Creole language

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Road sign in Guadeloupe Creole meaning Slow down. Children are playing here. The literal translation is "Lift your foot [from the accelerator]. There are children playing here". Guadeloupe creole 2010-03-30.JPG
Road sign in Guadeloupe Creole meaning Slow down. Children are playing here. The literal translation is "Lift your foot [from the accelerator]. There are children playing here".

A creole language, [1] [2] [3] or simply creole, is a stable natural language that develops from the simplifying and mixing of different languages at a fairly sudden point in time: often, a pidgin transitioned into a full-fledged language. While the concept is similar to that of a mixed or hybrid language, a creole is often additionally defined as being highly simplified when compared to its parent languages. However, a creole is still complex enough that it has a consistent system of grammar, possesses a large stable vocabulary, and is acquired by children as their native language. These three features distinguish a creole language from a pidgin.

In neuropsychology, linguistics, and the philosophy of language, a natural language or ordinary language is any language that has evolved naturally in humans through use and repetition without conscious planning or premeditation. Natural languages can take different forms, such as speech or signing. They are distinguished from constructed and formal languages such as those used to program computers or to study logic.

A mixed language is a language that arises among a bilingual group, typically very abruptly, combining aspects of two or more languages but not clearly deriving primarily from any single language. It differs from a creole or pidgin language in that, whereas creoles/pidgins arise from populations trying to imitate a language where they have no fluency, a mixed language arises in a population that is fluent in both of the source languages.

In linguistics, grammar is the set of structural rules governing the composition of clauses, phrases and words in a natural language. The term refers also to the study of such rules and this field includes phonology, morphology and syntax, often complemented by phonetics, semantics and pragmatics.


The precise number of creole languages is not known, particularly as many are poorly attested or documented. About one hundred creole languages have arisen since 1500. These are predominantly based on European languages such as English and French [4] due to the European Age of Discovery and the Atlantic slave trade that arose at that time. [5] With the improvements in ship-building and navigation, traders had to learn to communicate with people around the world, and the quickest way to do this was to develop a pidgin, or simplified language suited to the purpose; in turn, full creole languages developed from these pidgins. In addition to creoles that have European languages as their base, there are, for example, creoles based on Arabic, Chinese, and Malay. The creole with the largest number of speakers is Haitian Creole, with almost ten million native speakers, [6] followed by Tok Pisin with about 4 million, most of whom are second-language speakers.

Age of Discovery Period of European global exploration

The Age of Discovery, or the Age of Exploration, is an informal and loosely defined term for the period in European history in which extensive overseas exploration emerged as a powerful factor in European culture and which was the beginning of globalization. It also marks the rise of the period of widespread adoption in Europe of colonialism and mercantilism as national policies. Many lands previously unknown to Europeans were discovered by them during this period, though most were already inhabited. From the perspective of many non-Europeans, the Age of Discovery marked the arrival of invaders from previously unknown continents.

Atlantic slave trade Slave trade across the Atlantic Ocean between the 16th and 19th centuries

The Atlantic slave trade or transatlantic slave trade involved the transportation by slave traders of enslaved African people, mainly to the Americas. The slave trade regularly used the triangular trade route and its Middle Passage, and existed from the 16th to the 19th centuries. The vast majority of those who were enslaved and transported in the transatlantic slave trade were people from central and western Africa, who had been sold by other West Africans to Western European slave traders, who brought them to the Americas. The South Atlantic and Caribbean economies especially were dependent on the supply of secure labour for the production of commodity crops, making goods and clothing to sell in Europe. This was crucial to those western European countries which, in the late 17th and 18th centuries, were vying with each other to create overseas empires.

Navigation The process of monitoring and controlling the movement of a craft or vehicle from one place to another

Navigation is a field of study that focuses on the process of monitoring and controlling the movement of a craft or vehicle from one place to another. The field of navigation includes four general categories: land navigation, marine navigation, aeronautic navigation, and space navigation.

The lexicon (or, roughly, the base or essential vocabulary – such as "say" but not "said, tell, told") of a creole language is largely supplied by the parent languages, particularly that of the most dominant group in the social context of the creole's construction. However, there are often clear phonetic and semantic shifts. On the other hand, the grammar that has evolved often has new or unique features that differ substantially from those of the parent languages.

