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Review of  Creoles, Contact, and Language Change

Reviewer: Thomas B. Klein
Book Title: Creoles, Contact, and Language Change
Book Author: Geneviève Escure Armin Schwegler
Publisher: John Benjamins
Linguistic Field(s): Historical Linguistics
Subject Language(s): Garifuna
Creole French, Seselwa
Creole English, Jamaican
Sranan Tongo
Issue Number: 16.842

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Date: Thu, 17 Mar 2005 13:04:52 -0500
From: Thomas Klein
Subject: Creoles, Contact, and Language Change: Linguistic and social

EDITORS: Escure, Geneviève; Schwegler, Armin
TITLE: Creoles, Contact, and Language Change
SUBTITLE: Linguistic and social implications
SERIES: Creole Language Library 27
PUBLISHER: John Benjamins
YEAR: 2004

Thomas B. Klein, Department of Writing and Linguistics/ Georgia Southern

This book is a collection of papers from meetings of the Society for
Pidgin and Creole Linguistics held in 2001 and 2002. Only fifteen out of
thirty-one original submissions have been accepted for publication. Peer
reviews by multiple referees for each article have helped in revising and
extending the original conference papers. Presenting a total of fifteen
chapters, the volume is organized in four parts: Historical matters,
acquisition, aspects of structure, and issues of discourse and identity.
Pacific Creoles (Macanese, Hawaiian, Tok Pisin) are addressed in three
contributions, data from Indian Ocean Creoles (Morisyen, Seselwa) figure
in two chapters, whereas Atlantic Creoles and contact languages (African
American Vernacular English, Garifuna, Gullah, Jamaican Creole English,
Eastern Maroon Creole, Guadeloupean, Haitian, Krio, Limonese, Palenquero,
Sranan, St. Lucian Creole, Tonga Portuguese) are investigated in twelve of
the articles. Thus, the collection is rich in its coverage of the Atlantic
linguistic landscape, but explores varieties in other areas of the globe
as well. Two pieces speak primarily to phonological matters, eight of the
essays focus on morphosyntactic themes, whereas two chapters look into
both structural areas. Therefore, issues of morphology and syntax play a
superordinate role, but sound structure receives some important coverage
as well.

Following a brief preface by the editors, the first chapter in the
historical section is by Umberto Ansaldo and Stephen Matthews. They
describe reduplication in Macanese, the Portuguese-based Creole of Macao,
and examine its origins. The main data source is the literary work of a
native author. Evidence is presented for productive reduplication of
nouns, adjectives, adverbs, verbs, numerals, and onomatopoeia. All
productive reduplication is total, that is, whole words are reduplicated
to convey grammatical functions. The authors argue for close parallels of
pluralizing nominal reduplication and adverbial reduplication in the Malay
substrate and in Sinitic adstrates, respectively. Three possible
explanations are offered for the remaining patterns: pidgin Portuguese
brought from the Gulf of Guinea colonies, convergence of Malay and Sinitic
structures, or independent development following universal patterns.
Bakker's 2003 work is helpful in weighing these options. He demonstrates
that pidgins generally lack reduplication. In light of this evidence,
pidgin Portuguese does not appear as a likely source of the observed
reduplication patterns in Macanese.

Margot van den Berg and Jacques Arends make a case for 17th- and 18th-
centruy court records as a source of authentic early Sranan. The
punishment of slaves for felonies during this time period in Suriname had
to be decided in court, so that depositions, statements, and reports of
examinations exist that contain verbal testimony from Blacks. The authors
advance two arguments for the authenticity of such records. First, it
seems likely that they were intended as verbatim accounts. Secondly,
certain distinctive linguistic features of the records are also found in
other textual materials containing early Sranan. The documents examined
contain about five hundred isolated words and some fifty short sentences
in Sranan. The authors utilize the sentences to examine the use of a form
meaning 'man, be able to, have the nerve to', the expression of
counterfactuality in the TMA system, and the development of the copula
system. Lexical, phonological, and morphological issues are left for
future investigation. It appears that data from these court records may be
a significant supplement to the evidence for early Sranan. Creolists are
fortunate in having been made aware of this important source.

