1. Education
Send to a Friend via Email

A Gullah proverb (from The Gullah People and Their African Heritage, 2005). Based on English, with strong influences from many African languages, Gullah is a creole spoken by the "Geechees" on the Sea Islands off the coast of South Carolina and Georgia.


A language that developed historically from a pidgin and came into existence at a fairly precise point in time.

Decreolization is the process through which a creole language gradually becomes more like the standard language of a region. See Examples and Observations, below.

See also:

Examples and Observations:

  • "A pidgin is the combination of two or more languages which sometimes occurs in trade contact, multi-ethnic or refugee situations, where participants need a functioning common language. . . . Sometimes the pidgin becomes stable and established and comes to be spoken as a mother-tongue by children: the language has then become a creole, which quickly develops in complexity and is used in all functional settings. The process of turning a pidgin into a creole is called creolization."
    (Robert Lawrence Trask and Peter Stockwell, Language and Linguistics: The Key Concepts. Routledge, 2007)

  • "A creole has a jargon or a pidgin in its ancestry; it is spoken natively by an entire speech community, often one whose ancestors were displaced geographically so that their ties with their original language and sociocultural identity were partly broken. Such social conditions were often the result of slavery."
    (John A. Holm, An Introduction to Pidgins and Creoles. Cambridge University Press, 2000)

  • "The English variety spoken by descendants of Africans on the coast of South Carolina is known as Gullah and has been identified as a creole. Of all the vernaculars associated with African Americans, it is the one that diverges the most from (White) middle-class varieties in North America."
    (S.S. Mufwene, "North American Varieties of English as Byproducts of Population Contacts," in The Workings of Language, ed. by R. S. Wheeler. Greenwood, 1999)

  • Disagreements Over the Creole Roots of Black English in the U.S.
    "[A]s for various arguments that Black English displays African or creole roots because of the role that aspect plays in its grammar (e.g., DeBose and Faraclas 1993), the issue is in fact not yet sufficiently examined to stand as an accepted fact. For one, tense plays a much more central role in Black English grammar than in Creoles or the West African languages of the 'Upper Guinea' region, underlyingly marking the past and future as obligatorily as any Indo-European grammar (cf. also Winford 1998: 116). Second, typical of Creolist Hypothesis advocates' generally insufficient attention to English dialects, the aspect arguments do not address the role that aspect in nonstandard British dialects may have played. This gap in argumentation alone renders the linkage of Black English aspect to Africa and creoles seriously incomplete, which is all the more significant given that there is indeed evidence that nonstandard British dialects are more aspect-focused than standard English (Trugdill and Chambers 1991)."
    (John H. McWhorter, Defining Creoles. Oxford Univ. Press, 2005)
Pronunciation: KREE-ol

©2014 About.com. All rights reserved.