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 English.
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 said.
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
"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
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 content.
Sterns is rushing to build
a companion website,
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