Transfer Constraints and Substrate Influence in Melanesian Pidgin
This study examines research on transfer in second language acquisition (SLA) in order to identify situational and linguistic factors which may constrain the influence of substrate languages on the developing grammar of a pidgin or creole. A distinction is made between the earlier transfer of L1 features by individuals attempting to use the superstrate language as an L2 for wider communication, and the later retention of a subset of these features by the community during a process of leveling which occurs during stabilization. The study outlines various transfer constraints and reinforcement principles proposed in both the second language acquisition and pidgin/creole studies literature. These are evaluated using Melanesian Pidgin and its Central-Eastern Oceanic (CEO) substrate languages as a test case. Of the potential constraints on transfer proposed in the SLA literature, the need for partial or specious congruence between superstrate and substrate structures appears to account best for the particular CEO features that were transferred. Perceptual salience accounts for the kinds of forms from English that were reanalyzed to fit CEO patterns. With regard to the retention of particular transferred features, the most significant reinforcement principle appears to be frequency in the contact environment.
Keywords: Melanesian Pidgin, Central Eastern Oceanic Languages, Substrate, Transfer, Second Language Acquisition
Published online: 06 August 1999
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