LING 482/582: Pidgins and Creoles
Instructor: G. Tucker Childs
This course introduces students to the study of pidgin and creole languages. The linguistic sub-discipline, sometimes known as “Creolistics” takes as its starting point the increasingly controversial position that pidgins and creoles constitute a separate type of language and therefore merit separate study. An evaluation of this position can be performed only after reconsidering and perhaps reformulating some of the field's basic definitions, a direction we will pursue here.
The course looks at the creation of new language varieties in situations of rapid social change and language contact, typically involving asymmetrical power relationships in a fort or plantation environment, as arose during the period of European colonialism. Increasingly, however, such conditions obtain in other environments throughout the world today, especially in capitalistic societies where accumulations of wealth attract citizens of less affluent societies, e.g., the mines of South Africa, the cities of the United States and Europe.
Such varieties have appeal to the field of linguistics in general, as well as to related disciplines dealing with language. Because of their variability, pidgins and creoles have been of great importance to historical and contact linguistics, language variation, and sociolinguistics. In addition they have provided important data for theories of first and second language acquisition, especially for adult second language acquisition. Such questions as the following are central, How is a pidgin created? How do speakers of different languages create a medium of communication when they have no common language? The question of how a creole is created by young children from “inadequate input” has equally been a central focus of research. The study of pidgins and creoles also furnishes insights for morphology, syntax, and semantics, and increasingly for phonology and pragmatics. Pidgins and creoles have often been regarded as providing an important window on language universals as well, a claim whose validity we will examine.
Beyond linguistics proper, the field has been the locus of considerable political controversy, primarily because of the power relationships involved in the creation of pidgins and creoles. Because they often acquire their lexicon from a European language, they have been considered a bastard child by native speakers of the lexifying European language, i.e., those in power. A creole or extended pidgin therefore receives little external support despite representing the everyday core language of its speakers and a central part of their speech community's identity. For these and other reasons, creole speakers often eschew the norms of the elite, deliberately adopting variants not part of the superstrate variety, making their variety even more divergent from that used by those in power.
In considering such social and linguistic issues as these, students will be asked to research specific geographical and linguistic areas to constitute a pool of case studies for class discussion. The course itself will focus on varieties spoken in Africa and the Caribbean, continually underscoring the connections between the two areas.
Prerequisites: LING 390
Major Assignments: Evaluation: Marks will be determined on the following basis:
|30%||20%||Presentation 1: Variety or area summary|
|30%||40%||Presentation 2: Summary of a social, historical, or structural issue (undergrads)
Presentation 2: Exploring a linguistic or discipline-specific issue (grads)
Class participation is based on the extent to which a student comes prepared to class and participates in class discussion.
The final exam will cover all of the course readings.
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