A lexicon, word-hoard, wordbook, or word-stock is the vocabulary of a person, language, or branch of knowledge. In linguistics, a lexicon is a language's inventory of lexemes. The word "lexicon" derives from the Greek λεξικόν (lexicon), neuter of λεξικός (lexikos) meaning "of or for words."

A phoneme is one of the units of sound that distinguish one word from another in a particular language.


A creole is believed to arise when a pidgin, developed by adults for use as a second language, becomes the native and primary language of their children – a process known as nativization. [7] The pidgin-creole life cycle was studied by American linguist Robert Hall in the 1960s. [8]

Nativization is the process whereby a language gains native speakers. This happens necessarily where a second language used by adult parents becomes the native language of their children. Nativization has been of particular interest to linguists, and to creolists more specifically, where the second language concerned is a pidgin.

Some linguists, such as Derek Bickerton, posit that creoles share more grammatical similarities with each other than with the languages from which they are phylogenetically derived. [9] However, there is no widely accepted theory that would account for those perceived similarities. [10] Moreover, no grammatical feature has been shown to be specific to creoles. [11] [12] [13] [14] [15] [16]

Many of the creoles known today arose in the last 500 years, as a result of the worldwide expansion of European maritime power and trade in the Age of Discovery, which led to extensive European colonial empires. Like most non-official and minority languages, creoles have generally been regarded in popular opinion as degenerate variants or dialects of their parent languages. Because of that prejudice, many of the creoles that arose in the European colonies, having been stigmatized, have become extinct. However, political and academic changes in recent decades have improved the status of creoles, both as living languages and as object of linguistic study. [17] [18] Some creoles have even been granted the status of official or semi-official languages of particular political territories.

The term dialect is used in two distinct ways to refer to two different types of linguistic phenomena:

Extinct language language that no longer has any speakers, or that is no longer in current use

An extinct language is a language that no longer has any speakers, especially if the language has no living descendants. In contrast, a dead language is "one that is no longer the native language of any community", even if it is still in use, like Latin. Languages that currently have living native speakers are sometimes called modern languages to contrast them with dead languages, especially in educational contexts.

Linguists now recognize that creole formation is a universal phenomenon, not limited to the European colonial period, and an important aspect of language evolution (see Vennemann (2003)). For example, in 1933 Sigmund Feist postulated a creole origin for the Germanic languages. [19]

Other scholars, such as Salikoko Mufwene, argue that pidgins and creoles arise independently under different circumstances, and that a pidgin need not always precede a creole nor a creole evolve from a pidgin. Pidgins, according to Mufwene, emerged in trade colonies among "users who preserved their native vernaculars for their day-to-day interactions." Creoles, meanwhile, developed in settlement colonies in which speakers of a European language, often indentured servants whose language would be far from the standard in the first place, interacted extensively with non-European slaves, absorbing certain words and features from the slaves' non-European native languages, resulting in a heavily basilectalized version of the original language. These servants and slaves would come to use the creole as an everyday vernacular, rather than merely in situations in which contact with a speaker of the superstrate was necessary. [20]



The English term creole comes from French créole, which is cognate with the Spanish term criollo and Portuguese crioulo, all descending from the verb criar ('to breed' or 'to raise'), all coming from Latin creare ('to produce, create'). [21] The specific sense of the term was coined in the 16th and 17th century, during the great expansion in European maritime power and trade that led to the establishment of European colonies in other continents.

The terms criollo and crioulo were originally qualifiers used throughout the Spanish and Portuguese colonies to distinguish the members of an ethnic group who were born and raised locally from those who immigrated as adults. They were most commonly applied to nationals of the colonial power, e.g. to distinguish españoles criollos (people born in the colonies from Spanish ancestors) from españoles peninsulares (those born in the Iberian Peninsula, i.e. Spain). However, in Brazil the term was also used to distinguish between negros crioulos (blacks born in Brazil from African slave ancestors) and negros africanos (born in Africa). Over time, the term and its derivatives (Creole, Kréol, Kreyol, Kreyòl, Kriol, Krio, etc.) lost the generic meaning and became the proper name of many distinct ethnic groups that developed locally from immigrant communities. Originally, therefore, the term "creole language" meant the speech of any of those creole peoples.

