LINGUIST List 2.255

Wednesday, 29 May 1991

Disc: The Survival of Immigrant Languages

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  1. "Norval Smith, RE: The Survival of African Languages among Slaves
  2. mark l louden, Re: The Survival of African Languages among Slaves
  3. , Re: The Survival of African Languages among Slaves
  4. , Re: The Survival of African Languages among Slaves

Message 1: RE: The Survival of African Languages among Slaves

Date: Tue, 28 May 91 09:59 MET
From: "Norval Smith <NSMITHALF.LET.UVA.NL>
Subject: RE: The Survival of African Languages among Slaves
I'm not now clear whether Bill Eldridge's question relates to the US or has
wider scope. In any case as far as the Atlantic creole languages are concerned
the onle form in which African languages have survived is as ritual languages.
African religions, or rather African-based religions have survived in various
places - think of Voodoo in Haiti. These ritual languages do not really qualify
for the term language as such, being at least vastly reduced. Probably none of
them allows for much more than the repetition of religious formulas. Some are
strictly comparable to technical vocabularies.
The problem is that it is difficult to study them although there is at least
some literature.
Examples are: Lucumi (Cuba/Yoruba)
 Kromanti (Jamaica/Twi)
 Kromanti/Koomanti (various groups in Surinam/Twi)
 Papa (various groups in Surinam/Gbe)
 Pumbu (Saramaccan - Surinam/Kikongo)
 Efi (Cuba (reported)/Efik)
There is a good supply of thesis topics in this area!
Another sense in which
African languages have survived in some sense is found in those cases in which
significant numbers of African loanwords have survived in Creole languages,
indicating that these languages must have been spoken in their new homelands
by at least several generations of slaves. Examples are Kikongo (Saramaccan),
Kimbundu (Angolar) and the most curious case of all - Eastern Ijo (Berbice
Dutch) which could well be described as a mixed language, and therefore
half a survival.
Some bibliographic references:

Daeleman, J. (1972) Kongo elements in Saramacca Tongo. JAL 11, 1-44.
Huttar, GL (1985) Sources of Ndjuka African vocabulary. NWIG 59, 45-71.
Price, R. (1975) Kikoongo and Saramaccan: a reappraisal. BTLV 131, 401-478
Smith, NSH, IE Robertson, K Williamson. (1987) The Ijo element in Berbice Dutch
 Language in Society.

To Bill Eldridge

In one sense talking about survival of African languages brings up the
interminable debate among creolists between substratists (or substratomaniacs)
and universalists. If you're a strict substratist (to use the kinder term) then
you will of course believe that some
African language - or common denominator of (a set of) African languages - has
survived. It's just the vocabulary that has been replaced with lexical items
from the relevant colonial language.

However I refer you to the extensive literature reflecting this debate -
this is easily accessible!

Norval Smith
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Message 2: Re: The Survival of African Languages among Slaves

Date: Tue, 28 May 91 09:13:36 -0500
From: mark l louden <loudenix1.cc.utexas.edu>
Subject: Re: The Survival of African Languages among Slaves
In reference to Margaret Fleck's response to Elise E. Morse-Gagne's remarks
about the maintenance of immigrant languages in the US, Margaret is absolutely
correct in pointing out the Old Order Amish as a good example of lg. maint.
beyond the third generation. The Penn. German speaking community, of which
the Amish and other conservative Anabaptist sectarian groups were originally
a small minority, has maintained PG, a colonial dialect of German, since its
formation (sometime around 1775-1800). The dialect is dying out among non-
sectarian speakers (youngest  60 yrs. old), but the outlook for maintenance
among the Amish and related groups is excellent.
Also, there is a small sub-sect within the OOAmish living mainly in So. Indiana
whose ancestors came directly over from Switzerland in the mid-19th century.
They are generally recognized as the last Amish to exist as a distinctly Amish
group in Europe. To this day, these "Schweizer" (so referred to by other Amish)
speak Swiss German, with some being able to converse in both PG and Swiss G.
Other immigrant groups with lg. maintenance beyond the third generation would
be Cajun French speakers in La., as well as the Isleno Spanish speakers in the
same state; also Spanish in No. New Mexico, German here in central Texas,
German among the Hutterites in the Midwest and central provinces in Canada, and
Dutch in New York and New Jersey from the colonial era to the early part of 
this century.
Best wishes,
Mark Louden
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Message 3: Re: The Survival of African Languages among Slaves

Date: Tue, 28 May 1991 09:56 MST
From: <KAMPRATHCC.UTAH.EDU>
Subject: Re: The Survival of African Languages among Slaves
WRT "immigrant groups which have maintained their original languages
for as much as three or four generations" (Elise Emerson Morse-Gagne),
there are plenty of them, and not limited to Amish communities
(Margaret Fleck's response, 2.252). Even without having made a
search for them, much less a study of them, I have run into them in
several places. All those that I know of are in farming communities.
 My parents are both fourth generation German and learned German
(Plattdeutsch for my mom in northern Missouri and Schwabisch for my
dad in southeastern Nebraska--and the Kamprath Ancestor settled in
Ida, Michigan) as their first language at home on the farm. I think
it's significant that their major social community was the local
Lutheran congregation (Martin Luther, of course, was pretty German,
and so is Lutheranism), in which German (some sort of "Hochdeutsch")
was the language of the church service; the hymns, sermons, Bible,
liturgy, catechism, everything was in German. They learned English
when they went to grade school (and I guess they brought it home; I
don't know where they picked it up, but my grandparents spoke English
around me when we came to visit, tho' Grampa Martens said Komm Herr
Jesu... for Come Lord Jesus... as a pre-meal prayer). My parents
didn't speak German at home when I was growing up because they spoke
different varieties, but our church did have German church services
(German was at 8am and we went to the English service 10:30, conducted
by the same Pastor Ostermann), not in a farm community, but in
small-town central Minnesota--this is 35 years ago. 

There are also well-known communities in Texas where "Texas-Deutsch"
is spoken (in Schulenburg, written "Kirche" is not recognized as the
same thing a their spoken [kex], but [kirx] is understood in
context; the T-D word for "fence" is [fEns], that sort of thing).
 Schulenburg is also half Czech Catholic; friends of mine of both
these persuasions, now about 40 years old, learned these languages at
home on the farm from their third-generation parents and heard them in
church and on the street. It's not just Schulenburg, of course.
 Surely everyone's heard of Fredericksburg and the New Braunfels
Wurstfest. :-)

Amish and Pennsylvania "Dutch" communities are better known, but
they're not unique.

Christine Kamprath
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Message 4: Re: The Survival of African Languages among Slaves

Date: Tue, 28 May 1991 14:49 EDT
From: <PEARSON2umiami.IR.Miami.EDU>
Subject: Re: The Survival of African Languages among Slaves
Is John Singler a subscriber on the Linguist Net? To my knowledge,
he is the expert on this subject, having devoted most of his career
to creole genesis questions. I sat in on the first week or so
of his class on West African Languages at the 1986 Institute (New
York) and remember his reporting on original documents of
slaving vessles, of large groups of slaves from single language
areas being sold in blocks, etc. I will continue to hunt for my
notes, but can someone nudge John to write a posting? In the 
meantime, those interested in the question should definitely
search for his publications on creole genesis and the history of
slaving practices.
Rebecca Burns Hoffman

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