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What do you understand by Pidgins and Creoles?

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    Holmes (2001) states that, ‘a pidgin is a language which has no native speakers’ and that ‘pidgins develop as a means of communication between people who do not have a common language. ’ (Holmes, J. 2001:81) The main endeavour for speakers of a pidgin language is to enable effective communication, rather than to gain knowledge of additional languages.

    Pidgins are contact vernaculars and are used for specific purpose; each having its own ‘describable and distinctive linguistic structure. ’ (Holmes, J. 001:81)On Caribbean slave plantations throughout the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, West African people were purposely separated from those who spoke the same language as themselves, so as to condense the possibility of their plotting escape or a revolt against authority. As a means of communicating with one another, they developed pidgins based on the language of their superiors as well as their own languages.

    (Holmes, J. 2001:81) In terms of structure, pidgins do not share any similitude to any of the languages in contact; however they do draw vocabulary items from these languages.Therefore, the term ‘pidgin’ accordingly indicates ‘a simple form of language showing signs of language mixing, which no one speaks as their first language. ’ (Mesthrie et al, 2000:280) Creolist Peter Muhlhausler (1986:5) puts forward the following definition: ‘Pidgins are examples of partially targeted or non-targeted second-language learning, developing from simpler to more complex systems as communicative requirements become more demanding.

    (Pidgins) … are social rather than individual solutions, and hence are characterised by norms of acceptability.However, Mesthrie et al (2000:280) states that ‘matters can be a bit more complicated. ’ Therein, researchers find it purposeful to make a distinction between pidgins in terms of how complex their grammatical structures are. Firstly, a jargon or pre-pidgin has somewhat unstable structure in the sense that it consists of rudimentary vocabulary, being ‘frequently augmented by gestures.

    ’ (Mesthrie et al, 2000:280) Thus a pre-pidgin is not considered to be grammatical and in some instances may be thought of as a corrupt form of language.However, a stable pidgin ‘is one which as a recognisable structure and fairly developed vocabulary. ’ (Mesthrie et al, 2000:281) In practice, stable pidgins have limited sphere of influence, therein; they are restricted to ‘few domains such as the workplace, marketplace and so on. ’ (Mesthrie et al, 2000:281) Furthermore, an expanded pidgin is a form that has developed a degree of style and sophistication in reference to structural and vocabularical related elements of the language.

    This mark of complexity is a ‘consequence of being used in many domains, including interpersonal and domestic settings, as well as some formal domains like public speeches or political pamphlets. ’ (Mesthrie et al, 2000:281) Lastly, a pidgin can become creolized, wherein the creole becomes the first language of a speech community. The ‘majority of creoles are spoken in former slave-holding societies,’ (Mesthrie et all, 2000:281) and arise from an assortment of circumstances, including trade, situations of war and significant movements of people.The process of creolization shall be discussed further on in this paper, additionally covering the social stigmatisation of the Caribbean-based creole, Jamaican ‘patois’ – a creole of black youth that has resonated within Britain as a distinct marker of race and ethnicity, and is thought of by many to be a corrupt form of language, with no grammatical sustenance.

    Regarding the formation of a pidgin, ‘all languages involved may contribute to the sounds, the vocabulary, and the grammatical features, but to different extents, and some additional features may emerge which are unique to the new variety. ’ (Holmes, J. 001:83)The size of the vocabulary of a pidgin in relatively small, although there are some processes which Holm (1988:73) and Todd (1994:3 – 178) identify, that facilitate a pidgins ‘basic roots to be extended semantically. ’ Much of the lexis used within pidgin can be recognised as polysemous, wherein each identifiable word is proficient in the expression of several alternate semantic loadings, those of which are principally understandable or elucidated in specific context.

    In Cameroon Pidgin English for example, ‘shado’ can mean shadow, soul or reflection and ‘water’ can mean water, lake, river, spring or tear. Mesthrie et al, 2000:290)The English language has many words which can be identified as polysemous, for example, the verb ‘to get’ has many different semantic constructions; it can mean ‘take’ (I’ll get the food), ‘become’ (they got nervous), ‘have’ (I’ve got twenty pounds) and ‘understand’ (I get it). Pidgins such as Cameroon Pidgin English appear to have replicated the use of polysemy within their own construction and development of language, as a direct influence from English. ‘A single word may be put to a variety of basic grammatical uses in a pidgin,’ (Mesthrie et al, 2000:290) this process being multifunctionality.

    Romaine (1988:38) uses Tok Pisin to exemplify the use of multifunctionality within pidgins, wherein the word ‘sik’ acts as both a noun and an adjective. The adjectival use appears in ‘mi sik’ meaning ‘I am sick,’ whilst the noun usage can be seen in ‘em I gat bigpela sik’ meaning ‘he has got a terrible disease. ’ Multifunctionality sees the same word used in a multitude of grammatical functions and has been of great interest to Creolists. Furthermore, ‘multifunctionality and the process of grammaticalisation are not unrelated, for grammaticalisation can be viewed as a process creating multifunctional lexical items.