Geographic distribution

As a consequence of colonial European trade patterns, most of the known European-based creole languages arose in coastal areas in the equatorial belt around the world, including the Americas, western Africa, Goa along the west of India, and along Southeast Asia up to Indonesia, Singapore, Macau, Hong Kong, the Philippines, Malaysia, Mauritius, Reunion, Seychelles and Oceania. [22]

Many of those creoles are now extinct, but others still survive in the Caribbean, the north and east coasts of South America (The Guyanas), western Africa, Australia (see Australian Kriol language), and in the Indian Ocean.

Atlantic Creole languages are based on European languages with elements from African and possibly Amerindian languages. Indian Ocean Creole languages are based on European languages with elements from Malagasy and possibly other Asian languages. There are, however, creoles like Nubi and Sango that are derived solely from non-European languages.

Social and political status

Because of the generally low status of the Creole peoples in the eyes of prior European colonial powers, creole languages have generally been regarded as "degenerate" languages, or at best as rudimentary "dialects" of the politically dominant parent languages. Because of this, the word "creole" was generally used by linguists in opposition to "language", rather than as a qualifier for it. [23]

Another factor that may have contributed to the relative neglect of creole languages in linguistics is that they do not fit the 19th-century neogrammarian "tree model" for the evolution of languages, and its postulated regularity of sound changes (these critics including the earliest advocates of the wave model, Johannes Schmidt and Hugo Schuchardt, the forerunners of modern sociolinguistics). This controversy of the late 19th century profoundly shaped modern approaches to the comparative method in historical linguistics and in creolistics. [17] [23] [24]

Haitian Creole in use at car rental counter, USA Timoun Syej (Creole).jpg
Haitian Creole in use at car rental counter, USA

Because of social, political, and academic changes brought on by decolonization in the second half of the 20th century, creole languages have experienced revivals in the past few decades. They are increasingly being used in print and film, and in many cases, their community prestige has improved dramatically. In fact, some have been standardized, and are used in local schools and universities around the world. [17] [18] [25] At the same time, linguists have begun to come to the realization that creole languages are in no way inferior to other languages. They now use the term "creole" or "creole language" for any language suspected to have undergone creolization, terms that now imply no geographic restrictions nor ethnic prejudices.

Creolization is widely thought to be a leading influence on the evolution of African-American English (AAE). The controversy surrounding African-American Vernacular English (AAVE) in the American education system, as well as the past use of the word ebonics to refer to it, mirrors the historical negative connotation of the word creole. [26]


Historic classification

According to their external history, four types of creoles have been distinguished: plantation creoles, fort creoles, maroon creoles, and creolized pidgins. [27] By the very nature of a creole language, the phylogenetic classification of a particular creole usually is a matter of dispute; especially when the pidgin precursor and its parent tongues (which may have been other creoles or pidgins) have disappeared before they could be documented.

Phylogenetic classification traditionally relies on inheritance of the lexicon, especially of "core" terms, and of the grammar structure. However, in creoles, the core lexicon often has mixed origin, and the grammar is largely original. For these reasons, the issue of which language is the parent of a creole – that is, whether a language should be classified as a "French creole", "Portuguese creole" or "English creole", etc. – often has no definitive answer, and can become the topic of long-lasting controversies, where social prejudices and political considerations may interfere with scientific discussion. [17] [18] [24]

Substrate and superstrate

The terms substrate and superstrate are often used when two languages interact. However, the meaning of these terms is reasonably well-defined only in second language acquisition or language replacement events, when the native speakers of a certain source language (the substrate) are somehow compelled to abandon it for another target language (the superstrate). [28] The outcome of such an event is that erstwhile speakers of the substrate will use some version of the superstrate, at least in more formal contexts. The substrate may survive as a second language for informal conversation. As demonstrated by the fate of many replaced European languages (such as Etruscan, Breton, and Venetian), the influence of the substrate on the official speech is often limited to pronunciation and a modest number of loanwords. The substrate might even disappear altogether without leaving any trace. [28]

However, there is dispute over the extent to which the terms "substrate" and "superstrate" are applicable to the genesis or the description of creole languages. [29] The language replacement model may not be appropriate in creole formation contexts, where the emerging language is derived from multiple languages without any one of them being imposed as a replacement for any other. [30] [31] The substratum-superstratum distinction becomes awkward when multiple superstrata must be assumed (such as in Papiamentu), when the substratum cannot be identified, or when the presence or the survival of substratal evidence is inferred from mere typological analogies. [14] On the other hand, the distinction may be meaningful when the contributions of each parent language to the resulting creole can be shown to be very unequal, in a scientifically meaningful way. [32] In the literature on Atlantic Creoles, "superstrate" usually means European and "substrate" non-European or African. [33]


Since creole languages rarely attain official status, the speakers of a fully formed creole may eventually feel compelled to conform their speech to one of the parent languages. This decreolization process typically brings about a post-creole speech continuum characterized by large-scale variation and hypercorrection in the language. [17]

It is generally acknowledged that creoles have a simpler grammar and more internal variability than older, more established languages. [34] However, these notions are occasionally challenged. [35] (See also language complexity.)

