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A creole language, or simply creole, is a stable
natural language In neuropsychology, linguistics, and philosophy of language, a natural language or ordinary language is any language that has linguistic evolution, evolved naturally in humans through use and repetition without conscious planning or premeditati ...
that develops from the simplifying and mixing of different languages into a new one within a fairly brief period of time: often, a
pidgin A pidgin , or pidgin language, is a grammatically simplified means of communication that develops between two or more groups of people that do not have a language in common: typically, its vocabulary and grammar are limited and often drawn from s ...
evolved into a full-fledged language. While the concept is similar to that of a mixed or hybrid language, creoles are often characterized by a tendency to systematize their inherited grammar (e.g., by eliminating irregularities or regularizing the conjugation of otherwise irregular verbs). Like any language, creoles are characterized by a consistent system of
grammar In linguistics, the grammar of a natural language is its set of structure, structural constraints on speakers' or writers' composition of clause (linguistics), clauses, phrases, and words. The term can also refer to the study of such constraint ...
, possess large stable vocabularies, and are acquired by children as their
native language A first language, native tongue, native language, mother tongue or L1 is the first language or dialect that a person has been exposed to from birth or within the critical period hypothesis, critical period. In some countries, the term ''native ...
. These three features distinguish a creole language from a pidgin. Creolistics, or creology, is the study of creole languages and, as such, is a subfield of
linguistics Linguistics is the scientific study of human language. It is called a scientific study because it entails a comprehensive, systematic, objective, and precise analysis of all aspects of language, particularly its nature and structure. Linguis ...
. Someone who engages in this study is called a creolist. The precise number of creole languages is not known, particularly as many are poorly attested or documented. About one hundred creole languages have arisen since 1500. These are predominantly based on European languages such as English and French due to the European
Age of Discovery The Age of Discovery (or the Age of Exploration), also known as the early modern period, was a period largely overlapping with the Age of Sail, approximately from the 15th century to the 17th century in European history, during which seafar ...
and the
Atlantic slave trade The Atlantic slave trade, transatlantic slave trade, or Euro-American slave trade involved the transportation by slave traders of enslaved African people, mainly to the Americas. The slave trade regularly used the triangular trade route and ...
that arose at that time. With the improvements in
ship-building Shipbuilding is the construction of ships and other Watercraft, floating vessels. It normally takes place in a specialized facility known as a shipyard. Shipbuilders, also called shipwrights, follow a specialized occupation that traces its roo ...
and
navigation Navigation is a field of study that focuses on the process of monitoring and controlling the motion, movement of a craft or vehicle from one place to another.Bowditch, 2003:799. The field of navigation includes four general categories: land navi ...
, traders had to learn to communicate with people around the world, and the quickest way to do this was to develop a pidgin, or simplified language suited to the purpose; in turn, full creole languages developed from these pidgins. In addition to creoles that have European languages as their base, there are, for example, creoles based on Arabic, Chinese, and Malay. The
lexicon A lexicon is the vocabulary of a language or branch of knowledge (such as nautical or medical). In linguistics, a lexicon is a language's inventory of lexemes. The word ''lexicon'' derives from Koine Greek language, Greek word (), neuter of () ...
of a creole language is largely supplied by the parent languages, particularly that of the most dominant group in the social context of the creole's construction. However, there are often clear
phonetic Phonetics is a branch of linguistics that studies how humans produce and perceive sounds, or in the case of sign languages, the equivalent aspects of sign. Linguists who specialize in studying the physical properties of speech are phoneticians. ...
and
semantic Semantics (from grc, wikt:σημαντικός, σημαντικός ''sēmantikós'', "significant") is the study of reference, Meaning (philosophy), meaning, or truth. The term can be used to refer to subfields of several distinct discipline ...
shifts. On the other hand, the grammar that has evolved often has new or unique features that differ substantially from those of the parent languages.


