pidgin English

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eric489

Senior Member
French
Hi all !

I just came across the expression "pidgin English".
The sentence was : Is pidgin English just bad English ?

It was the title of a linguistic chapter.

My educated guess would be is that it means "bad English, especially derived from sms and chat language (hence the pidgin) and spoken by the youth"

No ?

Thanks in advance. :)
 
  • panjandrum

    Lapsed Moderator
    English-Ireland (top end)
    Hi all !

    I just came across the expression "pidgin English".
    The sentence was : Is pidgin English just bad English ?

    It was the title of a linguistic chapter.

    My educated guess would be is that it means "bad English, especially derived from sms and chat language (hence the pidgin) and spoken by the youth"

    No ?

    Thanks in advance. :)
    Pidgin is very definitely not related to sms/chatspeak.

    Pidgin English is a variant of English, a lingua franca, a jargon language used to conduct essential business in a context where there was no common language. It includes terms from other languages where those are most appropriate to the requirements of trade.
     

    brian

    Senior Member
    AmE (New Orleans)
    Here is an example scenario:

    People from Nowhereland, who speak Nowherelandic, come into contact with people from Fakeland, who speak Fakelandic. The Nowherelandics and Fakelandics have no common language between them, but they must communicate in order to do business.

    After an extended period of time, a new, simplified language (of commerce, etc.) immerges as a combination of the two: Fakenowhereish! The grammar of Fakenowhereish is very simple, so complex clauses, many verb tenses & moods, etc. cannot really be expressed. This is called a pidgin.

    As a final stage, Nowherelandics and Fakelandics start having children and speaking to each other and to their children in Fakenowhereish, so that the children's first language is the pidgin. But because children are so smart, they actually inject this simple pidgin with complex grammar, so that it becomes what is called a "creole." Thus, Fakenowhereish becomes a full-fledged language, just as complex as any "normal" language out there.

    (The last stage doesn't always happen. It depends on whether the two communities remain in contact long enough, and other things.)
     

    mplsray

    Senior Member
    Hi all !

    I just came across the expression "pidgin English".
    The sentence was : Is pidgin English just bad English ?

    It was the title of a linguistic chapter.

    My educated guess would be is that it means "bad English, especially derived from sms and chat language (hence the pidgin) and spoken by the youth"

    No ?

    Thanks in advance. :)
    It could be argued that pidgin English (or pidgin Englishes, since there have been several which arose independently) is not English at all, so it cannot logically be considered "bad English."

    I believe that most linguists do not consider pidgins to be varieties of the languages on which they are based. No pidgin English belongs in the "family tree of English," and thus they are neither Germanic languages nor Indo-European languages.

    To complicate things a bit, some so-called pidgin Englishes are not pidgins at all, but creole languages. Hawaii Pidgin English, for example, is not a pidgin, as can be seen by one of its other names, Hawaii Creole English.
     

    panjandrum

    Lapsed Moderator
    English-Ireland (top end)
    Why is the term 'pidgin English' used if it just as easily be e.g. 'pidgin Chinese' followign Brian's logic?
    Probably because the term began as a label used by English traders in the days of Empire for the language they used around the Pacific. The term, in English, for this being pidgin English. The OED definition of pidgin:
    Originally: pidgin English. Subsequently gen.: a language containing lexical and other features from two or more languages, characteristically with simplified grammar and a smaller vocabulary than the languages from which it is derived, used for communication between people not having a common language; a lingua franca.

    Some interesting quotes relating to its etymology:
    1845 J. R. PETERS Misc. Remarks upon Chinese vii. 73 Pidgeon, is the common Chinese pronunciation of business.
    1850 J. BERNCASTLE Voy. China II. 65 The Chinese not being able to pronounce the word ‘business’, called it ‘bigeon’, which has degenerated into ‘pigeon’, so that this word is in constant use.
    1873
    Macmillan's Mag. Nov. 45 The strange jargon known as ‘Pigeon English’..derives its name from a series of changes in the word Business... The Chinaman contracted it to Busin, and then through the change of Pishin to Pigeon

     

    Caroline35

    Senior Member
    Italian
    Re: pidgin English
    I agree with Brian and Panjandrum
    Pidgin English is spoken mosty by the people around the Pacific area, the one who were colonised by the Inglish,as Papua New Guinea, Tonga etc etc. It's not a bad English it's a different language
     

    Brioche

    Senior Member
    Australia English
    Why is the term 'pidgin English' used if it just as easily be e.g. 'pidgin Chinese' followign Brian's logic?
    The vocabulary of Pidgin [or Tok Pisin or Neomelanesian] in Papua New Guinea is predominantly from English, with contributions from German and indigenous Melanesian languages.

    Some of the words have extended their meaning.
    bagarup from "buggered up" = tired or damaged
    kilim = to hit, but kilim i dai = to kill
    rabis from "rubbish" = poor or worthless
    tumas from "too much" = very
     

    entangledbank

    Senior Member
    English - South-East England
    The existing language from which a pidgin or creole derives most of its vocabulary is called its lexifier. Most pidgins and creoles are lexified from English or French, as Brioche points out for Tok Pisin.

    What I really wanted to say was that the question 'Is pidgin English just bad English?' as the title of a linguistics chapter is definitely rhetorical, or at least is definitely going to be answered 'no' by the linguist asking it. I am uncertain about whether it would be possible to consider them even descendants of the lexifier. We don't call English a descendant of French or Latin just because of the massive amount of borrowed vocabulary. A creole has 100% borrowed vocabulary, but the grammar has started again from scratch, like an adult cell with all its methylation turned off and reprogrammed as a stem cell. So an English-based Creole really has no more in common with English, structurally or grammatically, than it has with any other language.

    On the other hand, Tok Pisin does have a considerable degree of mutual comprehensibility with English, and that's often taken as a measure of relatedness. (You can't understand French just from knowing the French-derived words in English.)
     
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