Phylogenetic or typological comparisons of creole languages have led to divergent conclusions. Similarities are usually higher among creoles derived from related languages, such as the languages of Europe, than among broader groups that include also creoles based on non-Indo-European languages (like Nubi or Sango). French-based creoles in turn are more similar to each other (and to varieties of French) than to other European-based creoles. It was observed, in particular, that definite articles are mostly prenominal in English-based creole languages and English whereas they are generally postnominal in French creoles and in the variety of French that was exported to what is now Quebec in the 17th and 18th century. [36] Moreover, the European languages which gave rise to the creole languages of European colonies all belong to the same subgroup of Western Indo-European and have highly convergent grammars; to the point that Whorf joined them into a single Standard Average European language group. [37] French and English are particularly close, since English, through extensive borrowing, is typologically closer to French than to other Germanic languages. [38] Thus the claimed similarities between creoles may be mere consequences of similar parentage, rather than characteristic features of all creoles.

Creole genesis

There are a variety of theories on the origin of creole languages, all of which attempt to explain the similarities among them. Arends, Muysken & Smith (1995) outline a fourfold classification of explanations regarding creole genesis:

In addition to the precise mechanism of creole genesis, a more general debate has developed whether creole languages are characterized by different mechanisms in opposition to traditional languages (which is McWhorter's 2018 main point) [39] or whether in that regard creole languages develop by the same mechanisms as any other languages (e.g. DeGraff 2001). [40]

Theories focusing on European input

Monogenetic theory of pidgins and creoles

The monogenetic theory of pidgins and creoles hypothesizes that they are all derived from a single Mediterranean Lingua Franca, via a West African Pidgin Portuguese of the seventeenth century, relexified in the so-called "slave factories" of Western Africa that were the source of the Atlantic slave trade. This theory was originally formulated by Hugo Schuchardt in the late nineteenth century and popularized in the late 1950s and early 1960s by Taylor, [41] Whinnom, [42] Thompson, [43] and Stewart. [44] However, this hypothesis is no longer actively investigated, as there are examples of creoles, such as Hezhou, which evidently have nothing to do with the Lingua Franca.

Domestic origin hypothesis

Proposed by Hancock (1985) for the origin of English-based creoles of the West Indies, the Domestic Origin Hypothesis argues that, towards the end of the 16th century, English-speaking traders began to settle in the Gambia and Sierra Leone rivers as well as in neighboring areas such as the Bullom and Sherbro coasts. These settlers intermarried with the local population leading to mixed populations, and, as a result of this intermarriage, an English pidgin was created. This pidgin was learned by slaves in slave depots, who later on took it to the West Indies and formed one component of the emerging English creoles.

European dialect origin hypothesis

The French creoles are the foremost candidates to being the outcome of "normal" linguistic change and their creoleness to be sociohistoric in nature and relative to their colonial origin. [45] Within this theoretical framework, a French creole is a language phylogenetically based on French, more specifically on a 17th-century koiné French extant in Paris, the French Atlantic harbours, and the nascent French colonies. Supporters of this hypothesis suggest that the non-Creole French dialects still spoken in many parts of the Americas share mutual descent from this single koiné. These dialects are found in Canada (mostly in Québec and in Acadian communities), Louisiana, Saint-Barthélemy and as isolates in other parts of the Americas. [46] Approaches under this hypothesis are compatible with gradualism in change and models of imperfect language transmission in koiné genesis.