Overview

A creole is believed to arise when a
pidgin A pidgin , or pidgin language, is a grammatically simplified means of communication that develops between two or more groups of people that do not have a language in common: typically, its vocabulary and grammar are limited and often drawn from s ...
, developed by adults for use as a second language, becomes the native and primary language of their children – a process known as
nativization Nativization is the process through which in the virtual absence of native speakers, a language undergoes new Phonology, phonological, Morphology (linguistics), morphological, Syntax, syntactical, Semantics, semantic and Stylistics, stylistic chang ...
. The
pidgin A pidgin , or pidgin language, is a grammatically simplified means of communication that develops between two or more groups of people that do not have a language in common: typically, its vocabulary and grammar are limited and often drawn from s ...
-creole life cycle was studied by American linguist Robert Hall in the 1960s. Some linguists, such as Derek Bickerton, posit that creoles share more grammatical similarities with each other than with the languages from which they are phylogenetically derived. However, there is no widely accepted theory that would account for those perceived similarities. Moreover, no grammatical feature has been shown to be specific to creoles. Many of the creoles known today arose in the last 500 years, as a result of the worldwide expansion of European maritime power and trade in the
Age of Discovery The Age of Discovery (or the Age of Exploration), also known as the early modern period, was a period largely overlapping with the Age of Sail, approximately from the 15th century to the 17th century in European history, during which seafar ...
, which led to extensive European colonial empires. Like most non-official and minority languages, creoles have generally been regarded in popular opinion as degenerate variants or
dialect The term dialect (from Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language belonging to the Italic languages, Italic branch of the Indo-European languages. Latin was originally a dialect spoken in the lower Tiber area (then known as Latium) arou ...
s of their parent languages. Because of that prejudice, many of the creoles that arose in the European colonies, having been stigmatized, have become
extinct Extinction is the termination of a kind of organism or of a group of kinds (taxon), usually a species. The moment of extinction is generally considered to be the death of the Endling, last individual of the species, although the Functional ext ...
. However, political and academic changes in recent decades have improved the status of creoles, both as living languages and as object of linguistic study. Some creoles have even been granted the status of official or semi-official languages of particular political territories. Linguists now recognize that creole formation is a universal phenomenon, not limited to the European colonial period, and an important aspect of language evolution. Other scholars, such as Salikoko Mufwene, argue that pidgins and creoles arise independently under different circumstances, and that a pidgin need not always precede a creole nor a creole evolve from a pidgin. Pidgins, according to Mufwene, emerged in trade colonies among "users who preserved their native vernaculars for their day-to-day interactions". Creoles, meanwhile, developed in settlement colonies in which speakers of a European language, often
indentured servants Indentured servitude is a form of Work (human activity), labor in which a person is contracted to work without salary for a specific number of years. The contract, called an "indenture", may be entered "voluntarily" for purported eventual compensa ...
whose language would be far from the standard in the first place, interacted extensively with non-European
slave Slavery and enslavement are both the state and the condition of being a slave—someone forbidden to quit one's service for an enslaver, and who is treated by the enslaver as property. Slavery typically involves slaves being made to perf ...
s, absorbing certain words and features from the slaves' non-European native languages, resulting in a heavily
basilect A post-creole continuum (or simply creole continuum) is a dialect continuum of Variety (linguistics), varieties of a creole language between those most and least similar to the superstrate language (that is, a closely related language whose speaker ...
alized version of the original language. These servants and slaves would come to use the creole as an everyday vernacular, rather than merely in situations in which contact with a speaker of the superstrate was necessary.


History


Etymology

The English term ''creole'' comes from French , which is
cognate In historical linguistics, cognates or lexical cognates are sets of words in different languages that have been inherited in direct descent from an etymological ancestor in a common parent language. Because language change can have radical ...
with the Spanish term and Portuguese , all descending from the verb ''criar'' ('to breed' or 'to raise'), all coming from Latin ('to produce, create'). The specific sense of the term was coined in the 16th and 17th century, during the great expansion in European maritime power and trade that led to the establishment of European colonies in other continents. The terms ''criollo'' and ''crioulo'' were originally qualifiers used throughout the Spanish and Portuguese colonies to distinguish the members of an ethnic group who were born and raised locally from those who immigrated as adults. They were most commonly applied to nationals of the colonial power, e.g. to distinguish '' españoles criollos'' (people born in the colonies from Spanish ancestors) from (those born in the Iberian Peninsula, i.e. Spain). However, in Brazil the term was also used to distinguish between ''negros crioulos'' (blacks born in Brazil from African slave ancestors) and ''negros africanos'' (born in Africa). Over time, the term and its derivatives (Creole, Kréol, Kreyol, Kreyòl, Kriol, Krio, etc.) lost the generic meaning and became the proper name of many distinct ethnic groups that developed locally from immigrant communities. Originally, therefore, the term "creole language" meant the speech of any of those
creole peoples Creole peoples are ethnic groups formed during the Ethnic groups in Europe, European early modern period, colonial era, from the Forced displacement, mass displacement of peoples brought into sustained contact with others from different linguisti ...
.


