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Pidgins and Pidginization. LG449 Pidgins & Creoles Peter L Patrick. Key Questions about Pidgins. Are pidgins special? Are they natural languages? How structurally similar are pidgins to Creoles? Are contrasts between pidgins and Creoles largely attributable to nativization (of Creoles)?

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pidgins and pidginization

Pidgins and Pidginization

LG449 Pidgins & Creoles

Peter L Patrick

key questions about pidgins
Key Questions about Pidgins
  • Are pidgins special? Are they natural languages?
  • How structurally similar are pidgins to Creoles?
  • Are contrasts between pidgins and Creoles largely attributable to nativization (of Creoles)?
  • Do most Creoles have a pidgin in their ancestry? i.e., does a version of the “life-cycle” model still hold?
  • Should “pidgin” only refer to a stabilized variety?
  • How do earlier varieties differ from stabilized pidgins?
  • What are the primary processes in pidginization? What are the major constraints on them?
  • Are pidgins best defined socially or structurally?
typology of pidgin development
Typology of Pidgin Development
  • Bakker contrasts 3 categories with the Creole stage
  • Jargonsexhibit variety-w/o-structure, mother-tongue interference, mixed lexical sources, short/simple phrases, severe simplification, lack of normativity
  • Pidginsevolve from jargons; display more structured variation & norms; less experimentation; draw lexicon from 1-2 sources; optionality in major categories; not main or default language of one ethnic/social group
  • Pidgincreoles- structurally-expanded pidgins which are widely used but have become native for only some members of the speech community: social extension leads to structural expansion but falls short of full nativization. An intermediate stage between Ps and Cs.
life cycle model of ps and cs
Life-Cycle Model of Ps and Cs
  • Jargon Pidgin  Pidgincreole  Creole
          • ⇩⇩⇩
          • ⇩Post-creole continuum⇩
      • Post-pidgin continuum⇘ ⇙
          • Nativized version
          • of lexifier
  • Clear examples:
        • Russenorsk Solomon Islands P, Haitian
        • Chinese PE Tok Pisin Jamaican
  • Wherever language changes fuzzy boundaries occur; generalizations can still be drawn from clear cases
the problem of nativization in pcs
The problem of nativization in PCs
  • Nativization is widely said to be criterial of Cs vs Ps
  • But creole specialists find this problematic. Bakker’s solution is to posit intermediate category, keeping typical Ps and typical Cs relatively clear – though
    • Moving difficulty onto gradient nature of ‘pidgincreoles’
  • Also accepts common distinction b/w Pidgin & Jargon
  • Jargon: Individuals lacking a common language use basic, spontaneous linguistic creativity to have limited communication in highly restricted domains.
    • E.g. speech of labour migrants to early 20th C. Hawai’i (called “HPE” by Bickerton, used as evidence for LBH)
social context for jargon pidgin use
Social context for Jargon/Pidgin use
  • Maritime Pidgins: multilingual crews, shore contacts
    • Lingua Franca (Mediterranean), Russenorsk
  • Trade Pidgins: bartering/selling b/w distinct groups
    • Chinese Pidgin English
  • Workforce Pidgins: eg plantation pidgins or mining community Ps
    • Hawaii PE; Fanagalo, S Africa; Broome Pearling Lugger P
  • Military Pidgins b/w officers & local soldiers/workers
    • Juba Arabic, Hiri Motu
  • More general interethnic contacts:
    • Chinook Jargon, Bazaar Malay, Mobilian Jargon
explanations for pidgin genesis
Explanations for Pidgin Genesis
  • 1) Simplification of superstrategrammatical structure
    • Historical in that P retains superstrate elements; universal if there are universals of simplification
  • 2) Retention of substrate grammatical structures
    • Historical; fits w/ relexification (older & newer versions)
  • 3) Selection of universally preferred structures in a simple(st) grammar – a functionalist argument
    • But where Ps show fewer universals than Creoles, or marked features not derived from lexical base, this fails
  • T&K: (1-2) assume directionality, attempt to acquire a TL (Target Language). Isn’t new language creation as likely?
new language creation ph baker
New Language Creation?(< Ph Baker)
  • Linguistic negotiation of new common language via
  • Mutual simplification by each of their own language (you can only simplify languages you know very well)
  • As well as shift-induced (=substrate) interference + imperfect learning of input (?not target?) language
  • Speakers may only take lexical items, not grammar; lexifier may be unavailable, or undesirable; speakers only want enough of TL for communicative needs
  • Aim: Medium for Interethnic Communication (MIC)
  • (Focus on TL goes along w/belief in decreolization: speakers will continue to change P/C towards TL)
characteristics of pidgins i
Characteristics of Pidgins, I
  • Pidgins distinct from Jargons by:
    • Ps have structural norms & must be learned
  • Pidgins distinct from Creoles by:
    • Pidgins are not learned as first languages
    • Social elaboration, ethnic identification of Creoles
    • Pidgins do not have unlimited linguistic resources
  • Pidgins distinct from Input languages by:
    • Structural reduction of Ps, typically in morphology
    • Lack many semantic and grammatical distinctions
    • Few stylistic resources (=conventional variation]
    • Lexical reduction, derivation from dominant groups
examples of reduction simplification in pidgins i
Examples of reduction/ simplification in Pidgins, I
  • Ngarlumais a Pama-Nyungan language of W Australia, with
  • Free word-order, semantic cases (6-8) & grammatical cases (3)
  • thatharruka-kuwatharri“We’ll look for turtle”

