The Missing Spanish Creoles: Recovering the Birth of Plantation Contact Languages

By John H. McWhorter | Go to book overview

6
Synthesis

6.1 GEOCENTRISM AND CREOLE STUDIES

In the fifteenth century, the consensus among the educated was that the earth was the center of the universe. This scheme “described the heavens precisely as they looked and fitted the observations and calculations made with the naked eye. The scheme's simplicity, symmetry, and common sense made it seem to confirm to countless axioms of philosophy, theology, and religion. ” However,

The system did not explain the irregularities observed in the motions of the planets. But the layman hardly noticed these irregularities, and anyway they seemed adequately described by the supposed movement of each planet within its own special ethereal sphere. Astronomers were adept at explaining away what seemed only minor problems by a variety of complicated epicycles, deferents, equants, and eccentrics, which gave them a heavy vested interest in the whole scheme. The more copious this peripheral literature became, the more difficult it became to retreat to fundamentals. If the central scheme was not correct, surely so many learned men would not have bothered to offer their many subtle corrections. (Boorstin 1983: 295–6)

One can draw a parallel between this situation and the one in creole studies today. The limited access model indeed fits the observations of the naked eye, in deriving creoles from plantation conditions because they were spoken on plantations. There is also a pleasing “simplicity, symmetry, and common sense” to the idea. Furthermore, its influence is supported in part because of its compatibility with reigning “theologies. ” For universalists, the “dilution” aspect of the plantation model potentially generates Universal Grammar. For many Caribbeanists, the emergence of creoles as the result

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The Missing Spanish Creoles: Recovering the Birth of Plantation Contact Languages
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page *
  • Contents vii
  • Acknowledgments xi
  • 1 - Introduction 1
  • 2 - Where Are the Spanish Creoles? 6
  • 3 - Sisters Under the Skin 41
  • 4 - Afrogenesis and the Atlantic English-Based Creoles 99
  • 5 - The French-Based Creoles 146
  • 6 - Synthesis 195
  • 7 - Conclusion 224
  • References 243
  • Index 265
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