Geographic distribution

As a consequence of colonial European trade patterns, most of the known European-based creole languages arose in coastal areas in the equatorial belt around the world, including the
Americas The Americas, which are sometimes collectively called America, are a landmass comprising the totality of North America, North and South America. The Americas make up most of the land in Earth's Western Hemisphere and comprise the New World. ...
, western
Africa Africa is the world's second-largest and second-most populous continent, after Asia in both cases. At about 30.3 million km2 (11.7 million square miles) including adjacent islands, it covers 6% of Earth's total surface area ...
,
Goa Goa () is a States and union territories of India, state on the southwestern coast of India within the Konkan region, geographically separated from the Deccan Plateau, Deccan highlands by the Western Ghats. It is located between the Indian st ...
along the west of
India India, officially the Republic of India (Hindi: ), is a country in South Asia. It is the List of countries and dependencies by area, seventh-largest country by area, the List of countries and dependencies by population, second-most populous ...
, and along Southeast
Asia Asia (, ) is one of the world's most notable geographical regions, which is either considered a continent in its own right or a subcontinent of Eurasia, which shares the continental landmass of Afro-Eurasia with Africa Africa is ...
up to
Indonesia Indonesia, officially the Republic of Indonesia, is a country in Southeast Asia and Oceania between the Indian Ocean, Indian and Pacific Ocean, Pacific oceans. It consists of over List of islands of Indonesia, 17,000 islands, including Sumatr ...
,
Singapore Singapore (), officially the Republic of Singapore, is a sovereign island country, island country and city-state in maritime Southeast Asia. It lies about one degree of latitude () north of the equator, off the southern tip of the Malay Pen ...
,
Macau Macau or Macao (; ; ; ), officially the Macao Special Administrative Region of the People's Republic of China (MSAR), is a city and special administrative regions of China, special administrative region of China in the western Pearl River D ...
,
Hong Kong Hong Kong ( (US) or (UK); , ), officially the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region of the People's Republic of China (abbr. Hong Kong SAR or HKSAR), is a List of cities in China, city and Special administrative regions of China, special ...
, the
Philippines The Philippines (; fil, Pilipinas, links=no), officially the Republic of the Philippines ( fil, Republika ng Pilipinas, links=no), * bik, Republika kan Filipinas * ceb, Republika sa Pilipinas * cbk, República de Filipinas * hil, Republ ...
,
Malaysia Malaysia ( ; ) is a country in Southeast Asia. The federation, federal constitutional monarchy consists of States and federal territories of Malaysia, thirteen states and three federal territories, separated by the South China Sea into two r ...
,
Mauritius Mauritius ( ; french: Maurice, link=no ; mfe, label=Mauritian Creole, Moris ), officially the Republic of Mauritius, is an island nation in the Indian Ocean about off the southeast coast of the African continent, east of Madagascar. It incl ...
, Reunion,
Seychelles Seychelles (, ; ), officially the Republic of Seychelles (french: link=no, République des Seychelles; Seychellois Creole, Creole: ''La Repiblik Sesel''), is an archipelagic state consisting of 115 islands in the Indian Ocean. Its capital ...
and
Oceania Oceania (, , ) is a region, geographical region that includes Australasia, Melanesia, Micronesia, and Polynesia. Spanning the Eastern Hemisphere, Eastern and Western Hemisphere, Western hemispheres, Oceania is estimated to have a land area of ...
. Many of those creoles are now extinct, but others still survive in the
Caribbean The Caribbean (, ) ( es, El Caribe; french: la Caraïbe; ht, Karayib; nl, De Caraïben) is a region of the Americas that consists of the Caribbean Sea, its islands (some surrounded by the Caribbean Sea and some bordering both the Caribbean ...
, the north and east coasts of
South America South America is a continent entirely in the Western Hemisphere and mostly in the Southern Hemisphere, with a relatively small portion in the Northern Hemisphere at the northern tip of the continent. It can also be described as the souther ...
(
The Guyanas The Guianas, sometimes called by the Spanish Spanish might refer to: * Items from or related to Spain: **Spaniards are a nation and ethnic group indigenous to Spain **Spanish language, spoken in Spain and many Latin American countries **Spanis ...
), western
Africa Africa is the world's second-largest and second-most populous continent, after Asia in both cases. At about 30.3 million km2 (11.7 million square miles) including adjacent islands, it covers 6% of Earth's total surface area ...
,
Australia Australia, officially the Commonwealth of Australia, is a sovereign country comprising the mainland of the Australian continent, the island of Tasmania, and numerous smaller islands. With an area of , Australia is the largest country by ...
(see
Australian Kriol language Australian Kriol is an English-based creole language A creole language, or simply creole, is a stable natural language that develops from the simplifying and mixing of different languages into a new one within a fairly brief period of t ...
), the
Philippines The Philippines (; fil, Pilipinas, links=no), officially the Republic of the Philippines ( fil, Republika ng Pilipinas, links=no), * bik, Republika kan Filipinas * ceb, Republika sa Pilipinas * cbk, República de Filipinas * hil, Republ ...
(see
Chavacano Chavacano or Chabacano is a group of Spanish-based creole language varieties spoken in the Philippines The Philippines (; fil, Pilipinas, links=no), officially the Republic of the Philippines ( fil, Republika ng Pilipinas, links=no), * ...
) and in the
Indian Ocean The Indian Ocean is the third-largest of the world's five oceanic divisions, covering or ~19.8% of the water on Earth's surface. It is bounded by Asia to the north, Africa to the west and Australia (continent), Australia to the east. To the so ...
.
Atlantic Creole Atlantic Creole is a cultural identifier of those with origins in the transatlantic settlement of the Americas via Europe and Africa.Amerindian languages Over a thousand indigenous language An indigenous language, or autochthonous language, is a language that is native to a region and spoken by indigenous peoples. This language is from a linguistically distinct community A community is ...
.
Indian Ocean The Indian Ocean is the third-largest of the world's five oceanic divisions, covering or ~19.8% of the water on Earth's surface. It is bounded by Asia to the north, Africa to the west and Australia (continent), Australia to the east. To the so ...
Creole languages are based on European languages with elements from Malagasy and possibly other Asian languages. There are, however, creoles like Nubi and Sango that are derived solely from non-European languages.