    (Lefebvre, C. 2004: 156)Therein, as an example, in Haitian Creole, the preposition ‘anle’ meaning ‘on top of, above,’ may also serve as a noun (top, upper part), an adjective (flighty), or an adverb (high, up high). (Valdman et al, 1981 in Lefebvre, C. 2004: 162) Another process is circumlocution, in which the speaker of the pidgin is obliged to use in order to express certain concepts.

    ‘Concepts that are expressed as basic words in ‘full’ languages are often expressed by circumlocution in pidgins. (Mesthrie et al, 2000:290) Using the example of Tok Pisin once more, ‘a key element is the use of the superstrate verb belong as a preposition meaning ‘of:’ (Mesthrie et al, 2000:290) Gras bilong fes ‘beard’ Gras bilong hed ‘hair’ Gras bilong ai ‘eyebrow’ Wara bilong skin ‘sweat’ Pinga bilong lek ‘toe’ Pela bilong op bottle ‘bottle opener’ (Glosses: gras < grass; fes < face; bilong < belong; ai < eye; pela < fellow; op < open; pinga < finger; lek < leg; hed < head. ) — Note that the symbol ‘<’ means ‘based on or derived from’. ) (Mesthrie et al, 2000:291)Pidgins also use compounding to indicate abstractions, as well as being used systematically to denote gender of nouns, as Mesthrie et al (2000:291) takes the following example from Tok Pisin: Big maus ‘conceited’ (literally ‘big mouth’) Drai bun ‘tough, toughness’ (literally ‘dry bone’) Tu bel ‘in two minds, doubting’ (literally ‘two belly’) Hos man ‘stallion’ Hos meri ‘mare’ (Mesthrie et al, 2000:291)Finally, reduplication can be found in many pidgins, wherein ‘the repetition of a root many be used productively to add meanings related to intensity, plurality, duration and frequency.

    (Mesthrie et al, 2000:291) Todd (1984:134) shows reduplication through these examples taken from Cameroon English: Fain ‘lovely’ fain fain ‘really lovely’ Big ‘big’ big big ‘very big’ Bos ‘boast’ bos bos ‘to be continually boasting’ Tok ‘talk’ tok tok ‘to talk all the time, prolonged talk’ Memba ‘remember’ member member ‘recollections’ (Mesthrie et al, 2000:291) ‘Pidgins are more often described in terms of what structures they lack, than in terms of the presence of features they share. (Mesthrie et al, 2000:291)Bickerton (1976) further states that there is also the popular view that pidgins are merely corrupted adaptations of European languages. Additionally, Hall (1966) defines a pidgin as a language with ‘sharply reduced’ grammatical structure and vocabulary, however, he further argues that ‘investigations by unprejudiced investigators, using modern techniques of linguistic observation and analysis, have demonstrated conclusively that all pidgins and creoles, even the simplest, are as amenable to description and formulation as are any other languages. (Hall, R, A.

    1966:107) Mesthrie et al (2000:291) pronounces that pidgins have very few suffixes and grammatical markers of categories, these suffixes and markers being fixed and preset within the input languages of a particular pidgin form.Also, tense regularly has to be deduced from context, ‘or is expressed by temporal adverbs like before, today later, by-and-by and already. ’ (Mesthrie et al, 2000:292) For example, in Chinese Pidgin English, past tense is marked by the adverb ‘before,’ as in ‘before my sellum for ten dollar,’ meaning ‘I sold it for ten dollars. (Bakker 1995:37) The past tense is indicated using the adverb ‘before,’ followed by ‘my’ as the first person singular ‘I.

    ’ Mesthrie et al (2000:292) indicates some further past-tense markers for some English-based pidgins. In Tok Pisin, the past tense is rendered using the grammatical marker ‘pinis’ taken from the English ‘finished. ’ Furthermore, Cameroon Pidgin English uses both ‘don’ and ‘bin,’ taken from the English ‘done’ and ‘been’ to denote past tense forms.Pidgins can therefore not be deemed ‘ungrammatical’ in the sense that the language follows specific rules of grammar in reference to tense indication, although altered in adjacency to the input language of the said pidgin.

