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Chinese Pidgin English (CPE) China Coast Pidgin (CCP). Origins, Context, Features J. Lloyd Ling. 455. Introduction. Three Types of CPE identified in Arends ,et. al. (1994) 1.China Coast Pidgin (mainland coastal ports from Guangzhou to Shanghai)

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Chinese Pidgin English (CPE) China Coast Pidgin (CCP)

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Chinese Pidgin English (CPE)China Coast Pidgin(CCP)

Origins, Context, Features

J. Lloyd

Ling. 455


  • Three Types of CPE identified in Arends ,et. al. (1994)

  • 1.China Coast Pidgin (mainland coastal ports from Guangzhou to Shanghai)

  • 2. Taiwan Pidgin English ( between maids & taxi drivers and Europeans)

  • 3 Nauru Chinese Pidgin/Hamsoi (Cantonese business owners, restaurant personnel, and other Naurans—mix of CPE and Mid-Pacific Pidgin English)

Characteristics of China Coast Pidgin

  • CCP is a trade pidgin developed in commercial ports: first at Guangzhou (Canton), and later at Ningbo, Xiamen (Amoy), and Shanghai

  • CCP is extinct like a T-Rex.

    • “Looking at China Coast Pidgin English is like studying dinosaurs. Only the barest traces of the pidgin survive.”—Selby & Selby (1995)

  • CCP was an English-lexifier pidgin (mostly)

    + Portuguese vocabulary

    + French vocabulary

    + Malay

    + Hindi

Sociolinguistic Environment

  • British East India Company – 1711 Official trading port established at Canton

  • Trade on Chinese side is monopolized and tightly controlled

    • Chinese working with the English are often literate and educated

    • Chinese forbidden to teach the foreigners the native tongue

    • Prestige of literacy in the Chinese context

    • 紅毛通用番語Hongmao tongyong fanyu, “Everyday barbarian speech of the Red Hairs” (19th century)

Some phonological features of CCP

  • Extra syllabic “spellings”

    • Early primers for local traders were lists of words “spelled” phonetically with Chinese characters

    • Chinese is largely monosyllabic and each graph represents one and only one syllable. So, “spellings” often inserted extra syllables for gaps in Cantonese phonology, ex. ‘year’ = 夜啞 yeya (no –r)

Initials of Guangzhou Cantonese:

p- p’- m- f- w-

t- t’- n- l-

ts- ts’- s-

k- k’- - h-


Final consonants of Guangzhou Cantonese:




-n -

Some Phonological Features of CCP (cont.)

Phonetic Substitution

  • Shi Dingxu (1993) provides examples from Hongmao Tongyong Fanyu of Cantonese substitution of English phonemes restricted in Guangzhou. Also, consonant clusters are reduced.

    1. Interdental fricatives replaced by corresponding dental stops

    ex. English ‘that’ > CCP [ tat ], English ‘mother’ > CCP [mata]

    • Lateral [ l ] for retroflex liquid [ r ]

      ex. English ‘rain’ > CCP [ lin ], English ‘friend’ > CCP [flen]

    • Lateral [ l ] for voiced labio-dental [ v ]

      ex. English ‘heavy’ > CCP [ hipi ]

    • Consonant cluster simplification with epenthesis

      ex. English ‘small’ > CCP [ simala ]

    • Final voiced fricative [ z ] (no fricative finals in GZ) replaced by full syllable with voiceless fricative.

      Ex. English ‘lose’ > CCP [lowsi]

    • Final may be dropped completely

      Ex. English ‘inside’> CCP [insay]

Importance of Dialectal and Phonological Detail in investigating CCP

  • Lack of Chinese native speakers of CCP

  • CCP was in later stages active in other dialect areas further north

  • Similarities in lexicon and phonology (and perhaps syntax) may be traced to CCP’s origin in Canton

  • Differences among China Coast Pidgins may later be explained as influences from local dialect phonetic inventories and lexicon

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