentioned that many Caribbean sayings like “carry water in a basket” are of West African origin.
Dr Paloma Mohamed, Vice Chancellor XI, University of Guyana, stated in brief remarks that the University was honoured and privileged to meet and host Dr Jeannette Allsopp.
Referencing Dr Allsopp’s time at the University in 1963, Dr Mohamed educated the audience with some knowledge from the first Deputy Vice Chancellor, Prof. Harry Drayton’s book.
“The University of Guyana was the only University established by a colonized people – the only University in the world.”
“I didn’t know that, but I’ll tell you, if this (Dr Allsopp) is the kind of staff that we had in 1963, they knew exactly what they were doing and why they were doing it,” said Mohamed.
Dr Mohamed promised that UG Press will help promote the book once physical and digital copies are released. The book will also be available at the UG campus store.
Copies were donated to the University of Guyana Library and the National Library.
The book is available for pre-order via UG Press at firstname.lastname@example.org