Glossary of Pidgin and Creole Terms A-C


by María Rosa Fernández Bell and Glenn Gilbert
Editing by Alicia Spiegel and Jeffery Parsell

absolute time reference - It forms the core of any tense system. "Tense is the grammaticalized expression of location in time", and, according to Comrie, "has to do with the relationship between the moment of speaking and the situation or event." (R: 264) (See TMA systems and anterior.)

accessibility hierarchy - The result of cross-linguistic research done by Keenan and Comrie "which predicts constraints on the positions in which relative clauses can appear." (R: 235) It is as follows: Subject > Direct Object > Indirect Object > Oblique > Genitive > Object of Comparison. Based on this and other studies, Romaine finds some links between the child's acquisition of relative clauses and the development of these structures in pidgins and creoles (see relativizationa.)

acrolect - "In creole studies, the most prestigious variety of a language, seen in contrast with other varieties." (C: 414). The standard language at the end of the creole continuum.

act of identity - A form of linguistic behaviour "in which people reveal both their personal identity and their search for social roles through the linguistic choice they make." (R: 202). (See assertion of identity, ">focusing vs. diffusion, projection.)

agegrading - The "comparison of age-distribution of features (in the speakers' lects)." (R: 185). A method used to assess the issue of the directionality of change, by discovering to what degree the language is decreolizing, recreolizing, or remaining stable.

allomorphy - The occurrence of allomorphs - "variants of a morpheme as conditioned by position or adjoining sounds." (C: 415) Pidgins present a reduction in allomorphy.

allotaxy - "The use of different word orders for the expression of the same grammatical relationships." (R: 29) Pidgins avoid allotaxy.

analyticity - This has to do with "transparency of encoding, i.e., one form-one meaning" (R: 268) and refers to languages which do not exhibit opacity. Pidgins and creoles tend to opt for greater analyticity. Analytical languages are also called grammatical languages.

anaphora - "A feature of grammatical structure referring back to something already expressed." (C: 415) In creole studies, it "refers to the fact that in creoles nouns are generally pluralized by the addition of the third-person plural pronoun" (Papiamentu buki-nan 'the books'). (R: 60).

animacy hierarchy - This has to do with human and animate distinctions in semantic features for nouns. In pidgins and creoles, these distinctions are often marked by a free morpheme before the verb and after the noun used as plurality marker. Its use is constrained by the meaning of the noun (whether it is [± human] or [± animate]. For example, it is not possible to form plurals with [-human] in all the lects, only in the lower ones.

antecedent - The co-referential NP in the matrix sentence in a relative clause. (R: 231) Any word, phrase, or clause that precedes another and is replaced by a pronoun later in the sentence.

anterior - In the creole TMA systems, "the tense particle expresses the meaning [+anterior], i.e., past before he past, for action verbs such as run, and past, for stative verbs such as think." (R: 49).

approximative systems - A series of systems which forms an interlanguage continuum.

aspect - "The duration or type of temporal activity denoted by a verb, e.g., completion or non-completion of an action." (C: 415) This distinction is represented in creoles by [± punctual]. (See TMA systems.)

assertion of identity - A way of declaring or affirming one's individuality as part of a group, by using a particular lects in a conscious way (the young Black Britons who start to "talk Black" around the ages of 14-15, as a deliberate social and psychological protest.) (See act of identity.)

autonomy - This "has to do with whether the language is accepted by its users as distinct from other languages or varieties." (R: 43) Often, neither pidgins nor creoles are considered autonomous language by their speakers, who consider them corrupted variations of their superstrate languages.

basilect - "In creole studies, the language variety furthest away from the one that carries most prestige (the acrolect)." (C: 416) It is the language at the beginning of the creole continuum. (See also mesolect.)

Black English - "An informal variety of English typically used by low-income urban Blacks in the United States." (A: 518) "Some linguists have argued that BE in the United States represents a case where extensive and nearly complete decreolization has obscured the creole origins of the language." (R: 157) This argument is based in the hypothesis that views BE as a pidgin originally formed during the slave trade period, which expanded into a creole among the the slaves on the southern U.S. plantations during the 18th and 19th centuries.

brain - This refers to the ability of processing functions to be performed in either hemisphere, before lateralization. It has to do with the "flexibility in the neurophysiological programming of neuromuscular coordination mechanisms." (R: 217) The idea of a critical period for language learning is related to the loss of brain plasticity.

cafeteria principle - This refers to "the idea that creoles were mixtures of various rules from different regional varieties of British English. In other words, features were randomly picked out and attributed to substratum influence without regard for how they might have been borrowed or incorporated into the pidgin or creole in question." (R: 108-109).

caregivers - (See caretakers.)

