The development of Creole in Hawaii suggests children learn a language by first constructing an abstract form of a creole wwwwwwwwwwwww. Derek Bickerton. This overview includes proposals that cast creoles as a “type” of languages, in which pidgins and creoles typically emerge (I focus on Bickerton, , Defining creole languages i) Should the definition of creole languages be restricted i) a universalist perspective, e.g. D. Bickerton’s language.

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This chapter offers an overview of the controversies surrounding the study of creole syntax while evaluating representative studies. It also discusses the benefits of the Atlas of Pidgin and Creole Structures, as it lays out a promising new direction in the investigation of pidgins and creoles by offering systematic comparisons of a large sample of creoles and their source languages. This collaborative Atlas provides broad empirical coverage, testing the hypotheses reflected by the various positions and schools of thought discussed in this chapter while unveiling the rich diversity of creole syntactic features.

The investigation of pidgin and creole syntax has been a fruitful field of study for many decades. Linguists have explored the subject, using a variety of frameworks and methodologies, including sociolinguistic, generative, descriptive, and experimental approaches, among others. For a survey of generative studies of creole languages, I refer readers to Baptista forthcomingwhere I report on generative accounts of syntactic properties such as pro-drop, the syntax and semantics of bare nouns and full DPs.

Additionally, linguists have conducted experimental studies testing morpho-syntactic convergence Baptista, Gelman, and Beck,the acquisition of determiners Hudson-Kam and Newport,and the acquisition of wh -questions Adone, Note that a comprehensive survey of the studies that have examined the syntax of creoles is not the objective nor within the scope of this chapter.

Instead, its purpose is to introduce readers to the main lines of thought in creolistics regarding the nature and origins of the syntactic properties of pidgins and creoles and the features that typically differentiate pidgin syntax from creole syntax. Although I refer to pidgin syntax on occasions, the focus of this chapter remains on creole syntax. My objective is threefold: In the spirit of Handbook chapters, I introduce the primary research on the syntax of creoles, present the long-standing controversies on the origins of the observed syntactic properties, and evaluate some of the proposals while highlighting new directions in the study of these languages.

Due to length constraints, I refer to sample studies which are in my view representative of the current, main lines of thoughts on creole syntax. It should be clear that this chapter will necessarily leave out other major scholarly works that are just as representative and deserving of being included in this chapter but will be omitted instead, for reasons of space. In this chapter, I focus on three main topics: According to this view, creoles supposedly share similar syntactic features because they instantiate an innate language bioprogram that is activated in the chaotic environment in which pidgins and creoles typically emerge I focus on Bickerton, and compare the claims he makes in his earlier and latest works.

Language bioprogram theory – Wikipedia

In contrast to that approach, for other scholars, creoles instantiate features of the interlanguage found in second language acquisition. On this topic, I evaluate the positions and compare the views of Plag and Lefebvre bickertoon al.

I then report on a third line of thought regarding the syntactic properties of creoles and their mixed origin. On this issue, I introduce representative scholarship that views creoles as hybrid grammars and which argues that, as such, some of their syntactic and semantic modules are derived from their substrates, whereas others originate from their superstrates Aboh, allowing for innovative feature recombinations.

I finally introduce recent studies that conduct systematic comparisons of a large sample of creoles and their source languages. I argue that this is a promising new direction in the investigation of pidgins and creoles, as such studies provide labguages empirical coverage testing the hypotheses reflected by the various positions and schools of thought discussed in this chapter.

In my view, comparing systematically a given feature bickerfon a set of features across a wide range of pidgins and creoles is the best method to unveil the rich diversity of their syntactic features. On bickerto topic, I focus on the work by Michaelis forthcoming which follows a similar comparative method to Holm and Patrick but uses the newly published data from the Atlas of Pidgin and Creole Structures hereinafter, APiCS Michaelis et al.

The organization of this chapter follows the topics just introduced: In the next creile, I offer basic definitions of pidgins and creoles with the understanding that nativization may not always constitute the key difference between the two.

Derek Bickerton

In the third section, I introduce the school of thought that views pidgins and creoles as constituting a type of languages. In the fourth section, I consider studies that argue that the syntax of creoles instantiates an interlanguage typical of second language acquisition. In the fifth section, I examine the works of theoretical syntacticians who view creoles as hybrid grammars and propose that some syntactic properties can be traced back to substrates and others to superstrates.


