What do creoles and pidgins tell us about the evolution of language?
University of Chicago
I argue that what little the development of creoles and pidgins tells us about the evolution of language in mankind is definitely not what has been claimed in the literature. It has to do with competition and selection during the evolution, with how gradual the process was, and with how communal norms arise. The histories of the development of creoles and pidgins in, respectively, the European plantation and trade colonies of the 17th to 19th centuries present nothing that comes close to replicating the evolutionary conditions that led to the emergence of modern language. Nor are there any conceivable parallels between, on the one hand, the early hominids’ brains and minds that produced What do creoles and pidgins tell us the protolanguages posited by Bickerton (1990, 2000) and Givón (1998) and, on the other, those of both the modern adults who produced (incipient) pidgins and the modern children who produce child language, even if one subscribes to the ontogeny recapitulates-phylogeny thesis.