S J Gould and grammar

Doyle Saylor djsaylor at SPAMprimenet.com
Thu Dec 23 23:53:14 MST 1999


Title: Re: S J Gould and grammar
Greetings Comrades,
    Jim Blaut writes to me a succinct remark,
Jim,
Where is it writ that creole/pidgin languages don't have grammars? This is
wrong.
Doyle
    I would like to make a distinction here from the point above.  Pidgin refers
to a people forced out of their native language into a dominant culture for the
first time, trying in place where they can't use their own language to make
themselves understood to a motley croud of other people.  Pidgin refers to that
first stage of the process of a new language being formed as forced by traumatic
common experience.  The language formed arising in the second generation is
called a creole meaning the fluency of human community asserting itself.  A
creole is not the same thing as a pidgin.  A pidgin is the fledgling attempts to
adapt self expression to place where oppression is so all encompassing as to
remove the common grounds of speech of origins.  That is the point of making the
distinction between pidgin and Creole.  A Creole may appear to be heavily
influenced by a dominant culture, but is a language until itself.
    A person using a pidgin will impose a logic to their expression.  But they
have no reason to think that another person in their predicament shares the same
logical rule of the wording.  They don't start out with the same grammatical
rules.  They struggle in common to impose order and syntax from the beginning
afresh.  They are creating a syntax from their common agreement.  The artificial
and academic distinction made is that the children of persons (the second
generation) forced into this oppression impose a fluency to the common language
created which is a grammar of the language.  In that sense an etiquette is
formed which the first generation seldom seems able to find for themselves as
their own children do.  This is one strong reason why it is thought that
teaching another languages works best before the age of twelve.  That adults
exhibit difficulties with undergoing the fluency of speech acts, that children
don't have.
    In the sense I have written the above Jim Blaut is right.  There is always
going to be a rule or grammatical starting place for any human who has the
facility of a language when they must attempt to speak meaning to someone else
in the setting of a pidgin experience.  A new language will have old forms
orienting the syntax, but there is no common agreement until there is a common
agreement.  To have community consensus to this requires some sense of what
Carrol says about you can't teach grammar to someone.  In other words, where the
language didn't exist before it takes time for a human community to select from
experience a common language system where the rules are understood around the
community.  These forms don't exist as a grammar rule inherited from the past
though.  They are created from social experience.  There has to be a starting
place where a new language is unknown.  Has no grammar.  Even if some grammar
parts came from the other places of origin that contributed to those forced into
exile, through slavery, or need to work, the new language is not identical in
grammar to historical languages that contributed to that new system.  The
standard example of pidgin is the Filipino, Japanese, Chinese, etc. field
workers in the sugar plantations of Hawaii at the beginning of this century.
    I would ask Jim Blaut to define grammar.  I mean that in good way.  I think
his remark was a good challenge to my offhand remark to Carrol.  It is important
to distinguish what a grammar means from an inherited "universal
transformational grammar".  If we are going to seriously discuss such things,
and I think there is some good reasons to do this, then let us have some serious
remarks, from someone with expertise.
in soldarity,
Doyle Saylor







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