Logo: MPI
Creole and pidgin language structure in cross-linguistic perspective
August 18-19, 2013


David Gil (MPI-EVA): Core-Argument Flagging and TAM Marking in Sign Languages and Other Young Languages
This paper presents the result of two cross-linguistic surveys showing that as young languages, sign languages and creoles tend to be simpler than other kinds of languages with respect to two central features of morphosyntax, namely the flagging of core arguments and the expression of tense-aspect-mood (TAM) categories. Building on the notion of predication proposed in Gil (2012), which relates these two features, it then argues that sign languages and creoles represent a relatively simpler grammatical type in which predication is either absent or only weakly developed, a type that is also observable in the language of young infants and may be reconstructable for that of our hominin ancestors.


Jeff Good (University at Buffalo): Patterns of grammatical complexity in pidgins and creoles
Most of the literature on creole simplicity has implicitly assumed that all complexities are, in effect, created equal when it comes to evaluating whether or not creole grammars are, in some sense, "simple". Thus, very different kinds of grammatical phenomena, such as segment inventories and inflectional morphology, have been considered together when examining claims regarding overall creole typology. Good (2012), however, argues that if the typological profiles of creoles can be linked to their sociohistories, some kinds of grammatical simplification should be expected to be more likely than others and, in particular, complexities which require the transfer of paradigmatic contrasts from a creole's source languages should be especially likely to be missing. This paper will explore how APiCS allows the predictions of Good (2012) to be more rigorously tested and reports on the extent to which they are borne out by the APiCS data.


Anthony Grant (Edgehill University): Dret Xlu’ima (very different)?: Chinuk Wawa from a comparative perspective.
Chinuk Wawa (often called Chinook Jargon) is an unusual pidgin/creole even when compared with other P/Cs which developed with diverse lexifers. Phonologically it exhibits typologically unusual features such as a velar/uvular stop contrast and phonemic glottalisation in stops and fricatives. Syntactically it has a clause-final interrogative particle, two negators which are largely interchangeable, and a complete lack of productive inflectional morphology compared with its highly inflected chief lexifier, Coastal Chinook, the lexicon of which has still to be collated and published: The only bound morpheme is borrowed from English and is probably used on only two words. It creolised in one location, and though widely used for nearly a century there is evidence for the existence of only one monolingual speaker of the creole form. No single lexical source accounts for more than 40% of the elements in the core lexicon, and one crucial component was introduced therein by speakers of the second major lexifier. The syntactic content of the material on the language leaves us with numerous unanswered (and unanswerable) questions despite over 150 years of work on the language. Yet it shares a very great number of typological characteristics with pidgins and creoles from the other side of the world, even though chances of mutual influence are evanescent, and structural parallels with Mauritian Kreol are drawn.


John Holm (Coimbra University): Copulas in Atlantic Creoles and Other Languages.
In his first linguistics paper, Holm (1976) linked African American English (AAE) to the Atlantic creoles through the deletion rates of AAE copulas as described in Labov (1969, 1972) and then linked the copula pattern in the creoles to that of Yoruba, eventually convincing Labov (1982) of the validity of this link. Holm expanded his study of Atlantic creole copula patterns in his 1988 survey of creole syntactic features, adding to this patterns in non-Atlantic creoles in Holm et al. (1999) and Holm and Patrick, eds. (2007). Now, with the publication of the Atlas of Pidgin and Creole Language Structures in 2013, the present study is able to offer the broadest perspective yet on this area of syntax that demonstrates that creole languages can be considerably more complex than their lexifiers.


Claire Lefebvre (Université du Québec à Montréal): What can we learn from cross-linguistic comparisons of creoles?
The aim of this paper is two-fold. First, I will look at cross-linguistic comparisons of creoles as a methodological tool for identifying the principled contribution of the substrate and superstrate languages to creoles. It will be shown that different types of comparisons between creoles and their source languages lead to the conclusion that, to a large extent, the substrate languages contribute the semantic and syntactic (excluding word order) properties of creoles, and that the superstrate languages contribute the labels and word/morpheme orders (as well as some phonological features not discussed here). The substrate languages thus contribute the meaning and function, whereas the superstrate languages contribute the form. Second, I will look at cross-linguistic comparisons of creoles as a methodological tool for identifying cases of linguistic change within a creole. For example, it will be shown that comparative work may help identify cases of independent evolution of creoles that have evolved from the same substrate languages (e.g. differences between Haitian and Saramaccan), as well as help identify cases of linguistic change within a creole (e.g. the development of the copular system of Saramaccan).


Stephen Matthews (University of Hong Kong): Are Singlish and Hawaiian Creole typologically distinct?
While Hawaiian Creole (HCE) is acknowledged to be a prototypical creole, Singapore Colloquial English (Singlish) is widely considered a variety of English or perhaps a ‘creoloid’. In many ways the two contact languages arose in similar colonial circumstances, with substrates including Malayo-Polynesian and Sinitic languages. Yet for McWhorter (2005), HCE is a Creole while Singlish is clearly not. Data from APiCS provide an objective test as to whether there are typological differences which would support such a separation. Several of the differences shown up by the APiCS data can be attributed to the dominance of the Sinitic substrate in Singlish. Among the differences, null subjects and serial verbs are potentially areas of typological significance which call for critical examination.