Foreigner talk and baby talk

The Foreigner Talk (FT) hypothesis argues that a pidgin or creole language forms when native speakers attempt to simplify their language in order to address speakers who do not know their language at all. Because of the similarities found in this type of speech and speech directed to a small child, it is also sometimes called baby talk. [47]

Arends, Muysken & Smith (1995) suggest that four different processes are involved in creating Foreigner Talk:

  • Accommodation
  • Imitation
  • Telegraphic condensation
  • Conventions

This could explain why creole languages have much in common, while avoiding a monogenetic model. However, Hinnenkamp (1984), in analyzing German Foreigner Talk, claims that it is too inconsistent and unpredictable to provide any model for language learning.

While the simplification of input was supposed to account for creoles' simple grammar, commentators have raised a number of criticisms of this explanation: [48]

  1. There are a great many grammatical similarities amongst pidgins and creoles despite having very different lexifier languages.
  2. Grammatical simplification can be explained by other processes, i.e. the innate grammar of Bickerton's language bioprogram theory.
  3. Speakers of a creole's lexifier language often fail to understand, without learning the language, the grammar of a pidgin or creole.
  4. Pidgins are more often used amongst speakers of different substrate languages than between such speakers and those of the lexifier language.

Another problem with the FT explanation is its potential circularity. Bloomfield (1933) points out that FT is often based on the imitation of the incorrect speech of the non-natives, that is the pidgin. Therefore, one may be mistaken in assuming that the former gave rise to the latter.

Imperfect L2 learning

The imperfect L2 (second language) learning hypothesis claims that pidgins are primarily the result of the imperfect L2 learning of the dominant lexifier language by the slaves. Research on naturalistic L2 processes has revealed a number of features of "interlanguage systems" that are also seen in pidgins and creoles:

  • invariant verb forms derived from the infinitive or the least marked finite verb form;
  • loss of determiners or use as determiners of demonstrative pronouns, adjectives or adverbs;
  • placement of a negative particle in preverbal position;
  • use of adverbs to express modality;
  • fixed single word order with no inversion in questions;
  • reduced or absent nominal plural marking.

Imperfect L2 learning is compatible with other approaches, notably the European dialect origin hypothesis and the universalist models of language transmission. [49]

Theories focusing on non-European input

Theories focusing on the substrate, or non-European, languages attribute similarities amongst creoles to the similarities of African substrate languages. These features are often assumed to be transferred from the substrate language to the creole or to be preserved invariant from the substrate language in the creole through a process of relexification: the substrate language replaces the native lexical items with lexical material from the superstrate language while retaining the native grammatical categories. [50] The problem with this explanation is that the postulated substrate languages differ amongst themselves and with creoles in meaningful ways. Bickerton (1981) argues that the number and diversity of African languages and the paucity of a historical record on creole genesis makes determining lexical correspondences a matter of chance. Dillard (1970) coined the term "cafeteria principle" to refer to the practice of arbitrarily attributing features of creoles to the influence of substrate African languages or assorted substandard dialects of European languages.

For a representative debate on this issue, see the contributions to Mufwene (1993); for a more recent view, Parkvall (2000).

Because of the sociohistoric similarities amongst many (but by no means all) of the creoles, the Atlantic slave trade and the plantation system of the European colonies have been emphasized as factors by linguists such as McWhorter (1999).

Gradualist and developmental hypotheses

One class of creoles might start as pidgins, rudimentary second languages improvised for use between speakers of two or more non-intelligible native languages. Keith Whinnom (in Hymes (1971)) suggests that pidgins need three languages to form, with one (the superstrate) being clearly dominant over the others. The lexicon of a pidgin is usually small and drawn from the vocabularies of its speakers, in varying proportions. Morphological details like word inflections, which usually take years to learn, are omitted; the syntax is kept very simple, usually based on strict word order. In this initial stage, all aspects of the speech – syntax, lexicon, and pronunciation – tend to be quite variable, especially with regard to the speaker's background.

If a pidgin manages to be learned by the children of a community as a native language, it may become fixed and acquire a more complex grammar, with fixed phonology, syntax, morphology, and syntactic embedding. Pidgins can become full languages in only a single generation. "Creolization" is this second stage where the pidgin language develops into a fully developed native language. The vocabulary, too, will develop to contain more and more items according to a rationale of lexical enrichment. [51]

Universalist approaches

Universalist models stress the intervention of specific general processes during the transmission of language from generation to generation and from speaker to speaker. The process invoked varies: a general tendency towards semantic transparency, first language learning driven by universal process, or general process of discourse organization. The main universalist theory is still Bickerton's language bioprogram theory, proposed in the 1980s. [52] Bickerton claims that creoles are inventions of the children growing up on newly founded plantations. Around them, they only heard pidgins spoken, without enough structure to function as natural languages; and the children used their own innate linguistic capacities to transform the pidgin input into a full-fledged language. The alleged common features of all creoles would then be the consequence of those innate abilities being universal.

