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A pidgin //, or pidgin language, is a grammatically simplified means of communication that develops between two or more groups that do not have a language in common: typically, its vocabulary and grammar are limited and often drawn from several languages. It is most commonly employed in situations such as trade, or where both groups speak languages different from the language of the country in which they reside (but where there is no common language between the groups). Linguists do not typically consider pidgins as full or complete languages.
Fundamentally, a pidgin is a simplified means of linguistic communication, as it is constructed impromptu, or by convention, between individuals or groups of people. A pidgin is not the native language of any speech community, but is instead learned as a second language.
A pidgin may be built from words, sounds, or body language from a multitude of languages as well as onomatopoeia. As the lexicon of any pidgin will be limited to core vocabulary, words with only a specific meaning in lexifier language may acquire a completely new (or additional) meaning in the pidgin.
Pidgins have historically been considered a form of patois, unsophisticated simplified versions of their lexifiers, and as such usually have low prestige with respect to other languages. However, not all simplified or "unsophisticated" forms of a language are pidgins. Each pidgin has its own norms of usage which must be learned for proficiency in the pidgin.
A pidgin differs from a creole, which is the first language of a speech community of native speakers that at one point arose from a pidgin. Unlike pidgins, creoles have fully developed vocabulary and patterned grammar. Most linguists believe that a creole develops through a process of nativization of a pidgin when children of acquired pidgin-speakers learn and use it as their native language.
Pidgin derives from a Chinese pronunciation of the English word business, and all attestations from the first half of the nineteenth century given in the third edition of the Oxford English Dictionary mean "business; an action, occupation, or affair" (the earliest being from 1807). The term pidgin English ("business English"), first attested in 1855, shows the term in transition to referring to language, and by the 1860s the term pidgin alone could refer to Pidgin English. The term was coming to be used in the more general linguistic sense represented by this article by the 1870s.
The word pidgin, formerly also spelled pigion, used to refer originally to Chinese Pidgin English, but was later generalized to refer to any pidgin. Pidgin may also be used as the specific name for local pidgins or creoles, in places where they are spoken. For example, the name of the creole language Tok Pisin derives from the English words talk pidgin. Its speakers usually refer to it simply as "pidgin" when speaking English. Likewise, Hawaiian Creole English is commonly referred to by its speakers as "Pidgin".
The term jargon has also been used to refer to pidgins, and is found in the names of some pidgins, such as Chinook Jargon. In this context, linguists today use jargon to denote a particularly rudimentary type of pidgin; however, this usage is rather rare, and the term jargon most often refers to the words particular to a given profession.
Pidgins may start out as or become trade languages, such as Tok Pisin. Trade languages can eventually evolve into fully developed languages in their own right such as Swahili, distinct from the languages they were originally influenced by. Trade languages and pidgins can also influence an established language's vernacular, especially amongst people who are directly involved in a trade where that pidgin is commonly used, which can alternatively result in a regional dialect being developed.
Pidgins are usually less morphologically complex but more syntactically rigid than other languages, and usually have fewer morphosyntactic irregularities than other languages.
Characteristics shared by most pidgins:
- Typologically most closely resemble isolating languages
- Uncomplicated clausal structure (e.g., no embedded clauses, etc.)
- Reduction or elimination of syllable codas
- Reduction of consonant clusters or breaking them with epenthesis
- Elimination of aspiration or sound changes
- Monophthongization is common, employment of as few basic vowels as possible, such as [a, e, i, o, u]
- Lack of morphophonemic variation
- Lack of tones, such as those found in Niger-Congo, Austroasiatic and Sino-Tibetan language families and in various families of the indigenous languages of the Americas
- Lack of grammatical tense; use of separate words to indicate tense, usually preceding the verb
- Lack of conjugation or declension
- Lack of grammatical gender or number, commonly supplanted by reduplication to represent plurals and superlatives, and other parts of speech that represent the concept being increased and clear indication of the gender or animated objects.
- Lack of clear parts of speech or word categorization; common use and derivation of new vocabulary through conversion, e.g. nominalization, verbification, adjectivization etc.
The initial development of a pidgin usually requires:
- prolonged, regular contact between the different language communities
- a need to communicate between them
- an absence of (or absence of widespread proficiency in) a widespread, accessible interlanguage
Keith Whinnom (in Hymes (1971)) suggests that pidgins need three languages to form, with one (the superstrate) being clearly dominant over the others.
Linguists sometimes posit that pidgins can become creole languages when a generation of children learn a pidgin as their first language, a process that regularizes speaker-dependent variation in grammar. Creoles can then replace the existing mix of languages to become the native language of a community (such as the Chavacano language in the Philippines, Krio in Sierra Leone, and Tok Pisin in Papua New Guinea). However, not all pidgins become creole languages; a pidgin may die out before this phase would occur (e.g. the Mediterranean Lingua Franca).
Other scholars, such as Salikoko Mufwene, argue that pidgins and creoles arise independently under different circumstances, and that a pidgin need not always precede a creole nor a creole evolve from a pidgin. Pidgins, according to Mufwene, emerged among trade colonies among "users who preserved their native vernaculars for their day-to-day interactions". Creoles, meanwhile, developed in settlement colonies in which speakers of a European language, often indentured servants whose language would be far from the standard in the first place, interacted extensively with non-European slaves, absorbing certain words and features from the slaves' non-European native languages, resulting in a heavily basilectalized version of the original language. These servants and slaves would come to use the creole as an everyday vernacular, rather than merely in situations in which contact with a speaker of the superstrate was necessary.
