Marlyse Baptista was a keynote speaker for the Hispanic Linguistics Symposium at Georgetown University where she delivered a lecture entitled, "Variation and competing I-languages in creole formation". 

Variation and competing I-languages in creole formation


Creole languages are notorious for the extreme variation they display within a single variety and across varieties.  Such variation has been interpreted at times as symptomatic of alternate grammars punctuating a creole continuum.  For instance, the use of the plural marker in creoles such as Guinea-Bissau Creole has been viewed as unstable and varying along a continuum going from the most "basilectal" grammars where plurality is not expressed on the head noun (as in 1) to the most "decreolized" grammars where full agreement takes place within the DP, as shown in (2) below (Kihm, 1994:132). 

  1. Dus galu ka ta kanta na un kapwera.
    (Guinea-Bissau Creole)
    Two cock NEG ASP sing in a chicken-yard
    'Two cocks won't crow in one yard' (Kihm, 1994:132)
  2. Sapatus altus ku bonitu sin.
    shoe+PL high+PL that nice so
    ‘High-heel shoes that are so nice.’ (Kihm, 1994:132)

 A widespread assumption in creolistics is that different varieties and their speakers fall into distinct slots along a presumed creole continuum where factors such as social class and level of education (among others) determine to some degree whether a speaker adopts a basilectal or acrolectal/decreolized variety.  In this paper, I challenge this assumption on several grounds: As shown in Baptista (2015), varieties of Cape Verdean Creole (spoken in Santiago and São Vicente) that are considered to be at opposite sides of the creole continnum do not uphold such characterization upon closer examination of their grammatical systems and of the speech patterns of individual speakers.  Acrolectal features are readily identifiable in some grammatical domains of the Santiago variety (generally designated as the basilectal variety) whereas São Vicente displays "basilectal" features, although it is viewed as the acrolectal variety on historical, political and cultural grounds.  A careful analysis of the two varieties and of individual speakers whose speech patterns swing like a pendulum between the acrolect and basilect bring in plain view the inadequacy of the labeling of basilect versus acrolect and challenge well-established claims regarding the status of the Santiago and São Vicente on the creole continuum.  

In this paper, I take instead the position that the variation one observes synchronically across varieties and within each speaker reflects competing I-grammars. This paper further provides evidence of such variation  in the early stages of their development, as they first emerge.  Examining the semantics and distribution of two functional items io/yo (plural) and pa/pas (Negation) in early Haitian (Les Proclamations Révolutionnaires) and of –s (plural) and ka (Negation) in early Cape Verdean Creole (Língua de Preto) shows that the drastic variation these elements display are already present in the early years of these creoles' development.  I also propose that some of these functors result from morpho-syntactic and/or semantic convergence (Kihm, 1990) between source languages.