In the sixth section, I point to new developments in the field and present work that conducts comparisons on a larger scale than ever before and which in my view will test, in due time, the various hypotheses presented in this chapter. The last section provides a summary and conclusion to this chapter. What is a pidgin? What is a creole? What are the key differences between the two?

These questions are not always met with straightforward answers. Pidgins are rudimentary languages that emerge in settings where multiple languages come into contact with each other and speakers are under intense pressure to create a new mode of communication for trade and work purposes many older creoles emerged in the context of the slave trade.

The syntax of pidgins is assumed to be unstable, inconsistent, and subject to much variation, whereas in contrast, the syntax of creoles is consistent, elaborate, and stable by virtue of having acquired native speakers. The situation is, however, much more complex, as few creoles show evidence of having gone through a pidgin stage and extended pidgins like Tok Pisin may acquire native speakers over time.

Consequently, nativization is not always a reliable criterion to determine the pidgin versus creole status of a language, and the pidgin-creole life cycle remains subject to much debate. There is, however, a broad consensus that creole languages result from intense contact between multiple languages and involve linguistic features from a socially dominant superstrate language and those of substrate languages.

In most cases, the lexicon of a given creole is derived from the superstrate. However, the source of creole grammatical features, including their morphosyntactic, semantic, and phonological properties, remains controversial. One school of thought posits that creoles can be characterized by feature clusters that instantiate language universals; such clusters would make them distinct on linguistic grounds from other natural languages. Another school of thought argues that the features found in creoles are akin to those found in interlanguages; as a result, creoles are said to reflect processes of second language acquisition.

Another prominent view is that creoles are a mixture of the multiple grammars that contribute to their individual genesis; as hybrid grammars, some of their features are believed to be traceable to their source languages, including both their substrates and superstrates. I examine each one of these view points and evaluate the core assumptions underlying each of these three positions.

I start by examining the view that the syntax of creoles would warrant considering them as a type of languages, distinguishable from other natural languages. The German philologist Hugo Schuchardtwas the first to note the challenge of fitting creole languages in the genealogical tree that philologists had designed and which divided Indo-European languages into distinct language families.

Among contemporary creolists, one of the first to argue that creoles constitute a type of languages distinct from other natural languages is Bickerton, He acknowledges that the variation or departure from that single grammar observable in individual creoles can be explained by the varied input they receive from a dominant language and other sources, including extralinguistic factors. Bickerton is among the first scholars to argue for the pidgin-creole life cycle by documenting how Hawaiian Pidgin English HPE evolved into Hawaiian Creole English HCE and how the pidgin differed from the creole on syntactic grounds.

The differences between the two lie in the domains of word order, the determiner system, Tense, Mood, and Aspect markers, sentential and relativized complementation. He linked the expression of genericity and indefiniteness to bare nouns, as with lawng stik in 4.

Based on these early observations, Bickerton argues that due to the multilingual, chaotic circumstances in which creole languages typically emerge, the primary linguistic data is too macaronic, too impoverished to constitute lanbuages adequate source of linguistic input. In later work, Bickerton According to him, the SVO word order and the absence of determiners characterizing generic nouns in the creoles he studied are instances of the bioprogram that original creole speakers use when confronted with defective input data.

Creole language – Wikipedia

Based on this scenario, a cluster of linguistic features such as basic SVO word order, preverbal Tense, Mood, and Aspect markers, bare nouns expressing genericity among other syntactic properties would set prototypical creoles apart from other natural languages.

They would form a type based on a distinct cluster of linguistic features. In doing so, I show which claims remain faithful to the original bioprogram proposal and which ones are taking a new direction. Bickerton revisits the process of creolization and roots it this time within the broader context of evolutionary theory.

He makes it clear that the evolutionary angle still allows the predictions of the original bioprogram to hold to a great extent Bickerton, Given that children have been shown to develop at first similar syntax irrespective of the language they will ultimately acquire, Bickerton still assumes that children on plantations relied on innate algorithms due to impoverished pidgin input. According to him, this would account for the alleged similar structures across creoles.

