Is English a creole?

Dymn

Senior Member
It describes a type, formed through a process.

Various peoples need to understand each other. They mimic the prestige language. This results in a new "version" of the prestige language, mostly analytic and with some influence from substratum languages (I guess that mainly in phonology and maybe syntax), which gradually becomes the native tongue of the entire population.

If this is true, now the question is what happened from Old English to Middle English that could be meaningfully similar to this. I guess some posts have addressed this question, but I can't realistically read the whole thread. Anyway the high proportion of Germanic vocabulary really seems to speak out against the creole hypothesis.
 
  • Red Arrow

    Senior Member
    Dutch - Belgium
    If British people really tried to sound French, they did an absolutely terrible job. English phonology doesn't even remotely resemble French phonology, especially compared to my mother tongue: (Belgian) Dutch. English being a creole sounds absurd to me. Where's gn, u, eu, œu, the nasal vowels etc. Granted, I don't know how French sounded like 1000 years ago, but I doubt it had all those [aɪ]'s.

    To me it always looked like the English language never borrows any words from any language, it only borrows spellings (written words) and then native speakers are free to pronounce those words however they please, preferably in some odd way.
     

    Gavril

    Senior Member
    English, USA
    Various peoples need to understand each other. They mimic the prestige language. This results in a new "version" of the prestige language, mostly analytic and with some influence from substratum languages

    No offense, but do you think there might be a more appropriate term than "mimic" here? Maybe what you mean is "pick disparate elements from (the prestige language)"?

    (If the people in question really did "mimic", i.e. copy, the language they were hearing, I don't understand why the resulting language would be characterized by the lack of concatenative elements from the source language.)
     

    overdrive1979

    Member
    European Spanish
    As a Spaniard person who speak English as a second language, after reading the whole thread I would say English is not a 100% full creole language, but looks like it suffered some changes as if the earliest step of becoming a creole language took place for a while at anytime in the past until reaching for instance 5% of whole creolle process, then stopped for whatever reasons.

    Anyway, I buy the Danelaw theory as well.

    I'm guessing if Frisian language suffered the same process as in some ways it resembles somewhat Scandinavian rather than pure continental Western Germanic language, although Modern Frisian it's not a simplified language like Modern English actually is.
     
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    Red Arrow

    Senior Member
    Dutch - Belgium
    Several people in this thread have mentioned that one reason for calling Enlgish (and Afrikaans) a creole is that it has lost grammatical gender. However, Vestjysk, a dialect of Danish, has lost it as well. Vestjysk's grammar is probably even more "simplified" than that of English, given that Danish verb conjugation is by far the easiest of all Germanic languages.

    This somewhat "proves" that a Germanic language can easily turn English-like without having undergoing creolization. Right?

    EDIT: According to this book, all countable words have become "common" in Vestjysk, and all uncountable nouns have become "neuter". The word for house (hus) is neuter in Danish (and Dutch, German etc.), but in Vestjysk, it's common because it's countable. The word for snow is normally common in Dutch/Swedish/Danish, but in Vestjysk, it's neuter.
     
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    mcorazao

    Member
    English, USA
    Several people in this thread have mentioned that one reason for calling Enlgish (and Afrikaans) a creole is that it has lost grammatical gender. However, Vestjysk, a dialect of Danish, has lost it as well. Vestjysk's grammar is probably even more "simplified" than that of English, given that Danish verb conjugation by far the easiest of all Germanic languages.

    This somewhat "proves" that a Germanic language can easily turn English-like without having undergoing creolization. Right?

    I don't know about "prove" but certainly it is definitely true that a language can undergo any type of change without requiring creolization. The main thing to consider is that when you see sudden and dramatic shifts between a parent language and a supposed child language, this often indicates some degree of creolization. Mind you, creolization is not always an all-or-nothing proposition. There can be degrees to it. The loss of gender is only one small part of the shift in the case of English. The nearly complete loss of the case system is even more significant as is the general shift in the grammar/syntax to blend French and Germanic styles (e.g. the fact that English now mostly forms its plurals like French instead of like German). These things in and of themselves do not "prove" that creolization happened either, but it seems difficult to explain such dramatic and abrupt shifts without creolization.
     