Social and political status

Because of the generally low status of the Creole peoples in the eyes of prior European colonial powers, creole languages have generally been regarded as "degenerate" languages, or at best as rudimentary "dialects" of the politically dominant parent languages. Because of this, the word "creole" was generally used by linguists in opposition to "language", rather than as a qualifier for it.See . Another factor that may have contributed to the relative neglect of creole languages in linguistics is that they do not fit the 19th-century
neogrammarian The Neogrammarians (German: ''Junggrammatiker'', 'young grammarians') were a German school of linguists, originally at the University of Leipzig Leipzig University (german: Universität Leipzig), in Leipzig in Saxony, Germany, is one of the wor ...
"tree model" for the evolution of languages, and its postulated regularity of sound changes (these critics including the earliest advocates of the
wave model In historical linguistics, the wave model or wave theory (German language, German ''Wellentheorie'') is a model of language change in which a new language feature (innovation) or a new combination of language features spreads from its region of o ...
, Johannes Schmidt and
Hugo Schuchardt Hugo Ernst Mario Schuchardt (4 February 1842, Gotha (town), Gotha (Thuringia) – 21 April 1927, Graz (Styria)) was an eminent Germany, German linguistics, linguist, best known for his work in the Romance languages, the Basque language, and in mixed ...
, the forerunners of modern
sociolinguistics Sociolinguistics is the descriptive study of the effect of any or all aspects of society, including cultural Norm (sociology), norms, expectations, and context (language use), context, on the way language is used, and society's effect on languag ...
). This controversy of the late 19th century profoundly shaped modern approaches to the
comparative method In linguistics, the comparative method is a technique for studying the development of languages by performing a feature-by-feature comparison of two or more languages with genetic relationship (linguistics), common descent from a shared ancesto ...
in
historical linguistics Historical linguistics, also termed diachronic linguistics, is the scientific study of language change over time. Principal concerns of historical linguistics include: # to describe and account for observed changes in particular languages # ...
and in creolistics. Because of social, political, and academic changes brought on by decolonization in the second half of the 20th century, creole languages have experienced revivals in the past few decades. They are increasingly being used in print and film, and in many cases, their community prestige has improved dramatically. In fact, some have been standardized, and are used in local schools and universities around the world. At the same time, linguists have begun to come to the realization that creole languages are in no way inferior to other languages. They now use the term "creole" or "creole language" for any language suspected to have undergone
creolization Creolization is the process through which creole languages and cultures emerge. Creolization was first used by linguists to explain how Language contact, contact languages become Creole language, creole languages, but now scholars in other social s ...
, terms that now imply no geographic restrictions nor ethnic prejudices. There is controversy about the extent to which creolization influenced the evolution of
African-American Vernacular English African-American Vernacular English (AAVE, ), also referred to as Black (Vernacular) English, Black English Vernacular, or occasionally Ebonics (a colloquial, Ebonics (word)#Common usage and controversy, controversial term), is the variety (lin ...
(AAVE). In the American education system, as well as in the past, the use of the word ''ebonics'' to refer to AAVE mirrors the historical negative connotation of the word ''creole''.


Classification


Historic classification

According to their external history, four types of creoles have been distinguished: plantation creoles, fort creoles,
maroon Maroon (American English, US/British English, UK , Australian English, Australia ) is a brownish crimson color that takes its name from the French language, French word ''marron'', or chestnut. "Marron" is also one of the French translati ...
creoles, and creolized pidgins. By the very nature of a creole language, the
phylogenetic In biology, phylogenetics (; from Greek language, Greek wikt:φυλή, φυλή/wikt:φῦλον, φῦλον [] "tribe, clan, race", and wikt:γενετικός, γενετικός [] "origin, source, birth") is the study of the evolutionary his ...
classification of a particular creole usually is a matter of dispute; especially when the pidgin precursor and its parent tongues (which may have been other creoles or pidgins) have disappeared before they could be documented. Phylogenetic classification traditionally relies on inheritance of the lexicon, especially of "core" terms, and of the grammar structure. However, in creoles, the core lexicon often has mixed origin, and the grammar is largely original. For these reasons, the issue of which language is ''the'' parent of a creole – that is, whether a language should be classified as a "French creole", "Portuguese creole" or "English creole", etc. – often has no definitive answer, and can become the topic of long-lasting controversies, where social prejudices and political considerations may interfere with scientific discussion.