    Moreover, these adaptations of tense indication can not be considered ‘corrupt’ if they are in fact, a merging and integration of the grammatical rules associated with the input languages.As a contrast to the aforementioned deficiency of adverbial suffixes within pidgin languages, the stable pidgin Fanakalo of South Africa shows the occurrence of numerous verb suffixes. However, grammatical marking in Fanakalo is comparatively undemanding in contrast to its main source language, Zulu. (Mesthrie et al, 2000:292) The following shows an example of verb suffix occurrence in Fanakalo: -ile (past tense) dlala ‘to play’ vs.

    dlalile ‘played’ -isa (causative) enza ‘to do’ vs. enzisa ‘cause to be done’ -wa (passive) pheka ‘to cook’ vs. hekwa ‘is cooked’ (Mesthrie et al, 2000:292)It is widely accepted that pidgins are an inferior and substandard form of language yielding low prestige in society, with many linguists labelling them as marginal and insignificant in comparison to languages that have strong grammatical substance. However, Siegel (1996) (in Mesthrie et al, 2000:292) showed, in analysis of pidgin forms, that their structure ‘could be more complex than similar structures in the superstrate language.

    ’ Siegel (1996) studied the pronoun system of Bislama, a pidgin of Vanuatu.He discovered that Bislama does not make any distinction in gender pronouns, (a grammatical element that is often omitted in pidgins) and may therefore appear to be simpler in structure than in English language wherein the gender forms he, she and it are used. However Bislama differentiates between ‘inclusive’ and ‘exclusive’ pronouns, a distinction which the English language does not include. Therein, Bislama uses the first-person inclusive pronoun ‘yumi,’ meaning ‘we or us, including you,’ and the divergent first-person exclusive pronoun ‘mifala,’ meaning ‘we or us, not including you.

    Therefore, Bislama grammar makes it explicit whether the listener is included (yumi) or not (mifala). (Mesthrie et al, 2000:292)The complexity of the inclusive and exclusive pronouns in Bislama is attributable to extended, rather than restricted pidgin forms. These grammatical rules demonstrate that although a pidgin is a diffused adaptation of input languages, they carry their own grammatical structure that is largely effective and successful in communication, although composed of both simplified structure and limited vocabulary. A creole is a pidgin which has become nativized; meaning it has acquired native speakers.

    Creolization involves the development of both morphology and syntax, regularisation of the phonology, an increase in the number of functions in which the creole language is used and also the improvement of a logical and established system for increasing vocabulary. Mesthrie et al (2000:297) claims that the most interesting component of creolization is the ‘reorganisation of grammar that includes the development of a coherent verbal system with tense and related categories marked explicitly, and the development of complex clauses that include imbedding of subordinate clauses. In brief, creolization creates a fully developed language with both grammatical and semantic competence.Creolization is a process of expansion; ‘vocabulary may be expanded by using words from the substrates and (especially) from the superstrate or by innovative combinations of already existing words,’ (Mesthrie et al, 2000:297) therefore, a creole constitutes the development of a more complex set of phonological rules.

    With regards to grammatical aspects of creoles, Bickerton, (in Mesthrie et al, 2000:298) composed a list of grammatical structures he considered to be common within creole forms.One such form was the ‘zero copula,’ wherein the verb ‘be’ and its many forms, (am, is, are, was, were) are omitted. In the following Jamaican Creole sentence, the copula is neglected and is therefore implied – ‘di kaafi kuol’ – meaning ‘the coffee is cold. ’ (Mesthrie et al, 2000: 299) The negation of the copula is typical in Jamaican Creole, and may be seen as an indolent and non-standard form by those who are non-creole speakers.

    However, with reference to the above sentence, the grammatical construction unequivocally implies the verb form, therefore, if there is full understanding of the construction – then effectively, there is no requirement for the copula to be explicitly presented. Moreover, although not frequently used in Standard English, there is evidence of a limited form of the zero copula within the language. For example, ‘the higher, the better,’ and ‘you from Liverpool? ’ both exclude the copula form.Standard English and its grammatical constituents require the copular form to be in position if the utterance/sentence should be deemed ‘correct,’ yet statements such as the aforesaid would be considered acceptable in the sense that they are comprehensible.

    It is merely a question of implication; therein the copular is unstated yet inferred. The linguistic complexity of creole languages is often unappreciated by non-speakers, therein a creole may be reckoned as ‘ungrammatical’ or ‘corrupt’ in the sense that it does not conform to the predetermined grammatical rules of neither the substrate or superstrate language.However, creole languages develop means of ‘systematically signalling meanings such as verb tenses, and these may develop into inflections or affixes over time. ’ (Holmes, J.

    2001:86) In the following example of Australian Roper River Creole, the past tense is indicated by the particle ‘bin,’ whilst the progressive aspect is distinguished by the suffix ‘-bad,’ which appends itself to the verb: (a) im megim ginu ‘he makes a canoe’ [present tense] (b) im bin megin ginu ‘he made a canoe’ [past tense] c) im megimbad ginu ‘he is making a canoe’ [present continuous] (d) im bin meginbad ginu ‘he was making a canoe’ [past continuous] (Holmes, J. 2001:86) The example from Australian Roper River Creole demonstrates that creoles employ a systematic method in which to mark tense. Furthermore, in a grammatical sense, creoles can not be considered neither ‘corrupt’ nor ‘ungrammatical’ for this reason. Creoles also develop systematic ways of articulating added semanticity as the demand for expansion of the creole increases.