    Red Arrow

    Senior Member
    Dutch - Belgium
    The nearly complete loss of the case system is even more significant as is the general shift in the grammar/syntax to blend French and Germanic styles (e.g. the fact that English now mostly forms its plurals like French instead of like German).
    Dutch, Danish, Swedish, Norwegian, Frisian and Afrikaans have also lost the case system. It is typical of Germanic languages. It has got nothing to do with French.
    (e.g. the fact that English now mostly forms its plurals like French instead of like German)
    Dutch, Frisian and Afrikaans also use plural "s", and just like in English, that letter is pronounced. Some Scandinavian languages also used to have plural "s", apparantly.

    In French, however, plural "s" is silent. Garçon and garçons are pronounced exactly the same. You have to use different articles (des, les) to make clear that it's plural. It is nothing like English.

    Unfortunately, I don't know when the "s" become silent in French, or how French was like in 1066.
     
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    mcorazao

    Member
    English, USA
    Dutch, Danish, Swedish, Norwegian, Frisian and Afrikaans have also lost the case system. It is typical of Germanic languages. It has got nothing to do with French.

    Dutch, Frisian and Afrikaans also use plural "s", and just like in English, that letter is pronounced. Some Scandinavian languages also used to have plural "s", apparantly.

    In French, however, plural "s" is silent. Garçon and garçons are pronounced exactly the same. In spoken French, plural is denoted by a different article. It is nothing like English.

    Unfortunately, I don't know when the "s" become silent in French, or how French was like in 1066.

    Dutch, Frisian, and Afrikaans only use the 's' plural for some words. In the case of Afrikaans it is specifically because of the influence of English in South Africa. It did not happen independently.

    The devoicing of letters in French was a gradual process but in general the devoicing of the final 's' has just in been in the last few hundred years. For what it is worth, the 's' is not entirely devoiced either in French (e.g. garçon and garçons are not pronounced the same in all contexts), but that is another rabbit hole ...
     

    Red Arrow

    Senior Member
    Dutch - Belgium
    Dutch, Frisian, and Afrikaans only use the 's' plural for some words. In the case of Afrikaans it is specifically because of the influence of English in South Africa. It did not happen independently.
    Afrikaans is a daughter language of Dutch. The Dutch already had that ending before moving to South Africa.

    In Dutch, the following words get plural "s":
    -words with a schwa in the final syllable
    -words that end with a, e, i, o, u, y
    -words that end with these suffixes: -aar, -aard, -eur, -ier, -oor (a long vowel + r)
    -recent loanwords from English
    -words that end with the Greek suffix -foon

    Low German also uses plural "s". It ultimately comes from Germanic case endings.
    The devoicing of letters in French was a gradual process but in general the devoicing of the final 's' has just in been in the last few hundred years. For what it is worth, the 's' is not entirely devoiced either in French (e.g. garçon and garçons are not pronounced the same in all contexts), but that is another rabbit hole ...
    Devoicing means "not trilling your voice box". I think you mean "dropping".
     

    Red Arrow

    Senior Member
    Dutch - Belgium
    So far I can only conclude that this sentence is wrong:
    These things in and of themselves do not "prove" that creolization happened either, but it seems difficult to explain such dramatic and abrupt shifts without creolization.
    All of these "dramatic and abrupt shifts" happened in several other Germanic languages as well.
     

    mcorazao

    Member
    English, USA
    Afrikaans is a daughter language of Dutch. The Dutch already had that ending before moving to South Africa.

    In Dutch, the following words get plural "s":
    -words with a schwa in the final syllable
    -words that end with a, e, i, o, u, y
    -words that end with these suffixes: -aar, -aard, -eur, -ier, -oor (a long vowel + r)
    -recent loanwords from English
    -words that end with the Greek suffix -foon

    Yes, the point is that the limited use of 's' endings for plural forms in some Germanic languages are different issue from the fact that English picked up the almost exclusive use of 's' endings from French. The two really do not seem to have had anything to do with each other. This major shift in the language, coupled with several others, having occurred over such a tiny span of time, seem inconsistent with normal evolution of a language, even in the presence of a strong influence like the Normans.

