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Meet the Faculty

The Language Warrior

Caribbean creole languages have traditionally been championed by linguists born in the region and schooled at The UWI.  Dr. Jason Siegel is therefore a creole language warrior with a difference!

All the way from Connecticut in the United States, Dr. Siegel can only be described as a creole language warrior intent on building on the strong legacy of Caribbean linguists past and present, while opposing language prejudice of all kinds.

Like other linguists from our region, he questions why the term ‘broken’ is most often attributed to creoles spoken by countries with a strong African influence, where whites are a minority.

Furthermore, he wonders whether the term ‘broken’ should even be used since creole variants of English and French are not structurally different to the so called ‘unbroken’ variations spoken by the peoples of Europe and the United States. 

Few people may know that linguists are not obligated to speak the languages that they study because linguistics is the science, rather than the articulation of a language. However, in his dare to be an academic with a difference, Dr. Siegel enrolled in Indiana University, then the first school in the world to offer instruction in Haitian Creole.  He then went on to learn French Guianese Creole for the doctoral research conducted on this highly understudied part of South America. 
From left to right: Krista St. Juste (Stenographer/Clerk), Dr Romel Springer (recent Ph.D. in Caribbean Lexicography), Dr Jason Siegel, Dr Jeannette Allsopp (Honorary Research Fellow)

Dictionaries and Spell Checkers
On becoming the Director of the Richard & Jeannette Allsopp Centre for Caribbean Lexicography in 2014, Dr. Siegel inherited a course called ‘Making Caribbean Glossaries’.  In this course, he makes sure to impart the correct appreciation for language intricacy and complexity in the process
of developing dictionaries. Students leave the course being fully cognisant of the fact that good dictionaries are key if our creole languages are to gain even fuller legitimacy in the global linguistic landscape.
Dr. Siegel is also intent on a community-driven dictionary project which captures not only ‘Bajan’ words but the ‘Standard’ English that Barbadians speak in everyday discourse. Only then can the length and breadth of Barbadian English be fully documented. In fact, comprehensive dictionaries need to be done for all the English-official territories in the Caribbean region.

The creole advocate praises the work done by the Allsopp Centre’s Secretary Krista St.Juste in their joint development of a spell checker for Caribbean English. Microsoft Word currently has a setting for Caribbean English, but it only contains British English words!  By populating this checker with words from the Dictionary of Caribbean English Usage, along with other indigenous word compilations, users will no longer be alerted when they type in a word like ‘pompasetting’! 

Tourism and Linguistics
Tourism is our business and linguists can certainly play a big part! Dr. Siegel has joined with noted TV producer Kent Jordan to develop a series of television vignettes on Bajan phrases and words to be aired on Holiday Barbados – a cable channel which targets visitors to the island. The first vignette captured his own hilarious experience in a Barbadian pet store when the Sales Assistant asked if he was ‘getting through’ and he thought that she was asking him if he had enough room to pass through the crowded aisle with the large sack on his back!

There is also an opportunity for students to join him in the preparation of high quality colour glossaries of Barbadian tourist attractions. These publications could be sold as souvenirs and translate to entrepreneurial ventures for the students involved.

First Year Experience
Dr. Siegel is a facilitator in the First Year Experience (FYE) programme for Cave Hill freshers. This highly sought after programme, administered through the Office of Student Services gives students a wide range of study, time management and life skills. Dr. Siegel enjoys working with the FYE students and watching them embrace the lessons and skills that combat the stress of university life, while making them better global citizens. He also told us that his co-facilitator Ms. Robena Nicholls from the Office of Student Services has led the way for him, and is nothing short of a pro!
On a celebratory outing with an FYE class

The Other Side of Dr. Siegel
It is probably quite clear by now that Dr. Siegel enjoys classroom interaction and active advocacy, but there are other sides to this articulate and passionate graduate of Middlebury College – a top tier liberal arts college established since 1800 in the state of Vermont, USA. We were surprised to know that he can sing, and spent twenty years rendering Mozart, Bach and the like with choirs and choruses!
After walking practically everywhere when he first came to Cave Hill, the energetic lexicographer decided about three years ago to purchase a car and relaxes by taking leisurely drives around the island to explore the beautiful scenery.  Last, but by no means least, Dr. Siegel is pet lover who takes great delight in the company of the cats in his care. 

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