Pidgin and Creole Languages

Pidgin and Creole Languages


Pidgin and Creole (hereafter P/C) studies have emerged as important challenges to linguistic theory and method. Interest in the field has grown along with the growing recognition of the cultural significance of these languages, and P/C material has mushroomed, including books, theses, articles, conference proceedings, and working papers, as well as sound recordings and religious and secular writing in Creole languages. Several universities--including Stanford--offer regular coursework in P/C studies and related topics, and a few libraries including the University of Hawaii (Tsuzaki-Reinecke Collection: microfiche catalog Z71242.R43 Suppl.) and Stanford have special Pidgin/Creole collections.

By definition Pidgins and Creoles (following Bickerton, item 11.1) involve language mix, and currently spoken Creole languages arose as a direct result of European Colonial expansion. Between 1500 and 1900, there came into existence, on tropical islands and in isolated sections of tropical littorals, small, autocratic, rigidly stratified societies, mostly engaged in monoculture, which consisted of a ruling minority of some European nation and a large mass of (mainly non-European) laborers, drawn in most cases from many different language groups. Speakers of different languages at first evolved some form of auxiliary contact language, native to none of them, known as a Pidgin(1), and this language, suitably expanded, eventually became the native or Creole (2) language of the community that exists today. These Creoles were in most cases different enough from any of the languages of the original contact situation to be considered "new" languages. Superficially, their closest resemblance was to their European parent, but this was mainly because the bulk of vocabulary items were drawn from that source, and even here there were extensive phonological and semantic shifts. In general then, the term Creole is used to refer to any language which was once a Pidgin and which subsequently became a native language ; some scholars have extended the term to any language, ex-Pidgin or not, that has undergone massive structural change due to language contact. It is this extended definition that is followed in this guide, treating as it does creolized and simplified languages in the broadest sense of the terms.

Getting Started

For information on a particular P/C language, dialect, jargon, etc., first check Holm's Pidgins & Creoles: Reference Survey (item 18.1), and then Reinecke's A Bibliography of Pidgin and Creole Languages (item 18). Holm has a language index; Reinecke does not. (You may also want to compare Holm with Hancock's "Repertory of Pidgin and Creole Languages" (item 29.1). If you find the language treated in these sources you will have both a description of it and a bibliography for it.(3) The easiest way to update Reinecke is to search SOCRATES, MELVYL (University of California), OCLC and RLIN for books, and search such other electronic databases MLA, DAI, LLBA, & SSCI for articles and dissertations.

Classification and Subject Headings

A thorough subject search for Stanford-owned books should include a subject keyword search [FIND SUBJECT] and a Library of Congress (LC) subject heading search in SOCRATES [FIND SUBJECT PHRASE, FIN SP]. The library subject heading is sometimes different than a language's common designation (i.e., Creole Dialects, French--Haiti is used for Haitian Creole). Most P/C titles at Stanford have been entered in SOCRATES. You will also want to search the online library catalogs RLIN & OCLC as part of your overall search.

The Library of Congress has not been consistent in it's classification of P/C material. Some clearly Creole languages are classified as a Pidgin or "other" mixed languages, some are classified as dialects of their "target" languages (English, French, etc.,), and some are classed sometimes as a dialect and sometimes as a "mixed" language. Some of these languages have their own subject headings, most do not. Nevertheless, shelf or shelf-list browsing and subject searching, mentioned above, will bring results. Furthermore, the original cataloging done for P/C material by Stanford for the past few years has sought to apply a consistent classification and subject tracing scheme to all P/C material, and the beneficial results are already apparent to the browser and subject searcher.