Recent studies

The last decade has seen the emergence of some new questions about the nature of creoles: in particular, the question of how complex creoles are and the question of whether creoles are indeed "exceptional" languages.

Creole prototype

Some features that distinguish creole languages from noncreoles have been proposed (by Bickerton, [53] for example).

John McWhorter [54] has proposed the following list of features to indicate a creole prototype:

McWhorter hypothesizes that these three properties exactly characterize a creole. However, the creole prototype hypothesis has been disputed:


Building up on this discussion, McWhorter proposed that "the world's simplest grammars are Creole grammars", claiming that every noncreole language's grammar is at least as complex as any creole language's grammar. [56] [57] Gil has replied that Riau Indonesian has a simpler grammar than Saramaccan, the language McWhorter uses as a showcase for his theory. [13] The same objections were raised by Wittmann in his 1999 debate with McWhorter. [58]

The lack of progress made in defining creoles in terms of their morphology and syntax has led scholars such as Robert Chaudenson, Salikoko Mufwene, Michel DeGraff, and Henri Wittmann to question the value of creole as a typological class; they argue that creoles are structurally no different from any other language, and that creole is a sociohistoric concept – not a linguistic one – encompassing displaced populations and slavery. [59]

Thomason & Kaufman (1988) spell out the idea of creole exceptionalism, claiming that creole languages are an instance of nongenetic language change due to language shift with abnormal transmission. Gradualists question the abnormal transmission of languages in a creole setting and argue that the processes which created today's creole languages are no different from universal patterns of language change.

Given these objections to creole as a concept, DeGraff and others question the idea that creoles are exceptional in any meaningful way. [16] [60] Additionally, Mufwene (2002) argues that some Romance languages are potential creoles but that they are not considered as such by linguists because of a historical bias against such a view.

See also

Creoles by parent language

Related Research Articles

A pidgin, or pidgin language, is a grammatically simplified means of communication that develops between two or more groups that do not have a language in common: typically, its vocabulary and grammar are limited and often drawn from several languages. It is most commonly employed in situations such as trade, or where both groups speak languages different from the language of the country in which they reside. Fundamentally, a pidgin is a simplified means of linguistic communication, as it is constructed impromptu, or by convention, between individuals or groups of people. A pidgin is not the native language of any speech community, but is instead learned as a second language.

Portuguese creoles are creole languages which have Portuguese as their substantial lexifier. The most widely-spoken creole influenced by Portuguese is the Cape Verdean Creole.

In linguistics, a stratum or strate is a language that influences, or is influenced by another through contact. A substratum or substrate is a language that has lower power or prestige than another, while a superstratum or superstrate is the language that has higher power or prestige. Both substratum and superstratum languages influence each other, but in different ways. An adstratum or adstrate is a language that is in contact with another language in a neighbor population without having identifiably higher or lower prestige. The notion of "strata" was first developed by the Italian linguist Graziadio Isaia Ascoli (1829–1907), and became known in the English-speaking world through the work of two different authors in 1932.

Saramaccan is a creole language spoken by about 58,000 ethnic African people near the Saramacca and upper Suriname River, as well as in the capital Paramaribo, in Suriname, 25,000 in French Guiana, and 8,000 in the Netherlands. It has three main dialects. The speakers are mostly descendants of fugitive slaves who were native to West and Central Africa; they form a group called Saamacca, also spelled Saramaka.

In linguistics, relexification is a mechanism of language change by which one language changes much or all of its lexicon, including basic vocabulary, with the lexicon of another language, without drastically changing the relexified language's grammar. The term is principally used to describe pidgins, creoles, and mixed languages.

