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Put simply, a pidgin is the first-generation version of a language that forms between native speakers of different languages — a makeshift communication bridge, if you will. Generally speaking, pidgins form in the context of a multicultural population. Historically, this has often happened in areas where multiple groups were trading with each other, or when groups of slaves from various nations were assimilated into a single population and developed a language.

Pidgins and Creoles: The Formation of Nonstandard Language - ALTA Language Services

Pidgins often borrow words from their source languages and feature a simplified grammar. By the time a pidgin becomes a creole, the language has developed enough of its own characteristics to have a distinct grammar of its own.

Grasp a larger portion of that continuum.

Malay also has at least 14 recognized creole offshoots thanks to Dutch and Portuguese colonial impact. The list goes on.

1st Edition

Other theories have surfaced since, like the notion that creoles can develop in much more intimate contexts than trade, such as between slaves and plantation owners. Some linguists contest the notion that Haitian and Louisiana Creole arose from a pidgin stage, for example.

Well, in a sense. But it is also still a major non-native language for many, probably for more. As with languages and dialects , the difference between pidgin and creole is not exactly airtight.

Pidgin Languages

Beginning in the 17th century, as English merchants crossed the Indian Ocean and sailed upwards through the South China Sea, they met with their Asian counterparts and, out of necessity, developed a means of communication that melded English words with Chinese sentence structure. The result was a pidgin language that would be the mercantile lingua franca for over two centuries.

Pidgin languages — originally a business vernacular — are characterized by a limited vocabulary, simplified grammar and syntax, and an unfussy disregard for subject-verb agreement.

While a rudimentary sort of communication was necessary, Chinese merchants of the 17th and 18th centuries held the English language in low esteem and did not feel compelled to learn it fully. The 19th century, however, saw an upswell in English-language education as pidgin came to be viewed as degrading. They arise out of necessity and survive so long as they are needed.