    Mind you, something similar can be (and has been) said of the Western Romance languages (French, Spanish, Italian, etc.). The shift from classical Latin to Romance Latin was striking and abrupt. Germanic syntax suddenly entered Latin and the grammar was suddenly dramatically simplified. All these point to a creolization caused by the Goths and other Germanic peoples. Again, is there definitive proof? Not really, but then what sort of proof would you expect to find?
     

    mcorazao

    Member
    English, USA
    So far I can only conclude that this sentence is wrong:

    All of these "dramatic and abrupt shifts" happened in several other Germanic languages as well.

    I think most scholars would disagree. English is quite unique among Germanic languages, though certainly you can see smaller shifts that have some similarities to English.

    Again, the creole hypothesis is still little more than conjecture, even among its supporters. I'm not arguing that anybody says it must be true, only that there are reasons to say it cannot be easily dismissed.
     

    Pedro y La Torre

    Senior Member
    English (Ireland)
    Mind you, something similar can be (and has been) said of the Western Romance languages (French, Spanish, Italian, etc.). The shift from classical Latin to Romance Latin was striking and abrupt. Germanic syntax suddenly entered Latin and the grammar was suddenly dramatically simplified. All these point to a creolization caused by the Goths and other Germanic peoples. Again, is there definitive proof? Not really, but then what sort of proof would you expect to find?

    There was no dramatic shift from Classical Latin (which even in Cicero's time was markedly different from the Latin spoken by the masses) to so-called Romance Latin and no influx of Germanic syntax. French is not a creole in any way nor is English for that matter.
     

    mcorazao

    Member
    English, USA
    There was no dramatic shift from Classical Latin (which even in Cicero's time was markedly different from the Latin spoken by the masses) to so-called Romance Latin and no influx of Germanic syntax.

    Well, the Germanic shifts and the radical changes are well documented. But I guess you have your reasons for asserting otherwise.
     

    Red Arrow

    Senior Member
    Dutch - Belgium
    Yes, the point is that the limited use of 's' endings for plural forms in some Germanic languages are different issue from the fact that English picked up the almost exclusive use of 's' endings from French. The two really do not seem to have had anything to do with each other.
    This is a fallacy and I will try to explain why.

    Dutch uses plural 's' in about half of all possible words that can be made. Engllish in almost all of them.

    You are making it look like both endings have different origins because the rules are different. That is utter nonsense. The French verb être is used about twice as much as the Spanish verb estar. (simply because Spanish has got a second verb: ser) According to your logic, estar and être must have different origins!

    Both English 's' and Dutch 's' are a renmant of the Germanic case system. The only difference is that Dutch retained a second plural 'en', but that doesn't change the origin of plural 's'.
    This major shift in the language, coupled with several others, having occurred over such a tiny span of time, seem inconsistent with normal evolution of a language, even in the presence of a strong influence like the Normans.
    Like?

    Dutch grammar got "simplified" every time people moved together, for instance when new towns were made. That is how we got rid of the case system. Same for Norwegian, Swedish and Danish. Low German got almost rid of it. (Low German only had cases for singular masculine words, as discussed somewhere else on the forum)

    Only High German and Icelandic retained the case system. Maybe it has got something to do with their geography? Both are quite mountainous. Iceland is completely isolated. High German was also isolated by mountains, French and Italian.
     
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    Does Dutch have as many verb tenses/forms as English, I mean: I speak, I do speak, I'm speaking, I spoke, I have spoken, I have been speaking, I will speak, I will be speaking, I'll have been speaking and so on. Obviously, most of them are analytical tenses but their proper usage is not easy at all...
    For instance, German is far more simplified than English in this regard.
     

    Red Arrow

    Senior Member
    Dutch - Belgium
    No, we don't have that many.

    We do have "I'm speaking", though. I am not sure if German has got that tense. (It is only used to stress that you're doing something right now, much like in French: je suis en train de parler)
     

    Stoggler

    Senior Member
    English
    Yes, the point is that the limited use of 's' endings for plural forms in some Germanic languages are different issue from the fact that English picked up the almost exclusive use of 's' endings from French

    The -s ending already existed in English before the Norman conquest: strong masculine nouns ended -as in the nominative and accusative, the most common ending and the form that became the only productive one for new words; this plural marker ended up spreading to other nouns over time.

