World Englishes
Jennifer Jenkins
A resource book for
students
Strand 2: Pidgins and creoles
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Definition pidgin
A pidgin is a language with no native speakers: it is
no one’s first language but is a contact language.
(Wardhaugh 2006: 61–3)

Definition creole
In contrast to a pidgin, a creole is often defined as a
pidgin that has become the first language of a new
generation of speakers.
(Wardhaugh 2006: 61–3)
A2
Pidgins
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Stigmatisation as inferior, ‘bad’ languages
European expansion into Africa and Asia during
colonial period
Contact languages between ‘dominant’ European
language speakers and speakers of mutually
unintelligible indigenous African and American
languages
Fulfils restricted communicative needs between
people who do not share a common language
Little need for grammatical redundancy
A2
Creoles
Creolisation: development of a pidgin into a creole
A: children of pidgin speakers use their parents’ pidgin
language as a mother tongue  creole
B: pidgin is used as a lingua franca in multilingual
areas and develops to be used for an increasing
number of functions  creole
- Vocabulary expands and grammar increases in
complexity
Decreolisation: through extensive contact with the
dominant language develops towards standard
A2
dominant language
Theories of origins
Three groups of theories
1 Monogenesis: pidgins have a single origin
2 Polygenesis: pidgins have an independent origin
3 Universal: pidgins derive from universal strategies

A2
Monogenesis
The theory of monogenesis and relexification:
-All European-based pidgins and creoles derive
ultimately from one proto-pidgin source, a Portuguese
pidgin that was used in the world’s trade routes during
the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries
-Evidence for this theory: many linguistic similarities
between present-day Portuguese pidgins and creoles,
and pidgins and creoles related to other European
languages
A2
Polygenesis
The independent parallel development theory:
-Pidgins and creoles arose and developed
independently, but in similar ways because they shared
a common linguistic ancestor
-Pidgins and creoles were formed in similar social and
physical conditions
A2
Polygenesis
The nautical jargon theory:
A nautical jargon, i.e. the European sailors’ lingua
franca, formed a nucleus for the various pidgins,
which were expanded in line with their learners’
mother tongues
Evidence for this theory: nautical element in all
pidgins and creoles with European lexicons
A2
Universal
The baby talk theory:
-Based on similarities between certain pidgins and early
speech of children
-Also because speakers of the dominant language use
foreigner talk (simplified speech) with L2 speakers
A2
Universal
A synthesis:
-Based on universal patterns of linguistic behaviour in
contact situations
-Inherent universal constraints on language
-Evidence for this theory: proficient as well as less
proficient speakers from different L1s and speech
communities simplify their language in very similar
ways; children go through the same stages in the
mastery of speech
A2
Characteristics of pidgins and creoles

Lexis
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Drawn from lexifier language (usually a European language)
Systematic and rule-governed
Concepts encoded in lengthier ways
Extensive use of reduplication
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Pronunciation
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Fewer sounds
Simplification of consonant clusters
Conflation
Large number of homophones
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B2
Characteristics of pidgins and creoles
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Grammar
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Few inflections in nouns, pronouns, verbs and adjectives
Simple negative particle for negation
Uncomplicated clause structure
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Development of pidgins  creoles
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Assimilation and reduction
Expansion of vocabulary
Development of tense system in verbs
Greater sentence complexity
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B2
Characteristics of pidgins and creoles
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Social functions
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Wide range of social functions beyond the original purpose to
serve as basic contact languages
Literature (written and oral)
Education
Mass media
Advertising
The Bible
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B2
London Jamaican
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A combination of Jamaican Creole and a local form
of non-standard English
Powerful marker of group identity
Shows grammatical, phonological and lexical
features of Jamaican Creole
Also shows features of London English which do not
occur in Jamaican Creole
C2
Ebonics
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Also known as Africa-American Vernacular English
(AAVE)
No agreement on how it developed
Debate about its status and the approach to be
taken in schools
–
–
Oakland school board: Ebonics regarded as valid linguistic
system and as second language, used as language of
instruction
Strong reactions: many opposed this approach, some were
in favour
C2
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