Substrate and superstrate

The terms substrate and
superstrate In linguistics, a stratum (Latin for "layer") or strate is a language that influences or is influenced by another through language contact, contact. A substratum or substrate is a language that has lower power or prestige than another, while a s ...
are often used when two languages interact. However, the meaning of these terms is reasonably well-defined only in
second language acquisition Second-language acquisition (SLA), sometimes called second-language learning — otherwise referred to as L2 (language 2) acquisition, is the process by which people learn a second language. Second-language acquisition is also the scientific dis ...
or language replacement events, when the native speakers of a certain source language (the substrate) are somehow compelled to abandon it for another target language (the superstrate). The outcome of such an event is that erstwhile speakers of the substrate will use some version of the superstrate, at least in more formal contexts. The substrate may survive as a second language for informal conversation. As demonstrated by the fate of many replaced European languages (such as Etruscan, Breton, and Venetian), the influence of the substrate on the official speech is often limited to pronunciation and a modest number of loanwords. The substrate might even disappear altogether without leaving any trace. However, there is dispute over the extent to which the terms "substrate" and "superstrate" are applicable to the genesis or the description of creole languages. The language replacement model may not be appropriate in creole formation contexts, where the emerging language is derived from multiple languages without any one of them being imposed as a replacement for any other. The substratum-superstratum distinction becomes awkward when multiple superstrata must be assumed (such as in
Papiamento Papiamento () or Papiamentu (; nl, Papiaments) is a Portuguese creole, Portuguese-based creole language spoken in the Dutch Caribbean. It is the most widely spoken language on the Caribbean ABC islands (Lesser Antilles), ABC islands (Aruba, B ...
), when the substratum cannot be identified, or when the presence or the survival of substratal evidence is inferred from mere typological analogies. On the other hand, the distinction may be meaningful when the contributions of each parent language to the resulting creole can be shown to be very unequal, in a scientifically meaningful way. In the literature on
Atlantic Creole Atlantic Creole is a cultural identifier of those with origins in the transatlantic settlement of the Americas via Europe and Africa.

Decreolization

Since creole languages rarely attain official status, the speakers of a fully formed creole may eventually feel compelled to conform their speech to one of the parent languages. This
decreolization Decreolization is a postulated phenomenon whereby over time a creole language Language convergence, reconverges with the lexifier from which it originally derived. The notion has attracted criticism from linguists who argue there is little theore ...
process typically brings about a
post-creole speech continuum A post-creole continuum (or simply creole continuum) is a dialect continuum A dialect continuum or dialect chain is a series of language varieties spoken across some geographical area such that neighboring varieties are mutually intelligibl ...
characterized by large-scale variation and
hypercorrection In sociolinguistics, hypercorrection is nonstandard dialect, non-standard usage (language), use of language that results from the over-application of a perceived rule of Prescriptive grammar, language-usage prescription. A speaker or writer who ...
in the language. It is generally acknowledged that creoles have a simpler grammar and more internal variability than older, more established languages. However, these notions are occasionally challenged. (See also language complexity.) Phylogenetic or typological comparisons of creole languages have led to divergent conclusions. Similarities are usually higher among creoles derived from related languages, such as the
languages of Europe Most languages of Europe belong to the Indo-European language family. Out of a demographics of Europe, total European population of 744 million as of 2018, some 94% are native speakers of an Indo-European language. Within Indo-European, the thre ...
, than among broader groups that include also creoles based on non-
Indo-European languages The Indo-European languages are a language family native to the languages of Europe, overwhelming majority of Europe, the Iranian plateau, and the northern Indian subcontinent. Some European languages of this family, English language, Englis ...
(like Nubi or Sango).
French-based creole languages A French creole, or French-based creole language, is a creole language, creole for which French language, French is the lexifier. Most often this lexifier is not modern French but rather a 17th- or 18th-century Koiné language, koiné of French f ...
in turn are more similar to each other (and to varieties of French) than to other European-based creoles. It was observed, in particular, that
definite article An article is any member of a class of dedicated words that are used with noun phrases to mark the identifiability of the referents of the noun phrases. The category of articles constitutes a part of speech. In English language, English, both " ...
s are mostly prenominal in
English-based creole languages An English-based creole language (often shortened to English creole) is a creole language for which English language, English was the ''lexifier'', meaning that at the time of its formation the vocabulary of English served as the basis for the ma ...
and English whereas they are generally postnominal in French creoles and in the variety of French that was exported to what is now Quebec in the 17th and 18th century. Moreover, the European languages which gave rise to the creole languages of European colonies all belong to the same subgroup of Western
Indo-European The Indo-European languages are a language family native to the languages of Europe, overwhelming majority of Europe, the Iranian plateau, and the northern Indian subcontinent. Some European languages of this family, English language, Englis ...
and have highly convergent grammars; to the point that Whorf joined them into a single
Standard Average European Standard Average European (SAE) is a concept introduced in 1939 by American linguist Benjamin Whorf to group the modern Indo-European languages, Indo-European languages of Europe with shared common features. Whorf argued that the SAE languages wer ...
language group. French and English are particularly close, since English, through extensive borrowing, is typologically closer to French than to other Germanic languages. Thus the claimed similarities between creoles may be mere consequences of similar parentage, rather than characteristic features of all creoles.


