“Nobody canna cross it” : entextualization, ideology, and the construction of Mock Registers in the Jamaican speech community



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In this report, I discuss the re-contextualization of a working-class Jamaican speaker’s discourse in the media and the new meanings his speech acquires in the process. The series of re-contextualizations starts out with an interview on Jamaican television, which is in turn remixed into an electronic dance song and accompanying music video. The song entextualizes individual stretches of the speaker’s original dis­course into readily identifiable quotes that turn into Jamaican slang items. In the process, linguistic disorderliness is foregrounded in the utterances in question while their propositional content is virtually erased. In a further instance of re-contextualization, the speaker encounters his by now entextualized utterances in an interview on Jamaican breakfast television and struggles to re-establish his originally intended framing of it. His success in the specific interaction is very limited, but viewers’ comments reveal that the interview does effect a change in the meta-linguistic discourse surrounding the incident. I analyze the data as a case in point of ‘speaky spoky,’ a Jamaican label for un­successful attempts to emulate foreign prestige accents, resulting in linguistic dis­orderliness. By considering aspects of performance, entextualization and the keying of different frames, I demonstrate the interactional work that goes into the construc­tion of speaky spoky as a label, as well as the ideological work that label is put to in turn and its political effects. Based on these observations, I argue that speaky spoky is best understood as a multivalent construct resource for sustaining and influencing lan­guage ideologies. Its interactional versatility renders its relationship to authenticity in the Jamaican speech community complicated and potentially ambiguous.