Glossary of Pidgin and Creole Terms G-L


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


gender – "A way of grouping words into different formal classes, using such labels as masculine, feminine, neuter, animate." (C: 421) Pidgins and creoles generally lack gender systems.

genotype – The genetic blueprint of an individual. It has to do with the ontogeny of human language, in the sense expressed by Haeckel's dictum (see ontogeny vs. phylogeny): Perhaps it is possible to trace the evolution of human language through the genotype in such a way that ontogeny will lead us to phylogeny. (See also diachronic vs. synchronic.)

glottochronology – "An approach to language history in which a statistical technique (lexicostatistics) is used to quantify how far languages have diverged from a common source." (C: 422)

grammaticalized – A word that has gone through the process of grammaticalization, "in which autonomous words become grammatical markers". (R: 133) Grammaticalization is one of the major sources of grammatical change in language, and a common process in pidgins and creoles.

hemispherectomy – "This operation is normally used to treat incurable and potentially fatal tumors and involves the removal of the cerebral hemisphere on either the left or the right side of the brain." (Ca: 80) "Lenneberg found that in cases where the left hemisphere was removed or damaged before the teenage years, language functions could still be transferred to the right hemisphere. Adults do not seem to be able to transfer their language functions completely after hemispherectomies." (R: 216) This finding favors the critical period hypothesis.

historicity – "It refers to whether the language has grown up through use by some ethnic or social group. This attribute is intended to divide first from second languages, on the assumption that the latter tend not to be used as markers of social identity or in an affective function." (R: 42)

iconic – "Said of signals whose physical form corresponds to features of the entities to which they refer (as in onomatopoeia, e.g., cuckoo)." (C: 423) (For 'iconic mode of communication' see syntacticization; see also iconicity.)

iconicity – It is a property of grammatical languages, such as pidgins. "There is an inverse correlation between the lexical expansion of a language and the iconicity of its grammar" (R: 35), i.e., the greater the lexicon of a language, the less iconicity its grammar tends to exhibit. Pidgins have the properties of both lexical impoverishment and analytic structure. (See analycity.)

ideophones – "Words that alter in some way the meaning of another." (R: 34) Ideophones are one way of expanding the lexicon of a pidgin.

idiolect – "The linguistic system of an individual speaker." (C: 423) When several idiolects are studied, as DeCamp did (he examined the co-occurrence of features within seven idiolects in Jamaican Creole), it is possible to come up with an implicational scale. This scale ordered the features from least acrolectal to most acrolectal, and scaled the idiolects of the speakers into those which were most acrolectal, and those least acrolectal. (R: 162)

implicational hierarchy – It has to do with language simplification which, within the variability that show, "follows a continuum of simplicity-complexity, with identifiable patterns ordered in an implicational hierarchy . . . simplification begins with the verb, extends to the noun, then the copula, and then finally the pronoun system." (R: 81)

implicational scaling – A technique used by DeCamp to show that there are constraints on the occurrence of basilectal, acrolectal, and mesolectal forms in a creole continuum. The results are used as a means of checking data against various predictions. (See idiolect and isolect.)

independent parallel development theory – "The essence of this theory is that pidgins and creoles arose independently (i.e., by polygenesis), but developed in parallel ways because they used common linguistic material (e.g., from Indo-European and West African languages in particular) and were formed in similar physical and social conditions." (R: 92) (See monogenesis.)

indicator – It refers to "linguistic variables whose use differs from social group to social group but remains largely stable from one situation to another. . . i.e., they show little variation in response to situational or stylistic constraints. They occur even in the most formal styles of a large number of speakers." (R: 201) Edwards found some patois features (i.e., dentals, /o/, third-person singular verbs and plurals) that functioned as indicators for the young black Britons. (Compare to markers.)

inner vs. outer form – Somewhat like Chomsky's deep vs. surface structure. (See elaboration.)

instrumental vs. integrative motivation – This refers to the orientation that a language learner has towards the target language and culture. When the learner has a positive orientation towards the language and the group who speak it (integrative motivation), learning is more successful. On the other hand, learning is less successful when the learner's primary reason for acquiring the language is out of necessity, e.g., for business (instrumental motivation), rather than out of a desire to become integrated in the target group.

interference – It has to do with transfer – "the influence of a foreign learner's mother tongue upon the target language; positive transfer facilitates learning [and it can be used as a learner strategy], whereas negative transfer (interference) hinders it." (C: 432) (See fossilization.)

interlanguage – "This concept refers to the structured system which the language learner constructs at any given stage in his development. This system is assumed to be independent of L1 and L2." (R: 209-210) (See fossilization.)