LC Classification: Mixed languages, including Lingua Francas, Pidgin and Creole languages

PM7801-7805 General & miscellaneous
PM7811-7814 Sabir. Lingua Francas
Creole languages
PM7831-7834 General & misc.
PM7841-7844 Spanish
PM7846-7854 Portuguese
PM7861-7864 French
PM7871-7874 English
(Cf PE3301 English dialects West Indies)
PM7875 Special dialects
PM7875.G8 Gullah
PM7875.K73 Krio
PM7875.S27 Saramaccan
PM7875.S67 Sranan
PM7891 Pidgin English
PM7895 Other dialects, trade jargons
.B4 Beach-la-mar
.F3 Fanakalo
.H5 Hiri Motu
.N3 Naga Pidgin
.P3 Papiamento
.P5 Pitcairnese
Chinook Jargon (PM846-859)
Gypsy dialect, Romany (DX161)
Mobilian trade language (PM1855)
Sango (PL8641)
English Dialects West Indies (PE3301)


The most important headings are Pidgin Languages, Pidgin English and Creole Dialects; each has numerous subdivisions. Check these out for yourself [BROWSE SUBJECT PIDGIN; BROWSE S CREOLE, etc.]. Creole Dialects and its subdivisions is the largest group, and it is subdivided first by "target" language, then country, then type of material, e.g., Creole dialects, French-- Haiti--grammars.

P/C languages with their own subject headings

  • Afrikaans
  • Annobon dialect
  • Beach-la-mar jargon
  • Chinook Jargon
  • Djuka
  • Fanakalo
  • Gullah dialect
  • Krio
  • Lingala
  • Mobilian trade jargon
  • Naga Pidgin
  • Neo-Melanesian language
  • Papiamento
  • Pidgin German
  • Romany
  • Sango
  • Saramaccan
  • Sranan
  • Tok Pisin

Other headings

  • Languages, mixed
  • Lingua Francas
  • Languages in Contact
  • Folksongs, Creole
  • Proverbs, Creole
  • Fables, Creole
  • Children's stories, Creole
  • Children's poetry, Creole
  • Tales, Creole

Overviews and Introductions

John Rickford (1991) "Pidgins & Creoles" in vol.3: International Encyclopedia of Linguistics, P29.I58; includes bibliography and list of languages. Robert Hall's encyclopedia article "Pidgin" (item 4) is a good source if a brief introduction is all that is desired. Dell Hymes' introductions to the several chapters of Pidginization and Creolization of Languages, 1971 (PM7802.P5 STK), especially chap. 3: Concepts of Progress, are useful if your interest is more serious. Review articles: Rickford (1977) "The Field of Pidgin-Creole Studies," a review article of Loreto Todd's Pidgins and Creoles in World Literature Written in English (16:477- 513); Jourdan (1991) "Pidgins & Creoles: The Blurring of Categories," Annual Review of Anthropology (20:187- 209); Bickerton (1975) "Pidgin & Creole Studies," Annual Review of Anthropology (5:169-194); Morgan (1994) "Theories and Politics in African American English," Annual Review of Anthropology (23:325-45); and Loretto Todd (1980) "Pidginization & Creolization," Annual Review of Applied Linguistics (1:19-24).

Other Articles

  • 1. Reinecke, John, 1938, "Trade Jargons and Creole Dialects as Marginal Language," reprinted in Hymes (ed.), 1964, Language in Culture and Society, p. 534-546. (P25.H9 STK). Prof. Reinecke was the leading figure in P/C studies until his death in 1983. This is a reprint of a 1938 article brought up to date with a bibliographic note, and is one of the earliest statements of the "modern" view of P/C studies.
  • 2. Hall, Robert, 1964, "Creolized Langauges," in Hall, Introductory Linguistics, p. 382-386. (P121.H29 STK).
  • 2.1 ______, 1964, "Pidgin Languages," in Hall, Introductory Linguistics, p. 379-381.
  • 3. Decamp, David, 1971, "Introduction: The Study of Pidgin and Creole Languages," In Pidginization and Creolization of Languages, p. 13-42. (PM7802.P5 STK). This is perhaps the best description of the development of P/C studies as an academic discipline. Includes extensive references. Decamp updates this article through 1977 in his chapter "The Development of Pidgin and Creole Studies" in Valdman (ed.), 1977, Pidgin and Creole Linguistics, p. 13-20 (item 10).
  • 4. Hall, Robert, 1978, "Pidgin," in Encyclopedia Britannica, 15th ed., (14:452-454). (AE5.E363 1978 REF).
  • 5. Valdman, Albert, 1981, "Indications," in Perrot (ed.), Les Langues dans le monde anciens et moderne, part II: Pidgins et Creoles, p. 621-630. (P121.L285 v.1 STK).

