Pidgins and Creoles

Pidgins and Creoles

Pidgins and Creoles

Pidgins and Creoles


The focus of this study is upon those pidgins and creoles which are English based and which have arisen since the fifteenth century. The book examines the widespread nature of the pidgin/creole phenomenon and evaluates the current definitions of the terms and the theories which have been advanced to account for their existence. The author considers the potential of pidgins and creoles as literary media and as vehicles for education. She looks at the sociological and psychological implications of using pidgins and creoles in the classroom and examines the position of American 'Black English' and 'London Jamaican' in the pidgin/creole continuum.


In writing about pidgins and creoles one could take as one's subject matter the whole history of societies and cultures in contact, but to do so would mean producing a book of unmanageable proportions or a survey so cursory and so superficial as to be of limited value. Instead of speculating, therefore, about the distant past, instead of attempting to probe and penetrate the hundreds of pidgins and creoles that exist today, I shall limit the scope of this book to a consideration of those which seem to have arisen since the fifteenth century, when first Portugal and then the other European nations began to sponsor voyages of discovery; in particular, attention will be focused on those pidgins and creoles which are 'English-based', that is, lexically related to English. This delimitation allows us to analyse the subject in some depth, though the magnitude of even this task becomes clear when we realize that mutually unintelligible varieties of pidgin English exist in Hong Kong and Hawaii, Nigeria and Papua New Guinea.

One of the biggest problems facing anyone writing about pidgins and creoles is the choice of orthography, because standard orthographies exist for very few of these languages. In the interests of simplicity I have avoided an over-use of phonetic symbols. Forms will be cited in the orthography of the work they occur in, but the following conventions will be adhered to in all discussion of and reference to unwritten sources, or sources which lack a consistent orthography:

i--has the value of the vowel sound in 'meat'

I--has the value of the vowel sound in 'tin'

e--has a value closer to French 'é' as in 'the' than to any English vowel, though it is less tense than 'é'

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