Pidgin languages as a putative window on language evolution

Botha R. (2006)


Various linguists have been taking seriously the notion that pidgin languages provide a window on certain facets of language evolution. Hence, for example, the contention that protolanguage is similar to pidgin languages as regards lexical and structural properties. Hence, too, the contention that, like processes participating in the formation of pidgins, language evolution is a gradual process that involves competition and selection. The present article seeks to appraise the notion that it is possible to draw firm conclusions about language evolution from data about properties of pidgin languages. It assesses in some depth the heuristic potential of the putative pidgin window on language evolution. In doing so, it identifies a number of fundamental difficulties that will have to be overcome in constructing a pidgin window capable of yielding new insights into language evolution. © 2005 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.

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