The following is based largely on the tribute paid to Mervyn C. Alleyne in Pauline Christie's Dedication in Caribbean Language Issues Old and New - Papers in honour of Professor Mervyn Alleyne on the Occasion of his sixtieth birthday (edited by Pauline Christie, Kingston: UWI Press, 1996) for “his outstanding contribution to Caribbean language studies over the past three decades.” This is a volume published as “a mark of appreciation to a Caribbean scholar by Caribbean scholars” (xv).
Mervyn Coleridge Alleyne was born in Trinidad on 13 June 1933. He attended Queen's Royal College in Port-of-Spain and later won a scholarship to the fledgling University College of the West Indies, Mona, Jamaica which he entered in 1953.
After graduating from Mona, Alleyne obtained a PhD from the University of Strasbourg, France. He returned to Mona as a lecturer in 1959 and has been one of the longest serving members of staff at the University of the West Indies. He has been Professor of Sociolinguistics since 1982, and Professor Emeritus upon retirement. He was president of SCL from 1990 to 1992, an honorary member since 1998, and an honorary member of the Linguistic Society of America (LSA) since 1996.
It is as a pioneer in Creole Studies, however, that Alleyne has made his real mark. He was one of the few Caribbean born participants in the second ever International Conference on Creole Languages held at Mona in April 1968, the proceedings of which were published in 1971 in Pidginization and Creolization of Languages edited by Dell Hymes. His paper “Acculturation and the Culture Matrix of Creolization” elaborated some of the themes which were to characterize his later work, namely his disagreement with the idea that creoles necessarily develop from prior pidgins and his not unrelated view that the considerable variation manifested among them can be explained by differing degrees of acculturation among Africans who came in contact with Europeans. In his opinion, such variation existed from the inception of these languages. To use his own words, "From the outset a kind of linguistic syncretism took place out of the clash with West African languages of certain West European languages in their full morphological and syntactical forms. The precise nature and degree of this syncretism depends on the way in which the cultural situation developed in each area in the Caribbean and elsewhere." (1971: 170).
Alleyne repudiates the use of the term creole, arguing that its meaning is unclear. He carefully avoided it in his book Comparative Afro-American (1980), arguably the most quoted source on the relevant varieties. In addition to its detailed comparison of structural aspects of Sranan, Saramaccan, Jamaican, Guyanese, among others, this work reveals, not for the first time, his preoccupation with the Black experience as a whole, and with the autonomy of Black culture. His fascination with the correlations between the linguistic picture and other aspects of culture, such as religion, is again manifested in Roots of Jamaican Culture (1988).
A committed substratist, he considers it axiomatic that in change arising out of the kind of language contact that existed between African and European, “there will be transmissions or continuities from the native languages of the people undergoing linguistic change” (1980: 139), even if in some instances these are eventually discarded.
The Interdisciplinary Scholarship of a Caribbeanist: A Tribute to Dr. Mervyn Alleyne
Recorded live on October 20, 2011 12:09 PM ET. Length 137:19 AUDIO ONLY
"The Interdisciplinary Scholarship of a Caribbeanist: A Tribute to Dr. Mervyn Alleyne" was a discussion panel organized by the Institute of Caribbean Studies, which was held on Oct 20, 2011 from 1:00 to 3:00 p.m. in Amp. Manuel Maldonado Denis (CRA 108) of Carmen Rivera de Alvarado (CRA) Building, Faculty of the Social Sciences, UPR-RP.
Dr. Nicholas Faraclas, English Dept and Linguistics Graduate Program, UPR-RP, Dr. Silvia Kouwenberg, Linguistics Dept., Univ of West Indies, Mona, Jamaica (via Skype), Dr. Lowell Fiet, English Dept, , UPR-RP, and Dr. Mervyn Alleyne, English Department and Linguistics Graduate Program, UPR-RP, participated as panelists. Dr. Don Walicek, EnglishDept, UPR-RP, served as presenter and moderator. The activity will be held on Thursday, Oct 20, from 1:00 to 3:00 p.m. in Amp Manuel Maldonado Denis (CRA 108) of Carmen Rivera de Alvarado (CRA) Building, Faculty of the Social Sciences, UPR-RP.
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1963. Communication and politics in Jamaica. Caribbean Studies 3 (2): 22ם61.
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1980a. Comparative Afro-American — An Historical-Comparative Study of English-Based Afro-American Dialects . Ann Arbor: Karoma.
1980b. Introduction to Theoretical Orientation in Creole Studies , edited by A. Valdman and A. Highfield. New York: Academic Press.
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1984. Epistemological foundations of Caribbean speech behaviour. Caribbean Journal of Education 10 (1): 1–7.
1986. Substratum influence: guilty until proven innocent. In Substratum vs. Universals in Creole Genesis , edited by P. Muysken and N. Smith, 301–15. Amsterdam: John Benjamins.
1987. Predicate structures in Saramaccan. In Studies in Saramaccan Language Structures , edited by Mervyn Alleyne, 71–78. UWI, Mona: Folklore Studies Project.
1988. Roots of Jamaican Culture . London: Pluto Press.
1993. Continuity vs. creativity in Afro-American language and culture. In Africanisms in Afro-American Language Varieties , edited by Salikoko Mufwene, 167–81. Georgia: University of Georgia Press.
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2002. The Construction and Representation of Race and Ethnicity in the Caribbean and the World . Kingston: UWI Press. 2004, with Arvilla Payne-Jackson. Folk Medicine of Jamaica . Kingston: UWI Press.