Pidgin (Taal)


July 5, 2022

A pidgin language is a generally simplified language that arises when people with different mother tongues, who do not know each other's language, nevertheless try to understand each other. They do the latter, for example, by exchanging a few basic words and making gestures to clarify their intention. In this way, if the contact lasts long enough, a new language system can form between them which then develops further, effectively creating a new language. Such a pidgin language will contain elements of all languages ​​that the individual speakers themselves have as their mother tongue (usually only two different languages). In many cases, these are former colonies, where the language of the colonizing power (English, French, Dutch, Spanish, Portuguese...) mixed with the original language of the area. Most pidgins thus originated after 1500, when European colonization spread. Places where many pidgins have developed are the West African coast and a number of islands in the Indian and Pacific Oceans. But pidgins could also form during contact between traders from different parts of the world.


Pidgins are characterized by a reduced vocabulary and relatively few syntactic rules. To make sentences, the content words are put one after the other. The order of the words is determined more by pragmatic, contextual factors than by grammatical rules. A pidgin language is always a second language. The speakers therefore always have their mother tongue next to it. However, if the next generations in a multilingual area are raised in this pidgin language, the pidgin language develops into a creole language. A pidgin language, once formed, is also a lingua franca. However, a lingua franca does not have to be a pidgin language, and in most cases it is not; most linguae francae are world languages.


The word pidgin is probably a Chinese corruption of business.


Often a pidgin does not arise because one speaker knows the language of the other poorly, but because one speaker pronounces his own language "simplified", in the hope that the other will understand it better. This can be done, for example, by applying the grammatical rules of one language to the other language. For example, sentences or phrases are created with only infinitives and a different word order (such as the well-known English sentence Long time no see, which has, however, become part of the regular English idiom).


Two well-known historical pidgin languages ​​– which have since disappeared again – are Russenorsk and Sabir. Tok Pisin and Papiamento are examples of languages ​​that started out as pidgins and became native speakers and developed into creole languages.


Introduction to General Linguistics, Institute of General Linguistics, University of Amsterdam (1991), p. 56-57