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Perspectives on Creole Genesis and Language Acquisition

Barikmo, Heather

Creolists tend to view the genesis of creole languages as more complicated than do other linguists.While most linguists define creoles as those languages which originate as pidgins and then acquire native speakers, creolists have long questioned the plausibility of this claim and debated alternate theories of genesis among themselves. Universalism (Bickerton, 1981; Bickerton, 1984), posits Chomskyan language universals to account for creole formation within a second-language acquisition (SLA) framework. Substratism (Lefebvre, 1998; Lumsden, 1999) acknowledges the SLA framework set forth by universalism but goes farther in allowing for the influence of the first languages of the creolizing community on the emerging language. This paper examines these two theories, and findings from SLA research are used to critique their respective positions. Additionally, an apparent dichotomy presented by these theories is explored. The complementary hypothesis (Mufwene, 1996; Mufwene, 1999; Mufwene, 2001), which retains an SLA-oriented approach to the theory of creole language origins, is presented as a viable alternative to the question of genetics. Since creoles do not appear to form along strictly first-language acquisition lines, SLA researchers would benefit from exploring the vast body of creolist literature which assumes and proves an SLA framework in the formation of these languages.


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Published In
Working Papers in TESOL & Applied Linguistics
1 - 25
Academic Units
Applied Linguistics and Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages
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