Creole Languages

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One use for the term creole has been for stable languages developed from a mixture of others. Linguists speak of creole languages as taking words and grammar from a substrate language and adding features of other languages. Some examples are the Caribbean Creoles which have English as the substrate and African or American Native language additions. Research has pointed to the age of European exploration and conquest as resulting in many creole languages.

While most creole language research has centered on those having European languages as their base, there are also some having substrates of Arabic, Chinese, or Malay. It is believed that about 100 creole languages have existed since the 1500s. If we count only these recent languages, Haitian Creole is the one with the largest number of speakers, at about ten million.

The field of creole language research is changing, even today. There are different opinions about the history, origins, and evolutions of creole languages. For example, some have suggested that Yiddish could be a creole combining German and other languages with Hebrew. Perhaps someday the idea will be accepted that all modern languages have undergone processes of creolization. So, English could be considered a creole.

My book, Asante’s Gullah Journey, contains some use of Gullah. This language, spoken by descendants of African American slaves along the sea coasts and islands of the Carolinas in the America South is a creole language believed to have substrates of West African languages. Another speech pattern featured in the story is Southern Black dialect, sometimes known as African American Vernacular English. I hope these language features add a richness to the tapestry of the story.

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