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This paper analyses a corpus of phrases from Jamaican and other Caribbean folk speech with a view to ascertaing their possible Igbo provenance. There seems to be an overwhelming match in terms of morphology and meaning between these Jamaican phrases and some common Igbo idioms. It is however worthy of note that the matching of Igbo and Caribbean or Black American idioms, no matter how persuasive the results may be, cannot produce conclusive evidence of Igbo presence in any particular area or among any particular population sample. Studies of mother-tongue interference in various African Englishes and comparative studies of the West African resources of Ebonics have revealed identical syntactic patterns which can easily be re-translated into many different African languages of the same family. It will, therefore, not at all be surprising if the Caribbean phrases for which we have found Igbo equivalents in the present paper turn out to be translatable, with equal fidelity into one or other languages spoken by West Africans who may also share identical world views and mythologies.


This paper was originally circulated in absentia at Paper presented at a Conference Celebrating Simon Ottenberg’s Contributions to Igbo Studies, at the Africana Studies and Research Center, Cornell University, New York, Monday, March 31-Wednesday, April 2, 2003).



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