Garifuna, described and analyzed by Geneviève Escure, is a moribund mixed
language spoken by members of the oldest generation of Black Caribs in
Belize and Honduras. French, English, and Spanish borrowings have combined
with the original Arawak and Carib components in historical and present-
day stages of the language. Casual Garifuna conversations read like a
linguistic patchwork. Out of sixty morphemes in five example sentences,
twenty-two are of Arawak origin, eight are from Carib, eighteen from
French, six from Spanish, three from English or Creole English, and one is
from Bantu. French, Spanish, and English (Creole) loanwords as well as
certain grammaticalization patterns are described in some detail. Escure
presents data to support her idea that linguistic attrition in Garifuna
has initiated a trend away from synthetic morphology towards analytic
morphosyntax. She suggests that patterns of obsolescence in the language
are reminiscent of and, hence, hint at processes observed in pidginization
or creolization. This new evidence implying parallels between language
death and language birth deserves the attention of creolists and scholars
dealing with language endangerment.

Magnus Huber investigates if earlier varieties of African American
Vernacular English and/or Gullah could have influenced Sierra Leonean
Krio. He finds that about eighty-five percent of the Nova Scotian settlers
to Sierra Leone originally came from Virginia, North and South Carolina,
and Georgia. Letters written by these Black Loyalists are analyzed
linguistically to shed light on non-standard features in the phonology and
morphology of the speech of this group. The analysis shows a good degree
of homogeneity among the letters by writers from Virginia and South
Carolina. This suggests that similar degrees of restructuring of English
may have been present around the Chesapeake Bay and in areas associated
with the origin of Gullah. Huber's hypothesis that the transshipment of
Black Loyalists from the South to Nova Scotia and onwards to Sierra Leone
may explain the similarities between Gullah and Krio should spur
discussion in future works.

Alan N. Baxter's chapter opens the section on acquisition. He presents
sociolinguistic interview data on variable NP plural agreement in Tonga
Portuguese, a restructured variety spoken by descendants of Africans
contracted to work on the Monte Café plantation of São Tomé in the 19th
and 20th centuries. Across three generations this group uses ever more
plural agreement morphology, with the youngest generation displaying it
the most. Four conditioning factors are shown to play a role in the
appearance of plural morphology: the morphophonological saliency of the
plural word, the following phonological context, the structural
configuration of the NP, and whether informants had at least one African
parent, or locally born parents. Baxter argues that the change in variable
plural marking is causally connected to patterns in the L2 and L1
acquisition of Portuguese in the community. This paper nicely demonstrates
how complex factors may conspire to produce linguistic change in apparent
time in a creole-type contact situation.

Fred Field argues that processability of second language linguistic
structures is involved in the genesis of a Creole language. Processability
is dependent on the complexity of form with respect to its function or
meaning. Field invokes a hierarchy adapted from work on the acquisition of
English as a second language. Single-word utterances make up the simplest
processability level, whereas the cancellation of subject-auxiliary
inversion in indirect discourse ranks with the highest level. Data from
Hawaiian and Jamaican Creole English, Tok Pisin, and Palenquero are
adduced to support the view that these Creole languages do not feature
structures above a certain processability level. This is then taken as
structural evidence for an important role of second language acquisition
in the emergence of a Creole language. The author makes clear, however,
that he is not implying that second language acquisition is the only
possible explanation in Creole genesis.

The acquisition of Jamaican syllable structure and its analysis in the
Optimality Theory (OT) framework is the subject of Rocky R. Meade's
article. The data come from a longitudinal study of a basilectal and a
mesolectal/acrolectal group of children. The children's development
profile is examined in terms of syllable structure types such as V, CV,
CVC, and (C)CVC(C). Significantly, all children follow a similar path in
the sequence of the stages observed regardless of linguistically
significant socio-economic differences. The OT analysis demonstrates that
re-ranking of universal syllable structure constraints in the course of
the developmental process accounts for the sequence of acquisition. Given
the scarcity of developmental data speaking to the first language
acquisition of Creole phonology, this study makes an important empirical
and theoretical contribution.

The third part of the book, "Aspects of structure", begins with a chapter
by Dany Adone. She argues that the Double-object construction (NP NP) is
the default structure associated with ditransitive verbs in Morisyen and
Seselwa, even though prepositional complement structures [NP to NP] also
occur at the surface. The bulk of the article is devoted to the syntactic
analysis of the two structures based on data obtained by the author from
adult native speakers of the two languages in focus. Reference to
acquisition and sign language data is made in two paragraphs in the
concluding remarks. This chapter should be of interest primarily to
syntacticians, but it has implications for acquisition research as well.

