Non-Variant Forms of English

September 26th, 20112:44 pm


Non-Variant Forms of English

A pidgin is a simplified language that develops as a means of communication between two or more groups that do not have a language in common, in situations such as trade. Pidgins are not the native language of any speech community, but are instead learned as second languages. Pidgins usually have low prestige with respect to other languages.

Not all simplified or “broken” forms of language are pidgins. Pidgins have their own norms of usage which must be learned to speak the pidgin well.

The word pidgin, formerly also spelled pigion, derives from a Chinese Pidgin English pronunciation of business. Originally used to describe Chinese Pidgin English, it was later generalized to refer to any pidgin. Pidgin may also be used as the specific name for local pidgins, in places where they are spoken, for example, the name of Tok Pisin derives from the English words talk pidgin, and its speakers usually refer to it simply as “Pidgin” when speaking English.

The term jargon has also been used to describe pidgins, and is found in the names of some pidgins such as Chinook Jargon. In this context, linguists today use jargon to denote a particularly rudimentary type of pidgin; however, this usage is rather rare, and the term jargon most often refers to the words particular to a given profession.

Pidgins may start out as or become trade languages, such as Tok Pisin; but trade languages are often full blown languages in their own right such as Swahili, Persian, or English. Trade languages tend to be “vehicular languages”, while pidgins can evolve into the vernacular.

The creation of a pidgin usually requires:
• Prolonged, regular contact between the different language communities
• A need to communicate between them
• An absence of (or absence of widespread proficiency in) a widespread, accessible interlanguage

A creole language, or simply a creole, is a stable language that originates seemingly as a nativized pidgin. This understanding of Creole genesis culminated in Hall’s notion of the pidgin-creole life cycle. While it is arguable that Creoles share more grammatical similarities with each other than with the languages they phylogenetically derive from, no theory for explaining Creole phenomena has been universally accepted.

The relationship between pidgins and Creoles and their similarities means that the distinction is not clear-cut and the variety of phenomena that arise to create pidgins and Creoles are not understood very Well. Likewise, efforts to articulate grammatical features (or sets of features) that are exclusive to Creoles have been unsuccessful thus far.

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