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Creoles as Hybrid Systems. In this section, I examine the works by syntacticians who argue that some of the syntactic properties found in creoles are traceable to specific sources. This represents a novel line of research in syntactic theory among creolists, as their theoretical analyses are based on the knowledge of what the source languages to a given creole are and how such languages may have impacted its syntactic make-up. I first briefly introduce the works that argue for mixed systems in the nominal domain 5 and then turn to those that investigate mixed modules in the verbal domain.

In this subsection, I review three studies 6 Aboh, ; Bobyleva, , ; Guillemin, that present creole syntax as hybrid systems in the nominal domain. I will not elaborate on the formal sides of such accounts, as they are already covered in Baptista forthcoming. Here, I am mostly preoccupied with the methodology these scholars use to determine which source language contributed to which area of a given creole syntax.

Aboh adopts a promising framework, that of selection and competition Mufwene, ; Such a framework assumes that in a multilingual setting, features from the languages in contact superstrate and substrates compete with each other and some of them are selected while others die out, based on a number of variables. Aboh uses this framework to compare the determiner systems of Haitian Creole, French the Haitian superstrate , and Gungbe one of its substrates ; Gungbe is a member of the Gbe dialect cluster Niger—Congo language family and is spoken in Benin.

Instead of attributing a given feature of Haitian to a specific language source, such as the European lexifier, African substrates or Universal Grammar, Aboh proposes a modular view of feature transmission. According to this view, both the semantics and syntax of a feature may originate from the same source but in other cases, it is possible for the semantics of a feature to come from one source language and the syntax from another.

Gungbe makes use of the same strategy, following the exact same word order, as shown in 10b also see Aboh, Such parallels lead Aboh to propose that Gungbe is the source of both the specificity feature referring to an aforementioned entity and of the syntax of the marker in Haitian Creole. Haitian Aboh, : Gungbe Aboh, : In contrast, French does not use bare nouns in relative clauses, as shown by the ungrammaticality of 11a and the French definite determiner must precede the relative head noun which itself precedes the relative clause, as in 11b.

French Aboh, : Haitian and Gungbe also align within DP in the way determiners and pronominal possessors cluster in post-nominal position as shown in 12 , in contrast to French in which determiners and modifiers occur before the noun 13 Aboh, : — :. Haitian Lefebvre, : While 10 and 12 illustrate how Haitian and Gungbe can exhibit close structural similarities, Aboh shows elsewhere in his study that Gungbe can also map onto French in other areas. For instance, both Haitian and French are endowed with prenominal and postnominal adjectives, whereas Gungbe displays postnominal adjectives only.

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However, one should note that the fact that Haitian can have prenominal and postnominal adjectives like French is not sufficient evidence that the dual position may have been transferred from the superstrate. This might simply reflect some universal language preference for a wider range of adjectival positions. Her study provides a synchronic and diachronic account of Mauritian Creole hereinafter MC determiner system.

Diachronically, she documents changes that the MC determiner system has undergone since the eighteenth century. Guillemin proposes that the incorporation was triggered by the absence of free-standing definite determiners in Gungbe, the language believed to have been dominant among the slaves. Such parallels lead her to postulate a correlation between the loss of the French isolated quantificational determiners, their suffixation to noun stems and the emergence of bare nouns in argument positions in MC.

She proposes that with the shift in noun denotation, from predicative in French to argumental in MC, new functional categories such as Definiteness Phrase and Specificity Phrase developed in MC with the purpose of expressing the referential properties of the noun phrases and turn them into DPs.


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Guillemin also shows in this particular study of MC that the interpretations of bare nouns differ based on whether they appear in subject or object position: bare mass nouns may occur in both subject and object positions but bare singular count nouns can only appear in object position.

This particular behavior of bare nouns in MC is exclusive to the language and is not traceable to its source languages. In sum, Guillemin uses diachronic data to show how substratal influences may have led the original speakers to reanalyze some of the French materials they inherited from the lexifier while introducing innovations in the emerging grammatical system. More recently, Bobyleva complements this line of research by investigating the source of creole features while simultaneously considering which properties are more likely to instantiate language universals.

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For instance, in the case of how specificity is expressed within DP in creoles like Haitian, she acknowledges the striking similarities between Haitian and Gungbe. Bobyleva also weighs in the balance two universal tendencies: First, she notes that crosslinguistically, specificity often appears as a universally dominant constraint on the distribution of indefinites; this property is found in a number of typologically diverse languages such as Russian, Hebrew, and Turkish.


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Second, within the group of creole languages, Bobyleva observes that creoles with distinct substrates from Haitian exhibit a similar sensitivity of the indefinite determiner towards specificity Bobyleva, : This gives her grounds to doubt the attribution of the behavior of specificity in Haitian to substrate influence, considering it instead as a universal tendency among the world languages. She posits that rather than attributing the association between plural marking and definiteness to substrate transfer, it may simply reflect a universal principle of reference marking, present in countless languages Bobyleva, : These studies by Aboh, Guillemin, and Bobyleva have this in common that they document the nominal domain of creole languages as resulting from a combination of features traceable to both superstrates, substrates Aboh and Guillemin , and language universals Bobyleva.

As such, creoles are viewed as hybrid grammars whose different modules are influenced by different sources and whose feature recombination can lead to innovations. For reasons of space, I restrict myself to the examination of Aboh Aboh focuses on Saramaccan Creole and explores its verbal domain where, he argues, semantic and syntactic features from the source languages are also recombined.

In contrast to the Gbe verb, the English verb may be specified as either transitive or intransitive and merges under V before raising to little v. The exploration of the Saramaccan verbal domain allows Aboh to propose that each module is influenced by distinct properties of the source languages.