Creole genesis

There are a variety of theories on the origin of creole languages, all of which attempt to explain the similarities among them. outline a fourfold classification of explanations regarding creole genesis: # Theories focusing on European input # Theories focusing on non-European input # Gradualist and developmental hypotheses # Universalist approaches In addition to the precise mechanism of creole genesis, a more general debate has developed whether creole languages are characterized by different mechanisms than traditional languages (which is McWhorter's 2018 main point) or whether in that regard creole languages develop by the same mechanisms as any other languages (e.g. DeGraff 2001).


Theories focusing on European input


Monogenetic theory of pidgins and creoles

The
monogenetic theory of pidgins According to the theory of monogenesis in its most radical form, all pidgins and creole languages of the world can be ultimately traced back to one linguistic variety. This idea was first formulated by Hugo Schuchardt in the late 19th century and p ...
and creoles hypothesizes that all Atlantic creoles derived from a single
Mediterranean Lingua Franca The Mediterranean Lingua Franca, or Sabir, was a pidgin A pidgin , or pidgin language, is a grammatically simplified means of communication that develops between two or more groups of people that do not have a language in common: typically, i ...
, via a West African Pidgin Portuguese of the seventeenth century, relexified in the so-called "slave factories" of Western Africa that were the source of the
Atlantic slave trade The Atlantic slave trade, transatlantic slave trade, or Euro-American slave trade involved the transportation by slave traders of enslaved African people, mainly to the Americas. The slave trade regularly used the triangular trade route and ...
. This theory was originally formulated by
Hugo Schuchardt Hugo Ernst Mario Schuchardt (4 February 1842, Gotha (town), Gotha (Thuringia) – 21 April 1927, Graz (Styria)) was an eminent Germany, German linguistics, linguist, best known for his work in the Romance languages, the Basque language, and in mixed ...
in the late nineteenth century and popularized in the late 1950s and early 1960s by Taylor, Whinnom, Thompson, and Stewart. However, this hypothesis is now not widely accepted, since it relies on all creole-speaking slave populations being based on the same Portuguese-based creole, despite no to very little historical exposure to Portuguese for many of these populations, no strong direct evidence for this claim, and with Portuguese leaving almost no trace on the lexicon of most of them, with the similarities in grammar explainable by analogous processes of loss of inflection and grammatical forms not common to European and West African languages. For example, points out that relexification postulates too many improbabilities and that it is unlikely that a language "could be disseminated round the entire tropical zone, to peoples of widely differing language background, and still preserve a virtually complete identity in its grammatical structure wherever it took root, despite considerable changes in its phonology and virtually complete changes in its lexicon".


Domestic origin hypothesis

Proposed by for the origin of English-based creoles of the West Indies, the Domestic Origin Hypothesis argues that, towards the end of the 16th century, English-speaking traders began to settle in the Gambia and
Sierra Leone Sierra Leone,)]. officially the Republic of Sierra Leone, is a country on the southwest coast of West Africa. It is bordered by Liberia to the southeast and Guinea surrounds the northern half of the nation. Covering a total area of , Sierra ...
rivers as well as in neighboring areas such as the Bullom and Sherbro coasts. These settlers intermarried with the local population leading to mixed populations, and, as a result of this intermarriage, an English pidgin was created. This pidgin was learned by slaves in slave depots, who later on took it to the West Indies and formed one component of the emerging English creoles.


