This blog is for everyone who uses words.

The ordinary-sized words are for everyone, but the big ones are especially for children.

Wednesday, 25 May 2011

Nuts and Bolts: pidgin.

Pidgins are invented when people who speak different languages try to talk to one another. Usually this involves putting together a mixture of words from both (or perhaps more than two) languages.

This sounds a good idea, but there are all sorts of problems with it. For a start, it's often really difficult to pronounce someone else's language (feuilleter, anyone?). This means that some words get so mangled that no one can understand them except the other people in the area who can't pronounce them either. 

Another problem is that words aren't the only things you need in order to be understood. You also need to know in what order the words need to be used, as well as all sorts of other stuff that your own language might not even bother with. Like, (if you happen to be English) whether a bicycle is feminine or what an ablative is.

Pidgins often solve these problems in the same ways: monkey monkey might mean more than one monkey, for instance; or it might mean a particularly large or splendid monkey. 

Tenses often end up being formed by adding an extra word (I go eat); and difficult-to-say words often loose their last sounds.

A pidgin will be quite clumsy for a while. In fact it won't work as a proper language until its speakers have children who grow up speaking it from birth. And then, by magic (well, how else could it happen?) the pidgin develops the ability to say absolutely anything absolutely perfectly, and a creole is born.

Altogether now: aaaahhhh...

Word To Use Today: pidgin. This word might come from the Chinese pronunciation of the word business, or it might be a form of the word pigeon because you can only say very basic, short things: the kind of thing a pigeon might carry in a message.

1 comment:

  1. Next time we meet, I'll say 'feuilleter' at you! It's not as hard as you think!