    Incidentally, does anyone know if plural endings of Norman French in the 11th and 12th centuries were mostly regular -s endings, like modern standard French?
     

    Red Arrow

    Senior Member
    Dutch - Belgium
    An it would be wrong to say Laat me met rust, ik lees?
    I don't think it is ever said that way. I don't know if it is "wrong", though.

    The Dutch continuous construction (aan het + infinitive) is not as strict as in English, as I said earlier, but in a situation like this, you really want to stress that you are reading right now and don't want to be disturbed.

    -Where are the children?
    -They are playing in the garden.

    -Waar zijn de kinderen?
    -Die spelen in de tuin. / Die zijn in de tuin aan het spelen.


    No difference here. You can choose, although I am pretty sure most people around me would still use the continuous construction.
    The -s ending already existed in English before the Norman conquest: strong masculine nouns ended -as in the nominative and accusative, the most common ending and the form that became the only productive one for new words; this plural marker ended up spreading to other nouns over time.

    Incidentally, does anyone know if plural endings of Norman French in the 11th and 12th centuries were mostly regular -s endings, like modern standard French?
    According to Wikipedia, the -s and -z endings were used for both singular and plural forms in Old French, depending on whether it's nominative or oblique, and whether it's a masculine or feminine word. I don't know if it was like that in Norman French as well, but the article is about the oïl languages in the North and Norman French was one of them.
     

    berndf

    Moderator
    German (Germany)
    High German was also isolated by mountains, French and Italian.
    High German was never isolated. That is a very weak argument. Most High German (I.e Central and Upper German) dialects underwent about the same case reduction as Low German: Only nominative and objective cases being systematically distinguished, complete loss of the genitive and rudiments of a dative-accusative distinction. The main reason why standard German retained the Middle High German case system in its full glory is because it is was a commercial, literary and learned language. Standard German as a language of everyday conversation is a relatively new phenomenon.
     

    Red Arrow

    Senior Member
    Dutch - Belgium
    Sorry, you are right, as usual. I had no idea most High German dialects underwent the same case reduction.
     

    berndf

    Moderator
    German (Germany)
    I don't think it is ever said that way. I don't know if it is "wrong", though.

    The Dutch continuous construction (aan het + infinitive) is not as strict as in English, as I said earlier, but in a situation like this, you really want to stress that you are reading right now and don't want to be disturbed.

    -Where are the children?
    -They are playing in the garden.

    -Waar zijn de kinderen?
    -Die spelen in de tuin. / Die zijn in de tuin aan het spelen.


    No difference here. You can choose, although I am pretty sure most people around me would still use the continuous construction.
    That sounds pretty much like the situation in Lower Rhinish and Ripuarian colloquial varieties of German with an "almost" grammaticalized continuous form (Was machst Du grade? Ich bin die Blumen am gießen): It is not really "wrong" not to use it in progressive contexts but unusual. Roughly like in 18th century English.
     

    Mikbro

    New Member
    English- Jamaica
    Ok so I know this is pretty old but as a speaker of a creole language I think this entire thing was just people pushing disagreements in definition further and further back towards the fundamentals. In any case if a Pidgin is strictly a language a contact language with no L1 speakers then why is that special. Firstly can we even say something like this reliably existed for established creole languages like my own? Can we genuinely say that the process of language change was really in a single generation with monolinguals of any of the languages with input would fail to understand? Furthermore even if it was what's so special about that? What makes this language any different from any other? Mine has an English lexifier but retains features like associative plurality, focusing through fronting and a focus marker that were present in majority of the West African Substrates and had emergent features like marking tense and aspect with preverbal particles for example. But my point is why should this simplification and changed be regarded any differently or considered special because all changes took place within a single generation rather than over 2 or 3 or 7 or 300 for that matter?
     

    Mikbro

    New Member
    English- Jamaica
    I think that that is exactly the point. It is a bit like insisting that a colour with 999,999 parts red and one part white must be pink because it has white in it. As I said above, there are not necessarily any clear dividing lines between creoles and non-creoles and "creole" is as much, if not more, a description of how a language came about as what it is like. When it comes to many languages the historical record is very short and when it comes to all languages is very short compared to the time that languages have been around. For all we know, Proto-Indo-European may be a creole!

