Archive for the ‘Pidgins and creoles’ Category

No te vayas de Zamboanga

June 1, 2017

My morning name on Sunday was Zamboanga, which I immediately recognized as a placename, for a city on the island of Mindanao, the southernmost large island of the Philippines. And I immediately understand why it was in my memory: it’s from a song in the music book I had in the 3rd or 4th grade (I’m not sure which — look, this is all from almost 70 years ago), a compilation of folk songs for children. Which included a song about Zamboanga.

The original of the song was in Spanish — “No Te Vayas de Zamboanga” — or possibly in the Mindanao creole called Chavacano or Chabacano, but we sang it in English, probably in the widespread mistranslation “Do Not Go to (Far) Zamboanga”. (A more accurate translation is “Do Not Go from Zamboanga” or “Do Not Leave Zamboanga” — Zamboanga being both a place of great physical beauty and the home of the singer’s beloved.)

The mystery in all this is why this particular childhood memory surfaced on Sunday morning.

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The Jargon Matrix

April 12, 2017

Yesterday’s Dilbert takes us into a dark world of language, the Jargon Matrix:

(#1)

The Matrix, but with jargon from the world of technology businesses.

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John Holm

January 8, 2016

A very brief death notice for John Holm, a great pioneer in the study of pidgin and creole languages (and, incidentally, a very nice man). The NYT had a substantial obituary for him (by William Grimes) on the 4th, quoting linguist (and Language Logger) Sally Thomason on the significance of his work (and noting that John is survived by his husband, Michael Pye, and a brother).

Ben Zimmer posted a death notice on Language Log on the 4th (in “R.I.P. John Holm (1943-2015)”), based on the NYT piece.

John was resolute in treating pidgins and creoles as languages in their own right, not as debased versions of other languages — an attitude that is commonplace now but took considerable work to establish, a job that John did a lot of the heavy lifting on.

 

Me no likie?

April 23, 2012

Ann Burlingham wrote me on March 28th about an on-line argument about the expression me no likie, which she saw as racist (based on a stereotype of Asian English), but which others defended as childish language (as the sort of thing their 3-year-old niece says, and the like), some citing Urban Dictionary, which attributes the expression to the animated tv comedy The Family Guy. Other discussions cited Gullah [Sea Island Creole] and Jamaican Creole, and some writers saw me no likey X as an annoying webism:

Which demon-spawn, script-kiddie coined this baby-talk phrase, which I see plastered all over UBB systems every week? Who is he and what’s his address, because I’m going to beat him to death with a Nerf Bat. (link)

which brings us back to baby-talk.

This is a case in which everyone might be right, to some extent. We’re dealing with what we might think of as “imperfect English”, which can arise in several different contexts — child language acquisition, adult language learning, language contact — but can also deployed in intentional mockery of the English used in those contexts, either playfully or disparagingly.

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