For introductory material on individual languages see Section II: Getting Started.

Textbooks and Monographs

  • 6. Hall, Robert, 1966, Pidgin and Creole Languages. (PM7802.H3 STK). Although dated, it remains a useful general textbook. Covers history; linguistic, social, and political significance; and structure and relationships of Pidgin and Creole languages. Chapters on phonology, orthography, morphology, syntax and vocabulary. Sample Creole texts.
  • 7. Muelhaeuser, Peter, 1974, Pidginization and Simplification of Language. (PM7802.M8 STK). Emphasizes importance of grammatical analysis in helping to understand and account for both the linguistic and non-linguistic properties of Pidgins/Creoles.
  • 8. Todd, Loretto, 1984, Modern Englishes. (PM7891.T63 STK). Though it deals mostly with English-derived Pidgins and Creoles, it is a good overview of the field and provides a useful summary of recent theories of the genesis and development of these languages.
  • 9. Adler, Max, 1977, Pidgins, Creoles and Lingua Francas: A Sociolinguistic Survey. (PM7802.A3 STK)
  • 10. Valdman, Albert (ed.), 1977, Pidgin and Creole Linguistics. (PM7802.P48 STK). Intended as a basic reader, including a brief bibliographic essay and Hancock's 1977 revision of his Repertory of Pidgin and Creole Languages, with accompanying maps.
  • 10.1 Romaine, Suzanne, 1988, Pidgin and Creole Languages. (PM7802.R66).
  • 10.2 Holm, John, 1988, Pidgins and Creoles, 2 vols. (PM7802.H65).
  • 10.3 Pidgins and Creoles: an introduction/edited by Jacques Arends, Pieter Muysken, Norval Smith. 1995. (Green Library Stacks PM7802.P54). NOTES: "An annotated list of creoles, pidgins, and mixed languages." Includes bibliographical references and index. Partial contents: pt. 1. General aspects -- pt. 2. Theories of genesis -- pt. 3. Sketches of individual languages: Eskimo pidgin, Haitian, Saramaccan, Shaba Swahili, Fa d'Ambu, Papiamento, Sranan, Berbice Dutch -- pt. 4. Grammatical features -- pt. 5. Conclusions and annotated language list.

Theories, Problems, Controversies

There are a number of issues inherent in P/C studies. Most can be grouped into a few broad categories: Pidgins and Creoles and problems of language acquisition and language universals; language life-cycle -- Pidginization, creolization, decreolization; language origins; language planning and policy; Pidgins/Creoles and national development.

A summary account of these issues is Mervyn Alleyne's "Introduction: Theoretical Orientations in Creole Studies," in the book of the same title (item 12), pp. 1-17. Also Valdman's Pidgin and Creole Linguistics (10) is particularly good as a background text, as are the two articles by Decamp (3) and the introductory sections by Hymes in Pidginization and Creolization of Languages (already mentioned in the introduction to section IV above). M. Clyne (1984) "The Decade Past, the Decade to Come; Some Thoughts on Language Contact Research" in International Journal of the Sociology of Language (45:9-20) offers an overview of language contact research generally. Some of the most interesting and heated debate focuses on origins and language acquisition; see Derek Bickerton's Roots of Language (item 11.1) and the relevant articles in vol.1 of Linguistics: The Cambridge Survey (P121.L567). Also see the review articles listed in section IV: Loretto Todd (1980) "Pidginization & Creolization" in Annual Review of Applied Linguistics (1:19-24); Jourdan (1991) "Pidgins & Creoles: The Blurring of Categories," Annual Review of Anthropology (20:187- 209); and Bickerton (1975) Pidgin & Creole Studies in Annual Review of Anthropology (5:169-194); and Foley in vol.4 of Linguistics: The Cambridge Survey. Below are listed several recent works which should provide an introduction to almost any P/C topic that interests you.