turtle -ACC look.for.FUT

  • Pidgin Ngarlumais an indigenous pidgin attested from 1875
  • thatharrukawatharri
  • Note absence of obligatory ACC case-marking on object noun
  • Hawaiian, an indigenous Polynesian language, v Pidgin Haw.
  • I heakāukāla“Where is your money?”
  • Loc 2-poss money
  • Maheadalaoe “Where is your money?”
  • Where money 2pn
  • Note Haw. borrowing kāla < dollar, analytic possessive
characteristics of pidgins ii
Characteristics of Pidgins, II

Word-Order generalizations:

  • Creoles are nearly all (originally) SVO
    • Exceptions: Nagamese (like Assamese it’s SOV); Philippine Creole Spanishes (becoming VSO)
      • But these are questionably Creoles in any case
    • Korlai SOV now (like Marathi), but shifted from SVO
  • Pidgins may have SVO, or else an input’s word-order
    • Hiri Motu is SOV; so is Motu, also Papuan inputs
    • Mobilian was OSV; Muskogean inputs are SOV/OSV
    • Pidgin Ojibwe was free word-order; so is Ojibwe
    • Chinese P Russian is SOV; Russian, Chinese =SVO?
    • Chinese SVO > SOV, via eg high-frequency ba-construction
examples of reduction simplification in pidgins ii
Examples of reduction/ simplification in Pidgins, II
  • isiZuluis a SouthEsatern Bantu language (Nguni group)
  • Zulu: a- kuji- kati“This isn’t a cat”

CL-NEG- cat

  • Fanagalois a pidginized (isi)Zulu spoken in southern Africa
  • Fanagalo: ayikona lo kati lo “This isn’t a cat”


  • Z: negation in verbal complex; F: analytic pre-VP negation
  • KiSwahili, Bantu (contact w/Arabic), vs Kenya Pidgin Swahili
  • Ni- ta- m- piga“I will hit him”

3s.Sub FUT 3s.Obj hit

  • Mimi tapigayeye“I will hit him”

1sg FUT hit 3sg

  • Case-neutral pronouns, not agglutinative, no noun classes, SVO
characteristics of pidgins iii
Characteristics of Pidgins, III

Tense/Mood/Aspect Marking:

  • Creoles largely use invariant pre-V particles… but not as regularly as often claimed (Holm & Patrick 2007 CCS)
    • Exceptions: invariant suffixes occur (Berbice Dutch, Cape Verdean, Nagamese), some from superstrate (Palenquero, Papiamentu); rich inflection (Korlai); vowel harmony (Nubi)
  • Pidgins rarely have such pre-verbal particles, but express TMA with free adverbials
    • Exceptions: inflectional suffixes (Fanagalo, Trio-Ndjuka)
  • Many aspectual categories not expressed in Ps at all
    • Durativity, habituality, perfectivity all rare (Bakker 2008)
characteristics of pidgins iv
Characteristics of Pidgins, IV

Inflectional Morphology not rare at all in Ps:

