Does a creole have a vocabulary with 100% loans?

Discussion in 'Etymology, History of languages and Linguistics (EHL)' started by rbrunner, Oct 25, 2013.

  1. rbrunner Junior Member

    Switzerland
    German - Switzerland
    As far as I understand the matter of word origins, for a "conventional" language you can assign all the words quite nicely to two classes: Each word is either inherited or borrowed / loaned. (Of course there is always kind of a third case of "unknown origin", but that does not change something fundamental.)

    How is this with creoles? As a creole starts with a pidgin, and people "built" that pidgin by taking words from different languages that were somehow at hand, does that mean that a creole has a vocabulary where all words are borrowed?

    So, if wara, the word for water in Tok Pisin, was taken from English, is this word a loan word in Tok Pisin?

    Or do linguists have other terms to describe / classify this situation?
     
  2. Ben Jamin Senior Member

    Norway
    Polish
    A Pidgin, by definition, takes words from at least two languages, and in the initial period 100% must be "borrowed". At the same time they will be inherited. A creole builds basically on one language, but changing the pronunciation and
    usually simplifying grammar and adding words from other languages. Both pidgins and creoles will sooner or later create own words. A creole will always inherit the words from the "mother language".
    This is one way of looking at the problem, and it may be adapted as a convention, unless somebody proposes something more attractive.
     
  3. ancalimon Senior Member

    Istanbul
    Turkish
    By this definition, is Kurdish a pidgin? Almost all of its vocabulary consists of different languages including Persian, Arabic and Turkic. But it consists mostly of Persian words. But I think there are hundreds of Kurdish specific words which were created over time that do not exist in other languages. The things is that most of Kurds living in Iran speak Persian as native language and most of the Kurds living in Turkey speak Turkish as native language even between themselves. Over the last years, The Kurdish youth in Iraq have been speaking English as their native language since education is in English.
     
  4. rbrunner Junior Member

    Switzerland
    German - Switzerland
    There are a number of threads already on this board asking Is language x a pidgin? or Is language x a creole?, and most of the time the answer seems to be no because the definition what is a pidgin or a creole is quite narrow, which can be seen e.g. here. A pidgin usually is transient - which Kurdish certainly isn't - because it turns into a creole when parents start to teach it to their children and it becomes their native language.

    And don't forget grammar: You can load a language with lots and lots of loans, if the grammar stays, the language stays, as far as I understand the matter - it's not suddenly a creole or even a pidgin.

    That's why creoles with 90% or even more of their vocabulary coming from English, French or Dutch (the language called their lexifier, apparently) are definitely own languages: They have a grammar very different from the one of that language, either radically simplified and/or from other languages altogether.

    But anyway, what would interest me most is whether linguistic concepts like inherited and loaned also apply in the unusual circumstances of creoles or whether linguists describe what's happening here with other terms.
     
    Last edited: Oct 26, 2013
  5. Gavril Senior Member

    English, USA
    In theory, a creole develops out of a breach in communication across generations -- namely, the pidgin stage, where speakers don't have the "full set" of communicative resources available in a normal language.

    Since the new communicative mechanisms have to be created "from scratch" when a pidgin develops into a creole, this means that a creole is not a genetic continuation of any previous language (according to some linguists' definition of the term genetic).

    Therefore, at the initial stage of a creole, none of the creole's vocabulary creole is loaned -- it is simply the initial vocabulary of a new language. In the later history of the creole, this vocabulary can be called "inherited".

    This is how some linguists (insofar as I understand their models) would answer the question of loans in a creole's vocabulary. Personally, I'm still unsure about the standard concept of genetic inheritance in linguistics, or the idea of a "complete" language (creole) vs. an "incomplete" one (pidgin), both of which are important to answering this question.
     
    Last edited: Oct 26, 2013
  6. rbrunner Junior Member

    Switzerland
    German - Switzerland
    I agree, and I think that is quite uncontroversial: Even with 90% English or at least English-derived vocabulary something like Tok Pisin is not a continuation of English like English is of Middle English and that in turn of Old English. So so can't say the words themselves are inherited either.

    Well, interesting thought, but I disagree: Maybe the vocabulary as a whole is "created" and not "loaned", but what about the individual words? Those people do not generally coin tons of new words, its seems, no, they take them from existing languages, in most cases the majority of them from a single one, a fact that merits its own term lexifier. And maybe this "taking" on the level of individual words can be called loaning, but maybe is a process different enough that it has its own name.
     
