Re: Is English a creole? (was: Indo-European Studies)

Louis-D. Dubeau (
26 Jul 1995 15:39:53 GMT

>>>>> "DOP" == Dumdum Orion P <> writes:


DOP> non-inflected Latin. This lousy, non-inflected latin,
DOP> otherwise known as Vulgar Latin, later became the basis of
DOP> Spanish, Italian, French, Romanian, Portuguese, Catalan,
DOP> Provencal, et al.

I think your analyse is wrong. A few weeks ago I read a very good
book on the evolution of French (from Latin to Old French). Here are
a few facts. The first step toward Vulgar Latin occured when the
Latin speakers began to stop pronouncing the "m" at the end of the

rosa rosae
rosa(m) rosas
rosae rosaru(m)
rosae rosis
rosa rosis

6 forms > 5 forms

manus manus
manu(m) manus
manus manuu(m) (or maybe even manu)
manui manibus
manu manibus

5 forms > 4 forms (or 3, if manuum > manu)

In classical latin it was possible to have some ambiguity because of
the similar forms but in Vulgar Latin this problem is worst. This has
prompted the use of prepositions to reduce the possibility of
ambiguity... but the declensions nevertheless _remained_ in Vulgar

I don't know how the evolution form Vulgar Latin to other roman
languages occured. But I know how it evolved to Gallo-roman (2nd
century to 5th century), Proto-french (6th century to 9th century) and
then Old Frech (10th century to 13th century). I'll skip some of the
changes that occured but here are the most important:

3rd to 5th century: V>0/VC_C (a vowel after a vowel followed by a
consonant and before another consonant disapear)

6th century: [a]>[E]/_# (a final to E (E being the central vowel in

7th to 8th century: V>0/_# (vowels at the end of the words disapear:
not for E although)

rosE ros
rosE ros
ros rosr (this one probably simplified to ros)
ros ros
rosE ros

2 forms

mans mans
man mans
mans man
man manbus
man manbus

3 forms

As you can see changes in the way words were pronounced virtually
destroyed the old declension system. However, Proto-french still had
two cases declension system: subject and complement. The complement
case is derived from the accusative case of Vulgar Latin.

Example: chevalier (knight)

Subject Complement
Singular chevaliers chevalier
Plural chevalier chevaliers

These declensions were in use until the end of the Old French era.

I think this prove that the demise of declensions (in French at least)
was a result of a modification of the pronunciation system and not
because people didn't know how the declension system worked. If it
were the case, I doubt Old French would have shown a 2 cases
declension system. I also think the way the evolution occured does
not qualify French as a creole.

As for other roman languages are concerned, since the drop of the
final "m" occured in Vulgar Latin they also began to feel the need for
prepositions. However, I don't know how the evolution from the Latin
declension system to no declension occured.

My information is from "Histoire de la langue. Du latin a l'ancien
francais" by Peter A. Machonis. The author is American but the book
was written in French and I doubt there is an English translation of
it. :-( Note that my demonstration probably contain errors: there are
at least 30 modification rules. Nevertheless, the general idea is


-- Louis-Dominique Dubeau == == --
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