Archive for the ‘Pidgins and creoles’ Category

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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