Pidgin and Creole Languages
The word pidgin refers to a language used as a means of communication between people who do not share a common language.
The word pidgin derives from a mispronunciation of the English word business. The term “Pidgin English” was first applied to the commercial lingua franca used in southern China and Melanesia, but now pidgin is a generic term that refers to any simplified language that has derived from two or more parent languages.
When a pidgin develops into a more complex language and becomes the first language of a community, it is called a creole.
Note: The word creole has racial applications, which are not addressed in this article.
Creoles typically arise as the result of contact between the language of a dominant group and that of a subordinate group, as happened as the result of European trade and colonization. The earliest reference to a creole language is to a Portuguese-based creole spoken in Senegal.
The vocabulary of a typical creole is supplied for the most part by the dominant language, while the grammar tends to be taken from the subordinate language.
A pidgin is nobody’s natural language; a creole develops as a new generation grows up speaking the pidgin as its main language. The grammar of a creole usually remains simpler than that of the parent languages, but the new language begins to develop larger vocabularies to provide for a wider range of situations.
Because of its distinctive use of verb tenses and other grammatical features, Black English is considered by many to be an English creole having British and American varieties. Haitian is a French creole.
Unlike pidgins, creoles are complete natural languages that differ from standard dialects of the dominant parent language in pronunciation, grammar, and vocabulary.
Some more examples of creole languages:
Gullah (US Sea Islands)
More than one parent language
Saramacca (Suriname–English and Portuguese)
Sranan (Suriname–English and Dutch)
Papiamentu (Aruba, Bonaire, Curaçao–Portuguese and Spanish)
Want to improve your English in 5 minutes a day? Click here to subscribe and start receiving our writing tips and exercises via email every day.
Recommended Articles for You
Subscribe to Receive our Articles and Exercises via Email
- You will improve your English in only 5 minutes per day, guaranteed!
- Subscribers get access to our archives with 800+ interactive exercises!
- You'll also get three bonus ebooks completely free!