Meaning of PIDGIN in English

PIDGIN

language with a greatly reduced vocabulary and a simplified grammar, often based on a western European language. Pidgins usually arise as methods of communication between groups that have no language in common; the pidgins in some instances later become established first or second languages of one of the groups involved. Some examples of pidgin are Chinese Pidgin English, Haitian French Creole, and Melanesian Pidgin English. a language with a greatly reduced vocabulary and a simplified grammar, often based on a western European language. Pidgins usually arise as methods of communication between groups that have no language in common; the pidgins in some instances later become established first or second languages of one of the groups involved. Some examples of pidgin are Chinese Pidgin English, Haitian French Creole, and Melanesian Pidgin English. A pidgin is a linguistic adaptation to nonintimate contact and remains in existence as long as it is required for communication. If closer relations develop between the groups, one of them may learn the language of the other fully, and the pidgin will no longer be needed. When a pidgin persists, however, relations between the two groups have often become socially institutionalized. They may be master and servant, as was the case in New Guinea and the South Seas, or they may be owner and slave, as in Africa and on early American plantations. Or they may be pairs of diplomats desiring to maintain a comfortable distance in their relations, with neither really wanting to learn the other's language. This was the case for certain speakers of Chinese Pidgin English, which survived for some 300 years. Pidgins may also be very useful for communication in multilingual societies, of which modern New Guinea is a good example. No one speaks a pidgin as his native language. If a pidgin does become established as the native language of a people, it is then known as a creole. The first recorded pidgin was the simplified Italian used by European crusaders and merchants who visited eastern Mediterranean ports in the Middle Ages. Because there were many French among these travellers, this pidgin was known as Lingua Franca. The expression lingua franca that is used today means something rather different: it refers to any language used for communication in multilingual settings, as, for example, English might be used in an international assembly. A pidgin is therefore a reduced lingua franca. A Chinese Pidgin English arose as the English increased their commercial activity in the Far East. Other pidgins appeared with the slave trade in Africa and with the importation of West African slaves to the Caribbean plantations. A number of these New World pidgins of English, French, Spanish, and Portuguese have survived as creoles. English creoles are still spoken in the islands off the South Carolina coast, in the Antilles, and in Suriname. French creoles remain in Louisiana, Haiti, and the Lesser Antilles; the creole of Curaao is based on Spanish and Portuguese. The appearance and attestation of pidgin languages since the 17th century followed the increase in European commercial trading and colonization. The establishment of these languages reflected the ethnocentric European view of the indigenous peoples as intellectually and culturally inferior. In his first encounter with the newly arrived European, the native may have attempted a few words in the European's language. The European, believing the other to be incapable of further learning, would respond in a similarly incomplete fashion. The native would assume that this simplified speech was the proper form of the language and so would continue to use the forms that he had heard, naturally adding some vocabulary and a few grammatical elements from his own language. This is not to suggest that pidgins have no grammar or that they are merely a variety of the indigenous language with borrowed European words inserted. In fact, pidgins are considered languages; although their structures are simpler than those of the languages from which they derive, they are complete. English pidgins spoken in different areas have been found to share the same underlying structure, that of English, although they may differ with regard to inflectional suffixes and other details. A very small vocabulary is another characteristic of pidgins and creoles, although the size of the lexicon may vary: Melanesian Pidgin has 2,000 words, while Chinese Pidgin English has only 700. Most of this vocabulary is from English. Melanesian Pidgin, with its great lexicon, for example, has an English word stock of more than 90 percent (greater than the percentage of Anglo-Saxon words in English). This figure is even higher for Chinese Pidgin English. Pidgins are therefore not mixed languages, as is often supposed. Within this small lexicon, each word can have a wide variety of meanings, with a range far greater than its European counterpart. Words are frequently combined in compounds and phrases for further flexibility. Pidgins originally are spoken languages only. In some cases, often when pidgins have become creoles, the need has arisen for an orthography to record them, especially in connection with missionary and other educational programs. Attempts to impose European spelling conventions have been misguided; the most successful, efficient orthographies have been phonemic, with consistent spelling patterns reflecting the sound and structure of the creole without reference to the language from which it was derived. Additional reading An extensive discussion and bibliography of the problems of pidgins and creoles is given in R.A. Hall, Jr., Pidgin and Creole Languages (1966). A specialized grammar study is Pieter Muysken (ed.), Generative Studies on Creole Languages (1981). See also Henri Tinelli, Creole Phonology (1981). Robert A. Hall, Jr.

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