Word-formation Processes in Pidgins and Creoles. A Comparison of Tok Pisin and Papiamentu

Term Paper, 2014

15 Pages, Grade: 2,0



1. Introduction

2. Word-formation
2.1 Borrowing
2.2 Conversion

3. Conclusion

4. Bibliography

1. Introduction

Pidgins and Creoles are often considered to have a lower status than "real” languages. But they do have grammar, phonetics and also morphology and therefore should not be marked with a bad connotation. In contrast: they are full developed languages. The theory that “morphology [is] essentially alien to creole languages” is not verified anymore and has to be revised (Seuren, Wekker 1986:66). It is a fact that Pidgins and Creoles have less morphology and lexicon than their lexifiers, but nevertheless a sufficient lexicon does exist and even with interesting differences between the languages. We can see this on Holm’s statement that “Papiamentu’s historical movement toward Spanish has included its early relexification and lexical expansion as well as later structural borrowing.”, which shows clearly that word-formation processes on lexicon in Papiamentu exist. As well for Tok Pisin it is said that “the lexical influence of local languages on the pidgin was considerable.” (Holm 2000:98).

In this term paper, I will explore the interesting topic of word-formation processes in Tok Pisin and in Papiamentu: what do they have in common, are there any differences, and which reasons can be found for that? From all the existing word- formation processes I will examine borrowing and conversion in detail. All this will be mainly investigated on the works of Sebba, Holm, Mühlhäusler, Plag, Bartens and on the basis of Kouwenberg.

To understand the differences and similarities in the word-formation processes better, we have to consider briefly the historical background of the two languages: Tok Pisin is spoken in Papua New Guinea and was colonized and as a consequence thereof influenced in the 19th century by the English, the German and the Dutch. Above all the established Samoa plantations in 1860 by the Germans had an enormous influence on the development of this Pidgin, because it was used for communication with the inhabitants. Papiamentu instead is spoken in Netherlands Antilles including Cura?ao, Aruba and Bonaire and was colonized by the Spaniards and the Dutch in the 16th and 17th century. Later on came the Sephardic Jews with their trinlingualism as well and influenced this Creole. This caused a lack of a homogenous superstrate in Papiamentu. This inhomogeneity is also underlined by the belonging islands: Papiamentu on Cura?ao borrows more from Dutch, whereas Papiamentu on Aruba borrows more from Spanish and English.

The paper is structured as follows: At first I will describe the chosen word- formation processes borrowing and conversion and in regard to this I will then compare the two languages to finally find the possible reasons for the differences, which will be summed up in the last section.

2. Word-formation

Word-formation processes enrich the language and expand the lexicon. This is very important for the development of Pidgins and Creoles, because although a Pidgin has to be easy to learn, it also has to be large enough to cover new topics that may arise to fulfil the demand of the speakers. Hence there are various types of word-formation processes. In the following section, we will deal with three chosen processes: borrowing and conversion.

2.1 Borrowing

Borrowing is the act of adopting some aspect of one language into another. It may be lexical, but also syntactic, morphological or phonological. But in this section we will focus mainly on lexical borrowing. Because of the very small lexicon of Pidings and Creoles, they borrow words to fill this gap. In this case borrowing can be considered as a need. But there are also other cases in which borrowing only serves for prestige and therefore goes beyond the actual necessity. We will consider mainly borrowing at an early stage of development, although both languages still borrow actively. Borrowing at an early stage was made difficult by some linguistic and social factors, such like the preference for short words (cf. Mühlhäusler 1986:174). At this stage the languages had not yet stabilized completely and therefore needed to compensate their lack of lexicon by borrowing.

For Tok Pisin it is interesting to say that borrowing from the lexifier goes along with many differences. This is because of the fact, that borrowing is very difficult. The reason for that is the preference for bisyllabic and short words and also because a Pidgin does not want to adopt the consonant clusters of the lexifier and therefore has to split them up. The following examples show the differences and changes: 1) the lexical information of a borrowed word can be very different in pronunciation and orthography from the lexifier, because they have to split the consonant clusters. Another conspicuity is: 2) that the morpheme boundaries of the lexifier are ignored. It is also special that powerful words of the lexifier are attenuated in the Pidgin. This means that: 3) rude words from the lexifier are absolutely acceptable in the Pidgin. The following examples show all the three cases (cf. Mühlhäusler 1986:166-168):

Abbildung in dieser Leseprobe nicht enthalten

Another important fact is that the meaning of lexifier-language words can be altered to fit a differently structured semantic field. For example does lek not only mean ‘leg’ from the superstrate, but also ‘foot’ in Tok Pisin and mami can refer to ‘mother’ and to ‘mother’s sister’, which shows us clearly an extension of meaning (cf. Sebba 1997:117, Mühlhäusler 1986:231).

An interesting fact is the use from certain borrowings in different areas. In Personal domains, for example in religion, clothing and body parts, only few English words were used, whereas in areas of the American way of live they used many English words (cf. Romaine 1992:162,163).

There are not only correlations to areas, but to speech style as well. The borrowed words differ between everyday speech and formal situations because of the prestige of English. The prestige is an important motivation for the speakers (cf. Romaine 1992:170). Therefore Tok Pisin speakers use the borrowed words of their superstrate English for formal situations and the words of their substrate language for everyday speech and more intimate things, for example for body-part idioms (cf. Romaine 1992:167). In general it can be said that Tok Pisin relies heavily on English borrowing.

Tok Pisin borrows also many animal-terms. For example: the English term duck competes with pato in Tok Pisin, and animal with abus.

Abbildung in dieser Leseprobe nicht enthalten


Excerpt out of 15 pages


Word-formation Processes in Pidgins and Creoles. A Comparison of Tok Pisin and Papiamentu
Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz  (Amerikanistik)
Proseminar English Linguistics - Pidgins and Creoles
Catalog Number
ISBN (eBook)
ISBN (Book)
Pidgins and Creoles, Word-Formation Process, Linguistik, Borrowing, Conversion, Papiamentu, Linguistics
Quote paper
Sarah Antonia Gallegos García (Author), 2014, Word-formation Processes in Pidgins and Creoles. A Comparison of Tok Pisin and Papiamentu, Munich, GRIN Verlag, https://www.grin.com/document/499080


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