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

Dumdum. Orion P. (
25 Jul 1995 09:56:47 GMT

Actually, English is a CREOLE. And so are the other Romance languages.
Let's talk about English first. . .

English deviated from the highly inflected form of Old English which
was similar to Dutch, Frisian and German, after the coming of the French-
speaking Normans. It's that simple. The lower class Anglo-Saxons continued
speaking their Germanic tongue, while the Normans continued to speak French.
Even some Saxon nobles learned to speak Norman French just to be one with
the aristocratic crowd. But of course, if commoner had to speak with noble,
some common language had to be formed in between. The commoner would learn
a few French words, but speak to the noble in a Germanic sentence sprinkled
with French words and stripped off of its conjugations and noun declensions.
In the same manner, the noble would try to learn a little "English" while
using French words which described some everyday stuff. The fact that
neither noble or commoner had the time or interest to actively pursue a
detailed study of the "other language" meant that each was to be bastardized
when commoner and noble spoke to one another.

The fact that not learning one language properly means not
following certain grammatical rules means that those Norman nobles, whose
mother tongue was "francais," disregarded the word order system employed by
Germanic languages like Dutch and "Deutsch." In addition, the consideration
of noun gender was lost. French and the other Romance languages have only
masculine and feminine, while the Germanic languages have an additional which
is neuter. Since a newcomer to such languages would have to memorize these
new "gender-values" if he wanted to get them right, then instead of learning
them anew, the Norman nobles most logically disregarded them in their speech.
Take this example, for instance. You are not a German speaker, but you know
a few German words for everyday things. You don't know German grammar and
word-order that well, and you are in a restaurant where nobody speaks English.
Well, if you wanted to ask for something, you'd use the English grammar you
are so used to, and substitute the English words with the little German
ones you know. That's a pidginization of German, where you have totally
disregarded the proper grammar of German. At least, you got your point
through. Anyway, back to English. After a lot of noble-commoner
communications going, some commoners got so used to over-simplifying
their speech with francophone nobles that they over-simplified their
grammar when they spoke to each other too.

A lot of the Germanic element of English was retained somewhat
in the literature of Shakespeare. Some of the sentences resemble the
Germanic word-order where some clauses end in the verb. Even the
thou-thee-thine form is still used. (Like the Germanic Du, Dir, Dich, Dein)
(--->Oh, and by the way, "THOU" is pronounced "THOO", not "THAOO" if you'd
check the other Germanic languages.) Later on, further simplifications
came, when certain forms and usages fell out of use.

It is obvious that during those instances that nobles and commoners
spoke to each other, a pidginized (therefore, simplified) version of English
was used. The fact that this same pidginized version was adopted by the
commoners and passed on to their children makes it into a CREOLE.

Just sharing,

Orion Perez Dumdum (Doom-doom)
IV BS Computer Science
Ateneo de Manila University

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
Oh, and about the Romance languages. The Romance languages are them-
selves creoles. They were born out of Vulgar-Vernacular Latin which was
used by the "Quirites" and commoners of the Roman Empire. Latin, for one,
is a highly inflected (and therefore DIFFICULT!) language. With all those
conjugations, declensions, cases and other proper forms to memorize, a
lot of people who were not originally of Roman birth had to learn it in
order to transact business with other Roman citizens. Learning a highly
inflected language is very time-consuming and taxing. For an ordinary
Slave captured from Asia minor, whose mother tongue wasn't Latin,
Knowing the vocabulary and a few bits of grammar is enough to communicate
with one's masters. And knowing the situation of Rome where to a Roman
household, there were more slaves than there were Romans, you can tell
whose speech became the standard for the commoners. You see, instead of
relying heavily on inflections, the pidginized version of Latin used
word order/syntax to get the idea through. And think of the fact that
a lot of territory, inhabited by non-Latin speaking people, and that
means a lot more pidginization happening. Eventually, the Roman legions,
which no longer conscripted aristocratic property-holders as common
soldiers and instead, the commoners or "Quirites" as they are sometimes
called, was made up of soldiers who spoke lousy, non-inflected Latin.
This lousy, non-inflected latin, otherwise known as Vulgar Latin, later
became the basis of Spanish, Italian, French, Romanian, Portuguese, Catalan,
Provencal, et al.

I used to wonder why the Italian boot lost its Latin... Well, I
just remembered that in each Roman city, even on the Italian boot, the
slaves (who weren't Latin mother-tongue speakers) outnumbered the
Romans. (If you were a Roman aristocrat, you could have a "brigade"
of slaves at your command.) Just imagine the number of bastardized Latin-
speakers.... I can't blame them, they weren't taught the basics of
declension, case, and all those stuff that make Latin, German, Russian, and
other "pure" Indo-European languages difficult to learn.
* * * * * * * * * *

If you want to chat more about Pidgin this, Creole that, just
post another one... I'd be glad to chat more about it. I do have a lot
of experience with the process of Pidginization... I happen to speak
two highly pidginized languages from the Philippines. (These languages are
still in the process of further pidginization, so that means I'm a first
hand witness to such.)

Just Sharing some more,

Orion Perez Dumdum (Doom-doom)
IV BS Computer Science
Ateneo de Manila University (Philippines)