What is nation language, according to Edward K. Brathwaite?

According to Edward Kamau Brathwaite, nation language is the new language formed by the slaves and laborers who were brought to the Caribbean by the colonizers. Nation language uses the words of the imperial language (in Brathwaite's case, English) but has very different speech patterns.

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In his 1984 book History of the Voice, Edward Kamau Brathwaite establishes and explores the concept of "nation language." Within the context of the Caribbean, Brathwaite distinguishes nation language from the "imperial language," which is the standard form of English, Spanish, or whatever the language of the colonizers happened to be. He also separates it from the mixed "creole languages." In addition to these types of language, he says:

We have also what is called nation language, which is the kind of English spoken by the people who were brought to the Caribbean, not the official English now, but the language of slaves and laborers, the servants who were brought in.

Brathwaite is best-known as a poet, and he discusses the use of the nation language in Caribbean poetry, including his own. He remarks that iambic pentameter is by far the most popular meter for a line of English poetry, and says that this is because it is a meter peculiarly well adapted to the speech patterns of imperial English. Caribbean people, however, do not speak in the rhythm of iambic pentameter. Their speech patterns are influenced by their African origins, though they are not exactly the same as these either, having changed over time. It is in composing original poetry that the informal vitality of Caribbean nation language comes into its own. Brathwaite argues that even if the words are English, the rhythms of speech and the way the words are used have changed so much that nation language deserves to be regarded as a new language, not merely a dialect.

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