Sociolinguistics: pidginization and creolization of languages

Sociolinguistics: pidginization and creolization of languages

We noted earlier that in many of the lands the Arabs conquered before Arabic took over completely, there must have been a prolonged period of bi- or multilingualism, which is a few areas still survives in a vestigial form: (neo)-Aramaic-Arabic in parts of Iraq and Syria, Berber-Arabic in large areas of Morocco and Algeria, and still in a small way in Mauritania. In Egypt, Coptic survived in pockets as a domestic vernacular language alongside Arabic in Middle Egypt until possibly the seventeenth century.

Pace the theory of Versteegh  mentioned earlier, full-blown pidginization and creolization (Tosco and Manfredi ) seems to have been rare in the history of Arabic, attested with certainty only in a couple of cases: in the Arabic of Juba, south Sudan (Smith and Ama 2005; Miller 2007; Manfredi and Petrollino ), in the related Ki-Nubi language of Kenya and Uganda (Heine 1982; Wellens 2005), and in the Arabic pidgin spoken by South Asian labourers in the modern Gulf States (Smart 1990; Naess 2008).

Why have pidginization and creolization been so rare?

Permanent settlement and long-term integration with the indigenous population, including the conversion of the latter to Islam, seems to have been the pattern in most of the conquered territories from the first migrations of the eighth century. Arabic was learned as a second language directly from its resident native speakers, who were from the start neighbors, co-religionists, and marriage partners. It is no coincidence that the examples we do have of Arabic pidginization/creolization are in East Africa, where the contact of Arabic native speakers was with ever-changing groups of speakers of indigenous languages in circumscribed settings.

Related Post Sociolinguistics : Geography and economy, Arabic dialects

In Juba, a pidgin based on Egyptian spoken Arabic arose originally in military camps³² after southern Sudan was annexed by the Turkish–Egyptian government in 1820. It developed over about fifty years into an urban pidgin/creole and then an inter-ethnic lingua franca in the multilingual Equatorial Province of southern Sudan (Miller 2007). In the modern Gulf, a semi-permanent, poorly educated, rotating, and largely South Asian labor force, the men usually housed in camps, has been employed since the oil boom of the 1970s in construction, cleaning, cooking, gardening, and other menial tasks, which has brought it into contact with native speakers of Gulf Arabic in a predictable and limited set of communication contexts.

Unlike earlier generations of Indian white-collar workers and technicians employed by the British in the Gulf, these manual laborers know no English. A Gulf Arabic-based pidgin has been the result, whose basic structures seem to be common to the whole Gulf region (Naess 2008). This relative structural regularity is probably a consequence of the fact that because its speakers have different mother tongues, the pidgin has acted as a lingua franca between them as well as a means of communication with their hosts: constant interaction between them over about forty years has helped to establish it. Nonetheless, compared to Juba Arabic or Ki-Nubi, which are much older, Gulf Pidgin Arabic is still much less standardized.

Sociolinguistics: pidginization and creolization of languages

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