Montserratians - Orientation

Identification. Geographically, Montserrat is a small island of the Lesser Antilles; politically, it was part of the former British Leeward Islands colony and is now one of the few remaining British colonies and a Commonwealth member. It was and remains part of the historical, economic, and cultural sphere created by the slave plantations of the Americas.

Location. Montserrat lies in the eastern Caribbean at 17° N. Its 99 square kilometers include a variety of environments and plant communities correlated with rainfall and elevation. The terrain is dissected by streams that flow in deep guts created by volcanic activity. The south and central volcanic peaks bear tropical deciduous and evergreen forest, whereas the lower, drier region of the north bears grasses and cactus scrub encouraged by grazing. Erosion, deforestation, subsistence cultivation, plantation agriculture, and alien plants and animals from Europe, Africa, and Asia have transformed Montserrat, as they have all the Caribbean islands.

Demography. About 12,000 people inhabit Montserrat, a decline of 2,000 since 1960. This drop is a consequence of emigration, a significant demographic process that began in 1838, as freed slaves sought opportunity elsewhere. In 1850, for example, half the people were under the age of sixteen and the annual birthrate was about 36 per thousand, yet the population had dwindled from what it was in 1834. Emigration is a problem because youth and talent leave the island; it is a solution because the economy and available resources cannot sustain everyone born there, and many households are partly or wholly supported by money sent by family members living abroad, especially in England, the United States, and Canada.

The great majority of people are native-born Afro-Caribbeans, although there is a small foreign colony. Life expectancy at birth in 1992 was 74 years for males and 78 for females, but the morbidity rate is high. Skin and intestinal parasites are widespread, with schistosomiasis increasing alarmingly. Many pregnant women suffer from anemia, and about 25 percent of children younger than age 5 are underweight. As in other Caribbean islands, there is a high incidence of diabetes and hypertension, and AIDS is spreading.

Linguistic Affiliation. Montserratians are diglossic, speaking both Standard English learned in school and Montserrat Creole, the local variation on the Creole mother tongue spoken everywhere in the Commonwealth Caribbean. Montserrat Creole uses an English-based lexicon in a Creole structural framework. Although casual observers sometimes mistake it for an Irish brogue, linguistic research on native speakers has shown that there is nothing Irish in the Creole rhythm, intonation, or syntax, and only one word of Irish origin in the lexicon, although there are many Irish place-names. Creoles based on English do share a few phonological features with Southern Irish English, most likely artifacts of the common experience of British colonization.

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Joelle Delisser
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Feb 8, 2013 @ 12:12 pm
This was informative as it help me to give my speech on Montserrat's culture. I'm Jamaican :)

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