    Sorry I think you're missing the point here people have longed moved on from talking about what English was like to whether r not there was an OE ON pidgin or whether or not there was enough intelligibility to speak freely. And furthermore I like the argument that included the geography that English was formed on an island and these people basically had to interact with each other independently of the mainland continua that they came from. In which case does it really matter if the bridge between unintelligible forms of speech was made over 1 generation or 4? That I believe to be the nature of the issue at hand that caused this rift.

    PS there is no reason I'm singling you out here. I'm just commenting to back my previous reply and this comment happens to be the on that's at the end of my first page.
     

    Mikbro

    New Member
    English- Jamaica
    Assuming English underwent full creolisation, how do you explain the fact that it preserved irregular verbs with ablaut, and even remnants of strong/weak adjectives for centuries after this supposed creolization should have taken place? Creole languages normally don't preserve that sort of thing. (Just look at the present-day creoles.)

    Sorry what sorts of things do creole languages tend to preserve If you're saying it's too complex to preserve then I'm not convinced that's true. What makes a feature too complex? Why is changing vowels too complex and not a 4-3 copula verbal system seen in many Euro-West African creoles (Three off the top of my head are Jamaican Patwa-English lexifier, Haitian Kreyol- French lexifier, Papiamento- Portuguese lexifier)? And if the argument is that it's a feature that has not been observed to be retained then are modern creoles even comparable? How many of them were formed between just two languages where both languages had a traceable common ancestor?
     

    Mikbro

    New Member
    English- Jamaica
    But I definitely think that English is a creole-type language. It is comparable to Caribbean English creoles such as that spoken in Jamaica: it is basic English grammar, simplified, and subjected to a barrage of vocabulary changes and additions enacted by speakers of a foreign language.

    I do not share this sentiment. Also I don't think my grammar is anything like English
     

    Mikbro

    New Member
    English- Jamaica
    To SonOfAdam

    You are right that there may be some resistance to the suggestion that English is a creole because the term carries a lot of baggage, including the suggestion that it is a language spoken by the descendants of those who were enslaved or colonised. The real problem though is a lack of an agreed definition. Is it about the way in which two languages interact and what happens when they do or about the social circumstances around when something new arose? Whilst sociohistorical factors cannot be excluded from linguistics, classifying languages according to the circumstances in which they arose does not seem to be very useful and must necessarily leave out many languages simply because their history is unknown.

    Up to a point it is a bit of a chicken and egg situation. If languages widely designated as creoles because their history is known, even if not perfectly, are described it may be concluded that all or most of them share or lack certain characteristics. The danger then is to go looking at other languages and concluding that if they look like the creoles which have been studied they must be creoles, that is at some time in the past arose in circumstances similar to those known to have existed for the accepted creoles.

    Not enough is known about English to form a conclusion. Many of its features can be shown to have arisen in other languages no one considers a creole. I think we just have to accept that languages meet and interact in many different ways which are on a continuum which defies easy classification. All we can say about English is that it got beaten up by French!

    Ok here it is. This is what I was searching for. This reply that really made me consider whether or not it should really matter whether this bridging occurred in a single generation or not. It seems like just another way of trying to shove a square peg into a round hole (or a vast multidimensional system of communication into a binary), which is neither necessary nor insightful.

    PS: This is the message I meant to reply to initially after I read this entire thing but for the life of me I could not find it.
     

    Mikbro

    New Member
    English- Jamaica
    It describes a type, formed through a process.

    Various peoples need to understand each other. They mimic the prestige language. This results in a new "version" of the prestige language, mostly analytic and with some influence from substratum languages (I guess that mainly in phonology and maybe syntax), which gradually becomes the native tongue of the entire population.

    I might want to take issue with the use of the word mimic here, not on a personal level, but that based on what I understand a lot of this vocabulary change was forced in the case of new world creoles which I don't find to be beyond belief. Many things have been forced that have since been accepted as prestige. Anglican churches in Jamaica for example still hold government ceremonies. Another example is that nobody here in Jamaica retained a name associated with family from Africa; my own name being of Scottish origin and though I do genuinely very likely have a paternal forefather from Scotland, I doubt that's true of the entire country. Curiously though Akan day names (Like Kofi) still survived (though they lost their meaning of being related to the day of birth).