  • 11. Le Page, Robert, 1985, Acts of Identity: Creole-Based Approaches to Language and Ethnicity. (P40.45.C27L4 STK.
  • 11.1. Bickerton, Derek, 1981, Roots of Language. (PM7831.B52). Important, controversial and difficult work, summarized in Bickerton's article "Creole Languages" in Scientific American, July, 1983. There have been numerous reviews and extensive debate, which are reported in the Carrier Pidgin (20); also see Appendix A.
  • 12. Highfield, Arnold and Albert Valdman (eds.), 1980, Theoretical Orientations in Creole Studies. (PM7831.A27 STK.
  • 13. Hancock, Ian (ed.), 1979, Readings in Creole Studies. (PM7831.R4 STK).
  • 14. Highfield, A. and A. Valdman (eds.), 1981, Historicity and Variation in Creole Studies. (PM7831.A272 STK).
  • 15. Andersen, Roger (ed.), 1983, Pidginization and Creolization as Language Acquisition. (PM7802.P498 STK).
  • 16. Day, Richard (ed.), 1980, Issues in English Creoles: Papers from the 1975 Hawaii Conference. (PM7871.I87 STK).
  • 17. Muysken, Pieter (ed.), 1981, Generative Studies on Creole Languages. (PM7831.G4 STK).
  • 17.1 Thomason (ed.), 1988, Language Context, Creolization and Genetic Linguistics. (P130.5.T463).

Bibliographies & Indexes/Abstracts


  • 18. Reinecke, John (ed.), 1975, A Bibliography of Pidgin and Creole Languages. (Z7124.R43 REF).
  • 18.1 Holm, John, 1988, Pidgins and Creoles, vol.2: Reference Survey. (PM7802.H65 STK & REF).
  • 19. SUL Pidgin/Creole Acquistions, Dec., 1982- 1986. (Z7124.S82). Its arrangement follows Reinecke (18). Includes some articles where reprints or preprints have been received.
  • 20. Carrier Pidgin, 1, 1973- . (PM7891.A15, Current Periodicals). Covers new publications, theses, book reviews, and conf. papers.

General linguistic bibliographies with P/C sections are MLA International Bibliography ("Language Interaction and its subsections", Z7006.M64 REF and in FOLIO); Linguistic Bibliography of the Year... ("Creolized Languages", Z7001.P4 REF); Bulletin signaletique ("Sabirs.Pidgins.Creoles", P2.B84 REF and on CD-ROM as FRANCIS);LLBA ("Languages in Contact," P1.L26 REF and on CD-ROM); Bibliographie linguistischer Literatur ("Sprachkontakt", Z7003.B57); and ERIC. The ERIC microfiche are located in Cubberley. Also, search such other online databases as Dissertaions Abstracts International (in FOLIO), Social Science Citation Index on CD-ROM, and OCLC and RLIN (for booka).

Bibliography of the Summer Institute of Linguistics: 1935-1982, 2 vols. (Z7001.W33 REF) is the complete bibliography of SIL publications with a language index and including work done on Creole languages. Bibliographies of SIL branches: SIL Surinam (AKY6377b); SIL Papua New Guinea (Z7771.O3.P37 STK; Z4814.L5.P37 STK); and SIL Australia (Z7111.J43 STK). There are current contents services as CARL Uncover (in FOLIO).

English-based Creoles

  • 21. Viereck, Wolfgang (ed.), 1984, Bibliography of Writings on Varieties of English 1965-1983. (Z2015.D5.V5).
  • 22. English World Wide, 1, 1980- . (PE1.E5 STK; Current Periodicals). Contains bibliographic articles updating Viereck (21), as well as articles summarizing theses and conferences.
  • 22.1 Annual Bibliography of English Language & Literature. (Z2001.M69).

Romance-based Creoles

  • 23. Romance Creole Bibliography in Comparative Romance Linguistics Newsletter. This newsletter is currently cataloged at Berkeley but not at Stanford.