caretakers - Persons who come into contact with the child during his/her years of language acquisition. (For "caretaker speech" see motherese.)

case - "In an inflecting language, the form of a noun, adjective, or pronoun, showing its grammatical relationship to other words." (C: 416)

catastrophic, non-uniformitarian change - Abrupt change, sudden and discontinuous. "A jump from one state or path way to another" (R: 53). Creolization is characterized by this type of change. Antonym: uniformitarian change (slow and gradual). (See also discontinuity.)

causative vs. non-causative - One of the parameters of Bickerton's LBH, this distinction affects the subject (as in so-called ergative languages) or, as seen over the long run the verb (as it happens in English). It determines whether a sentence expresses causation. In creoles, this distinction is indicated by the use of transitive (causative) vs. intransitive (noncausative) verbs. (R: 262).

circumlocution - "It is a strategy which involves letting the syntax make up for the lack of productive morphological processes which would be used to form words in the lexifier language." (R: 36) It is a common strategy in pidgins and creoles and other grammatical languages.

cliticize - When a word becomes a clitic - "a form that resembles a word but that cannot stand on its own as a normal utterance because it is structurally dependent on a neighbouring word. It is part of the process of Creolization." (C: 417) "For example in Tok Pisin . . . he has become generalized and cliticized as a preverbal predicative marker i, e.g., yupela i kam 'You (pl) come'. Once the pronoun has undergone a process of phonological reduction from its full form, it is bound to the verb, and loses its force as a full pronoun and marks a purely grammatical function." (R: 39) (See grammaticalized.)

codification - To codify a language is "to provide a systematic account of it especially its grammar and vocabulary." (C: 417) "Codification has to have taken place and be accepted before a language can be said to be standardized." (R: 42). "Jamaican Creole, for example, has [grammars and dictionaries], but is not a . Although its speakers have norms for use of the language . . . these are not sanctioned by any externally recognized authorities of language or appealed to as arbiters in normative teaching." (R: 42)

complementary hypothesis - This is"...a mutually enriching coexistence of the substrate and the universalist hypotheses..." (MUF 192)

componential hypothesis - "According to Hancock, each creole-forming social and linguistic matrix [is] an independently developed phenomenon, growing out of the coming together of different proportions of its 'ingredients' or components under different circumstances." (MUF: 10)

conceptual vs. computational component - This has to do with the human language capacity. "The conceptual component is a more general cognitive domain, but the computational component is responsible for language-specific processing capacities." (R: 302) (See pragmatic mode.)

convergence creole - A continuum of varieties, derived from a dual source, one segment of which never lost its continuing attachment to the superstrate.

co-referential NP - A nominal constituent which is identical to another NP in the same sentence. (See also antecedent.)

correction - The act of pointing out errors, mistakes, and so forth, or of setting them right according to a standard language. It is done by skilled speakers of a language to learners of that language. Pidginization is more likely to occur when the learners are not corrected.

creole - "A language that developed from a pidgin by expanding its vocabulary and acquiring a more complex grammatical structure" (see creolization.) (A: 520) DeCamp defines it as "the native langugage of most of its speakers. Therefore its vocabulary and syntactic devices are, like those of any native language, large enough to meet all the communicative needs of its speakers." (R: 38)

creole continuum - "A linguistic continuum of varieties between the creole language and the standard language" that emerges in the process of decreolization. (R: 158) (See basilect, mesolect, acrolect.)

creoleness vs. standardness - A linear dimension in the creole continuum, placed in the horizontal axis. The unidimensional model assumes that varieties (mesolects) can be ordered in terms of this single linear dimension, which has to do with "their degree of closeness to one or the other end." (R: 179) (See dimensionality.)

creolistics - Short form for pidgin and creole linguistics.

creolization - "Creole language genesis... the creation of a new language of self-reference and identification." (R: 312). According to Bickerton, this happens when a first generation pidgin becomes the native language of a generation of speakers. As a complex process of sociolinguistic change, it involves expansion of linguistic resources and expansion of use (Hymes). As a process of acquisition under restricted conditions, the restricted input occurs as part of the first language acquistition process (Bickerton). (R: 2) (Compare to pidginization.)

critical period - The period of time before adulthood for acquiring language. After this period, the ability to learn language atrophies. "Adults have difficulty in learning second langu ages because after puberty cortical lateralization is complete. This means that the language function becomes localized in the left hemisphere and the plasticity of the brain atrophies." (R: 215) The relationship between pidginization and creolization and the crititcal period is studied by creolistics.

decreolization - A process of change in which a creole "gradually merges with the corresponding standard language." (R: 157) It occurs whenever a creole language is in direct contact with its superstrate." (R: 158) . Antonym: recreolization.