Nalo Hopkinson

On the use of language.

“I come out of a literary tradition in the Caribbean of privileging common speech. And that’s a movement that started when my father, who was a poet, a playwright, an actor, was still alive, and there’s people like Kamau Brathwaite, like Louise Bennett-Coverley, who are saying “We speak like this.” It is not ‘bad English;’ linguists are discovering it has its own grammar rules, it has its own logic.  And so there began a movement of writing the way people speak. So I already have permission, is what I’m saying. And also everybody’s speech is beautiful. I mean, if you listen, just listen to people talking on the street where they’re not trying to censor themselves for an English class. They flow. So one of the things I will do is put myself back in that space. I mean, my Caribbean English is middle class English, it still has its own stuff, but it’s not as, it’s not as deep, it’s not as basilectal….There’s three words I’ve learned from linguistics and they are acrolectal, mesolectal, basilectal. And it’s a way of not getting into the trap of saying “This is upper class speech, this is lower class speech.” So they actually go to the center. And they measure speech by how far it is from the center.”

The option to read our full interview with Nalo Hopkinson is also available.

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