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mar. 16/10/2018 Atelier "History and Ecology of Languages": Peter Bakker (University of Arhus, Denmark) - From pidgin to creole in a multilingual ecology: from Africa to the French Caribbean to creole universals
ISH, salle Ennat Léger

Reduced forms of Carib (Cariban), KiKongo (Bantu, Niger-Congo) and French (Romance, Indo-European) have been documented in the history of the Caribbean. These were used in interethnic communication between Europeans and Africans and Amerindians. Reduced forms of speech can be the result of native speakers simplifying their speech (“foreigner talk”), or of learners simplifying the target language in their learning process (unsuccessful second language acquisition, or “basic variety”), or a compromise between several groups (medium for interethnic communication). In some cases, these can evolve into stable pidgins, and into creoles. Such deliberate and radical simplifying changes occur in ecologies of sudden contacts without common languages.
Simplified Carib has been primarily documented from French Guiana from the 1600s to the 1900s, and simplified KiKongo is known from one source from Haiti around 1790. Simplified French was documented on the Lesser Antilles and Haiti from the 1630s to around 1670/1730, after which it creolized in the Afro-Caribbean communities (but not in the Amerindian communities) (Hazaël-Massieux 2008).
I will discuss the documented speech of these three varieties in the context of the ecology of language contact of the time, including who were responsible for the simplification. Pidgin Carib and Pidgin Kongo have died out, but Pidgin French became the main language of the Lesser Antilles . The case of French in the Lesser Antilles provides clear proof of a pidgin-to-creole-development, a process deemed impossible by some on theoretical grounds. I will discuss the clear differences between French Pidgin (known as baragouin) and French creole. These are in line with independent generalizations on structures of pidgins (Baker 2001, Parkvall et al. 2013) and creoles (Daval-Markussen 2013).

Baker, Philip. 2001. No creolisation without prior pidginisation. Te Reo 44: 31-50.

Daval-Markussen, Aymeric. 2013. First steps towards a typological profile of creoles. Acta Linguistica Hafniensia. 45(2): 274–295. doi: 10.1080/03740463.2014.880606

Hazaël-Massieux, Marie-Christine. 2008. Textes anciens en créole français de la Caraïbe. Histoire et analyse. Saint-Denis: Editions Publibook.

Parkvall, Mikael & Peter Bakker. 2013. Pidgins. In: Contact languages, ed. by Yaron Matras & Peter Bakker, 15-64. Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter.


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