Plenary Address: NWAV 49

Linguistics professor and associate chair Marlyse Baptista was a plenary speaker for the virtual conference New Ways of Analyzing Variation (NWAV 49), hosted by the University of Texas at Austin from October 19-24, 2021. Her presentation was entitled “Out of Many Voices, One Language.” Read the abstract below.

ABSTRACT

Out of Many Voices, One Language

Pidgin and Creole languages typically emerge in multilingual settings and result from the multiple, complex social factors and linguistic processes (substratal transfer (Siegel, 2008), restructuring (Neumann-Holzschuh & Schneider, 2000) and feature recombinations (DeGraff, 1999; Mufwene, 2001; Aboh, 2015), among others) that participate in language emergence, development and change. The original creolophones' diverse linguistic backgrounds accounts for the unavoidable variability in the input to Pidgins and Creoles and make it necessary to consider variation as one of their inherent attributes (Meyerhoff, 2021). 

In this presentation, I focus on a set of Creoles in particular, and examine the nature and origins of their grammatical properties, comparing them to their diverse source languages on both the African and European sides. More specifically, I investigate the precise connections between the selected Creoles' source languages and the properties that these Creoles instantiate, to what extent their grammatical properties overlap or converge with those of their source languages and to what extent they diverge and innovate. 

This presentation will showcase how the original creolophones' multiple voices (Kihm, 1990; Baptista, 2009a, 2020; Faraclas et al. 2014) interact in the linguistic ecology in which Creoles emerge and how some of the linguistic features observable in the Creoles under study can be best explained when analyzing them through the diverse lenses of speakers of both the African and European languages (Faraclas et al., 2014). 

In the first part of the presentation, I provide comparative diachronic and synchronic analyses of two domains -anteriority and pronominal systems- in the selected Creoles and examine the variation in the expression of anteriority and pronouns across the Creoles under study and their source languages. I will show which variants can reasonably be traced back to specific sources and which ones are genuinely innovative.

The second part of the talk introduces the theoretical model and combination of methods used to examine the sites of convergence and divergence between the selected Creoles and their source languages. I demonstrate the complex social factors and linguistic processes that account for the observable variation across the selected Creoles in the two domains under study (anteriority and pronouns). Furthermore, by using multiple measures of complexity (not just morphological complexity), I show the complex processes underlying the emergence of Pidgin and Creole languages (Aboh and Smith, 2009; Baptista, 2009b).

Based on the complex picture of Creole emergence drawn by this presentation, in the third part, I make a call for drastic changes in the way that Creoles are discussed and introduced to students of Linguistics, Anthropology, Psychology and other fields (Bancu et al., in preparation). I discuss preconceived notions about Creoles that are inherited from the colonial times in which they emerged, perpetuated by current neo-colonial distorted narratives (DeGraff, 2003) and make a set of recommendations for their study, based on Bancu et al. (in prep.).

 

Boston University Linguistics Colloquium

On November 15, 2021, Marlyse Baptista was invited to deliver a colloquium presentation for the Linguistics department at Boston University. Her presentation was titled “On the Emergence of Creole Pronominal Systems: Social and Linguistic Factors.” Read the abstract below.

ABSTRACT

On the emergence of Creole pronominal systems: Social and linguistic factors 

Pidgin and Creole languages typically emerge in multilingual settings and result from the multiple, complex social factors and linguistic processes that participate in language emergence, development and change. The original creolophones' diverse linguistic backgrounds account for the unavoidable variability in the input to Pidgins and Creoles and make it necessary to consider variation as one of their inherent attributes (Meyerhoff, 2021). 

In this presentation, I first present a socio-historical overview of Upper-Guinea Creoles focusing on the original populations and languages in contact. I then discuss a range of complex processes involved in Creole genesis, including substratal transfer (Siegel, 2008), restructuring (Neumann-Holzschuh & Schneider, 2000) feature recombinations (DeGraff, 1999; Mufwene, 2001; Aboh, 2015), and focus more particularly on language convergence. 

Using the Pattern and Matter Mapping model or PMM (Baptista, 2020), I examine diachronic (Schuchardt, 1880) and synchronic data that compare the pronominal system of Upper Guinea Creoles' diverse source languages on both the African (Wolof and Mandinka) and European (Portuguese) sides to those Creoles today. A careful comparative analysis of the forms, functions and distribution of the pronouns (featuring both atonic single subject pronouns and double tonic/atonic subject pronouns) in the source languages will reveal 1) the precise connections between them and the resulting Creoles, 2) to what extent the observable properties overlap or converge in the languages in contact and 3) to what extent they diverge and innovate. 

The same complex process of convergence will be shown to occur in a variety of other contact situations. 

In light of the complex picture of Creole emergence drawn by this presentation, I and my research group at the University of Michigan make a call for drastic changes in the way that Creoles are discussed and introduced to students of Linguistics, Anthropology, Psychology and other fields (*Bancu, *Peltier et al., in preparation)1. I discuss preconceived notions about Creoles that are inherited from the colonial times in which they emerged, perpetuated by current neo-colonial distorted narratives (DeGraff, 2003) and make a set of recommendations for their study, based on *Bancu, *Peltier et al. (in preparation). 

1 *Bancu and *Peltier are both first authors of the publication "On "revitalizing" language attitudes towards Creole languages" that is coming out of my research lab Cognition, Convergence and Language Emergence (CCLE).

Cabo Verdean Creole in Education at MIT

Marlyse Baptista and Abel Djassi Amado of Simmons University were invited to give a presentation on “Cabo Verdean Creole in Education” at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology for professor Michel DeGraff's seminar on Linguistics and Social Justice. Their presentation can be viewed at this link: www.facebook.com/mithaiti/videos/418890529949008