Mus­ings are thoughts, the thought­ful kind. For the pur­pose of th­ese ar­ti­cles, a-mus­ings are thoughts that might amuse, en­ter­tain and even en­lighten.

The Star (St. Lucia) - - LOCAL - By Michael Walker

S ome of you, Dear Read­ers, will be old enough to re­mem­ber the song ‘Lit­tle Things mean a Lot' that reached the num­ber one spot on the US Bill­board in 1964, so you will know how I feel about lit­tle things that seem to be get­ting ‘lit­tler' by the day as old age in­vades my life. But less of that, and let's get on with the show.

‘The' is with­out doubt a lit­tle word. Some lan­guages do with­out it at all, while oth­ers ei­ther put it be­fore its noun or af­ter it. Swedish for table is ‘bord' while ‘the table is ‘bor­det' in one word and ‘dog' is ‘hund' while ‘the dog' is ‘hun­den'. We have two suf­fixes for ‘the': ‘et' and ‘en'. We have a lot more plu­ral end­ings for ‘the' but I won't bore you with them.

Now the thing is that Saint Lu­cian Cre­ole (SLC) also has sev­eral suf­fixes for ‘the' but I suspect speak­ers of SLC are un­aware of them be­cause the other day I was chat­ting to a dear lady friend of mine, who is a speaker of SLC, and I asked her what the Cre­ole word for ‘the' was. She did not know. I asked her what ‘table' was in SLC and she an­swered ‘tabla' in one word (tab-la). And so be­gan my les­son and my in­tel­li­gent lady friend en­tered the whole new world of Gram­mar.

SLC nouns that end in a vowel, (tra­di­tion­ally a-e-i-o-u) take the suf­fix ‘a' to mean ‘the', for ex­am­ple: kouto-a (the knife), tje-a (the heart or the jetty de­pend­ing on the pro­nun­ci­a­tion of the ‘e'), and so on.

SLC nouns that end in a con­so­nant gen­er­ally take the suf­fix ‘la' to mean ‘the', for ex­am­ple: bagay-la (the thing), tab-la (the table), and so on.

SLC nouns that end in a nasal sound (-an, -on, -en) gen­er­ally take the suf­fix ‘an' to mean ‘the', for ex­am­ple: ban-an (the bench), pon-an (the bridge), pen-an (the bread). Please note that SLC has no silent let­ters ex­cept in the cases of nasal sound like –an, -en, and –on, where the ‘n' is silent. If you want to sound the ‘n' you dou­ble it, e.g. balenn (whale), sa­vann (pas­ture), which is the only time you will find dou­ble let­ters in SLC.

I hope you have no­ticed that all th­ese suf­fixes take a hy­phen: -a, -la, -an, –en, -on. The other suf­fix for ‘the' in SLC is ‘lan'; it's a lit­tle more com­pli­cated but I will try to sim­plify it. If there is a nasal sound (an, en, on - re­mem­ber the ‘n' is not pro­nounced) fol­lowed by a con­so­nant, then the suf­fix is ‘lan', e.g. madanm-lan, balenn-lan, etc.

An­other case where ‘lan' is ap­pro­pri­ate is if the noun ends with ‘in', e.g. lalin-lan (the moon) or machin-lan (the ve­hi­cle), but you will find quite a few speak­ers of SLC us­ing –la in such cases, which is un­for­tu­nate.

What's the point of all this? Clearly, SLC is a lan­guage with rules that de­ter­mine its gram­mar, pro­nun­ci­a­tion and struc­ture. It re­ally is time to start teach­ing the lan­guage in our schools if for no other rea­son than to im­prove our un­der­stand­ing of English Gram­mar. The lan­guages are not the same and the only way to avoid mak­ing mis­takes is to un­der­stand th­ese dif­fer­ences. It works both ways!

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