The following pidgins have Wikipedia articles or sections in articles. Many of these languages are commonly referred to by their speakers as "Pidgin".
- List of English-based pidgins
- Algonquian–Basque pidgin
- Arafundi-Enga Pidgin
- Bamboo English
- Barikanchi Pidgin
- Basque–Icelandic pidgin
- Bimbashi Arabic
- Bislama (creolized)
- Bozal Spanish
- Broken Oghibbeway
- Broken Slavey and Loucheux Jargon
- Cameroonian Pidgin English (creolized)
- Duvle-Wano Pidgin
- Eskimo Trade Jargon
- Ewondo Populaire
- Fanagalo (Pidgin Zulu)
- Français Tirailleur
- Haflong Hindi
- International Sign
- Inuktitut-English Pidgin
- Kiautschou Pidgin German
- KiKAR (Swahili pidgin)
- Kwoma-Manambu Pidgin
- Kyakhta Russian–Chinese Pidgin
- Kyowa-go and Xieheyu
- Labrador Inuit Pidgin French
- Madras Bashai
- Maridi Arabic
- Maritime Polynesian Pidgin
- Mediterranean Lingua Franca (Sabir)
- Mekeo pidgins
- Mobilian Jargon
- Namibian Black German
- Ndyuka-Tiriyó Pidgin
- Nigerian Pidgin (creolized)
- Nootka Jargon
- Pidgin Delaware
- Pidgin Hawaiian
- Pidgin Iha
- Pidgin Ngarluma
- Pidgin Onin
- Pidgin Wolof
- Pijin (creolized)
- Roquetas Pidgin Spanish
- Settler Swahili
- Taimyr Pidgin Russian
- Tây Bồi Pidgin French
- Te Parau Tinito
- Tok Pisin (creolized)
- West Greenlandic Pidgin
- Yokohama Pidgin Japanese
- Muysken, Pieter; Smith, Norval (2008). "The study of pidgin and creole languages" (PDF). In Arends, Jacques; Muijsken, Pieter; Smith, Norval (eds.). Pidgins and Creoles: An Introduction. John Benjamins. pp. 3–14.
- Özüorçun, Fatma (2014). "Language varieties: Pidgins and creoles" (PDF). Cite journal requires
- Bickerton, Derek (1976). "Pidgin and creole studies". Annual Review of Anthropology. 5: 169–93. doi:10.1146/annurev.an.05.100176.001125. JSTOR 2949309.
- See Todd (1990:3)
- See Thomason & Kaufman (1988:169)
- Bakker (1994:27)
- Bakker (1994:26)
- "Pinyin: pí qīn yǔ" Chinese English Pinyin Dictionary, Yabla, https://chinese.yabla.com/chinese-english-pinyin-dictionary.php?define=%E7%9A%AE%E9%92%A6%E8%AF%AD
- "pidgin, n." OED Online, Oxford University Press, January 2018, www.oed.com/view/Entry/143533. Accessed 23 January 2018.
- Online Etymology Dictionary
- Crystal, David (1997), "Pidgin", The Cambridge Encyclopedia of Language (2nd ed.), Cambridge University Press
- Bakker (1994:25)
- Smith, Geoff P. Growing Up with Tok Pisin: Contact, creolization, and change in Papua New Guinea's national language. London: Battlebridge. 2002. p. 4.
- Thus the published court reports of Papua New Guinea refer to Tok Pisin as "Pidgin": see for example Schubert v The State  PNGLR 66.
- Bakker (1994:25–26)
For example: Campbell, John Howland; Schopf, J. William, eds. (1994). Creative Evolution. Life Science Series. Contributor: University of California, Los Angeles. IGPP Center for the Study of Evolution and the Origin of Life. Jones & Bartlett Learning. p. 81. ISBN 9780867209617. Retrieved 2014-04-20.
[...] the children of pidgin-speaking parents face a big problem, because pidgins are so rudimentary and inexpressive, poorly capable of expressing the nuances of a full range of human emotions and life situations. The first generation of such children spontaneously develops a pidgin into a more complex language termed a creole. [...] [T]he evolution of a pidgin into a creole is unconscious and spontaneous.
- "Salikoko Mufwene: "Pidgin and Creole Languages"". Humanities.uchicago.edu. Archived from the original on 2013-06-03. Retrieved 2010-04-24.
- Bakker, Peter (1994), "Pidgins", in Arends, Jacques; Muijsken, Pieter; Smith, Norval (eds.), Pidgins and Creoles: An Introduction, John Benjamins, pp. 26–39
- Hymes, Dell (1971), Pidginization and Creolization of Languages, Cambridge University Press, ISBN 0-521-07833-4
- McWhorter, John (2002), The Power of Babel: The Natural History of Language, Random House Group, ISBN 0-06-052085-X
- Sebba, Mark (1997), Contact Languages: Pidgins and Creoles, MacMillan, ISBN 0-333-63024-6
- Thomason, Sarah G.; Kaufman, Terrence (1988), Language contact, creolization, and genetic linguistics, Berkeley: University of California Press, ISBN 0-520-07893-4
- Todd, Loreto (1990), Pidgins and Creoles, Routledge, ISBN 0-415-05311-0
- Holm, John (2000), An Introduction to Pidgins and Creoles, Cambridge University Press