Linguistics 105 * Words and Sounds
Lecture Twenty-one
The Phylogeny of Language


  1. Pidgins and Creoles

    1. Pidgin
      A pidgin is a practical language used by two groups of people for a communication goal that immediate and practical. Pidgins often develop between an "employed minority" group and their "majority employers," though sometimes also between two groups that must necessarily develop a communication system in order to do business. These languages are, by definition, incomplete and inadequate for normal social communication. Pidgins are based primarily on lexical items, and usually lack articles, prepositions, affixes, subordinate clauses, though some level of morphology is occasionally developed. Syntax is often, though not always, deployed in logical word order.

      (1) wok had dis pipl [Filippino community]
      ''These people work hard'[Subject/Verb/Object]

      Pidgins are often share the following characteristics.

      1. Simplified phonology (reduced consonant clusters, closer to CV type (open syllables))
      2. Absence of many affixes
      3. Simplified declensional system
      4. Reduplications to avoid homonyms and to expand vocabulary
      5. Semantic broadeniing
      6. Tendency toward SVO syntax and greater dependence on prepositions
      7. Verb system dependent on auxiliaries

    2. Creole: full-fledged, fully adequate (first) language. All creoles have remarkably similar grammars.

      1. Word Order: generally SVO (though Creoles have movement rules) Hawaiian Creole

        (2a)dag smat
        'The dog is smart = dogs are smart'

        (2b)hi get wan blak buk. dat buk no du eni gud
        'He has some black book. That book doesn't do any good'

      2. Specific/Nonspecific Reference
        Articles:    di = specific reference known to listener
             wan = specific reference unknown to listener
              = nonspecific reference

      3. Negation: (4a) ai no si (dem buk)
        'I didn't see (those books)

        (4b) pipl no laik tek om fo go wok
        'People don't want to employ him'

      4. Aspect developed over tense regardless of lending language.


  2. Acquisition

    1. Creole Acquisition

      1. The assumption of acquisition studies is that there is always an adequate language to acquire, fully mastered by parents.
      2. Creoles are learned for the first time by children whose parents speak a pidgin, i.e. inadequate, incomplete communication system
      3. The first generation of creole learners, therefore, must create a language from inadequate evidence. The first creole generation must produce rules for which thre was no evidence in the speech of the previous generation. How is this possible?

    2. Do Creolization techniques demonstrate any similarity to child language learning?

      1. One example: Negation in creoles much like child languages: verb directly negated (6), multiple negatives general but not universal. (Cf. English (Nobody don't like me); corrected in school.) (8) nowan no kan bit diz gaiz 'No one can beat these guys'

        Does this provide evidence that there are some innate structures that are utilized in the absence of "data" on which language learners can "generate" the grammar of their parents language?

      2. HOWEVER: Creoles do develop many aspects that seem dissimilar to child languages.

        Possessives
        "gras bilong hed" = hair
        "gras bilong mowt" = beard


  3. Conclusion

    1. Creoles are like early child grammars
    2. But first-generation creoles cannot be learned from previous generation, so must be created from universal properties of language.
    3. If so, the grammars with which children experiment in building mature grammars must be, like first generation creole grammar, closer than other grammars to a universal.

    4. F urther reading:

      • Bickerton, Derek 1981. The Roots of Language. Ann Arbor: Karoma Press.
      • Bickerton, Derek 1991. Language and Species. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

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