LING430A  (SLN 14943) /ANTH439A (SLN 10256)

Pidgin and Creole Languages               

Winter 2010                                                               



Instructor:  Alicia Beckford Wassink


Location and Time:

Office:  Padelford A217

TTh 12:30-2:20pm

Office Hours:  Th 11:30-12:15pm, and by appt.

SIG 228 (SIEG HALL) campus map link here)

Office Phone:  616-9589


Dept. Phone:  543-2046 (Dept. of Linguistics Office)





Course Links :

Syllabus (errata sheet here)

Course email discussion list

Electronic Reserves

Student Language Sketches

-- search suggestions

-- sample sketch: Korlai

--sample sketch: Shaba Swahili



               In this course, we will survey aspects of the linguistic structure, history, and social context of pidgin and creole languages spoken, past and present, in several locations around the world. We will consider their histories of formation and development, ask whether and how they are different from non-creole languages, and learn about the grammatical features common to language varieties that emerged from specific types of language contact situations (including, but not limited to: trade, colonization, and migration). Pidgins and creoles are believed by many scholars to be important to linguistic theory because they provide a window into universal grammar and the evolution of the human language faculty. We will explore the grounds for and against such claims.  Students should have had an upper-level introduction to linguistics. 


Prerequisites: LING400 or instructor's permission.


               Linguistic research since the 1880s has tended to focus more on Atlantic Creoles than Pacific ones.  As a result, linguists know the most about those languages emerging in contexts of plantation economy-formation and the African slave trade (e.g., in the plantations of Jamaican and Haiti, or the fort settlements where slaves were held prior to the Middle Passage in Sierra Leone).  We will consult the available literature for the Pacific Creoles, and a wide range of other “mixed” languages, as well.


By the end of the quarter, students will be "specialists" in one pidgin or creole variety of their choice--its linguistic structure, parent languages, historical development, and social setting.  This specialization will be developed across the quarter as students "adopt" a language, and conduct an ongoing, data-based analysis project that elaborates on the features of their chosen language with respect to each of the main syllabus topics.  Students will be conversant in the claims, strengths and weaknesses of the important theories of pidgin and creole genesis; in definitions of linguistic adequacy and simplification theories.



1.       45%--Periodic quizzes and library exercise: There will be 3 graded quizzes evaluating students’ grasp of basic concepts in pidgin and creole linguistics and comparing the linguistic features of real pidgins and creoles. Quizzes are cumulative. The library exercise counts toward this part of the grade, which involves independent, written work.

2.       20%--Discussion leading:  Students (IN GROUPS OF 2-4) will take a turn leading classroom discussion of one “sketch of an individual language.” This language may be a pidgin or creole, parent language of a pidgin or creole.  Students may choose one of the languages listed in the Arends et al text (see syllabus weeks 4, 5 for suggestions), or from another set of readings of students’ choice.  Be sure to consult the list of language resources listed on the course website.

3.       35%--Language report:  This is the final project for this course. All students will adopt (by the end of week 3) a language on which they will focus for the quarter.  The linguistic structure, historical development and social context of this language will be documented in a final portfolio (8-10 pages).  Be creative! You may include audio or video recordings about your language, attach songs, writings, etc in the language. Students must meet with the instructor to discuss their plans during week 5.  Students will orally present the contents of their portfolio in class during the last two weeks of the quarter.  The portfolio is to be handed in at the beginning of the final examination period scheduled for this course: Thursday, March 18, 2010, 10:30-12:20, SIG 228.  That means you must either email it to me by 10:30am if you plan to submit electronically, or bring it by hand ON TIME (not during or at the end of the class period) to the final exam period.  No extensions will be granted, so please don't ask!


Required reading:

Course text:  Arends, J., Muysken, P, and Smith, N. (1994)   Pidgins and Creoles: An Introduction.  Amsterdam: John Benjamins.

Required reading (on electronic reserve):

1.  Adendorff, Ralph D. (1993) Ethnographic Evidence of the Social Meaning of Fanakalo in South Africa, Journal of Pidgin and Creole Languages, 8(1): pp. 1-27.

2.  Holm, John (1988) Phonology. Pidgins and Creoles, vol. 1: theory and structure. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, pp. 105-143.