Unserdeutsch, or Rabaul Creole German, is a German-based creole language that originated in Papua New Guinea as a lingua franca. The substrate language is assumed to be Tok Pisin, while the majority of the lexicon is from German. German was the language of instruction in Catholic mission schools, which is where the language originated and children residing in a German-run orphanage later used the language regularly outside of their classrooms. The language developed into a first language for some when these children had families of their own. Oral stories tell a version that Unserdeutsch originated by children sharing stories where they used German vocabulary with Tok Pisin grammar, this change in language is referred to as relexification. The majority of Unserdeutsch speakers and their families migrated to Australia after Papua New Guinea's independence in 1975. During fieldwork conducted by researchers between 2014 and 2017, there were about 100 speakers found in Australia and around 10 speakers found in Papua New Guinea. The language is no longer learned as a first language.

Decreolization is a postulated phenomenon whereby over time a creole language reconverges with one of the standard languages from which it originally derived. First proposed by Keith Whinnom at the 1968 Mona conference, the concept has come under fire in recent years from such linguists as Derek Bickerton and John R. Rickford since at its inception it sought to overturn long-held elements of the theory of creole continua.

Berbice Dutch Creole is a now extinct Dutch-based creole language. It had a lexicon partly based on a dialect of the West African language, perhaps the ancestor of the modern Kalabari language. In contrast to the widely known Negerhollands Dutch creole spoken in the Virgin Islands, Berbice Creole Dutch and its relative Skepi Creole Dutch, were more or less unknown to the outside world until Ian Robertson first reported on the two languages in 1975. Dutch linguist Silvia Kouwenberg subsequently investigated the creole language, publishing its grammar in 1993.

John Russell Rickford is a Guyanese academic and author. Rickford is the J. E. Wallace Sterling Professor of Linguistics and the Humanities at Stanford University's Department of Linguistics and the Stanford Graduate School of Education, where he has taught since 1980. His book Spoken Soul: The Story of Black English, which he wrote together with his son, Russell J. Rickford, won the American Book Award in 2000.

A post-creole continuum is a dialect continuum of varieties of a creole language between those most and least similar to the superstrate language. Due to social, political, and economic factors, a creole language can decreolize towards one of the languages from which it is descended, aligning its morphology, phonology, and syntax to the local standard of the dominant language but to different degrees depending on a speaker's status.

Salikoko Mufwene is a linguist born in Mbaya-Lareme in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. He is the Frank J. McLoraine Distinguished Service Professor of linguistics at the University of Chicago. He has worked extensively on the development of creole languages, especially Gullah and Jamaican Creole, on the morphosyntax of Bantu languages, especially Kituba, Lingala, and Kiyansi, and on African American Vernacular English. He has also published several articles and chapters about language evolution. Mufwene received his Ph.D. in linguistics from the University of Chicago in 1979.

The language bioprogram theory or language bioprogram hypothesis (LBH) is a theory arguing that the structural similarities between different creole languages cannot be solely attributed to their superstrate and substrate languages. As articulated mostly by Derek Bickerton, creolization occurs when the linguistic exposure of children in a community consists solely of a highly unstructured pidgin; these children use their innate language capacity to transform the pidgin, which characteristically has high syntactic variability, into a language with a highly structured grammar. As this capacity is universal, the grammars of these new languages have many similarities.

According to the theory of monogenesis in its most radical form, all pidgins and creole languages of the world can be ultimately traced back to one linguistic variety. This idea was first formulated by Hugo Schuchardt in the late 19th century and popularized in the late 1950s and early 1960s by Taylor (1961) and Thompson (1961). It assumes that some type of pidgin language, dubbed West African Pidgin Portuguese, based on Portuguese was spoken from the 15th to 18th centuries in the forts established by the Portuguese on the West African coast. This variety was the starting point of all the pidgin and creole languages. This would explain to some extent why Portuguese lexical items can be found in many creoles, but more importantly, it would account for the numerous grammatical similarities shared by such languages.

Henri Wittmann Canadian linguist

Henri Wittmann is a Canadian linguist from Quebec. He is best known for his work on Quebec French.

Creolistics, or Creology, is the scientific study of creole languages and, as such, is a subfield of linguistics. Someone who engages in this study is called a creolist.

John Alexander Holm was an American academic. He was Chair of English Linguistics and History of Civilizations at the University of Coimbra, Portugal.

Susanne Maria Michaelis is a specialist in creole linguistics who works at Leipzig University. She was previously at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, and at the Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History in Jena.

Mauritian Creole language

Mauritian Creole or Morisien or formerly Morisyen is a French-based creole language spoken in Mauritius. In addition to the French base of the language, there are also a number of words from English and from the many African and South Asian languages that have been spoken on the island.


