Modeling the Evolution of Creoles

In: Language Dynamics and Change
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  • 1 Institute for Analytical Sociology, Linköping University, and Centre for the Study of Cultural Evolution, Stockholm University
  • 2 Department of Linguistics, Stockholm University
  • 3 Institute for Analytical Sociology, Linköping University, and Centre for the Study of Cultural Evolution, Stockholm University

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Various theories have been proposed regarding the origin of creole languages. Describing a process where only the end result is documented involves several methodological difficulties. In this paper we try to address some of the issues by using a novel mathematical model together with detailed empirical data on the origin and structure of Mauritian Creole. Our main focus is on whether Mauritian Creole may have originated only from a mutual desire to communicate, without a target language or prestige bias. Our conclusions are affirmative. With a confirmation bias towards learning from successful communication, the model predicts Mauritian Creole better than any of the input languages, including the lexifier French, thus providing a compelling and specific hypothetical model of how creoles emerge. The results also show that it may be possible for a creole to develop quickly after first contact, and that it was created mostly from material found in the input languages, but without inheriting their morphology.

  • 15

    Bakker (2003) and Roberts and Bresnan (2008) are often cited in order to illustrate that pidgins need not be perfectly analytic. This is true, and questioned by no one. Still, even those varieties discussed there (and we would not consider them all pidgins) have very small affix inventories in comparison to most of the world’s languages.

  • 23

    One creolist, Robert Chaudenson (e.g. 1979, 1983, 1988), maintains that Mauritian was imported from the neighboring island of Réunion, but this account by and large lacks support in other literature.

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