Liberian English

Varieties- Liberian Vernacular English or Vernacular Liberian English(VLE)

This is the third lesson on a variety of Liberian English (Koloqua). Last post was on Liberian Pidgin English which is considered by Singler (1981) as the most “pidginized” variety of Liberian English. Again, it is important to note that these varieties are seen on a continuum and as Singler (1997) explains these different varieties are often understood simply as English by Liberians (p.206). It is the linguist who often identifies these different varieties (to complicate things further, Singler states that VLE is understood as Liberian English in Liberia, yet Singler rejects promoting this as it wrongly implies that the other varieties are not Liberian) (p.227). Ultimately, it is important to understand that differences in varieties are not bounded and are artificial.

According to Singler (1981) VLE is a more “standard-like” variety compared to that of LPE. It is often used by those with some form of schooling and who have a grown-up speaking English. Singler in journal articles (instead of learning manuals, like the Peace Corps, 1981 manual), describes VLE as mesolect (an intermediate dialect) and LPE as a basilect (less prestigious), Standard Liberian English is described as a acrolect (most prestigious dialect).  Though he notes that even within VLE there are acrolect, mesolect, and basilect varieties. In several articles this difference is in part attributed to schooling (as noted above) but it is also commonly associated with location, particularly an urban rural divide (Singler, 1997). A basic difference between VLE and LPE is that in VLE gender distinction is commonly observed, though similar to LPE non-standard auxiliaries are used (e.g. na , dor, and fini) (p.32). In this case “na” and “fini” correspond to “have completed” (example: John fini eat the bread; standard- John has eaten the bread). To further distinguish between LPE and VLE, Singler (1997) notes that in LPE (which he calls KPE in later works) does not have any kind of tense marking, in VLE there is such tense marking, though this is in itself on a continuum within VLE and differs from that of Standard Liberian English (which is closer to what one would describe as “American” English).

All this is undoubtedly confusing for an untrained linguist, like myself. As a result, the next webpost will attempt to compare these differences between the varieties and provide examples….hopefully resulting in at least some understanding on the differences between the varieties of English.


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