Philippe Maurer (University of Zurich): Take-serials in the light of APiCS
In my contribution, I will present the results of APiCS in the domain of TAKE-serials (APiCS feature 85), and I will also address the limits of our research, thus showing that, inspite of APiCS offering interesting insights into the domain of take-serials, our atlas may also serve as a starting point for further research.


Susanne Maria Michaelis, Martin Haspelmath and Damián Blasi (MPI-EVA): Grammatical simplicity in a cross-linguistic perspective: APiCS meets WALS
McWhorter (2001) has claimed that creoles have the world's simplest grammars, and Parkvall (2008) has provided evidence from WALS and his own data on a range of creoles for the same claim. Here we would like to revisit the issue and compare the data from 76 APiCS languages with the WALS languages. There are 32 features (many of them multi-valued) for which we have information from both APiCS and WALS and which are relevant to measuring simplicity/complexity. We first discuss the precise meaning that one could give to the term "simplicity" and how the APiCS and WALS features are relevant to it. Then we present and discuss the results that we get from our data.


Eva Schultze-Berndt (University of Manchester): The semantics of modal markers in Northern Australian Kriol
In this paper I will present a first synchronic overview of the semantic categories encoded in the modal system of Kriol, thus going beyond the features surveyed in APiCS. Focusing on the variety spoken in the Victoria River district (based my own fieldwork), I will compare these categories to those of the potential substrate languages on the one hand, and the system of the lexifier (English), on the other hand.

While the modal systems of Northern Australian languages are rather diverse (Verstraete 2005), they exhibit certain recurring areal traits. The first such trait is a separation between epistemic and non-epistemic modality with non-future reference. This separation is also found in Kriol, where epistemic modality is expressed by clause-inital markers (maitbi, masbi) and non-epistemic modality by a variety of preverbal markers.

A second recurring trait is the grammatical encoding, by various means, of apprehensive modality (also termed evitative or admonitive). This category, which has received little attention in the typological or semantic literature on modality (though see Lichtenberk 1995), expresses a warning of an undesirable event. While Munro (2005) speculates on the likelihood of transfer of this substrate category into Kriol, she finds no evidence for it in the Roper River variety (Munro 2005: 135). I will argue that at least some older speakers of the Victoria River variety use clause-initial baimbai exclusively in apprehensive function. This is in striking contrast to Tok Pisin and other Melanesian Pidgin and Creole languages, where baimbai (and the reduced form bai) has developed into a full-fledged general future/irrealis marker (Romaine 1995).

Finally, many Northern Australian have non-epistemic irrealis markers interacting with past and non-past tense in a compositional way (Verstraete 2005), which are semantically general covering the semantics of volitionality, intention, (non-epistemic) possibility, and future, but which – similarly to some modals found in American languages of the Pacific north-west (see e.g. Deal 2011) – do not express a distinction between possibility and necessity. Kriol has a larger set of modal markers than the typical substrate language, and correspondingly encodes more semantic distinctions, including that between possibility (e.g. wana) and necessity (e.g. labda). There is also evidence of considerable variation and semantic overlap between these markers.

This paper thus argues for a nuanced picture regarding the respective influence of substrate, lexifier and internal developments, similar to that emerging for other Creole languages (see e.g. Winford & Migge 2007)

Deal, Amy Rose. 2011. Modals without Scales. Language 87, 3: 559-85.
Lichtenberk, Frantisek. 1995. Apprehensional epistemics. In: Modality in grammar and discourse, ed. by J. Bybee & S. Fleischman, 293–328. Amsterdam: John Benjamins.
Munro, Jennifer. 2005. Substrate language influence in Kriol: The application of transfer constraints to language contact in northern Australia. Armidale: University of New England PhD.
Romaine, Suzanne. 1995. The grammaticalization of irrealis in Tok Pisin. In: Modality in Grammar and Discourse, ed. by J. Bybee & S. Fleischman, 1-39. Amsterdam: John Benjamins.
Verstraete, Jean-Christophe. 2005. The semantics and pragmatics of composite mood marking: The non-Pama-Nyungan languages of northern Australia. Linguistic Typology 9. 223–68.
Winford, Donald & Bettina Migge. 2007. Substrate influence on the emergence of the TMA systems of the Surinamese creoles. Journal of Pidgin and Creole Languages 22: 73–99.


Eeva Sippola (Aarhus University): Phylogenetic network analysis of Iberian creoles.
Iberoromance creoles represent the oldest, most diverse and geographically most dispersed creoles. This study provides an account of a phylogenetic network analysis of this subgroup of creoles. Both grammatical and lexical traits are analyzed, based on the APiCS database and questionnaires. Initial results confirm areal clusters and identify similarities and differences among these languages. The methodological challenges and strengths of the approach are also discussed.