Article published in:Social Lives in Language – Sociolinguistics and multilingual speech communities: Celebrating the work of Gillian Sankoff
Edited by Miriam Meyerhoff and Naomi Nagy
[IMPACT: Studies in Language, Culture and Society 24] 2008
► pp. 327–355
Empirical problems with domain-based notions of "simple"
This chapter addresses the on-going debate about the relative "simplicity" of creole languages. It proposes that an evaluation of simplicity/complexity must consider not only categorical features of a language but also probabilistic ones, because (it argues) there is a good deal of linguistic structure encoded stochastically in creoles. To illustrate this, it explores four case studies: the marking of inalienable possession in Bislama (Vanuatu), subject agreement in Bislama, possessive marking in Tayo (New Caledonia), and the recent emergence of a new complementiser in Bislama. Substrate, lexifier and cognitive constraints contribute to the emerging shape of all four features. The data argues for perspectives on creolisation that include non-deterministic features, and for a view of language structure straddling what are sometimes seen as discrete levels of linguistic structure.
Keywords: alienable/inalienable possession, Bislama, complementisers, direct/indirect possession, language attitudes, olsem ‘like’ COMP, possessives, se ‘say’ COMP, simplicity, subject marking, substrate influence, Tayo, Vanuatu
Published online: 26 September 2008
Cited by 2 other publications
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