Rastamouse vibrations

A children’s show on television has caused delight to most and upset to some. Rastamouse is a tam-wearing, skateboard-riding mouse who likes to solve crimes and – in his words – make a bad ting good. He also speaks in Jamaican patois.

Using Rastamouse can open up new ways of looking at varieties of English which differ from the Standard in terms of their grammar, lexis and phonology. There is emerging evidence that the study of non-standard varieties of English can not only help your understanding of the features and uses of that variety, but also give you a much better grasp of Standard English.

Project aims

  • To look at some examples of the dialogue in Rastamouse and study the ways in which Jamaican English as represented in this show differs from Standard English in its morphology and syntax.
  • To concentrate on specific features of language in Rastamouse and consider how they help shape character and narrative.

Project outline

  • Use the official Rastamouse channel on YouTube to collect extracts of language from the show.
  • Transcribe short extracts from the data.
  • Identify key differences between Standard English and that used in the transcripts. Here are some examples from episode 6, Hot Hot Hot:
    • Scratchy tells Zoomer Ya skip a beat using an uninflected verb skip to signify the past tense (skipped).
    • Rastamouse says Mi just not feelin’ it today, using the 1st person object pronoun, me, rather than the standard I.
    • In Rastamouse’s sentence there’s also ellipsis of the auxiliary verb in the present progressive construction (mi just not feeling it today, rather than I am just not feeling it today), another typical feature of Jamaican English.
  • The Rastamouse books and magazine also provide some very good sources of data, where issues of voice, characterisation and narrative construction can be explored.

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