Linguistics 110 Linguistic Analysis: Sentences & Dialects
Lecture Number Twenty Four
Pidgins and Creoles


  1. Introduction

    1. Pidgin: A practical means of exploiting lexemes to communicate with trading partners but inadequate for normal speech purposes. Possesses few if any grammatical morphemes.
      Wok had dis pipl [Philipino English pidgin]
      "These people work hard" [Subject-Verb-Object]
    2. Creole: A fully fledged adequate (first) language based on the lexical content of one language and the grammatical morphemes and structure of another. According to Derik Bickerton, all Creoles share a similar if not identical grammar.
      1. Word Order: SVO only (though Creoles have movement rules)
          Hawaiian Creole
        • Dag smat 'the dog is smart, dogs are smart'
        • 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
        1. di / dat= specific reference known to listener
        2. wan= specific, reference unknown to listener
        3. = nonspecific reference
      3. Prepositions are derived from verbs and nouns.
        1. Guyanese (Fr): li pote sa day mo
          'He bring that give me' (French /pour (< donner))
        2. Djuka (Eng): He eke nefi koti a meti
          'He cut the meat with a knife' (English: with (< make))
      4. Negation:
        1. particle immediately before the verb (Hawaiian)
          • ai no si dem buk 'I didn't see those books'
          • pipl no laik tek om fo go wok 'People don't want to employ him'
        2. multiple negation the rule
      5. Verbal system is aspectual not tense regardless of lending language


  2. 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. an inadequate, incomplete communication system
      1. The first generation of creole learners must therefore create a language from inadequate evidence.
      2. The first creole generation must produce rules for which there was no evidence at all in the speech of the previous generation.
      3. How is this possible?
    3. Normal Acquisition
      1. Negation in Creoles is much like that in child languages:
        1. verb negated by particle
        2. multiple negation
          Nobody don't never like me (English-speaking kid)
          nowan no kn bit diz gaiz (Hawaiian creole)
          No one can beat these guys
      2. Specific/Nonspecific distinction. Maratsos (1976) points out that English-speaking children first use the specific-nonspecific distinction with 90% accuracy by the age of 3 but reach that level of proficiency with definite-indefinite only after 4. Bickerton concludes: they begin with the assumption of specific-nonspecific.


  3. Conclusions

    1. Creoles are remarkably like early childhood grammars.
    2. But first-generation creoles cannot be learned from the previous generation, so they must be created by the first generation of speakers from the universal properties of language.
    3. If so, grammars with which children experiment in building mature grammars must be, like first generation creole grammars, closer than other grammars to UG (Universal Grammar).
    4. Universal Grammar is present within us all whether we ever speak as a result of hearing others or not.

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