Pidgins and Creoles

Topics: English language, Pidgin, Lingua franca Pages: 10 (3324 words) Published: January 13, 2013


The etymology of pidgin is uncertain. The Oxford English Dictionary derives it from the English word business as pronounced in Chinese Pidgin English, which was of course used for transacting business. Other possible sources derived pidjom ‘exchange, trade, redemption; a Chinese pronunciation of the Portuguese word ocupação ‘business’; or a South Seas pronunciation of English beach as beachee, from the location where the language was often used (Mühlhäusler, in Holm, 2004). A pidgin is a language with no native speakers: it is no one’s first language but is a contact language. That is, it is the product of a multilingual situation in which those who wish to communicate must find or improvise a simple language system that will enable them to do so. Very often too, that situation is one in which there is an imbalance of power among the languages as the speakers of one language dominate the speakers of the other languages economically and socially. A highly codified language often accompanies that dominant position. A pidgin is therefore sometimes regarded as a ‘reduced’ variety of a ‘normal’ language, i.e., one of the aforementioned dominant languages, with simplification of the grammar and vocabulary of that language, considerable phonological variation, and an admixture of local vocabulary to meet the special needs of the contact group (Wardhaugh, 2006, pp. 61). According to Holm (2004, pp. 4–5) a pidgin is a reduced language that results from extended contact between groups of people with no language in common; it evolves when they need some means of verbal communication, perhaps for trade, but no group learns the native language of any other group for social reasons that may include lack of trust or close contact. Usually those with less power (speakers of substrate languages) are more accommodating and use words from the language of those with more power (the superstrate), although the meaning, form and use of these words may be influenced by the substrate languages. When dealing with the other groups, the superstrate speakers adopt many of these changes to make themselves more readily understood and no longer try to speak as they do within their own group. Winford (in Wardhaugh, 2006, pp. 63) points out that ‘pidginization is really a complex combination of different processes of change, including reduction and simplification of input materials, internal innovation, and regularization of structure, with L1 influence also playing a role.’ Pidgin is words thrown out, there is no structure, and usually it is not long lasting. However, adults who learn pidgin usually speak it for the rest of their lives, and consequently, they do not develop grammar. A pidgin is a restricted language which is used to communicate between two social groups of which one is in a more dominant position than the other. It involves situations in which a population speaks several different languages and is required to communicate on a regular basis, but none of the languages of the population has primacy over the others. This situation is often found where multiple societies trade or where slave populations from multiple locations are brought into one area. The speakers create a mutual language using words from the speakers' mother tongues and an extremely flexible, simplified grammar. Most linguists do not consider a pidgin to be a full-fledged language, but something that is used together due to circumstances and omitted when it is no longer needed. Todd (2005, pp. 17) mention there are various theories about the origin of pidgins which have been proposed in the last hundred years or so. These can be presented as a basic group of five theories which show a degree of overlap; note that a mixture of origins is also a possibility which should also be considered.

1.The Baby-Talk Theory
At the end of the last century Charles Leland, when discussing China coast...
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