The Power of Babel: A Natural History of Language by John McWhorter

The Power of Babel: A Natural History of Language by John McWhorter

Author:John McWhorter [McWhorter, John]
Language: eng
Format: epub
Tags: Language Arts & Disciplines, Linguistics, Non-Fiction
ISBN: 9781446472408
Google: 1p64hVM40-8C
Amazon: B004XIVP5O
Publisher: Random House
Published: 2011-04-28T23:00:00+00:00

Creoles also suggest a “default” setting in how they indicate tense. The African languages that slaves brought to the Caribbean had various ways of expressing past tense: some with a prefix, some with a suffix, some with a particle before the verb, some with an element after the verb. In Sranan, past is expressed with a particle placed before the verb–A hondiman dati ben bai wan oso “That hunter bought a house”–as is the progressive and the future and most related concepts. In this respect Sranan parallels most creoles, where regardless of how the dominant group’s languages or the native ones expressed tense, the creole does it with particles placed before the verb. Noncreole languages have often strayed from this setting over time: English, for example, has will as a preverbal “particle” to express the future but has a suffix for the past (-ed) and the progressive (-ing).

Creoles, then, are mixed languages of a sort. However, more specifically, they combine pidginized elements from the creators’ and the dominant group’s languages and then expand this into a true language. The expansion is accomplished largely through refashionings of features already in the pidgin, this directed in part by universal “default” constructions that older human languages have often drifted away from.


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