Theories: Pidgin Languages and Their Creoles

grammaticalsimilarities‘I did not see him’ or ‘I have not seen him.’

Creole languages derive from pidgin languages. A pidgin language is defined as a reduced language that results from the extended contact between groups of people with no language in common (contact usually involving trade). Pidgin languages can produce creole languages (which are more stable) once children begin learning the pidgin as their native language. In the case of Haitian Creole, one creolization theory says this contact occurred between the French-speaking plantation owners and linguistically diverse African slaves. A second rationalizes that the slaves had contact, instead, with “poor” whites who used imperfect dialects of standard French. Either way, the resulting language took the majority of its lexicon from French and fundamental grammar structures from African languages. Nonetheless, each theory implies a different attitude toward the legitimacy of the creole, the latter insinuating that Haitian Creole is less of its own language.

Creole children of slaves were not allowed to go to school, so they had no way to learn proper French. Thus, the genesis of the Creole was dependent upon the group of French speakers exposed to slaves and freed-slaves. Today, Haitian Creole varies regionally in its lexicon and socially in its phonology and register. During the 18th century, creoles became distinguishable from their European counterparts because new Europeans coming in contact with the creoles originating from their native tongue noticed a difference and could not as easily understand. Over time, the intelligibility between Haitian Creole and French decreased. Creoles are not distinct solely because of their linguistic determinants, but also because of the social conditions under which they were formed.

A Haitian Perspective on Creolization:


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