A synopsis of what motivates what I do

A chinese lion statue

I am a native speaker of Jamaican Creole and according to my grandfather, a descendant of the Igbos.  I am a Creolist and Sociolinguist by trade and the main thrust of my research is the prosody of Caribbean Creoles varieties. I guess I should confess that I was a syntactician in a former life (pre graduate school), and in some sense I must have always been interested in the structure of Creole languages, because here I am now looking at higher level phonological structure in these varieties....the 'syntax' (grammatical structure) of intonational melodies.  I was first introduced to structural differences between Jamaican Creole and Standard Jamaican English by my Grade 4 primary school teacher, Eric McKenzie, who asked his class of mostly 9 yr olds to compare sentences in the 2 languages. More than 12 years later I would do a first degree in Linguistics at the University of the West Indies, Mona Campus in Jamaica where I had the opportunity to learn from pioneers in the field of Creole Linguistics and later on complete both an MA and PhD in Linguistics at The Ohio State University.

A thesis: The long held belief that Creole languages constitute a typological class on purely structural grounds has been debunked (see discussions in Mufwene 2000; Winford 2003; DeGraff 2003, 2005 among many others). Similarly, Creolists no longer adhere to the notion that Creole formation is a necessarily unique set of circumstances that led to a special set of characteristics, hence the view towards L2 acquisition for example.  Even though most of these discussions are centered around morphosyntactic aspects of the languages, these advances appear to be forgotten when it comes to the prosody. My research on prosody addresses some of these issues.

Research Interests


This aspect of my research focuses primarily on synchronic descriptions of the phonology of Caribbean English lexified Creoles and secondarily on putative West-African substratum influences on these systems. My dissertation research discussed the acoustic-phonetic (F0) differences between segmentally identical reduplicated words in Jamaican Creole. I show that these are stress-based differences which allow for prosodic disambiguation of these words.  Since then my interest has turned to the prosodic typology of (Caribbean) Creoles whose prosodic systems are said in some cases to combine (putative) lexical tone and stress. I examine word level aspects of prosody in my work on the Acoustic Properties of Stress in Jamaican Creole, and phrase level aspects of prosody in work on the Intonational Phonology of Jamaican Creole. I am currently involved in a collaborative project with Kathy-Ann Drayton considering cross-Creole comparisons between Jamaican Creole and Trinidadian Creole. In a 2009 paper with Mary Beckman, we take the controversial view that the prosodic properties of Caribbean Creoles are not too disimilar from prosodic properties of several non-creole languages we survey.


I am also interested in the sociocultural aspects of language use in African-diaspora language varieties.  So far, I have only looked at AAVE in Pittsburgh and reported on this in collaborative work with Maeve Eberhardt. The initial report appears in the Penn Working Papers in Linguistics 13:2. The main focus of the research is on issues related to language use as a reflection of ethnicity and local Pittsburgh identity. In a separate project I have begun to look at the prosody and intonational phonology of the variety. A very preliminary report appears in Lanehart (2009), chapter 8.


As a graduate student, I designed a funded research program to gain a better understanding of morphosyntactic variation in the tense-aspect system of English-based Creoles. I focussed on Belizean Creole as the intial data was made available to me by Don Winford and I later conducted my own fieldwork in Bermudian Landing and in Belize City, Belize (Central America). I consider theoretical and analytical issues in a narrative/discourse approach to tense-aspect while taking into account the aktionsarten of verbs. A very early version of the results appears in the Penn Working Papers in Linguistics 8:3 and a more full-bodied discussion appears in the English World Wide journal (29:3).


Please bear in mind that manuscripts that appear here will be different from published versions. Refer to these if you wish, but do let me know and update your reference with the published versions when they become available.
A chinese dragon
  (Expected December 2011). Bejamins Current Topics 36. Co-edited with Clancy Clements.
(forthcoming). Invited Paper.The Intonational Phonology of Jamaican Creole. Prosodic Typology Volume II: Intonational Phonology of Understudied and Fieldwork Languages.Sun-Ah Jun (ed). Oxford University Press.
(In revision). Constraints on Word Level Stress in Jamaican Creole. Journal of Pidgin and Creole Languages.
 (2009). (Guest Editor with Clancy Clements. Language Change in Creole Languages:  Grammatical and Prosodic Considerations. Special Issue of Studies in Language, Vol. 33:2.

