Pidgin

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Language group origins

A pidgin is a simplified language. Pidgin languages serve as a crucial precursor to the development of Creole languages, acting as a simplified form of communication that emerges in situations of linguistic contact, such as trade, colonization, or slavery. Pidgins typically arise when speakers of different languages come into regular contact but do not share a common language. These pidgins often incorporate elements from multiple languages, such as vocabulary and basic grammar, to facilitate basic communication. However, pidgins lack the complexity and stability of fully developed languages, as they are typically used in specific contexts and by speakers who also maintain their native languages.[1][2] Pidgins are not usually as complicated as many other languages.[3]

The transition from pidgin to Creole occurs when pidgin languages become more stable, acquiring native speakers who use them as their primary means of communication. As these pidgins are passed down through generations, they undergo a process of creolization, wherein they develop more complex grammatical structures, expanded vocabulary, and clearer phonological features. Creole languages emerge as fully developed languages with native speakers who use them in various social contexts beyond their original pidgin functions. This process of creolization often occurs over generations as children learn the pidgin as their first language and contribute to its development through regular use and natural language evolution.[4]

Countries that use pidgin languages as their official languages include Papua New Guinea, Jamaica and some other Caribbean and Central American countries.

Country Creole-Type Amount Of Speakers Main Language(s)
 Haiti Haitian Creole (Kreyòl Ayisyen) 90-100% French
 Jamaica Jamaican Patois (Jamaican Creole) 90-95% English
 Trinidad and Tobago Trinidadian Creole English (Trinidadian Creole or Trini Talk) ~90+% English
Seychelles
Seychellois Creole (Kreol Seselwa) N/A (No Number Figure)[Widely Spoken] English/French
Mauritius
Mauritian Creole (Kreol Morisien) 80-90% English/French
 Guadeloupe Guadeloupean Creole French ~90+% French
 Martinique Martinican Creole French ~90+% French
Cape Verde
Cape Verdean Creole (Kriolu) N/A (No number figure)[Widely Spoken] Portuguese
Sierra Leone
Krio N/A (No Number Figure)[Widely Spoken] English
Suriname Suriname Sranan Tongo 85% Dutch
Papua New Guinea
Tok Pisin (Pidgin English) 50 - 60% Tok Pisin
 Saint Lucia Saint Lucian Creole French 95% English
 Antigua and Barbuda Antiguan Creole English 95% English
 Saint Vincent and the Grenadines Vincentian Creole English 99% English
 Saint Kitts and Nevis Kittian Creole English No Number FIgure English
 Dominica Dominican Creole English 100% English
Honduras Honduras N/A (No Number Figure)[Widely Spoken] No Number FIgure Spanish
Colombia Colombia N/A (No Number Figure)[Widely Spoken] No Number FIgure Spanish
Costa Rica Costa Rica N/A (No Number Figure)[Widely Spoken] No Number FIgure Spanish
 Belize Kriol ~50% English

*Language data changes daily and should not be used as exact numbers

History of the word[change | change source]

The term "pidgin" originates from the Chinese word "pídīng," meaning "business" or "trading." Initially used by English sailors and traders in the 18th century to communicate with Chinese merchants, pidgin referred to a simplified language formed from a combination of different languages for the purpose of trade or communication between speakers of different native languages. As colonial powers expanded their influence, pidgin languages emerged in various regions around the world, including the Pacific Islands, Africa, and the Caribbean, often as a result of interactions between indigenous peoples, Europeans, and enslaved Africans.

Pidgin languages typically develop in contexts of contact between groups with no common language and are characterized by simplified grammar, reduced vocabulary, and a mixture of linguistic elements from multiple languages. Over time, as pidgin languages become more stable and are passed on to the next generation as a native language, they can evolve into creole languages. Creoles are fully developed languages with their own grammar, vocabulary, and syntax, often incorporating elements from the pidgin's parent languages but also exhibiting unique features. Creole languages arise when children are exposed to pidgin languages as their first language and develop them into fully functional means of communication within their communities. Thus, while pidgin languages serve as simplified contact languages for immediate communication, creole languages represent the natural evolution and expansion of these simplified forms into fully developed linguistic systems.

Examples[change | change source]

Creole phrases:[change | change source]

  • "Mi famili come lebon" (Tok Pisin) - "My family is good"

Pidgin phrases:[change | change source]

  • "You come yesterday?" (Tok Pisin) - "Did you come yesterday?"
  • "Mi no sabi speak English well" (Cameroonian Pidgin) - "I don't know how to speak English well"
  • "Him big pass you" (Jamaican Patois) - "He is bigger than you"
  • Bakker, Peter (1994), "Pidgins", in Jacques Arends, Pidgins and Creoles: an introduction, John Benjamins
  • Hymes, Dell (1971), Pidginization and creolization of languages, Cambridge University Press, ISBN 0-521-07833-4
  • McWhorter, John (2002). The Power of Babel: the natural history of language. Random House Group. ISBN 0-06-052085-X.
  • Sebba, Mark (1997). Contact languages: Pidgins and Creoles. MacMillan. ISBN 0-333-63024-6.
  • Thomason, Sarah & Terrence Kaufman (1988), Language contact, creolization, and genetic linguistics (first ed.), Berkeley: University of California Press
  • Todd, Loreto (1990), Pidgins and Creoles, Routledge, ISBN 0415053110

Notes[change | change source]

  1. See Todd (1990:3)
  2. See Kaufman & Thomason (1988:169)
  3. Bakker (1994:27)
  4. Bakker (1994:26)