A corpus-based study on the dialectal variability of passive voice in
Papiamento is the subject of Eva Martha Eckkrammer's paper. The data are
extracted from a digitized corpus of 600,000 words of predominantly
written text. The study investigates three passive markers and cross-
references their occurrence in two sub-corpora, one with data from Curaçao
and Bonaire, the other with texts from Aruba. The quantitative analysis
reveals that Aruban Papiamento prefers two passive markers whereas the
Curaçao and Bonaire variety uses all three roughly equivalently, thereby
showing a lesser degree of Dutch influence. These results are of interest
to Creole syntacticians and to scholars interested in Papiamento dialectal

Malcolm Awadajin Finney invigorates the case for Krio as a tone language.
He presents data to show that tone is used contrastively in Krio to
distinguish lexical items of African and English origin. Furthermore, it
is demonstrated that tone is only partially predictable in polysyllabic
items of English origin. In addition, the location of primary stress in
English corresponds only in part to the occurrence of high tone in Krio.
The regular presence of initial low tone in Krio compounds is accounted
for by positing a rule of high tone deletion and low tone spread. Given
that Krio does not appear to employ tone to mark grammatical categories,
the debate if it is a true tone language is likely to continue. However,
Finney's work undoubtedly helps to put the discussion on solid footing.

The article by David B. Frank examines the correlation between tense-mood-
aspect (TMA) markers and the stative/nonstative distinction among verbs in
St. Lucian French Creole. Fresh data from the author's fieldwork are
employed throughout. The primary factor governing the TMA patterns is the
stative or nonstative nature of the verb. In order to fully account for
TMA usage in St. Lucian, however, it is shown that other factors must be
taken into account such as whether the verb phrase in question is in an
independent or dependent clause, in reported speech, or in a marked
position of a narrative. Given the essential role that questions about TMA
systems play in Creole studies, this article should find a wide readership.

A paper on the Limonese calypso by Anita Herzfeld in collaboration with
David Moskowitz is first in the section on discourse and identity. Several
types of Calypso lyrics are presented and are considered as an identity
marker and a significant factor in aiding the maintenance of Limonese
Creole in Costa Rica. The messages of the lyrics express an alternative
worldview, one that has good potential to be meaningful to the Afro-
Limonese. Thus, the lyrics may facilitate a positive attitude of the
Limonese themselves and their language. This article usefully reminds
readers that music, in addition to language, plays an important role in
creating and maintaining the identity of a people.

Kuutu council meetings are an important formal event in the Pamaka Eastern
Maroon community of Suriname. Bettina Migge describes and analyzes social
and linguistic properties of the kuutu to shed light on the communicative
competence of its participants. Linguistic practices include structured
turns and turn-taking, specific language and word choices, address forms,
and figures of speech. There are distinct social rules of conduct, and
active participation is restricted to people who hold high status. This
work is a rare document of structured discourse in a Maroon community and
provides unique insight into an understudied aspect of the linguistic
repertoire of Creole speakers.

Katrin Mutz presents a study of reflexivity in several French-based Creole
languages. She demonstrates that the choice of reflexive construction may
depend on the semantics and the valency structure of the verb, its
occurrence in spoken versus written language, lexicalization matters, and
discourse context. Data are also presented to show that the reflexive
elements convey at least one other non-reflexive function. The author
argues that the non-reflexive functions represent precursors in the
grammaticalization process towards markers of reflexivity. This chapter
should be a useful contribution to the literature on reflexivity and
grammaticalization in Creole languages.

The chapter by Sarah J. Roberts on the role of style and identity in the
development of Hawaiian Creole completes the volume. The author considers
how linguistic ideology and group identity factors may have influenced the
development of Creole continua. Linguistic elaboration in the development
of Hawaiian Creole English, including basilect formation, may thus be
understood as essentially stylistic along trajectories of linguistic
divergence or convergence. According to this view, the language became
increasingly invested with identity-marking functions and thus became ever
more important in differentiating local identities. Given the recurrence
of structured speech dimensions in human societies, this article has the
potential for significant cross-fertilization in the understanding of
speech continua in Creole societies and elsewhere.

This volume has been done very well overall. It clearly shows the benefits
of stringent editorship and peer reviewing. The work of its authors
represents a window into the state-of-the-art in Creole studies and
beyond. It should not be missing in any collection with holdings on Creole
or contact languages.


Bakker, Peter (2003) The absence of reduplication in Pidgins. In Silvia
Kouwenberg, ed. Twice as meaningful: Morphological reduplication in
Pidgins, Creoles, and other contact languages, pp. 37-46. London:


Thomas B. Klein is an Assistant Professor of Linguistics in the Department
of Writing and Linguistics at Georgia Southern University. His research
specializations are in phonology and Creole studies.