Dread Talk: The Language of Rastafari. VEelma Pollard. Kingston: Canoe Press, 1994
Velma Pollard's Dread Talk focuses on the importance of language to Rastafari. Those who have worked with Rastafari in Jamaica and abroad will appreciate this book. Pollard, a Senior Lecturer in the Faculty of Education at UWI, Mona, who has published widely on issues concerning education and language in the Anglophone Caribbean, brings together a series of previously published (and largely unrevised) essays and academic papers concerning the verbal art of Rastafari as practiced in Jamaica, Barbados, and St. Lucia. This is a welcome addition to an extremely important domain in Rastafarian Studies. As historians and linguists have argued, Creole languages are deeply implicated in processes of resistance and accommodation. Such is the case with Rastafari. Expanding upon Cassidy's "Jamaica Talk," Pollard has invented the term "Dread Talk" and has used it to describe a way of speaking known to practitioners of Rastafari as I-yaric or I-ance. In addition to providing a descriptive term, she has sketched a history of Dread Talk, provided an orthography of sorts, described several (but not all) semantic processes at work, and discussed the relation between Dread Talk, Jamaica Talk, and language change in Jamaica and the Caribbean.
Pollard's emphasis on "la langue" (the word, lexical change, and formal analyses such as broadening and narrowing) was a suitable choice given the limitations of cassette recordings and transcripts (produced by and for someone else in another context). I-yaric, however, is a socially constituted and constituting means of communication. While Dread Talk has provided a solid foundation, formal analyses tend to gloss or background "la parole," the speaker-hearer dyad. This is of both methodological and theoretical importance. Language, for Rastafarians, is an arena, a site of struggle and transformation. It is necessary to pay attention to what linguistic anthropologists and ethnographers of speaking refer to as multi-vocal dialogics (the speaker-hearer dyad, and the reflexive or contrapuntal banter that distinguish the verbal art of Rastafari from ways of speaking in the non-Rastafarian speech community) if we are to understand the social basis of meaning and the various ways language, literacy, and cultural practices are implicated in processes of change.