inversion – "A reversed sequence of elements (He is going – Is he going?)" (C: 424) Often inversion is not present in the interlanguages of L2 learners, and if this lack of inverison fossilizes, this is evidence in favor of the pidginization hypothesis of second language learning, because pidgins also lack question inversion.

isolect – "Systems of individual speakers [idiolects] . . . Each (iso)lect is the output of a grammar (which is part of a polylectal grammar)." (R: 163) They are used to build implicational scales. Also lects.

isomorphic – Having similar or identical structure or form. (See isomorphism.)

isomorphism – A characteristic of analytical or grammatical languages, such as pidgins, which present greater isomorphism than lexical languages. They present several structures whose constituent parts are in a one-to-one correspondence with each other.

jargon – It is a phase in the development of a pidgin in which "we find great individual variation, a simple sound system, one or two word sentences and a very small lexicon. Jargons are used for communication in limited referential domains, e.g., trade, labour recruiting." (R: 117) Speakers of jargons may be affected by the double illusion effect.

koiné – "A less drastically reduced variety than a pidgin, it shares mutual intelligibility with the superordinate language." (R: 26)

L1 = L2 hypothesis – "This refers to the idea that the processes of first and second language acquisition are the same, or are characterized by the same sequence of development . . . [this] is a consequence of the fact that learners employ a common set of strategies which are part of the human language faculty." (R: 208) This hypothesis supports the universal principles of interlanguage development theory.

lame – Labov uses this term to describe "a [Black] boy who does not know the rules for participating in street culture." Usually lames do better in school and do not show the same degree of use of the linguistic features of BEV. (R: 197)

language accessibility – This refers to how "easily" a language can be "reached" in order to learn it. It may depend on social factors (the slaves have no access to the language of the dominant group) or on linguistic factors (the unmarked forms are the most accessible.)

Language Acquisition Device (LAD) – "The innate capacity that enables children to learn their mother tongue." (C: 424) "A human-specific and independent faculty of the mind, which determines the unfolding of innate language capabilities. This consists of . . . universal grammar, which determines language acquisition." (R: 209) It was postulated by Chomsky.

Language Bioprogram Hypothesis (LBH) – "An innate bioprogram that determines the form of human language." (B: 134) It "consists partly of species-specific structures of cognition and partly of processes inherent in the linear expansion of language. It ensures that people will have a particular type of grammar [universal grammar] in much the same way as a 'physical bioprogram' ensures that they will have a particular skeletal structure." (R: 257)

language death – This "occurs when a community shifts to a new language totally so that the old language is no longer used." (F: 213) It is the ultimate state of language loss, which has been called "creolization in reverse." (R: 302)

language vs. dialect – In creolistics, this distinction refers to whether pidgins and creoles are to be regarded as dialects (i.e., socially and linguistically subordinate varieties) of the language which appears to contribute most of their lexicon (i.e., the superstrate, lexifier language or lexical base), or whether they are languages in their own right. This issue is still being debated but pidgins and creoles are, in general, considered independent linguistic systems. (R: 3)

lateralization – "The primary involvement of one hemisphere of the brain in the exercise of a bodily function, e.g., language." (C: 424) Also, "the tendency for a given psychological function to be served by one hemisphere." (Ca: 76) (See brain plasticity.)

learner strategy – A "tactic" that a language learner applies in order to acquire L2, e.g., interference (positive transfer). Similar to operating principles.

lects – (See isolects.)

lexical emptying – This is the ultimate state of semantic bleaching, the end product of the process.

lexical vs. grammatical language – "A lexical language has a large stock of primary roots, while a grammatical one has a small stock and makes up the deficit in periphrastic constructions." (R: 35) (See iconicity.)

lexifier language – The language which appears to provide most of the lexicon to a pidgin. "The prestige language which supplies the bulk of the vocabulary is the one which is usually thought as being pidginized." (R: 3)

lexis – "The vocabulary of a language, especially in dictionary form; also lexicon." (C: 424) Lexical items are the easiest elements to be borrowed from language to language. "The vocabulary of a pidgin is usually drawn primarily from the prestige language of the dominant group in a situation of language contact. Its grammar, however, retains many features of the native languages of the subordinate groups." (R: 3)

life-cycle model – "This refers to the view that a pidgin arising from interlingual contact may become a creole if used as a native language, and then a creole continuum develops as the creole continues to coexist with its lexically related standard [decreolization takes place to complete the cycle]." (R: 182)

lingua franca – Any trade language or language of wider communication. It may be a metropolitan "world" language, a less widely used language, a koin***, or a PC.

longitudinal real-time data – Linguistic data collected from the same informants at different ages, in order to study language acquisition over a period of time. In creolistics, it is used to study the development of a creole along the creole continuum.