European dialect origin hypothesis

The French-based creole languages, French creoles are the foremost candidates to being the outcome of "normal" linguistic change and their creoleness to be sociohistoric in nature and relative to their colonial origin. Within this theoretical framework, a French creole is a language
phylogenetic In biology, phylogenetics (; from Greek language, Greek wikt:φυλή, φυλή/wikt:φῦλον, φῦλον [] "tribe, clan, race", and wikt:γενετικός, γενετικός [] "origin, source, birth") is the study of the evolutionary his ...
ally based on French, more specifically on a 17th-century koiné French extant in
Paris Paris () is the Capital city, capital and List of communes in France with over 20,000 inhabitants, most populous city of France, with an estimated population of 2,165,423 residents in 2019 in an area of more than 105 km² (41 sq mi), ma ...
, the French Atlantic harbours, and the nascent French colonies. Supporters of this hypothesis suggest that the non-Creole French dialects still spoken in many parts of the Americas share mutual descent from this single koiné. These dialects are found in
Canada Canada is a country in North America. Its Provinces and territories of Canada, ten provinces and three territories extend from the Atlantic Ocean to the Pacific Ocean and northward into the Arctic Ocean, covering over , making it the world ...
(mostly in
Québec Quebec ( ; )According to the Canadian government The government of Canada (french: gouvernement du Canada) is the body responsible for the federal administration of Canada. A constitutional monarchy, the Crown is the corporation so ...
and in
Acadian The Acadians (french: Acadiens , ) are an ethnic group descended from the French colonial empire, French who settled in the New France colony of Acadia during the 17th and 18th centuries. Most Acadians live in the region of Acadia (region), A ...
communities),
Louisiana Louisiana , group=pronunciation (French: ''La Louisiane'') is a U.S. state, state in the Deep South and South Central United States, South Central regions of the United States. It is the List of U.S. states and territories by area, 20th-smal ...
, Saint-Barthélemy and as isolates in other parts of the Americas. Approaches under this hypothesis are compatible with
gradualism Gradualism, from the Latin ''gradus'' ("step"), is a hypothesis, a theory or a tenet assuming that change comes about gradually or that variation is gradual in nature and happens over time as opposed to in large steps. Uniformitarianism Uniformit ...
in
change Change or Changing may refer to: Alteration * Impermanence, a difference in a state of affairs at different points in time * Menopause, also referred to as "the change", the permanent cessation of the menstrual period * Metamorphosis, or change, ...
and models of imperfect language transmission in koiné genesis.


Foreigner talk and baby talk

The Foreigner Talk (FT) hypothesis argues that a pidgin or creole language forms when native speakers attempt to simplify their language in order to address speakers who do not know their language at all. Because of the similarities found in this type of speech and speech directed to a small child, it is also sometimes called
baby talk Baby talk is a type of speech associated with an older person speaking to a child or infant. It is also called caretaker speech, infant-directed speech (IDS), child-directed speech (CDS), child-directed language (CDL), caregiver register, parent ...
. suggest that four different processes are involved in creating Foreigner Talk: * Accommodation * Imitation * Telegraphic condensation * Conventions This could explain why creole languages have much in common, while avoiding a monogenetic model. However, , in analyzing German Foreigner Talk, claims that it is too inconsistent and unpredictable to provide any model for language learning. While the simplification of input was supposed to account for creoles' simple grammar, commentators have raised a number of criticisms of this explanation: # There are a great many grammatical similarities amongst pidgins and creoles despite having very different
lexifier A lexifier is the language that provides the basis for the majority of a pidgin or creole language's vocabulary (lexicon). Often this language is also the dominant, or superstrate language, though this is not always the case, as can be seen in the ...
languages. # Grammatical simplification can be explained by other processes, i.e. the innate grammar of Bickerton's
language bioprogram theory The language bioprogram theory or language bioprogram hypothesis (LBH) is a theory arguing that the structural similarities between different creole language A creole language, or simply creole, is a stable natural language that develops from t ...
. # Speakers of a creole's lexifier language often fail to understand, without learning the language, the grammar of a pidgin or creole. # Pidgins are more often used amongst speakers of different substrate languages than between such speakers and those of the lexifier language. Another problem with the FT explanation is its potential circularity. points out that FT is often based on the imitation of the incorrect speech of the non-natives, that is the pidgin. Therefore, one may be mistaken in assuming that the former gave rise to the latter.


Imperfect L2 learning

The imperfect L2 (
second language A person's second language, or L2, is a language that is not the First language, native language (first language or L1) of the speaker, but is learned later. A second language may be a neighbouring language, another language of the speaker's home ...
) learning hypothesis claims that pidgins are primarily the result of the imperfect L2 learning of the dominant lexifier language by the slaves. Research on naturalistic L2 processes has revealed a number of features of "interlanguage systems" that are also seen in pidgins and creoles: * invariant verb forms derived from the infinitive or the least marked finite verb form; * loss of determiners or use of demonstrative pronouns, adjectives or adverbs as determiners; * placement of a negative particle in preverbal position; * use of adverbs to express
modality Modality may refer to: Humanities * Modality (theology), the organization and structure of the church, as distinct from sodality or parachurch organizations * Modality (music), in music, the subject concerning certain diatonic scales * Modalities ...
; * fixed single word order with no inversion in questions; * reduced or absent nominal plural marking. Imperfect L2 learning is compatible with other approaches, notably the European dialect origin hypothesis and the universalist models of language transmission.


