St. Croix author Robin Sterns is planning a
number of events to celebrate publication of her new book, Say it
in Crucian! A Complete Guide to Today's Crucian for Speakers of Standard
The book, featuring everyday phrases, a
basic linguistics, conversations, stories, retold fairytales, a brief
linguistic history of St. Croix and a Crucian/Standard English
dictionary, is being published by Antilles Press.
Sterns, who holds a Ph.D. in creative
writing from Florida State University, has taught English, creative
writing and journalism at several universities. This book grew out of
collaborative research she engaged in with her research-writing students
at the University of the Virgin Islands, St. Croix campus.
"This book began as a nefarious plot, a
typical English teacher ploy to get her terminally bored students to
focus on the grammar and structure—and ultimately, the beauty—of their
native language," Sterns wrote in the book's foreword.
"I’ve been engaged in some version of
this plot at various universities for nearly 30 years, and it became
much more interesting when I returned in 2005 to the University of the
Virgin Islands St. Croix campus, where most of my students could
"code-switch" effortlessly between Crucian and Standard English. Many
also speak several other languages and creoles. I decided to alter my
research-writing course so students could research and write about their
language uses (while I was secretly honing their Standard English)," she
Early projects included students'
analyzing all the ways they use language and developing glossaries of
their favorite words and expressions. Eventually the research expanded
into a comparative linguistics.
"I armed the students with basics on
Standard English - options for forming questions or negative
constructions, or when to use subjective or objective pronouns. The
students then engaged in original research to determine the patterns,
rules and exceptions to those rules in Crucian," she said.
Whenever two distinct language groups
encounter each other, a pidgin results. Pidgin is a vastly simplified
mixture of two or more languages with a basic grammar and vocabulary. No
one uses the pidgin as a first language; it is simply a basis for
rudimentary communication. When, over time, children start learning the
pidgin as their first language, and it eventually becomes the mother
tongue of a community, it becomes a creole.
Many linguists list Virgin Islands creole
- the English-based creole spoken on St. Croix for the past 300 years or
so - as a dying language, because it has become "infected" with elements
of Standard English, patterns from other creoles, urban and hip-hip
slang, as the impacts of people from elsewhere to St. Croix, television
and the Internet have changed the ways people communicate.
"But I learned it's very popular among
today's young people on St. Croix," Sterns said. "They speak it, they
text it, they have groups on Facebook devoted to it."
The book Say it in Crucian!
is an outcome of the research Sterns' students did and Sterns' nearly 18
years experience on island. The book is full of specific examples of
Crucian as today's young people speak it, with handy (if overblown and
tongue-in-cheek) Standard English translations.
World-famous linguist Derek Bickerton,
who was kind enough to review a draft of the book, said, "Say it
in Crucian! is a reader-accessible guide to the language of St.
Croix that combines a wealth of spicy and vividly up-to-the-minute
examples with a level of linguistic and sociolinguistic savvy seldom
found in popular introductions. It presents its topic in a way that
provides fun for the tourist as well as solid information for the
expert. If only every creole language had a book like this!"
Highlights include an original story by
Anika Johnson illustrating how young people switch between Standard
English and Crucian, as a student struggles for control over an unruly
classroom, and "Crucian Cinderella," by Miquelina Valdes, which takes
the traditional fairytale and places it thoroughly on St. Croix.
An excerpt from "Crucian Cinderella" (and
its straightlaced Standard English translation) illustrates the book's
content: "Gyal cack up she bana and swing it from lef to right. Boy, dem
hatas was vex!" ("She started dancing very fetchingly, much to the
dismay of those who were jealous of her.")
Sterns also provided graphic design for
the book, which has a colorful, post-modern 1950s feel. "I wanted the
look of the book to be as hip as my students," she said.
Starting at the end of November, the book
will be available at Undercover Books, the UVI St. Croix bookstore and
the Whim Store. It will be available through amazon.com as well. Price
is $19.95. ISBN: 978-0-916611-06-4. Caution: The book contains adult
Sterns is rushing to build a companion
She will post the dictionary content from the book and will then invite
users to add words, phrases, their definitions and examples of their
usage, in hopes of supporting a living snaphot of today's Crucian.
For more information on the book or
website, please contact Sterns at