Pidgins and Creoles

This course presents an overview of pidgins and creoles (PC’s) and of the field of creole studies. PC’s have challenged linguistic theory from the nineteenth century to the present day. This course on PC’s examines central issues and controversies and considers what the study of PC’s can tell us about human language and society. While widely spoken around the world, PC’s are especially significant in the Caribbean, the South Pacific, and West Africa. Special attention in the course will go to the place of West Africa in creole studies, not only because the region is home to several PC’s but also because West African languages are posited as having been crucial to the formation of Caribbean creoles. In this latter regard, Enoch Aboh will address the class on the relationship of Kwa languages, particularly Gbe languages, to particular Western Hemisphere creoles. The central puzzle in creole studies is how PC’s came into being. Thus, the focus is on their genesis. As part of a consideration of genesis questions, Margot van den Berg will examine the role of nativization in creole formation and will relate creole genesis to theories of language acquisition. Other questions that the course will address include the following:
•  Is there a “creole prototype”?  
•  Why do PC’s, regardless of their history and contributing languages, have so much in common with one another?  
•  What role does the social setting of a creole’s genesis play in shaping the language that results?
•  How do PC’s fit into the larger realm of contact languages?