Linguistic Ecology: Language Change and Linguistic Imperialism in the Pacific Region

By Peter Mühlhäusler | Go to book overview

4

Pidgins and creoles

We shall equally have to bear in mind that there is a great difference in the attitude of the civilized man and that of the savage, and that, with his assumption of the right to rule the barbarian through white franchise and with his advantage in the possession of the tawdry wares which to the islander seem such treasures, the white man must be the directive force in this creation of a speech which shall become common.

(Churchill 1911:11)


INTRODUCTION

Much has been written about the social role of pidgin languages of individual territories and we have numerous comments on the close association between pidgins and imperialist policies. However, the standard view has remained more or less that of Reinecke (1937a: 537), of a ‘supplementary tongue for special forms of intercourse’, that is, pidgins are languages supplementary to existing languages. Their main function is seen as being to enable communication between insiders and outsiders (for instance ‘visiting’ Europeans and indigenous populations) or between indigenous groups brought into closer contact by a colonial administration, contact described as the result of ‘pax germanica, pax britannica’ and so forth.

One can understand this view in the light of the history of pidgin and creole studies, the first large sociological analyses of pidgins and creoles being carried out by Reinecke (1937b) and Schultze (1933). At that time, the main function of pidgins was indeed supplementary. However, it was already becoming clear in the 1930s that pidgins were very much a transitional phenomenon (for instance in Reinecke 1937b):

In short, the trade jargons are the product of frontier trade condi-

-74-

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