Pidgins, Creoles and   

   Vivian Cook  Multilingualism Codeswitching

Characteristics of Pidgins
'stripped of everything but the bare essentials necessary for communication' (Romaine, 1988) (e.g.s from Tok Pisin) invariable word order: Mi tokim olsem (I said this to them)
a minimal pronoun system without gender or case: Em i go long market (he/she/it is going to market);
absence of agreement markers for number or negation: Sikspela/wanpela man i kam (six men/one man came);
a reduced lexicon - Tok Pisin gras covers English grass, moustache (mausgras), feather (gras nilong opisin), and eyebrow (gras antap long ai)
a lack of inflectional morphology: haus bilong John (John's house)

             plural "'s              85%
             irregular past       65%
             progressive "ing" 58%
             possessive "'s"       9%
             regular past           7%
             inversion               5%

Alberto's scores for certain structures in obligatory contexts
(taken from various points in the text of Schumann, 1978a)

                 1      2       3        4        5      6       7
Alberto      is      am    can     are     -        -        -
Jorge         is     can    do       does   was   did     are
Sequence of acquisition of auxiliaries for Alberto and Jorge (from Schumann, 1978a)

Research summary: Schumann, J. (1978a), The Pidginisation Process: A Model for Second Language Acquisition, Rowley MA, Newbury House
Aim: to test whether L2 learning was similar to pidginisation
Learners: essentially Alberto, a 33 year old Costa Rican polisher
Data type: observational data from spontaneous conversations and elicited material over a ten month period, taken from Cancino et al six learner study
Aspects of language: syntactic structures related to the auxiliary, in particular negation, inversion, the possessive and plural "'s" forms, the past tense, and the progressive "-ing".
Method of analysis: scoring of percentage success for supplying forms related to the auxiliary in obligatory contexts
Results: Alberto was unsuccessful with negative placement, question inversion, supplying grammatical morphemes apart from plural "s", auxiliaries apart from "can"
Conclusions: 'In general Alberto can be characterised as using a reduced and simplified form of English' (Schumann, 1978a, p.65), resembling pidgins

auxiliaries forms of copula "be"
over 80%:
"can" 85% 70/83 "are" (1pl) 100% 3/3
"were" (2) 100% 2/2
"am" 98% 63/64
"is" 94% 969/1035
"am" 75% 3/4 "was" (1sing) 67% 4/6
"is" 71% 45/63 "are" (2pl) 52% 13/25
"will" 38% 17/47 "were" (3pl) 33% 1/3
"do" 35% 96/277 "are" (3pl) 29% 23/78
"are" (3pl) 22% 5/27
under 10% "would" 8% 1/13 "was" (3sing) 6% 2/34
"does" 1% 1/75
"did" 1% 1/90
"was" 0% 0/3
"could" 0% 0/3
"have" 0% 0/3
"has" 0% 0/3
Occurrence of auxiliaries and copula "be" in Alberto's speech (adapted from Schumann, 1978, p.59, p.62)

Similarities between Alberto's speech and pidgins (Andersen, 1981)
- pidgin speakers also have a "no V" rule for negation; 'Alberto as second language learner is a pidginised negator' (Schumann, 1978, p.182)
- Bickerton's data show pidgin speakers also lack inversion of subject and verb
- the more pidgin speakers 'that use each morpheme, the higher the percentage of correct use for Alberto' (Schumann, 1978, p.187)
- while Alberto expresses possession through word order like pidgin speakers rather than with "'s", he transfers Spanish word order to English "food king" rather than "the king's food"
Andersen (1981) interprets Alberto's frequent use of "need" as the pidgin-like use of a preverbal marker.

Social distance
- dominance - integration - enclosure
- other factors: cohesiveness of the group, similarity between the two cultures, attitudes of the two groups to each other, intended length of residence of the learners in the country.

Characteristics of creoles (e.g.s from Hawaiian Pidgin English)
a creole is a pidgin that acquires native speakers

- putting focussed constituents at the beginning "O, dat wan ai si" (Oh, that one I saw);
- a uniform article system with three possibilities (specific, nonspecific, zero)
"Dag smart" (the dog is smart);
- use of preverbal markers such as "stei" to indicate tense, mood, and aspect "Wail wi stei paedl, jaen stei put wata insai da kanu" (while we were paddling, John was letting water into the canoe)


Schumann, J. (1978), The Pidginisation Process: A Model for Second Language Acquisition, Rowley MA, Newbury House

Bickerton, D. (1984), 'The language bioprogram hypothesis and second language acquisition', in Rutherford, W.E. (ed.), Language Universals and Second Language Acquisition, Amsterdam, John Benjamins



Here are some of the sentences spoken by Schumann's subject Alberto that contain negatives, interrogatives and declaratives. Looking at the criteria for pidgins, to what extent do you think that these support Schumann's contention that Alberto is a pidginised speaker?


I don't understand that. 
I don't have much time. 
I don't have the car. 
I don't understand. 
You don't understand me. 
No like walk.
I no understand. 
That "learn" no understand. 
No remember. 
No have pronunciation.
No understand all. 
No is mine. 
I no may explain to you. 
No pass. 

What is surance?
This is apple?
You may change the day, the lesson the day?
You will come back?
You will come here the next Monday?

This picture is 'On the Point'
It's problem for me.
Picture is very dark.
In my country is six year in primaria.
Is necessary.
Is very bad, no?
This man is wrong

Berry's Acculturatio nModel