  (2009). (First author with Kathy-Ann Drayton and Mary Beckman). Tone inventories and Tune-Text Alignments: prosodic variation in 'hybrid' prosodic systems. Studies in Language,Vol.33:2. Abstract.
  (2009). (co-author with Clancy Clements). Language Change in Creole Languages: Grammatical and Prosodic Considerations. Studies in Language, Vol. 33:2. 
(2009). Invited Paper. Authentically Black, Bona Fide Pittsburgher. A first look at intonation in African American women's speech in Pittsburgh.African American Women's Language. Sonja Lanehart (ed.) Cambridge Scholars Publishing.
(2008). Discourse Aspects of Tense Marking in Belizean Creole. English World Wide, Vol.29:3, pp.306-346.
(2007). Diversity in the Linguistics Classroom. In J. Branche, J. Mullennix & E.Cohn (eds). Diversity Across the Curriculum: A Guide for Faculty in Higher Education. Jossey-Bass (John Wiley & Sons, Inc). ISBN:978-1-933371-28-3.
(2007). Morphophonological Properties of Pitch Accents in Jamaican Creole Reduplication. In M. Huber & V.Velupillai (eds). Synchronic and diachronic perspectives on contact languages. Creole Language Library. John Benjamins.
 (2007). (First author with Maeve Eberhardt). Local Identity and Ethnicity in Pittsburgh AAE. University of Pennsylvania Working Papers in Linguistics. Vol 13.2: Selected Papers from NWAV 35. pp. 81-94.
  (July 2007). Intonational Phonology of Jamaican Creole:An Autosegmental Metrical Analysis. Online Proceedings of the ICPHS Satellite Workshop on the Intonational Phonology of Understudied or Fieldwork Languages, Saarbrücken, Germany.                          
  (in preparation). (with Maeve Eberhardt).  Still different in the [stIl] city?: African American and white vowel systems in Pittsburgh.

  (October 2004). Africa in Motion: Changing Identities in the Diaspora: African (Linguistic) Identity/Continuity inthe Diaspora: Focus on the Caribbean. ASALH, Pittsburgh PA.
  (2003). Reduplication in Jamaican Creole: Semantic Functions and Prosodic Constraints. In S. Kouwenberg (ed).Twice as Meaningful: Reduplication in Pidgins and Creoles. Westminster Creolistics Series Volume 8. London. Battlebridge Publications. pgs.93-103. (ISBN 1 903292 02 6)
  (2003). (third author with Silvia Kouwenberg and Darlene LaCharité). An Overview of Jamaican Creole Reduplication. In S. Kouwenberg (ed). Twice as Meaningful: Reduplication in Pidgin and Creoles. Westminster Creolistics Series Volume 8. London.  Battlebridge Publications. pgs. 105 -110.
  (2003).  Prosodic Contrast in Jamaican Creole Reduplication.  In The Phonology and Morphology of Creole Languages. Linguistische Arbeiten.Vol 478.  Niemeyer Publishers.             
(2003). (edited with H. Dawson, R. Dodsworth and D.Winford).  Studies in Language Contact and Language Change. OSU Working Papers in Linguistics. Volume 57 (Summer).
(2003). The Phonology and Phonetics of Jamaican Creole Reduplication. Phd Thesis. The Ohio State University. Abstract. Get a PDF Copy (16.5 MB) from UMI ProQuest Digital Dissertations, which might be available through your library, or order a copy from OSU Department of Linguistics.                          
(2002). Past Time Reference in Belizean Creole.  Univerity of Pennsylvania Working Papers in Linguistics. Vol. 8:3. Selected Papers from NWAV 30.  
(2000). Stativity and Past Marking in Belizean Creole. Conference Bulletin. The 13th Biennial Conference of the Society for Caribbean Linguistics. UWI Mona, Jamaica. pgs. 171-181.

Field  Work

Random foliage

Site visits:  Belize and Jamaica
Consultant Work
: Kikuyu, Trinidadian Creole, Vincentian Creole
Database work: Sranan, Belizean Creole, AAVE

Contact Information

Shelome Gooden
Department of Linguistics
University of Pittsburgh
2830 Cathedral of Learning
Pittsburgh, PA 15260

Tel:  (412) 624-5922                   Fax: (412) 624-6130