  1. The study of pidgin and creole languages
  2. Language varieties: Pidgins and creoles
  3. Typologizing grammatical complexities, or Why creoles may be paradigmatically simple but syntagmatically average
  4. "Creole – Language Information & Resources". Retrieved October 9, 2017.
  5. Linguistics, ed. Anne E. Baker, Kees Hengeveld, p. 436
  6. Valdman, Albert. "Creole: The national language of Haiti". Retrieved October 9, 2017.
  7. Wardhaugh (2002 :61)
  8. Hall (1966)
  9. Bickerton (1983 :116–122)
  10. Winford (1997 :138); cited in Wardhaugh (2002)
  11. Wittmann (1999)
  12. Mufwene (2000)
  13. 1 2 Gil (2001)
  14. 1 2 Muysken & Law (2001)
  15. Lefebvre (2002)
  16. 1 2 DeGraff (2003)
  17. 1 2 3 4 5 DeCamp (1977)
  18. 1 2 3 Sebba (1997)
  19. Feist, Sigmund (1932). "The Origin of the Germanic Languages and the Indo-Europeanising of North Europe". Language. 8 (4): 245–254. doi:10.2307/408831. JSTOR   408831.
  20. Mufwene, Salikoko. "Pidgin and Creole Languages". Retrieved 2010-04-24.
  21. Holm (1988).
  22. Chambers, Douglas B. (2008-12-01). "Slave trade merchants of Spanish New Orleans, 1763–1803: Clarifying the colonial slave trade to Louisiana in Atlantic perspective". Atlantic Studies. 5 (3): 335–346. doi:10.1080/14788810802445024. ISSN   1478-8810.
  23. 1 2 See Meijer & Muysken (1977).
  24. 1 2 Traugott (1977)
  25. Holm (1988, 1989)
  26. Williams, Robert L. (2016-07-25). "The Ebonics Controversy". Journal of Black Psychology. 23 (3): 208–214. doi:10.1177/00957984970233002.
  27. Arends, Muysken & Smith (1995 :15)
  28. 1 2 Weinreich (1953)
  29. Mufwene (1993)
  30. Singler (1988)
  31. Singler (1996)
  32. Recent investigations about substrates and superstrates, in creoles and other languages, includes Feist (1932), Weinreich (1953), Jungemann (1955), Martinet (1955), Hall (1974), Singler (1983), and Singler (1988).
  33. Parkvall (2000)
  34. "Creole and pidgin language structure in cross-linguistic perspective". Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology – Department of Linguistics. August 2013.
  35. Arends, Muysken & Smith (1995 :9)
  36. Fournier (1998), Wittmann (1995), Wittmann (1998).
  37. Whorf (1956)
  38. Bailey & Maroldt (1977)
  39. McWhorter, John (2018). The Creole Debate. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. p. 3.
  40. DeGraff, Michael (2001). "On the origin of creoles". Linguistic Typology.
  41. such as in Taylor (1977)
  42. Whinnom (1956), Whinnom (1965)
  43. Thompson (1961)
  44. Stewart (1962)
  45. There are some similarities in this line of thinking with Hancock's domestic origin hypothesis.
  46. Wittmann (1983, 1995, 2001), Fournier (1998), Fournier & Wittmann (1995); cf. the article on Quebec French and the History of Quebec French
  47. See, for example, Ferguson (1971)
  48. Wardhaugh (2002 :73)
  49. Based on 19th-century intuitions, approaches underlying the imperfect L2 learning hypothesis have been followed up in the works of Schumann (1978), Anderson (1983), Seuren & Wekker (1986), Arends, Muysken & Smith (1995), Geeslin (2002), Hamilton & Coslett (2008).
  50. See the article on relexification for a discussion of the controversy surrounding the retaining of substrate grammatical features through relexification.
  51. Wardhaugh (2002 :56–57)
  52. See Bickerton (1981), Bickerton (1983), Bickerton (1984), Bickerton (1988), and Bickerton (1991)
  53. See Bickerton (1983)
  54. See McWhorter (1998) and McWhorter (2005)
  55. Muysken & Law (2001)
  56. McWhorter (1998)
  57. McWhorter (2005)
  58. Wittmann-McWhorter debate
  59. Mufwene (2000), Wittmann (2001)
  60. Ansaldo & Matthews (2007)
  61. Takashi (2008)

Further reading

In French