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Defining Creole - John H. McWhorter


Published: 1st December 2004
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A conventional wisdom among creolists is that creole is a sociohistorical term only: that creole languages share a particular history entailing adults rapidly acquiring a language usually under conditions of subordination, but that structurally they are indistinguishable from other languages. The articles by John H. McWhorter collected in this volume demonstrate that this is in fact untrue.
Creole languages, while complex and nuanced as all human languages are, are delineable from older languages as the result of their having come into existence only a few centuries ago. Then adults learn a language under untutored conditions, they abbreviate its structure, focusing upon features vital to communication and shaving away most of the features useless to communication that bedevil those acquiring the language non-natively. When they utilize their rendition of the language consistently enough to create a brand-new one, this new creation naturally evinces evidence of its youth: specifically, a much lower degree of the random accretions typical in older languages, which only develop over vast periods of time.
The articles constitute a case for this thesis based on both broad, cross-creole ranges of data and focused expositions referring to single creole languages. The book presents a general case for a theory of language contact and creolization in which not only transfer from source languages but also structural reduction plays a central role, based on facts whose marginality of address in creole studies has arisen from issues sociopolitical as well as scientific. For several decades the very definition of the term creole has been elusive even among creole specialists. This book attempts to forge a path beyond the inter- and intra-disciplinary misunderstandings and stalemates that have resulted from this, and to demonstrate the place that creoles might occupy in other linguistic subfields, including typology, language contact, and syntactic theory.

"This book is a welcome addition to the linguistic literature on creole languages and is sure to provide the fodder for many a lively discusiion."--Kathe Managan, University of Michigan

"McWhorter is very good at teasing out both the small, and major, inconsistencies in our long-held assumptions about creoles and language change and whether we agree with him or not, he often shakes us out of our comfortable complacency over unchallenged issues. He's the 800 pound gorilla in the room. You may not want to hear him, but he's hard to ignore."--Linguist List

Defining "Creole" as a synchronic termp. 9
The world's simplest grammars are Creole grammarsp. 38
The rest of the story : restoring pidginization to Creole genesis theoryp. 72
Saramaccan and Haitian as young grammars : the pitfalls of syntactocentrism in Creole genesis researchp. 102
The founder principle versus the Creole prototype : squaring theory with datap. 142
Looking into the void : zero copula in the Creole mesolectp. 167
The diachrony of predicate negation in Saramaccan Creole : synchronic and typological implicationsp. 182
Sisters under the skin : a case for genetic relationship between the Atlantic English-based Creolesp. 199
Creole transplantation : a source of solutions to resistant anomaliesp. 225
Creoles, intertwined languages, and "bicultural identity"p. 247
What happened to English?p. 267
Inflectional morphology and universal grammar : post hoc versus propter hocp. 312
Strange bedfellows : recovering the origins of black Englishp. 337
Table of Contents provided by Blackwell. All Rights Reserved.

ISBN: 9780195166699
ISBN-10: 0195166698
Audience: General
Format: Paperback
Language: English
Number Of Pages: 444
Published: 1st December 2004
Country of Publication: US
Dimensions (cm): 22.86 x 15.24  x 2.52
Weight (kg): 0.65
Edition Number: 2