    Anyway the point of that tangent is just to say the creoles of the new world didn't necessarily develop through free adoption of a prestige vocabulary and if similar forcing was not present in the ON OE case I would not suppose that if a pidgin existed one can conclude that there should've been a more visible impact on vocabulary.

    If this is true, now the question is what happened from Old English to Middle English that could be meaningfully similar to this. I guess some posts have addressed this question, but I can't realistically read the whole thread. Anyway the high proportion of Germanic vocabulary really seems to speak out against the creole hypothesis.

    Uh you can, I just did, Twice and I have school in a few hours, I should really go to bed now.
    But this was an insightful read and I thank you all for sharing your perspectives.
     

    Hulalessar

    Senior Member
    English - England
    To Mikbro

    Languages are considered and accordingly classified from various angles. I think we are agreed that languages meet and mix in different ways and that there is no hard and fast distinction between the ways. However, I do not think that that necessarily means that we cannot make broad distinctions including distinctions which focus on how quickly changes take place.

    We know that in historical times the following has happened in various places:

    1. Two or more groups of people speaking mutually unintelligible languages have come together and a rudimentary language combining elements of the languages involved has emerged which is used for very basic communication.

    2. Within a comparatively short period the rudimentary language has developed into a language which is spoken as a mother tongue capable of expressing everything its speakers need or want to say.

    At least in historical times the majority of languages have not evolved in this way so it is not unreasonable to give those that have a name. "Creole" is an unfortunate name as it also has the meaning of a person of mixed European and African descent from the Caribbean and by no means all creoles arose in the Caribbean.

    Creoles are of interest to linguists as they may give a clue to how language developed. The fact that the situation moves very quickly from rudimentary to fully developed language without anyone consciously making up any rules is something worth thinking about. It is not the same as a situation where an already developed language changes by absorbing elements from another language. The speed with which creoles develop suggests that once language got started among humans it may have developed exponentially. Creoles are not evidence of that, but they do make for interesting speculation.

    I think it is pointless to speculate on whether languages are creoles if the relevant social history is not known in sufficient detail. The concept must always be a loose one, but sufficiently clear so as to leave room for other types of language mixing even if the boundaries are permeable.
     

    jimquk

    Member
    British English
    I might want to take issue with the use of the word mimic here, not on a personal level, but that based on what I understand a lot of this vocabulary change was forced in the case of new world creoles which I don't find to be beyond belief.
    I think this is an important reminder of the brutal circumstances in which pidgen languages developed, which have little in common with Old English/Old Norse.

    In one case, a language was imposed on people who were speakers of many different languages, who were essentially stripped of their own languages and forced to bring up their children with the imposed language.

    In ninth century England, two closely related languages were brought into contact, and modified each other, producing the various dialects from which modern English emerged.

    Whether one calls this creolisation is a moot point, but both the social and linguistic circumstances seem quite different.

    Of course, the development of Creoles from pidgens is fascinating, and has much to tell us about the universality of human language, and the resilience of human beings, who could collectively reconstruct language when it had been taken away from them.

    If we want a more modern example of a pidgen, we could look to the "Camp German" mentioned by Primo Levi and others which developed at Auschwitz and other Nazi concentration camps.
     

    Hulalessar

    Senior Member
    English - England
    ...but both the social and linguistic circumstances seem quite different.

    Quite. I think that if "creole" is to be a useful term it has to involve the following:

    · The meeting of two (and possibly more) groups speaking different languages
    · The emergence of a rudimentary form of communication based on the languages involved
    · The rapid development of the rudimentary language into a fully developed language
    · The adoption of the fully developed language by at least one group which abandons the language it used to speak
     

    Mikbro

    New Member
    English- Jamaica
    To Mikbro

    Languages are considered and accordingly classified from various angles. I think we are agreed that languages meet and mix in different ways and that there is no hard and fast distinction between the ways. However, I do not think that that necessarily means that we cannot make broad distinctions including distinctions which focus on how quickly changes take place.

    We know that in historical times the following has happened in various places:

    1. Two or more groups of people speaking mutually unintelligible languages have come together and a rudimentary language combining elements of the languages involved has emerged which is used for very basic communication.