Note that such assumptions are crucially based on his belief that children are the primary agents of creolization. He attributes the differences between them to the nature and length of contact between contributing participants. He does not consider all creoles as a uniform entity but argues that plantation creoles form a natural class, and as such, he uses the term creole in this new work to refer exclusively to plantation creoles.


In this new volume, partially in response to Baptista and McWhorterBickerton clarifies the nature of the bioprogram and distinguishes it from Universal Grammar UGin contrast to the original proposal. In Bickerton, the bioprogram and UG were reconciled in that creoles were viewed as representing unmarked or default parameters UG was parametrized in the old Government and Binding framework. In his new work, Bickerton still views the language bioprogram as a monolithic grammar but with a much narrower scope.

His new take is that the language bioprogram is now activated by children in every language acquisition setting, whether a creole emerges or not. The only difference between the setting in which a creole arises and the one where it does not, resides in the quantity and quality of the primary linguistic data, according to Bickerton.

According to this more detailed characterization of creole genesis, the social and historical circumstances in which creoles develop prevent children born on plantations from directly accessing a preexisting language and these children are exposed instead to a nascent pidgin.

As a result, they have recourse to innate algorithms allowing them to repair the gaps found in the emerging language presumably a pidgin in their environment. In order to fill in the gaps, children recycle materials from the source languages using universal strategies found in the acquisition of any language, creole and non-creoles alike. Bickerton characterizes creoles bicekrton exhibiting the following properties:.

The universal algorithms for phrase and clause construction. Minimal repair strategies for areas left unspecified by those algorithms. Any substrate or superstrate phenomena sufficiently salient and consistent in the pidgin data.

In this new conceptualization of the bioprogram, Bickerton no longer postulates that creoles instantiate unmarked parameters Bickerton, He attributes the emergence of widespread constructions such as serial verb constructions to innate algorithms and not to substrate influence.

His evidence is that Mauritian has serial verb lanugages although its substrates have none. In this new work, Bickerton remains a critique of studies that seek the origin of creole features in the source languages, his reasoning being that if every structure and feature in a creole must be traced back to a source language, then this would leave no room for new, innovative features to arise.

One should, however, rectify this claim, as proponents of the hybrid grammars described in bickergon 5 clearly show that the recombination of features found in the substrates bickertom superstrates display innovations absent from the source languages. The bickerron patterns emerging from language contact can be indeed unique to the developing creole. Proponents of creoles as hybrid grammars also do not claim that every creole feature can or must be traced back to a source, often languagds the rise of novel features, as in the development of any natural bickertkn.

In summary, in his latest study, Bickerton still grants the primary role of creolization to children and still assumes that they did not have direct access to an established, preexisting language. For that reason, Bickerton proposes that children in plantations resorted to using materials of the languages in their environment both the pidgin and other languages to fill in the gaps in the unstable, inconsistent input they received.

In so doing, they used the same universal strategies of language acquisition that are available in the acquisition of any language.

According to Bickerton, the only trait that would distinguish a creole from a non-creole in the initial stages of acquisition is the quantity and quality of the languagfs to which children have access to.

Such a scenario of creole genesis is crucially based on three core assumptions: Such a scenario ignores three key factors that can actually play a role in creole genesis: Likewise, the idea that creoles emerge in a single generation has been countered by a gradualist approach to creole genesis Arends,whereby creoles emerge across several generations Siegel, ; Veenstra, The typological view of creoles, also instantiated in McWhorter and Bakker et al.

I now turn to other studies accounting for the syntax of creoles in different ways. Processes of Second Language Acquisition at Work. In this section, I review some of the proposals regarding how creole syntax may instantiate processes of second language acquisition and critically evaluate the type of evidence that such proposals rest upon.

The notion that processes of second language acquisition are involved in the formation of creole languages goes back to the very early days of contact linguistics. Adolfo Coelho was one of the first to propose that creoles emerge from processes of second language acquisition, a view that Hugo Schuchardt, the founder of contact linguistics entertained bickreton examining the effects of substratal and superstratal languaged in the set of creoles he examined.

The two can be all the more difficult to disentangle because often times substrate influence and presumed universal strategies of language acquisition seem to overlap in that they display the same linguistic properties.