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Patois (//, pl. same or //) is speech or language that is considered nonstandard, although the term is not formally defined in linguistics. As such, patois can refer to pidgins, creoles, dialects, or vernaculars, but not commonly to jargon or slang, which are vocabulary-based forms of cant.
In colloquial usage of the term, especially in France, class distinctions are implied by the very meaning of the term, since in French, patois refers to any sociolect associated with uneducated rural classes, in contrast with the dominant prestige language (Standard French) spoken by the middle and high classes of cities, or as used in literature and formal settings (the 'acrolect').
The term patois comes from Old French patois 'local or regional dialect' (originally meaning 'rough, clumsy, or uncultivated speech'), possibly from the verb patoier 'to treat roughly', from pate 'paw', from Old Low Franconian *patta 'paw, sole of the foot' + -ois. The language sense may have arisen from the notion of a clumsy or rough manner of speaking.
In France and other Francophone countries, patois has been used to describe non-standard French and regional languages such as Picard, Occitan, and Franco-Provençal, since 1643, and Catalan after 1700, when the king Louis XIV banned its use. The word assumes the view of such languages being backward, countrified, and unlettered, thus patois being potentially considered offensive when used by outsiders. Jean Jaurès said "one names patois the language of a defeated nation". However unlike in France, patois doesn't have an offensive connotation in Switzerland.
Many of the vernacular forms of English spoken in the Caribbean are also referred to as patois. It is noted especially in reference to Jamaican Patois from 1934. Jamaican Patois language comprises words of the native languages of the many ethnic and cultural groups within the Caribbean including Spanish, Portuguese, Chinese, Amerindian, and English along with several African languages. Some islands have creole dialects influenced by their linguistic diversity; French, Spanish, Arabic, Hebrew, German, Dutch, Italian, Chinese, Vietnamese, and others. Patois are also spoken in Costa Rica and Caribbean islands such as Trinidad and Tobago, Barbados and Guyana in South America.
Often these patois are popularly considered 'broken English', or slang, but cases such as Jamaican Patois are classified with more correctness as a creole language; in fact, in the Francophone Caribbean the analogous term for local basilectal languages is créole (see also Jamaican English and Jamaican Creole). Antillean creole, spoken on several present or formerly French islands of the Lesser Antilles, includes vocabulary and grammar of African and Carib origin, in addition to French. It dialects often contain folk-etymological derivatives of French words, for example lavier ("river, stream") which is a syncopated variant of the standard French phrase la rivière ("the river") but has been identified by folk etymology with laver, "to wash"; therefore lavier is interpreted to mean "a place to wash" (since such streams are often used for washing laundry).
Other examples of patois include Trasianka, Sheng, and Tsotsitaal. Patois has also been spoken by some Uruguay citizens, generally immigrants located in the south of Uruguay, mainly arriving from Italy and France, coming from Piedmont.
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Dominican, Grenadian, St. Lucian, Trinidadian and Venezuelan speakers of Antillean Creole call the language patois. It is also named Patuá in the Paria Peninsula of Venezuela, and spoken since the eighteenth century by self-colonization of French people (from Corsica) and Caribbean people (from Martinique, Saint Thomas, Trinidad, Guadeloupe, Puerto Rico, Dominican Republic) who moved for cacao production.
- "patois". Oxford English Dictionary (3rd ed.). Oxford University Press. September 2005. (Subscription or UK public library membership required.)
- "patois". Oxford Dictionaries. Oxford University Press. Retrieved 19 May 2013.
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