  • Inherited suffixes occur for inflection (also derivation)
    • E.g. Fanakalo tense/aspect, causatives; number – also Turku, both w/animacy constraint (Bislama eks- ‘former’)
  • Borrowed inflectional morphemes (BroomeP < Japanese)
  • Language-internal, grammaticalized inflections
    • E.g. Tok Pisin ‘Adv’ by and by > baimbai > bai > bə ‘Fut, Irr’
    • Independent of nativization; preceded creolization
    • Content item > grammatical word > clitic > inflectional affix
  • ?Due to Ps arising from affix-heavy language inputs (eg Bantu, Amerindian) – ie, historical accident?
characteristics of pidgins v
Characteristics of Pidgins, V
  • Reduplication:widespread in Cs, nearly absent in Ps
  • Q-words: common in Cs, usually bimorphemic; less common in Ps, typically monomorphemic retentions
  • Primacy of discourse/pragmatics where grammar is limited & speaker creativity/agency is maximised.
    • Explains why some substrate features occur but not others
      • Eg inclusive/exclusive pronouns in Tok Pisin, Bislama, Solomons
    • Fits w/interpersonal negotiation/accommodation process
    • Info-status constraints crucial to modelling some variation
    • Variability and speaker choices foregrounded (Meyerhoff 2008)
    • Inherent variation provides resources for language change
    • Thus unifies Ps (& Cs) with explanation of other languages
what about pidgincreoles
…what about pidgincreoles?
  • Pidgincreoles: tend to follow Creoles rather than Ps
    • SVO word order
    • Invariant preverbal TMA markers
    • More non-superstrate morphology
  • Thus nativization of pidgincreoles has little structural impact; it’s social expansion that leads to changes
    • Evidence from Nigerian PE, Solomon Islands PE, TokP: impact of adults is expansive, of kids is regularizing
    • Creolization (=structural change) can occur at any point of ‘life-cycle’ due to increased P use in multilingual (often urban) setting
    • Hawai’i : 1st-gen. urban adults (bilingual in HPE, diff. substrates) showed the first creolized features – not kids on plantations
  • Bakker, Peter. 1995. Pidgins. In J Arends, P Muysken & N Smith eds., Pidgins and Creoles: An introduction, pp25-39 (Chap. 3). Amsterdam: John Benjamins. [PM 7802]
  • Bakker, Peter. 2008. Pidgins versus Creoles and pidgincreoles. In S Kouwenberg & JV Singler, eds., pp130-157. [PM 7802.H2]
  • Holm, John A. 1988. Pidgins and creoles. Vol. I: Theory and structure. Vol. II: Reference survey. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. [PM 7802]
  • Kouwenberg, Silvia, & John Victor Singler, eds. 2008. The handbook of Pidgin and Creole studies. Oxford: Blackwell. [PM 7802.H2]
  • Li, Charles N & Sandra A Thompson. 1974. An explanation of word-order change SVO -> SOV. Foundations of Language 12: 201-214.
  • Meyerhoff, Miriam. 2008. Forging Pacific Pidgin and Creole syntax: Substrate, discourse and inherent variability. In S Kouwenberg & JV Singler, pp48-73. [PM 7802.H2]
  • Patrick, Peter L. 2008. Pidgins, Creoles and linguistic variation. In S Kouwenberg & JV Singler, eds., pp461-487. [PM 7802.H2]
  • Sankoff, Gillian & Suzanne Laberge. 1974. On the acquisition of native speakers by a language. In G Sankoff, ed. 1980, The social life of language, pp195-209. [P 126.S2]
  • Siegel, Jeff. 2008. Pidgins/Creoles and second language acquisition. In S Kouwenberg & JV Singler, eds., pp189-219. [PM 7802.H2]
  • Simpson, Jane. 1980. Ngarluma as a W* language. Mss.
  • Singler, John V. 2006. “Yes, but not in the Caribbean.” Column. Journal of Pidgin and Creole Languages 21(2): 337-358.
  • Sun, Chaofen. 1996. Grammaticalization in the history of Chinese. Stanford CA: Stanford University Press.
  • Thomason, Sarah G. 2008. Pidgins/Creoles and historical linguistics. In S Kouwenberg & JV Singler, eds., pp242-262. [PM 7802.H2]
  • Van der Voort, Hein. 1995. Eskimo Pidgin. In J Arends, P Muysken & N Smith, eds., Pidgins and Creoles: An introduction. J Benjamins: 137-151.
  • Versteegh, Kees. 2008. Non-Indo-European Pidgins and Creoles. In Kouwenberg & Singler, eds., 158-186.