Though promising, the main challenge to this approach is to tease apart genuine substrate or superstrate transfer from language universals, naturally prevalent in both creoles and non-creoles alike. In order to test whether the syntax of creoles warrant viewing them as a type see Bickerton, , interlanguages, products from second language acquisition processes Lefebvre, White and Jourdan, ; Plag, or hybrid systems Aboh, , ; Bobyleva, , ; Guillemin, , it is necessary to compare large samples of creoles. In this respect, new developments in creole studies allow creolists to compare a larger number of creole languages than ever before.

In the next section, I introduce the new Atlas of Pidgin and Creole Structures and illustrate with the work of Michaelis forthcoming the broader comparative analyses that this type of resources finally enables. This new resource allows linguists to compare structural features across the 76 languages which include pidgins, creoles, and mixed languages spoken in the Atlantic and Indian oceans, in Africa, South Asia, Southeast Asia, Melanesia, and Australia.

In order to illustrate the insights that a comparative analysis of syntactic properties across a wide range of creole can yield, I examine Michaelis forthcoming.

First, it broadens its scope beyond Atlantic creoles which have been the focus of the majority of creole studies and include creoles from disparate geographic areas and with different histories. Finally, Michaelis proposes a new sampling methodology, the bi-clan sampling, which can be defined as follows. A clan represents either a language, a family of languages, or a linguistic area, and the bi-clan combines the lexifier clan with the substrate clan.

Michaelis provides the following example to illustrate how the bi-clan sampling operates.

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The benefit of such sampling is that it avoids the prototypical bias toward Atlantic creoles West Africa and the Caribbean. The types of constructions that valency includes are ditransitive constructions, weather constructions, experiencer constructions, and motion constructions. Her bi-clan methodology unveils a split between Atlantic and French Indian Ocean creoles, on the one hand, and the South Asian, Southeast Asian, and Pacific creoles, on the other, clearly showing that such a division does not correlate with the lexifier languages.

However, when comparing the creoles to their substrates, Michaelis is able to show that creoles align with their substrate patterns, as shown in Wolof and Fongbe; both Wolof 15 and Fongbe 16 make use of double object constructions, just like the creoles they contributed to:. This comparative methodology allows Michaelis to detect systematic substrate influences in some grammatical areas of creoles but not in others.

Her study of valency shows parallels between creoles and substrates but word order for reasons that were mentioned in section 4 follows the patterns of the lexifier grammars.

In our view, the methodology comparing a broad range of creoles across clans in the substrates and superstrates is a promising new direction made possible by the two atlases. Such broad comparisons will draw more accurate generalizations among creole languages in a way that is likely to highlight their diverse syntactic properties, and infinitely rich grammatical systems, while addressing the claims of whether or not they form a type. In summary, the objective of this chapter has been to introduce the primary literature on the various approaches to the study of creole syntax. I discussed the syntactic properties that typically differentiate pidgins from creoles, pointing out that the pidgin-creole cycle is not always attested and that nativization is not always a reliable criterion to distinguish a pidgin from a creole.

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Then, I introduced the primary literature that views creoles as instantiating interlanguages, resulting from processes of second language acquisition. One of the most challenging issues with this approach is to differentiate substratal transfer from universal interlanguage structures when determining the source of a feature in a given creole. As Plag points out, indicating that a creole feature is similar to an L1 structure does not constitute sufficient evidence that substrate transfer has occurred. Although Plag presents one of the most convincing cases for creoles as interlanguages, there are still several shortcomings in his proposal.

Third, the paper all too often dismisses substrate transfer at the benefit of interlanguage without making a convincing argument of why substratal transfer should be ruled out or why multiple causation should not be considered.

Week 3 Lecture: Pidgins and Creoles

Finally, the paper does not address whether non-creole languages which exhibit all three features of sentence-initial wh -words, preverbal negation, and SVO should also be considered interlanguages. It would not be tenable to maintain that creoles are interlanguages, whereas those other languages are not, if one considers the same linguistic criteria. Then, I turned to studies that view syntactic properties in creoles as instantiating hybrid grammars resulting from the source languages that contributed to their genesis.

This approach also emphasizes the innovations that emerge from feature recombinations. These studies by Aboh, Guillemin, and Bobyleva have this in common that they document the nominal and verbal domains of creole languages as resulting from a combination of features traceable to both superstrates, substrates Aboh and Guillemin , and language universals Bobyleva. As such, creoles are viewed as hybrid grammars whose different modules are influenced by different sources.

Finally, I introduced the latest methodology in the study of the syntax of creoles which consists in comparing systematically large sample of creoles to their substrates, using the bi-clan method. In our view, this new approach made possible by the two atlases WALS and APiCS is promising not only in unveiling the rich diversity of creole grammatical features but also in pointing more precisely to which of their features have substratal, superstratal, or universal origins. These new developments based on large-scale comparisons are leading the field in an exciting new direction.

I am grateful for the insightful comments of an anonymous reviewer. All errors remain, of course, my own. Aboh, Enoch New York: Oxford University Press. Find this resource:. Amsterdam: Benjamins. Paris: Presses Universitaires de Vincennes. Aboh and Norval Smith, — Adone, Dany The Acquisition of Mauritian Creole. Amsterdam: John Benjamins. Arends, Jacques Baptista, Marlyse Baptista, Marlyse forthcoming.

Pidgins and Creoles: Syntax - Oxford Handbooks

Bartens, Angela Bickerton, Derek Roots of Language. Ann Arbor: Karoma Publishers. Berlin: de Gruyter.