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Saturday, October 12 • 10:30am - 10:55am
Mufwene: Pidginization as we hardly ever thought about it

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Pidginization as we hardly ever thought about it

The pidgin-to-creole life-cycle hypothesis has been more convenient than empirically-grounded in supporting creole exceptionalism. Putatively, pidgins are the outcomes of a break in the transmission of the relevant lexifiers, while creolization cum nativization and the concurrent structural expansion naturalized them into full-fledged languages. However, a re-examination of the history of trade colonization in especially Africa and the Pacific suggests instead that, like creoles, pidgins emerged by gradual divergence away from the closer approximations produced by those who learned the lexifiers earlier. Those individuals were interpreters, often identified as “go-betweens” or “intermediaries,” who played a critical role in the trade and exploitation colonization of the relevant territories. Textual documentation from that history, including the absence of Portuguese pidgins, disproves the received doctrine, as my presentation will show. Pidgins may in fact have emerged later than creoles.

Session abstract: Querying the individual and the community: New historical sociolinguistic approaches to contact, variation, and change
The theoretical and methodological problem of relating the behavior of individuals (Milroy 1992, Eckert 2000) to trends of language change in the community (Labov 2001:34) is particularly pressing for Historical Sociolinguistics. The five papers in this session, organized by NARNiHS, explore the socio-historical contexts and parameters of individual language use that have given rise to recorded patterns of linguistic variation in multiple understudied communities. A core concern shared by these studies is the broad application of variationist theory to historical data, by situating notions such as language variation, change, and contact, within a sociohistorical dimension. Overall, this session presents a broad range of datsets and tools to to explore the possibilities and limitations of sociolinguistic theory for the analysis of sociohistorical data from a broad range of periods and contexts.

Eckert, Penelope. 2000. Linguistic Variation as Social Practice. Oxford: Blackwell.
Labov, William. 2001. Principles of Linguistic Change, Volume 2: Social Factors. Oxford: Blackwell.
Milroy, James. 1992. Linguistic Variation and Change. Oxford: Blackwell.


Salikoko S. Mufwene

University of Chicago

Saturday October 12, 2019 10:30am - 10:55am PDT
EMU Gumwood
  S: Querying the individual and the community