07 January 2010


I hate the word pidgin, a staple word in linguistics. To me, it is as bad as half-breed, mestizo, or bastard. The word implies that there is a "pure" form of English (or whatever language) and the "pidgin" is less respectable. One might as well say that, since it seems very likely that the human race began in Africa, that non-Africans (particularly Caucassians) are less "pure" than Africans and are inferior human beings. (Note that I deliberately invert the usual racial stereotypes.)

Except for the use of the word pidgin, the article "Bridges of Orality: Nigerian Pidgin Poetry" (1995) in World Literature Today by Ezenwa-Ohaeto seems promising. This is the abstract:

"The exploitation of oral traditions through a synthesized creative crucible enables the modern Nigerian writer to produce fresh, exciting, and artistic poetry. The Pidgin language provides an appropriate medium for this exploitation of oral traditions in poetry, for it acts as a bridge between the orality of verbal communication and the formality of the written word. Thus Nigerian Pidgin poetry is constructed as part of this utilization of oral resources, which has revitalized the literary scene and the poetic tradition."

If all human experiences have the same value and if languages (whether "pure" or "pidgin") that reflect or constitute these experiences also have the same value, then it makes no sense to use pejorative words to denigrate one language when compared to another ("purer", "older") language.

To cite a simple implication: a resident of Manila in the Philippines speaks at least three languages (which are mutually comprehensible, so linguists will quibble that these are just dialects and not really languages), namely, Tagalog (the language spoken by her/his parents), Filipino (the language s/he speaks in the market or street), and Taglish (the language s/he speaks when s/he is with friends in the same age group). To say that the Tagalog of the parents is a "purer" language than either Filipino or Taglish is merely to reveal one's age.

1 comment:

  1. A dislike for "pidgin" is prejudice. In context the word may only be descriptive like "slang," rather than pejorative. Also,
    the hypothesis assigning equal value to all human experiences is dubious.