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Language Change in a Creole Crontinuum: Decreolization

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Title: Language Change in a Creole Crontinuum: Decreolization
Authors: Sato, Charlene J.
Issue Date: 1991
Abstract: DECREOUZATION IS TYPICALLY VIEWED as the process through which a creole language gradually merges with its lexifier language, i.e., the standard language of the community, as a result of creole speakers' increased access to and "targeting" of the latter (Andersen 1983, Bickerton 1975, DeCamp 1971, Rickford 1983). The study of this process, largely motivated over the last twenty years by questions about the consequences of language contact and the nature of language change, has made less mysterious the extensive linguistic variation observed in contemporary creole communities. Specifically, the proposal that synchronic variation reflects diachronic change in systematic ways (Weinreich, Labov & Herzog 1968) has received considerable support in cross-sectional investigations (see, e.g, Bickerton 1973 & 1975, DeCamp 1971, Rickford 1979). Perhaps because these studies have yielded significant insights into the systematicity of variation in creole settings, it has been assumed rather than demonstrated that their findings reflect how decreolization actually occurs in real time. Yet, as researchers (e.g., Meisel, Clahsen & Pienemann 1981) in the field of second language acquisition have convincingly shown, important aspects of interlanguage development can be distorted or inadequately described in cross-sectional studies. Among creolists, Rickford (1983) has discussed this problem most extensively and emphasized the need for longitudinal studies to document actual patterns and rates of change.
The present paper reports on such a study of Hawai'i's creole continuum, focusing on (1) the decreolization rates of different linguistic and discoursal features; (2) the proposal that substantial decreolization occurs, not over the lifetimes of individuals (as in the case of "normal" second language acquisition), but across generations of speakers (Rickford 1983); and (3) the role of political and sociopsychological factors in decreolization. The first and second issues will be addressed through quantitative analysis of longitudinal data from four Hawai 'i Creole English (HCE) speakers.2 The third will draw upon this writer's analysis, based on participant-observation, of recent public controversies involving HCE.
Pages/Duration: 21 pages
URI/DOI: http://hdl.handle.net/10125/38645
Appears in Collections:Working Papers



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