An Introduction to Pidgin and Creoles

An Introduction to Pidgin and Creoles

An Introduction to Pidgin and Creoles

An Introduction to Pidgin and Creoles

Synopsis

This textbook is a clear and concise introduction to the study of how new languages come into being. Starting with an overview of the field's basic concepts, it surveys the new languages that developed as a result of the European expansion to the Americas, Africa, Asia and the Pacific. Long misunderstood as "bad" versions of European languages, today such varieties as Jamaican Creole English, Haitian Creole French and New Guinea Pidgin are recognized as distinct languages in their own right.

Excerpt

I am finishing this book at the University of Coimbra, the first and oldest university of Portugal, where I first came as a student of Portuguese in 1988 in order to gain better access to the literature on the Portuguese-based creoles and the Brazilian vernacular. This seems entirely proper, since it was a Fulbright award in 1993–1994 that first allowed me to teach here and to begin work on this book. I am grateful to the J. William Fulbright Foreign Scholarship Board, to the colleagues who were so helpful, especially Ana Luis and Clara Keating, and to those professors – Maria Irene Ramalho de Sousa Santos, Martin Kayman and Jorge Morais Barbosa – whose extraordinary efforts led to the creation of the chair I now hold here.

It is an honour to be part of one of the great medieval universities of Europe, but that is not the whole story of this book. From 1980 until 1998, I taught at the City University of New York (CUNY). Few people outside that institution can appreciate the riches of its cultural diversity, such as the thousands of its students who speak creole and semi-creole languages. Mitchell (1997) notes that 'More students of color earn their bachelor degrees from the City University of New York than any other institution in the country.' Although many of these students speak standard English as their first language, many also speak Creole English or French, African American Vernacular English or nonstandard Caribbean Spanish. Appropriately, the Ph. D. Program in Linguistics at the CUNY Graduate Center has long supported research and teaching in creole linguistics.

Within that program, I was able to organize two major research projects that contributed to this book and benefited from the collaboration of students at CUNY as well as colleagues at other universities. The first was on comparative creole syntax, a study of some 100 grammatical structures that many creoles share, but which most of their lexical-source languages do not. This study in creole typology was the cumulative result of several graduate seminars; a number of the participants were native speakers of either the creoles they worked on or their lexical source languages. They included the . . .

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