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  • The emergence of pidgin and creole languages
  • Bettina Migge
The emergence of pidgin and creole languages. By Jeff Siegel. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2008. Pp. xiv, 320. ISBN 9780199216673. $50.

The last two decades have seen a considerable number of publications on the genesis and development of contact languages resulting from European colonial expansion. So why another book on the topic? This volume provides a wealth of data on the less well-known contact languages from the Australia-Pacific region and draws on recent insights on second language acquisition (SLA) to devise a sociohistorically and linguistically feasible account of pidgin and creole (P/C) genesis. It enhances cross-fertilization between research on P/Cs and SLA, and its highly accessible style also makes it suitable for newcomers to P/C and SLA. The book consists of ten chapters and a general index.

In Ch. 1, Siegel rehabilitates the traditional view that P/Cs emerged gradually via several stages, namely a jargon or prepidgin, stable pidgin, expanded pidgin, and creole stage. The former two involve a greater degree of linguistic simplicity and variation than the latter two, which are defined as second and first languages, respectively. S classifies Pacific contact varieties as expanded pidgins and argues that they differ from indigenized varieties like Fiji English. Indigenized varieties are dialects of the European language, while expanded P/Cs are structurally distinct from their European input. The study explores three focal issues about the life-cycle theory: the [End Page 947] origin of the perceived structural simplicity of P/Cs, their morphological expansion, and the theory’s generalizability.

Ch. 2 starts out with an illustration of the notion of simplicity, demonstrating that Fijian Pidgin differs from Standard Fijian by the absence of properties like productive bound inflectional morphology, grammatical TMA markers, and a range of distinctions in the pronominal, determiner, prepositional, and copula systems. He shows that relative simplicity can be assessed in different ways. Quantitative approaches focus on the size of the lexicon and the amount of morphology and marked categories, while qualitative ones explore the ease of acquisition, namely ‘the regularity in rules, semantic transparency, and ease of perception and production’ (19). Most scholars establish simplicity relative to specific subsystems of grammar; however, some argue that languages differ in overall complexity. With respect to its origin in P/Cs, most researchers argue that simplicity results from a reduction of complexity, while some invoke the absence of development. S adopts a modular and developmental approach and focuses on exploring semantic distinctions that are crosslinguistically commonly encoded by inflectional morphology. He employs Hopper and Traugott’s (1993) scale of grammaticality that posits that ‘lexicality is an absolute indicator of morphological simplicity, while increased grammaticality corresponds to greater complexity’ (23). This allows comparing languages for the types of strategies employed and the number of distinctions they encode.

S posits that prepidgins are essentially early interlanguages, consisting mostly of lexical categories and involving a fair amount of variation. Once the situation stabilizes, leveling leads to the conventionalization of some structures. The linguistic nature of stabilized pidgins depends on the input strategies and what he calls social-psychological factors, namely relative motivation to learn the socially dominant language and relative desire to create a separate identity.

In Ch. 3, S first supports the modular view of simplicity by demonstrating that the expanded pidgin Bislama (Vanuatu) is simpler than its lexifier English in several areas of grammar, but more complex in others like the pronominal system. To prove the viability of the developmental theory of creoles, S draws on the rich data on the emergence of Hawai’ian Creole English (HCE) (cf. Roberts 2005). S shows that it started out as restricted Hawai’ian Pidgin English (HPE) at the end of the nineteenth century during the expansion of the sugar industry, when a linguistically diverse labor force came to Hawai’i. This first generation (G1) mostly relied on their first languages (L1) and their HPE was rife with features characteristic of early L2 varieties, such as absence of inflection, copulas, and complementizers, and temporal relations were marked adverbially. Their children (G2), however, entered into frequent and regular contact employing HPE as their means of interethnic...


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