French-based Creoles

  • 23.1. Valdman, Albert (ed.), 1983, Bibliographie des études créoles, langues et litteratures. (Z7124.B53). Update of Reinecke for French Creoles, itself intended to be updated by the bibliography in item 24:
  • 24. Études créoles, 1, 1979- . (PM7851.C6 STK).
  • 25. Gazet sifon blé, 1983- . (PM7831.A23 STK/CPR). Published by the Creole Institute, Aix-en-Provence; French Creolists' counterpart to the Carrier Pidgin.
  • 26. Bulletin de l'Observatoire du Français contemporain en Afrique noire, "Informations bibliographiques", 1, 1980- . (PC3680.A38B8 STK).
  • 26.1 Créoles et/é Kréyol: Catalogue des ouvrages encréole et sur la langue créole conservés è la Bibliotheque Dépt. de la Guadeloupe, 1988- (plus supplements). (Z7124.B54).
  • 26.2 Creole & Pidgin Languages in the Caribbean: A Select Bibliography, 1972. (Z7124.P7).


  • 27. Curacau Public Library. Caribbean Collection. Quarterly Acquisitions List. Also New West Indian Guide/Nieuwe West-Indische Gids, and Amsterdam Creole Studies for Creoles of Dutch Colonial areas. A useful review dealing with Papiamentu is Ian Hancock's article in the Nieuwe West-Indische Gids 58(139-142).


  • 27.1 "Studies in Caribbean & South American Literature: An Annual Annotated Bibliography," 1985- (Fall issue of Callaloo).
  • 27.2 Bibliography of the English-Speaking Caribbean, 1979-1984.
  • 27.3 The Complete Caribbeana, 1900-1975, 4 v. (Z1595.C63).


  • 28. Reinecke, John, 1982, Theses on Creole Studies. Update with the Carrier Pidgin (20) and Gazet Sifon Blé (24), and Dissertation Abstracts International.

Maps, Catalogs, Checklists

  • 29. Holm, John, 1988, Pidgins & Creoles, vol.2: Reference Survey. (PM7801.H65 vol.2 STK & REF).
  • 29.1. Hancock, Ian, 1977, "Repertory of Pidgin and Creole Languages," in Valdman, 1977, (item 10), pp. 362-301.
  • 29.2. ______, 1981, "Pidgins et Creoles: Repertoire des Langues," in Perrot (item 5), p.630-647. Hancock's useful map and catalog of P/C languages was originally based on Reinecke's Marginal Languages... (item 30).
  • 29.3. ______,1985, A Preliminary Classification of the Anglophone Atlantic Creoles: with syntactic data from 33 representative dialects (PM7871.H3).
  • 30. Reinecke, John, 1937, Marginal Languages: A Sociological Survey of the Creole Languages and Trade Jargons. (PM7831.R43 STK). This, Reinecke's dissertation, remains the most comprehensive survey of P/C languages.
  • 30.1 Atlas of the world's Languages, 1994, (P375.A84 1994 DESK).

Additionally, Language Atlas of the Pacific Area should prove useful. Map no. 24 covers Pidgin languages in Oceania and Australia; and map no. 46 covers them for the Philippines and mainland and insular S.E. Asia. The maps are accompanied by explanatory text. Other language indexes and inventories that include Pidgins and Creoles, in addition to Voeglin & Voeglin Classification and Index to the World's Languages mentioned in Section II, are Barbara Grimes (ed.), Ethnologue, (P106.E8 REF); Heinz Kloss, 1974- , Linguistic Composition of the Nations of the World (P138.5.U5 STK); Kloss, 1977- , The Written Languages of the World (P371.W7 STK); and A Survey of Materials for the Uncommonly Taught Languages: Pidgins & Creoles (European Based) (Z7001.C45 vol.1).

