Creoles and Pidgins

The Survey of Pidgin and Creole Studies sums up the issue of attempting to define creoles and pidgins in these words: “There are no commonly agreed upon criteria by which the category of creoles and pidgins can be delimited” (xxii). However, many debates exist about the difference between them, there is lot scholars know about creoles and pidgins. These communication systems come about when multiple groups–who do not share a common language–pool their linguistic resources to communicate. These resources eventually supply the grammar and vocabulary of the new language systems (Siegel 2).

Eventually, the systems stabilize and may even become the L1 for another generation of speakers. In fact, one of the traditional delineations between creoles and pidgins is that while a creole can be an L1, a pidgin cannot. However, as Muysken and Smith point out, “This is not always an easy distinction to make, as one aspect of worldwide increase in linguistic conformity, and the concomitant reduction in linguistic diversity, is that extended pidgins have begun to acquire native speakers” (3).

Creoles and pidgins are important monuments to linguistic growth and change. They are not patchwork languages, nor are they deficient or broken versions of other languages. One language cannot be inherently superior to another, and students learning English or any other language should not be made to feel that their mother tongue is in any way inferior to the target language.


Arends, Jacques, Pieter Muysken, and Norval Smith, eds. Pidgins and Creoles: An Introduction. Vol. 15. John Benjamins Publishing, 1995.

Degraff, Michael. “1. Do “Pidgins” Exist? Do Creole Languages Come from Pidgins?” YouTube, uploaded by MIT OpenCourseWare, 07 Dec. 2018,

Michaelis, Susanne Maria, et al., eds. The survey of Pidgin and Creole languages. Vol. 1. Oxford University Press, 2013.

Siegel, Jeff. The Emergence of Pidgin and Creole Languages. Oxford University Press, 2008.