  7. Gavril Senior Member

    English, USA
    It may be uncontroversial, but it's not clear to me (yet) what Tok Pisin has "failed" to inherit that disqualifies it from being a continuation of Old English, and in turn allows us to unambiguously call standard modern English an inheritor of OE's legacy.

    What distinction are you making between the vocabulary as a whole and the individual words?

    Lexification of a creole doesn't necessarily involve any new coinages. However, because lexification is (theoretically) part of the genesis of a new language, rather than the history of an existing language, it isn't considered the same process as loaning (at least not by everyone).
     
  8. rbrunner Junior Member

    Switzerland
    German - Switzerland
    Well, I am no linguist, and quite new to this "stuff", but I think it must be the grammar that disqualifies, together with the fact that probably there are no unbroken lines of language transfer from parents to children, starting at English and ending at Tok Pisin.

    That's only how I understood your writing, that you looked at the vocabulary as a whole as an entity in its own right, like when I say "Let's create a vocabulary by loaning words from different languages", but probably that does not lead to new insights...

    Right, and maybe we have the chance here to coin a new term ourselves :)
     
  9. Ben Jamin Senior Member

    Norway
    Polish
    There seems to be a principal difference between creating a pidgin and a creole. A pidgin is created basically for comunication between people speaking two diferent languages, mostly for practical purposes, like trade. A pidgin is a new creation, often not easily understood by the speakers of the parent languages. A creole seems to be much closer related to one of the parent languages, where the bulk of both lexique qand grammar is taken over, albeit with simplificaton of the grammar and adaptation of the pronunciation, and adding words of other languages. A creole can be considered to be a descendant of the parent language, but a pidgin can not, the breach is to radical and abrupt. A pidgin is in this respect an artificial language, while creole is not.
     
  10. Ben Jamin Senior Member

    Norway
    Polish
    I don't agree that a creole starts as a pidgin. The process is different. A creole starts with a parent language that is imperfectly aquired by a population speaking originally another language.
     
  11. rbrunner Junior Member

    Switzerland
    German - Switzerland
    Well, it seems there is some controversy about the relations between pidgins and creoles: On the one hand, sources like following:

    From Wikipedia: "A creole language is a stable, full-fledged language that originated from a pidgin."

    From Universität Duisburg Essen: "This latter stage is that of creolisation. Creoles are much expanded versions of pidgins ...

    But on the other hand:

    From University of Chicago: "Thus, Creoles have been defined inaccurately as 'nativized pidgins,' i.e., pidgins that have acquired native speakers and have therefore expanded both their structures and functions and have stabilized."

    But, however this particular controversy may play out, does the outcome influence the answer to my original question?
     
  12. Ben Jamin Senior Member

    Norway
    Polish
    It seems that the linguists are not very preoccupied with sticking to definitions. Your quotation no. 2 witnesses about a quite free and arbitrary redefinition of the pidgin term. The very origin of the term pidgin is the English-Chinese buisiness speech, with English words and Chinese grammar, an "artificial" product created on purpose, for practical use. The creole term is based on the languages developed from French, Spanish and Portuguese in the colonies, among the slave population, through their adoption and modification of the colonial languages. Later applied also to languages developed on the base of English. The two processes have some common traits, but are different.
     
  13. berndf Moderator

    Geneva
    German (Germany)
    It states that there is no consensus on the definition. Definitions are always arbitrary. They can only be more or less accepted or more or less useful.
    This is the assumption the definition you are using is based on. Quotation no. 2 explicitly denies that the correctness of this assumption is undisputed.

    Whatever you think of this source. You cannot accuse it of being inconsistent.
     
    Last edited: Oct 27, 2013
  14. Ben Jamin Senior Member

    Norway
    Polish
    I called this an "arbitrary redefinition", not arbitrary definition. Definitions are often arbitrary, but they should be consistent with other works, and it is an advantage if they are based on a consensus.
    Reading about linguistics I am often struck by the lack of consistence between terminology in various works, and freedom with which they are used, compared to natural sciences.
    By the way, does there exist any work describing a creolization through pidginization? It would be interesting.
     
  15. berndf Moderator

    Geneva
    German (Germany)
    True. But it seems not to be the problem here. Definitions are often based on hypotheses that are take for granted, here that "pidgin is the English-Chinese business speech", as you said. As soon as this underlying hypothesis is questioned, the definition risks becoming meaningless of at lest much less obvious than previously thought.
     

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