Periodicals and Newsletters

Journal of Pidgin and Creole Studies (1986-) is the field's journal. The Carrier Pidgin (entry 20) is the most important P/C newsletter with over 600 subscribers and correspondents worldwide. It can be augmented by its counterpart for French Creoles Gazet sifon blé (item 25). Other serials exclusively dedicated to P/C studies are Études créoles (item 24), Amsterdam Creole Studies (PM7861.A2 STK), PAPIA, Revista de Crioulos Ibericos (1990-; eight issues are available; BEC, Boletim de Estudos Crioulos (1995-). The Nieuwe West Indische Gids (972.971 N682 STK) and English Worldwide (item 22) regularly include articles of P/C interest, and the latter has become the major journal for English-based Pidgins and Creoles. The Bulletin de l'Observatoire du Français contemporain en Afrique noire (item 26) is useful for French-lexifer languages of Africa. The library has other periodicals both in and about P/C languages, and they can be found as part of the standard bibliographic search outlined in this guide. Many though not all such periodicals can be found by a SOCRATES subject search [FIND SUBJECT Creole] in the serials file.

Monographic Series

Within the past few years monographic series devoted to P/C studies have appeared. You can browse the series contents by a SOCRATES title phrase search. All the series listed below are classed as separates and you won't find all volumes of a particular series together on the shelf:

  • Kreolische Bibliothek (Buske).
  • Varieties of English Worldwide. General series.
  • Varieties of English Worldwide. Text series.
  • Languages of the Guianas.
  • Krio publications series.
  • Work papers of the SIL.AAB. (Australian Aboriginal Kriol)
  • Society for Caribbean Linguistics. Occasional papers.
  • Creole Language Library.


The library has dictionaries, wordlists or other lexicons for most P/C languages. Recently, several major works of P/C lexicography have appeared (e.g., Jamaican Creole, Haitian Creole, Bahamian English, Sierra Leone Krio, Seychelles Creole) and others are planned or in progress.

Audio-visual Material

Library holdings are identified using the SUL P/C acquisitions lists (item 19) and the Recordings File (SELECT RECORDINGS) in SOCRATES. In searching the Recordings File use the general subject search FIND SUBJECT CREOLE or PIDGIN or DIALECT#; also use language names as FIND SUBJECT KRIO; GULLAH, etc. Currently over 100 cassette tapes and records are housed in the Archive of Recorded Sound or in the Meyer Library AV Collection relating to a number of P/C languages. These include language lessons, field recordings, recordings accompanying published works (there is a note of this in the SOCRATES record), as well as folksongs, folklore, and poetry readings, and even a musical comedy.

Recordings that accompany books do not normally have a separate record in the SOCRATES Recordings File; this material includes such titles as:

  • Peter Trudgill (1982) International English
  • J.C. Wells (1982) Accents of English
  • John Holm (1983) Central American English
  • Loreto Todd (1982) Cameroon
  • John Singler (1981) Introduction to Liberian English

You may have to carefully read the Notes section of entries in the SOCRATES Books File to identify this category of material.

The library owns several video-cassettes of interest:
Australian Aboriginal Kriol (Kriol Kantri; Australian Kriol Series)
Hawaiian English (Local People)
Jamaican Creole (Jamaica Folk Tales & Oral Histories)
Cajun French (C'est nice de parler deux manieres)
Haitian (Basic Guide, an introduction to the language of Haiti).

Microform Collections

There are two large collections of P/C interest. One is the Linguistic Atlas of the Gulf States (MFICHE 552 MTXT). The other is a collection documenting the Solomon Islands Pidgin literacy project (MFILM N.S.3296 MTXT). There are guides to both collections located in the Microtext Room. A copy of A guide to the microfilm collection, Solomon Islands Christian Association, Pijin Literacy Project (PM7891.29S597) is also in the Stack. Wantok (PNG) is on microfilm from 1983-1991 (MFILM N.S. 3883).


  1. Pidgin. A Chinese corruption of Eng. business. (O.E.D.). This etymology is debated, see Valdman (item 5).
  2. Creole. From Spanish criollo (native to locality, country) believed to be a colonial corruption of criadillo, dim. of criado (bred, brought up, reared.) (O.E.D.).
  3. Estimates of numbers of speakers are found in Ethnologue.

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