Glossary of Pidgin and Creole Terms M-O


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


marked sounds – "The sounds that present a particular contrastive feature in a language or languages." (C: 425) "A number of marked sounds in the lexifier language tend to be represented by a single phoneme in the pidgin . . . in Fanagalo as used by speakers of non-Bantu languages the clicks are replaced by /k/. In English-based pidgins the interdental fricatives are typically replaced by the corresponding stops /t/ and /d/." (R: 63)

markedness index – This has to do with a markedness hierarchy for the tense developed by Muysken as a part of his theory of markedness. It assigns markedness values to the tenses. (See also marked sounds.)

markedness (theory of) – Muysken argues that "this theory would be used to predict that in the early stages of development of TMA systems only the unmarked distinctions appear and that the complex distinctions appear only later." (R: 269) (See markedness index.)

marker – A "variable which shows sharp stratification with respect to both social groups and styles." Some patois features serve as markers, they represent "a conscious marking of patois and function as a means of asserting ethnic identity and solidarity." (R: 201) (Compare to indicator.) (See act of identity.)

mesolect – "In creole studies, a variety between acrolect and basilect." (C: 425) (See creole continuum.)

mixture – A distinguishing feature of pidgins and creoles. This "has to do with whether the language consists essentially of items and structures derived from no source outside itself." (R: 44)

modality – It "refers to the speaker's assessment of the event in terms of its likelihood or probability." (R: 264) In creoles, mood is represented by [±realis]. (See TMA systems.)

monogenesis – A theory "based on the view that European-based pidgins and creoles are relexified versions of a fifteenth-century Portuguese pidgin first used along the African coast and later carried to India and the Far East. The pidgin is itself related to Sabir, the Mediterranean lingua franca. The essence of the theory is that all pidgins are genetically related to one proto-pidgin." (R: 86) Antonym: polygenesis. (See independent parallel development theory.)

motherese – The speech of adults (mothers or any caretakers) when they talk to children acquiring language. Also called mother's speech, baby talk, caretaker speech. "Mothers introduce forms and meanings to their children in a principled way, and thus organize the child's input... motherese tends to be highly fluent, redundant and simple, and produced with a higher pitch... The MLU (i.e., mean length of utterance) of mother's utterances is closely associated with the child's rate of psycholinguistic development... Mother's input is [not ] syntactically simpler [as some have argued]... the only sense in which baby talk is simpler is that utterances are shorter...MLU reflects semantic more than syntactic complexity." (R: 75) "The general issues of whether simplification aids language acquisition and of whether acquisition proceeds largely by means of imitation are relevant to both [mother-child communication and pidginization]." (R: 76)

multi-dimensional vs. uni-dimensional – It has to do with variation in the creole speech community. If "all or most of the variants and varieties of speech can be ordered in terms of a single linear dimension such as creoleness or standardness" in the creole continuum, the model is uni-dimensional (horizontal). If another dimension (vertical) such as rural vs. urban or ethnicity is added, the model becomes multi-dimensional. (R: 179-180)

multifunctionality – One of the mechanism develped by pidgins "to extend a highly restricted lexical inventory... the same word is used in a multitude of grammatical functions." (M: 171)

myelinization – "The process whereby nerve cell axons in the central nervous system are coated with myelin. This improves the efficiency and speed of interneuronal communication... this stage is one of the first critical neurological events of significance for language acquisition because there can be no development in the aural-oral channel without myelinization." (R: 217)

nativization vs. denativization – They are both part of a model of second language acquisition. Nativization is "language acquisition towards an internal norm" (e.g., pidginization), whereas denativization is "acquisition towards an external norm" (e.g., depidginization). (R: 227)

natural semantax – A general name that Bickerton gives to his theory, which includes the LBH, his approach to universals, and his pidgin and creole studies. He has also called it the blueprint for language. (R: 256)

negative attraction – A characteristic of creoles, according to Markey. "The spread of attraction of the negative to all the NPs in a sentence, as in Black English: 'I ain't got no money nohow'." (R: 59) Also negative spread or negative concord.

non-finite verb forms – "Those forms of the verb which are not limited by person, number or tense, i.e., the participle, the gerund and the infinitive." (R: 62) Creoles lack non-finite verb forms, whether inflected or not. (Contrast with finite.)

number – "The grammatical category that expresses such contrasts as 'singular/plural/dual'." (C: 426) Pidgins and creoles often omit number.

1:1 Principle – "There should be a one-to-one relationship between form and meaning." This has to do with semantic transparency which, according to Seurn and Wekker, "is the organizing principle behind second language acquisition and creolization". (R: 276)

ontogeny vs. phylogeny – Ontogeny is "the growth and decay (here, of language) in the individual" (C: 426), while phylogeny is the "historical development (here, of language) in communities or in the human race as a whole". (C: 428) "Ontogeny recapitulates phylogeny" (Haeckel's dictum). (See diachronic vs. synchronic history, genotype.)

opacity – When the meaning of phrase is difficult to decipher, it is said to be opaque. "There is a correlation between brevity and opacity [in pidgins]. As the lexicon of a pidgin expands, the clumsy but motivated compounds and periphrastic constructions [i.e., its opacity] disappear... Lexical expansion is motivated by a desire to give common concepts a reduced expression." (R: 37) (Compare to semantic transparency.)

operating principles – Strategies that adults and children apply in acquiring another language. Some studies have demonstrated that adults and children acquire language following the same procedures. This can mean either of two things: one is that they apply the same operating principles and another is that there is a universal hierarchy of difficulty involved in the acquisition of features. (R: 218)