3.  Rickford, John R. (1983) Standard and Non-standard Language Attitudes in a Creole continuum. Society for Caribbean Linguistics Occasional Paper No. 16, pp. 1-27.

4.  Wilt, Timothy L. (1994) A Survey of the Linguistic Preferences of Cameroon Pidgin English Speakers, Journal of Pidgin and Creole Languages, 9(1): pp. 51-64.

5.  DeGraff, M. (2001) Creolization, Language Change, and Language Acquisition: a Prolegomenon, ch 1. Language Creation and Language Change: creolization, diachrony, and development. Cambridge, MA: MIT, pp. 1-18

6. TBA, Creole phonology


Other resources:

The course website contains...

Examples of sketches completed in past quarters.

A bibliography of books, articles, recordings, and visual materials on pidgin and creole languages contained in the UW Libraries.  This is intended to help you quickly discover what languages are represented in our library holdings (including information on the language’s parent languages), and help you avoid choosing a language for which the UW has few or no materials.


For your information…

A. Following are some of the principal journals in sociolinguistic research, within which creole linguistics has, largely as an historical artifact of the field of linguistics, been situated:

               Journal of Pidgin and Creole Languages, John Benjamins

               Language Variation and Change, Cambridge University Press

               Journal of English Linguistics, Sage

               English World-Wide, John Benjamins

B. Conferences: Society for Pidgin and Creole Languages, Society for Caribbean Linguistics

C. Internet Presence:  “CREOLE TALK” is a (VERY ACTIVE!) online discussion group of scholars working in pidgins, creoles, and language contact. Here are their vital statistics:

            to Post:

            to Subscribe:

            to UnSubscribe:

 List Mom:









Come to class prepared to discuss…

-or- Due today...

I. Background and General Aspects (Arends, Part I):



T 1/5

Introduction & Preliminary Definitions

Where in the world are creoles and pidgins spoken?

Historical linguistics and the genetic affiliations of creoles



student interests and aims


TH 1/7


Workday in the Library

Homework: Library Laboratory Assgt (html, pdf, docx)

**turn in library laboratory JAN 8 by 5:00pm**


3 (WK 2)

T 1/12

History of pidgin and creole studies ("creole linguistics")

Creole languages: Types and socio-historical background

ch. 1,2



TH 1/14

Pidgin varieties

ch. 3


5 (WK 3)

T 1/19

Mixed languages and language intertwining

ch. 4







II. Sociolinguistic Issues in Creole Variation



TH 1/21

Variation in linguistic structure

**take quiz 1**

ch. 5

7 (WK 4)

T 1/26

Variation: interaction with social factors

**discussion of student’s selected languages**




TH 1/28

Variation: language attitudes

Wilt, Adendorff


III. Sketches of Individual Languages (Arends, Part III):

(subject to change according to student interest)


9(WK 5)

T 2/2


Group sketches of Atlantic Creoles


ch. 12,13


TH 2/4

Group sketches of Pacific Creoles

ch. 14, 15


11 (WK 6)

T 2/9

Group sketches


16, 17


TH 2/11

Video, “The Language You Cry In”  



IV. Grammatical Features (Arends, Part IV):


13 (WK 7)

T 2/16


TMA particles and auxiliaries

ch. 20




TH 2/18

Noun Phrases

ch. 21


15 (WK 8)


T 2/23


Serial Verbs


ch. 23,


ch. 24



TH 2/25

Phonetics and Phonology:

Vowel phenomena

**take quiz 2**

Holm, ch. 4, pp. 105-125

17 (WK 9)


T 3/2

Consonantal phenomena


Holm, ch. 4, pp. 125-136;

Holm, ch. 4, pp. 137-143

(slides: for both phonetics/ phonology lectures I, II)


V. Theories of Genesis (Arends, Part II):



TH 3/4

Theories focusing on Superstrate input, Substrate input, Gradualist Approaches

**take quiz 3**

ch. 8, 9


19 (WK 10)

T 3/9

--progress reports on data collection project--

ch. 10,11


TH 3/11

In-Class debate: “Are creoles ‘special’ ”?

group-selected readings






(Final Exam Period)

Th 3/18

portfolios due