Background Information

This page was designed for a psycholinguistics class project at the University of Oregon. The goal is to get information about some creole and pidgin languages, look at some history of particular languages, and tie them into a main theme. Grammar and innateness in relation to the topics will be looked at.


Pidgin and creole are languages that are created and used by a group of people for communication purposes.

Pidgin is words thrown out, there is no structure, and usually it is not long lasting. However, adults who learn pidgin usually speak it for the rest of their lives, and consequently, they do not develop grammar.

Creole is the pidgin system with grammar and is usually invented by the children who are exposed to the pidgin. Children invent this grammar without an adult model, it is grammar worked out with their peers.


There are many pidgin and creoles to look at, a few that will be included here are Louisiana Creole, Cape Verdean Kriolu, Papua, Haitian French Creole, Suriname, Languages in Guyana, and Languages in the Republic of Vanuatu. Most of these histories offer information about the people and the area that they live in. The reason for including these sources is to offer a more in depth look at certain peoples and their backgrounds

Influences on Pidgin and Creole Formation

The histories show that many factors can influence the formation of pidgins and creoles. In most cases, groups that speek different languages are forced together by various factors which can include migration, immigration, slavery, and insufficient education. These languages can be combinations or modifications of one or more already existing languages. In the case of Louisiana Creole, French was the original language that was modified to create the Creole. The Kriolu language in Cape Verde was influenced by a combination of Portugese and African languages. There are several Creoles in Hawaii that have been influenced by English. The peoples involved and their native language influence the formation of Pidgins and Creoles.

Grammar and Innateness

Grammar is seen when pidgins evolve into creoles. Usually the children who are raised speeking with the pidgins will get together and agree upon a structure of words for the pidgin, this applies grammar to their system of communication to create the Creole. The Creole is usually formed without adult influence, brings in the question of innateness. The fact that these children form grammar together, from a system of words, without adult help, is evidence for the fact that applying stucture to language, and forming grammar is innate. These children have no models to work by, there is nothing about stucture that they have already learned, thus, grammar formation appears to be a unique and innate characteristic of human beings.

Examples of Pidgins and Creoles

There are specific examples to look at to get a better idea of how these systems work. The Journal of Pidgin and Creole is an excellent source of information. It is under construction but promises to contain articles about Pidgin and Creole, and does contain a glossary which is very helpful. Pidgin to da max, The Home of the Lying Cow, Aunty's Pidgin 101, and Cape Verdean Kriolu in the United States all conatain examples of Pidgin or Creole. These prime examples of the languages show what certain words mean in English, and some grammar structures. The relations that they have to the native languages can be seen in some cases, such as the one form of pidgin spoken in Hawaii which contains some words that are similar, in the use of some of their syllables, to English words.

Suggested Readings and Newsgroups

If you would like to read more about Creole, the webpage; Suggested Readings on Cajun and Creole has a list of books on the subject. Newsgroups are electronic groups which use e-mail and chatting to discuss specified topics. Usually these groups require a specific written request to join. By joining, all public messages for the group will be sent directly to your e-mail address. For online discussions about Creole, here is one newsgroup. For one newsgroup that discusses pidgin click here. These newsgroups are a way to get information, answer questions, and discuss pidgin and creole.

If you have any comments or questions about this page, send e-mail to Jaime Jones.