    The subsequent example from Tok Pisin at its different stages illustrates how the same meaning is conveyed, yet the structure and vocabulary alters in accordance with the development of the creole. (a) baimbai yu go you will go (b) bambai yu go you will go (c) bai yu go you will go (d) yu bai go you will go (e) yu bEgo you will go (Holmes, J. 2001:87) Holmes (2001) states that in its pidgin stage, reference to future events in Tok Pisin used the adverb ‘baimbai,’ which originates from the English phrase ‘by and by. As creolization took place, the adverb was condensed slightly to ‘bambai’ or ‘bai,’ as illustrated in examples (b) and (c).

    Example (d) shows an alternative syntax, placing the pronoun ‘yu’ at the forefront of the sentence, whilst example (e) demonstrates how ‘go’ ‘eventually became attached to the verb as a regular prefix signalling future tense. ’ (Holmes, J. 2001:87)The idea of the grammatical and structural expansion of a pidgin into a creole sustains the view that the development thus determines a more structurally regular system. Once a creole has developed it can be used for all the functions of any language – politics, education, administration, original literature and so on.

    ’ (Holmes, J. 2001:89) These functions further dismiss the claim of a ‘corrupt’ or ‘ungrammatical’ language. Holmes (2001) states that Tok Pisin is the most regularly used language of debate in Papua New Guinea. Therefore, how might a debate be structured suitably if the language in use was of no grammatical sustenance? The answer is – it could not be.

    Furthermore, creoles have become an established ‘standard,’ and in some instances, national and official languages. (Homes, J. 2001:89) Thus, though a non-speakers scrutiny of a creole language may be one of aversion, creole-speakers regard their language with high prestige. For example, Tok Pisin holds significance and prestige for its speakers who ‘recognise its usefulness as a means of communication,’ (Holmes, J.

    2001:90) and in addition, a language of cohesive solidarity and commonality amongst those who use it. The view that Creole languages signify ‘bad’ English is widespread.Moreover, Jamaican patois is a creole that maintains to be considered as an objectionable form of language due to its divergence in relation to standardised grammar. The parallelism of Jamaican patois to Standard English therefore has caused Creole speakers to be categorized as socially and linguistically inferior.

    Caribbean-based patois is common within Britain, and has consequently been developed and mediated by British urban speech and ‘by the expressive needs formed around the changing experiences of urban youth. ’ (Hewitt, R. 986:102)Hewitt (1986) further states that despite the wider social stigmatisation of patois, the distinguishable language of black youth culture is in actuality, considered a prestige variety amongst its speakers. The morphology, phonology and syntax of English are fundamentally foreign to Jamaican Creole speakers.

    As an example, all Creole verbs are invariant and are never inflected to specify neither tense nor aspect. The following example of simple past tense represents this invariance. English ‘lived’ ‘went’ Jamaican Creole ‘ben/wen live’ ‘ben/wen go’ (McCourtie, L. – WEB REFERENCE 1)The improper use (according to standard grammatical rules) of past tense in Jamaican Creole, and the absence of inflection to stipulate tense and aspect, mark a figurative obstruction in terms of being considered a ‘grammatical’ language.

    However, speakers of the language rely on context and circumstance to infer tense and aspect and therefore do not require inflection for this reason. If both tense and aspect were incomprehensible when devoid of inflection, then surely the creole would develop and extend its grammatical constituents to thus accommodate the subsequent fracture in communicative understanding.This however, is not necessary purely due to the power of inference and implication, of which Creole forms often rely upon. Pidgins and Creoles can be considered grammatical and uncorrupted forms of language in the sense that they both have their own grammatical regulations, albeit not as complex as their substrate and superstrate languages.

    Furthermore, the primary endeavour of a pidgin is to effectively communicate when one or more languages are unintelligible: this endeavour is successful, thus a pidgin can consequently be regarded as a recognisable form of language.In addition, a Creole is a language that has become the first language of a speech community; therein the grammatical structure, as well as vocabularical elements develop accordingly and become an inherent fixture of the Creole. With regards to the examples provided, they illustrate that both pidgin and Creole forms constitute their own unique grammar and vocabulary, formed from one or more ‘full’ languages. The creation of a new language form should not be considered neither ‘ungrammatical’ nor ‘corrupt,’ as language will inevitably continue to develop and revolutionise in accordance with societal needs.

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