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Pidgins and creoles
Dialects in contact
When languages collide by Philippa Law
Pidgins and creolesYou settle into speaking hesitant German with your fellow castaway and soon the pair of you are speaking it all the time. You'll pretty quickly give up trying to remember which things are which gender (it doesn't matter whether the ravenous beast you're being pursued by is der or das) and you'll probably find plenty of English and Serbo-Croat words creeping in to fill the gaps.Providing you survive the ravenous beasts, at some stage, your means of communication may become consistent enough to be considered a full, if fairly simple, language: Desert Island Pidgin German. Of course, by then, it's hardly worth calling it German - any Standard German speaker would be hard pushed to understand much of what you're saying.
Imagine that you find yourself stuck on a desert island with a Serbo-Croat speaker who doesn't know any English. You don't speak Serbo-Croat either, but after a few awkward minutes of smiling and gesturing, you discover you both learnt a smattering of German at school. Neither of you are very good at it, but you need to communicate, so it's better than nothing.
"...it's helpful to think about any pidgin as a separate but related language rather than a dialect of one of its ancestors.''Peter Trudgill says it's helpful to think about any pidgin as a separate but related language rather than a dialect of one of its ancestors, not just because it's likely to be so different, but also for social reasons:"...many people have objected to pidgins on the grounds that they have corrupted the 'purity' of English (or some other European language). Views like this are often accompanied by sentiments about racial and cultural 'purity' as well. If one regards a pidgin as a debased and inferior form of English, it may be quite easy to regard its speakers, mostly non-Europeans, as also being 'debased' and 'inferior'."Our desert island example is a bit far-fetched, but on a larger scale, groups of linguistically diverse people who are forced together often form new languages in this way. Many pidgins arose around trade routes, colonisation and the slave trade, because people with different native languages were thrown together and all exposed to one socially dominant language.Probably the most well-known is Tok Pisin, a language of Papua New Guinea. It's so widely used - even in the media and in schools - that many children are acquiring it as their first language. It's no longer 'just' a lingua franca; it's also many people's native language.
Native speakers have naturally expanded and complicated Tok Pisin until the language has the full characteristics of any normal language. It's now not only good for communicating, but also, for example, writing poetry.When this happens to a pidgin, it often becomes known as a creole. A creole is just like any other natural language - it just has an interesting background!