Creole, patois, pidgin

Discussion in 'Etymology, History of languages, and Linguistics (EHL)' started by pen, Nov 4, 2008.

  1. pen Senior Member

    I dont know if this is the right place for the question. I used to know but i forgot what the difference between creole and patois is.
    I also would like to know when was the beginning of each one. I vaguely remember that patois started as the need of communication in order to commercialize or trade.


  2. Frank06

    Frank06 Senior Member

    Nederlands / Dutch (Belgium)

    Patois hardly is a technical term. It can refer to any kind of language (or dialect or variant) which is not considered to be the standard language.

    I think that you mixed it up with a pidgin, which is normally considered to be a highly simplified language used by groups which don't (didn't) have a language in common (as for example between traders). Hence, pidgins normally don't have native speakers.

    A creole is normally considered to be an 'extended pidgin', a 'nativized pidgin', let's say 'a pidgin' with more complex (new) features and with native speakers.

    Two notes:
    1. This is a highly simplified explanation. I referred to three Wikipedia articles for further information.
    2. What exactly constitutes a creole (as opposed to a pidgin) and how creole languages exactly originate, is still a matter of debate.


    Last edited: Nov 4, 2008
  3. pen Senior Member

    Thanks Frank for your response. I know that PIDGIN' as you said is related to CREOLE. I also understand that PATOIS is not consider a standard language.
    What :confused::confused:confuses me is that some people say that patois is creole and that creole is a dialect. I know dialect is a variant from a standard language.

    thanks again
  4. berndf Moderator

    German (Germany)
    As Frank said, Patois is not a technical term. It is used in colloquial speech and its definition is therefore fuzzy. In French, where the word comes from, it simply means local dialect or popular speech.

    Again as Frank said, a Pidgin or Creole is always a simplified version of a foreign language adopted by a community, either for certain purposes like trade (Pidgin) or as an adopted everyday language (Creole).

    By contrast a Patois is usually a local dialect of a native language.

    I don't think this is an appropriate description.
  5. pen Senior Member

    thanks guys:)

  6. Frank06

    Frank06 Senior Member

    Nederlands / Dutch (Belgium)
    It's a bit of a problem with quite a lot of scientific terminology. Just take the the meaning of the word 'theory' in science versus the meaning of 'theory' in popular, daily, 'normal' usage. Anyway, we see the same in linguistics where terms as 'pidgin', 'creole', and certainly 'dialect' are pretty well defined. But those technical definitions aren't always used (or known or necessary) in daily speech and they can differ enormously.

    One of the most striking examples I heard were most if not all of my Berber speaking Moroccans who refer to Berber (whatever variety) as a dialect (versus the language Arabic). It goes without saying that the linguists' point of view differs enormously from this popular (non-technical) statement.

    By the way, and I know that I am playing with fire, but one could argue that a standard language is a dialect of a language. Reactions to this last statement here please :-D.


  7. sokol

    sokol Senior Member

    Vienna, Austria; raised in Upper Austria
    Austrian (as opposed to Australian)
    Back again to "what people say" - what people say many times is lightyears away from what linguists say. Frank already has given an excellent example concerning that one. :)

    Linguists simply will define a "dialect" as a language defined according to region - while a standard language usually would be described as a register which is a language defined according to use.
    If a standard language is restricted to a region within the speech community - as is American English, or Serbian vs. Croatian standard language - you may speak of a standard dialect.

    In this sense a specific creole could be a dialect. But a creole of course could never be defined as a dialect per se: a creole is not defined according to region but according to development - a creole, basically is defined as a linguistic variety which developped out of a pidgin.

    While a creole has native speakers a pidgin has not; a pidgin is defined as a language which evolved in a situation where several people of different mother tongues had no common language and therefore developped a hugely simplified lingua franca.
    During the creolisation process (during which a pidgin evolves into a creole) children begin to grow up with the pidgin language and adopt it as their native tongue; in this process the pidgin also becomes richer in meaning (semantics), grammar and morphology: the pidgin evolves and changes into a full-fledged language.

    This is a very basic definiton of the terms pidgin and creole; linguists still discuss many things concerning all those processes controversly.

    And as for patois I think enough has been said already. It can mean any language or dialect (or creole or pidgin), it may be very derogatory, or only slightly so; and as a term it is of no use to linguists.
    But the term is used nevertheless by non-linguists of course.

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