CHILDES Jamaican Creole De Lisser Corpus

Tamirand De Lisser
University of Geneva


Stephanie Durrleman
University of Geneva

Luigi Rizzi
University of Geneva

Ur Shlonsky
University of Geneva

Participants: 2
Type of Study: longitudinal
Location: Jamaica
Media type: audio
DOI: doi:10.21415/HRG0-JT87

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Citation information

Publications based on the De Lisser et al. Jamaican Corpus:

De Lisser, T. (2015). The acquisition of Jamaican Creole: The emergence and transformation of early syntactic systems. Doctoral Thesis: Université de Genève.

De Lisser, T., S. Durrleman, U. Shlonsky, L. Rizzi, (2017). The Acquisition of Tense, Modal and Aspect Markers in Jamaican Creole. Journal of Child Language and Development. Vol: 5 Issue: 4 219-255.

De Lisser, T., S. Durrleman, L. Rizzi & U. Shlonsky. (2016). ‘The Acquisition of Jamaican Creole: Null Subject Phenomenon’. Language Acquisition: A Journal of Developmental Linguistics. DOI:10.1080/10489223.2015.1115049

De Lisser, T., S. Durrleman, L. Rizzi & U. Shlonsky. (2014). ‘The Acquisition of Jamaican Creole: A Research Project’. Rivista di Grammatica Generativa. Volume 36: 83 – 101.

Publications based on these data should cite one of the above articles.

Project Description

This corpus documents longitudinal, spontaneous production of Jamaican Creole (JC) by six monolingual basilectal Jamaican children, age ranging from 18 to 23 months at the beginning of recordings, for a period of 18 months. Currently, the corpus includes only 2 of the 6. All participants were strategically chosen from households where Jamaican Creole was predominantly spoken. Each child was recorded every 10 days in separate 60 minutes sessions, for the initial five months, and subsequently approximately every 15 days for the remaining duration of the data collection phase of the project. The database contains a total of 204 hours of recordings, which does not include the first two months when selection and familiarization processes were still underway. The research project is detailed in De Lisser et al. (2014). The current corpus contains audio files and transcripts of two of the children, TYA and SHU, totaling 62 hours of recording.

Tyanna (age range: 1;9,18 – 3;2,15): TYA lived in the community of Roundhill with her parents and two siblings. Her mother was a housewife while her father was a taxi-driver. Her immediate neighbours were her grandmother, aunts and cousins. She had an MLU of 1.22 at 23 month and 4.86 at 38 months. She started school at 35 months; at this point we saw a very rapid development in her speech, moving from an MLU of 2.16 at 34 months of age to a high of 5.38 at 37 months. Her recordings were conducted mainly in the comfort of her home. The corpus in its current release contains two recordings per month and corresponding transcripts from age 1;11,25 to 3;2,15.

Shulae (age range: 1;11,25 – 3;4,13): SHU is the eldest participant in the research project. She had an MLU of 2.88 at 25 months and 5.02 at 40 months. She lived in the community of Back Flagaman with her mother and her brother and enjoyed a visiting relationship with her father and his family who lived just a few meters away. She was the only child for her father. After the passing of her father at 28 months, she lived with her paternal grandparents, aunt and uncle, and then had a visiting relationship with her mother. Her mother was generally unemployed but worked occasionally as a store clerk. Her grandfather operated a shop and her grandmother was a housewife. She started school at 33 months of age. Recordings were conducted mainly at the home of her mother or paternal grandparents, and on a few occasions at the home of her maternal grandmother. The corpus in its current release contains two recordings per month and corresponding transcripts from age 2;1,23 to 3;4,13.

For all transcriptions in this corpus, the JLU (Jamaica Language Unit) modified Cassidy-LePage orthography was employed. This is a system that represents the sounds of JC as faithfully as possible, without relying on the spelling conventions of English. This system has no silent letters and there is a one-to-one mapping of sound to symbol therefore each letter or letter combination is always pronounced the same way (

All data were transcribed in CHAT (Codes for the Human Analysis of Transcripts) format, following the standard guidelines of the CHILDES (Child Language Data Exchange System) Database. However, for clarity, most of the codes were not used. Coding entails analyzing the transcriptions and making notes of the grammatical and syntactic phenomena. This is done by creating a one-to-one correspondence between utterances and standard morpho-syntactic codes on a word-by-word basis on the %xmor line. The list of codes is given in this file . Based on the time frame for the completion of the research project, a decision was taken to code only the utterances of the target children. Based on the non-standard conventions in transcribing JC, coding of the data had to be done manually. A list of codes was developed for conveying the morpho-syntactic relations (see below). Lexical item which could lead to different interpretations or yield different codes in the same context, were verified via the use of native speakers’ judgments where applicable or coded as unknown. The data was also coded for null elements in the grammar.


This research was funded by the Swiss National Science Foundation grant 100015_131793/1.