    2. Within a comparatively short period the rudimentary language has developed into a language which is spoken as a mother tongue capable of expressing everything its speakers need or want to say.

    At least in historical times the majority of languages have not evolved in this way so it is not unreasonable to give those that have a name. "Creole" is an unfortunate name as it also has the meaning of a person of mixed European and African descent from the Caribbean and by no means all creoles arose in the Caribbean.

    Creoles are of interest to linguists as they may give a clue to how language developed. The fact that the situation moves very quickly from rudimentary to fully developed language without anyone consciously making up any rules is something worth thinking about. It is not the same as a situation where an already developed language changes by absorbing elements from another language. The speed with which creoles develop suggests that once language got started among humans it may have developed exponentially. Creoles are not evidence of that, but they do make for interesting speculation.

    I think it is pointless to speculate on whether languages are creoles if the relevant social history is not known in sufficient detail. The concept must always be a loose one, but sufficiently clear so as to leave room for other types of language mixing even if the boundaries are permeable.

    I know this but I'm asking whether or not this conceptualization is importantly distinct among contact languages I'm aware of the existence of non-Caribbean creoles. I think the majority of creoles are non-Caribbean. However, I think the idea of the mechanism is at least a little weird. A single language used for basic communication can't become a general language without either developing and/or borrowing vocabulary and structures. What constitutes a pidgin in the first place? How rudimentary or how complex is a pidgin? This process certainly didn't happen in a single generation. My language is still adopting structures from English now. I remember when I was much younger and only exposed to English and at most the "Middle class" version of Patwa, I simply could not understand my grandparents. That changed with exposure and the realization that how we speak really isn't that different, but I have peers who would not understand my grandparents.


    I'm not commenting on whether or not English is a creole, that's a pointless debate.


    However I'm not certain the idea of a single generation break in intelligibility is any more special than one that occurs in 2 to 5. What's the difference if the child speaks in a way that would be unintelligible to their grandparents or in a way that their great grandparents would not be able to understand in any right, but which their grandparents could partially understand and still communicate with. And then given that, is it not more useful to conceptualize contact languages as one thing with varying degrees of rate of loss of intelligibility. And then if that is the case make conclusions about them based on how quickly intelligibility breaks. That really is my question here.

    Furthermore, if Creoles really came about from a single pidginization then would one not expect each local isolated area to experience it's own pidginization? Then what explains why globally English and French creoles are so syntactically similar. I suppose each could have had come from a single pidginization on the coast of West Africa but then why the similarities with Pacific creoles? The entire process as described is just a bit fuzzy to me. Perhaps there are tendencies in how pidginization occurs given a single lexifier? I don't know but I have significant doubt about whether or not actually known creoles match the idea of a pidgin quickly becoming a language and whether or not that even is that useful a distinction to make.

    As to the idea of rules being made up without conscious thought, that (at least for my language) seems a bit of an exaggeration, the majority of the features I see in my language I could ascribe to either being inherited from English or one of or multiple of the West African languages. It is not uncommon to see phrases or proverbs that are just West African but using English words so I don't think it was so much unconscious. In any case it is an interesting idea and worth investigating.
     
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    Hulalessar

    Senior Member
    English - England
    To Mikbro

    When two different ways of speaking meet things can happen without the conscious input of the speakers. Different ways of speaking in England are still very much around, but dialect/regional speech is starting to level out. Going back some 50 years the differences were more noticeable. I knew someone who joined the Fleet Air Arm. Recruits were from all over the country, some with strong regional accents. Over time the differences decreased. There was no collective decision to harmonise speech - it just happened. A similar process happens all the time in different contexts. Indeed change happens even when the meeting of varieties is not involved. I do not think anyone fully understands how or why. There seem to be two possibilities. One is that someone makes a change and everyone else decides to follow. The other is that everyone makes the same change at the same time. Both look unlikely, but the fact is that languages change.

    The absolute basic point about language is that it is a form of communication. If people need to communicate they will find a way to do it. If they only need to communicate to buy and sell in a market or give instructions on simple tasks the language will be very basic. Pidgins have rules but are not complete forms of communication. If people want to communicate at a higher level they will find a way to do so and so quickly. That new speech varieties emerge over significant areas is amazing, but it happens.
     
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