Theories focusing on non-European input

Theories focusing on the substrate, or non-European, languages attribute similarities amongst creoles to the similarities of African substrate languages. These features are often assumed to be transferred from the substrate language to the creole or to be preserved invariant from the substrate language in the creole through a process of
relexification In linguistics Linguistics is the scientific study of human language. It is called a scientific study because it entails a comprehensive, systematic, objective, and precise analysis of all aspects of language, particularly its nature and str ...
: the substrate language replaces the native lexical items with lexical material from the superstrate language while retaining the native grammatical categories. The problem with this explanation is that the postulated substrate languages differ amongst themselves and with creoles in meaningful ways. argues that the number and diversity of African languages and the paucity of a historical record on creole genesis makes determining lexical correspondences a matter of chance. coined the term "cafeteria principle" to refer to the practice of arbitrarily attributing features of creoles to the influence of substrate African languages or assorted substandard dialects of European languages. For a representative debate on this issue, see the contributions to ; for a more recent view, . Because of the sociohistoric similarities amongst many (but by no means all) of the creoles, the
Atlantic slave trade The Atlantic slave trade, transatlantic slave trade, or Euro-American slave trade involved the transportation by slave traders of enslaved African people, mainly to the Americas. The slave trade regularly used the triangular trade route and ...
and the plantation system of the European colonies have been emphasized as factors by linguists such as .


Gradualist and developmental hypotheses

One class of creoles might start as
pidgin A pidgin , or pidgin language, is a grammatically simplified means of communication that develops between two or more groups of people that do not have a language in common: typically, its vocabulary and grammar are limited and often drawn from s ...
s, rudimentary second languages improvised for use between speakers of two or more non-intelligible native languages. Keith Whinnom (in ) suggests that pidgins need three languages to form, with one (the superstrate) being clearly dominant over the others. The lexicon of a pidgin is usually small and drawn from the vocabularies of its speakers, in varying proportions. Morphological details like word
inflection In linguistic morphology, inflection (or inflexion) is a process of word formation in which a word is modified to express different grammatical categories such as tense, case, voice, aspect, person, number A number is a mathemat ...
s, which usually take years to learn, are omitted; the syntax is kept very simple, usually based on strict word order. In this initial stage, all aspects of the speech – syntax, lexicon, and pronunciation – tend to be quite variable, especially with regard to the speaker's background. If a pidgin manages to be learned by the children of a community as a native language, it may become fixed and acquire a more complex grammar, with fixed phonology, syntax, morphology, and syntactic embedding. Pidgins can become full languages in only a single
generation A generation refers to all of the people born and living at about the same time, regarded collectively. It can also be described as, "the average period, generally considered to be about 20–⁠30 years, during which children are born and ...
. "Creolization" is this second stage where the pidgin language develops into a fully developed native language. The vocabulary, too, will develop to contain more and more items according to a rationale of lexical enrichment.


Universalist approaches

Universalist models stress the intervention of specific general processes during the transmission of language from generation to generation and from speaker to speaker. The process invoked varies: a general tendency towards
semantic Semantics (from grc, wikt:σημαντικός, σημαντικός ''sēmantikós'', "significant") is the study of reference, Meaning (philosophy), meaning, or truth. The term can be used to refer to subfields of several distinct discipline ...
transparency, first-
language learning Language acquisition is the process by which humans acquire the capacity to perceive and comprehend language (in other words, gain the ability to be aware of language and to understand it), as well as to produce and use words and sentence (ling ...
driven by universal process, or a general process of
discourse Discourse is a generalization of the notion of a conversation to any form of communication. Discourse is a major topic in social theory, with work spanning fields such as sociology, anthropology, continental philosophy, and discourse analysis. F ...
organization An organization or organisation ( Commonwealth English; see spelling differences), is an entity—such as a company, an institution, or an association—comprising one or more people and having a particular purpose. The word is derived ...
. Bickerton's
language bioprogram theory The language bioprogram theory or language bioprogram hypothesis (LBH) is a theory arguing that the structural similarities between different creole language A creole language, or simply creole, is a stable natural language that develops from t ...
, proposed in the 1980s, remains the main universalist theory. Bickerton claims that creoles are inventions of the children growing up on newly founded
plantations A plantation is an agricultural estate, generally centered on a plantation house, meant for farming that specializes in cash crops, usually mainly planted with a single crop, with perhaps ancillary areas for vegetables for eating and so on. Th ...
. Around them, they only heard pidgins spoken, without enough structure to function as
natural language In neuropsychology, linguistics, and philosophy of language, a natural language or ordinary language is any language that has linguistic evolution, evolved naturally in humans through use and repetition without conscious planning or premeditati ...
s; and the children used their own
innate {{Short pages monitor