Liberian English

Liberian English- Varieties

Liberian English is a broad term that encompasses all varieties of English spoken within Liberia. Liberian English is often broken up into separate varieties, with Singler (1982), one of the few researchers of Liberian English (he now uses the term Koloqua to encompass all the varieties), differentiating between five varieties of Liberian English: Liberian Pidgin English, Interior English, Vernacular Liberian English, Settler English, and Liberian Standard English (p.28). Other sources distinguish between four varieties (Hancock, 1971) or only two (Ethnologue), while other use different terms to describe the varieties (for example Wikipedia and worldatlas combine Settler and Liberian Standard, while including Merico Language and Caribbean English). Within these varieties, Singler describes Liberian English as forming a continuum, from the “least standard-like to most standard-like” (note there are definitely issues in defining “standard” and “non-standard” that are wrapped up in systems of power…which will be discussed later). Singler notes that Liberian English speakers do not necessarily exhibit or command one spot on the continuum, but instead move up and down the continuum or encompass a range based on context and situation. Within this continuum variation is apparent in the pronunciation of words, word choice, and grammar (p.17). Among the five varieties, Liberian Pidgin English is described as the “least standard” (Singler further distinguishes between two types within Liberian Pidgin English-Kru Pidgin and Soldier English), while Liberian Standard English is considered the most “standard.” However, as Singler is quick to point out, the distance from the “standard” has little to do with fluency or proficiency in English or with whether or not the variety has a consistent structure or rules. Yet, despite this fact, each variety is often associated with geographical regions and carries with it certain connotations of class, education, and race.


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