- Pidgin and creole languages: A basic introduction by Alan S. Kaye, Mauro Tosco
The authors open the text with the same question I had upon receiving the book: ‘What, another introductory textbook on pidgins and creoles in such an already overcrowded market?’ (2). They contend that this text is unique in that it does two things. First, it is the only text that focuses on non-European lexified creoles (Juba Arabic and Ki-Nuba), and its target audience is undergraduate students with little, if any, exposure to linguistics.
The text begins with a lengthy introductory chapter covering a broad scope of topics including basic definitions of pidgins and creoles and other mixed languages [End Page 808] that do not fit into either classification. The second chapter focuses on theories of pidgin and creole genesis. The authors provide a broad, though cursory, review of the field and provide a substantial quantity of references for future reading. The final chapter focuses on the linguistic characteristics of pidgins and creoles using a plentiful collection of examples from Juba Arabic and a lesser number from Ki-Nuba.
Although the authors of the text purport that this text is appropriate for undergraduates with little linguistic background, it would require a great deal of explicit and detailed supplemental information to make it usable. Much of the basic introduction to the field provided is a jump from topic to topic with little or no background information and references to undefined topics to be explained in future chapters. Understanding the introductory chapter requires considerable background knowledge. In addition, there are too many undefined terms for the intended audience. On one page of the introduction the following undefined terms occurred, among many others: less marked, phonological contrasts, clicks, implosives, ejectives, pharyngealized-velarized consonants, morphology, and isolating natural languages. In future editions, if this is indeed to be used by undergraduates, a glossary of terms is very necessary, especially considering that many of the terms used will not be found in any dictionary other than a linguistic one.
Having said this, I do not wish to imply that the text has no merit. I think it is an excellent discussion of the scope of topics key to pidgins and creoles for a more advanced level of student. Furthermore, the treatment of Juba Arabic and Ki-Nuba provides a unique non-Eurocentric perspective rarely addressed in other similarly-themed books.
Another strength of the book is the frequent discussion of the many ongoing points of controversy that are still unanswered and the problems associated with solving them, for example, questions concerning definitions of pidgin and creole, the boundaries between creole and standard, and the beliefs of the native speakers about them.
The failure of this book as an introductory text is its strength for graduate students and linguists from outside the field—it takes you beyond an introductory understanding of the issues and challenges you to think about the issues that still plague the field and to understand what it is about these languages that offer insight into the understanding of more ‘traditional’ languages.