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Examples of English-based pidgins


A simplified form of speech formed out of one or more existing languages and used by people who have no other language in common.

"A pidgin," says R.L. Trask, "is nobody's mother tongue, and it is not a real language at all: it has no elaborate grammar, it is very limited in what it can convey, and different people speak it differently" (Language and Linguistics: The Key Concepts, 2007). See Examples and Observations, below.

See also:


From Pidgin English, perhaps from a Chinese pronunciation of English business

Examples and Observations:

  • "At first a pidgin language has no native speakers, and is used just for doing business with others with whom one shares the pidgin language and no other. In time, most pidgin languages disappear, as the pidgin-speaking community develops, and one of its established languages becomes widely known and takes over the role of the pidgin as the lingua franca, or language of choice of those who do not share a native language."
    (Grover Hudson, Essential Introductory Linguistics. Blackwell, 2000)

  • "Many . . . pidgin languages survive today in territories which formerly belonged to the European colonial nations, and act as lingua francas; for example, West African Pidgin English is used extensively between several ethnic groups along the West African coast."
    (David Crystal, English As a Global Language. Cambridge University Press, 2003)

  • Early Hawai'i Pidgin English (HPE)
    An example of early Hawai'i Pidgin English (HPE) spoken in Honolulu in the late 19th century:
    What for Miss Willis laugh all time? Before Fraulein cry all time.
    "Why does Miss Willis often laugh? Fraulein used to always cry."
    (cited by Jeff Siegel in The Emergence of Pidgin and Creole. Oxford University Press, 2008)

  • From Pidgin to Creole
    "A creole comes into being when children are born into a pidgin-speaking environment and acquire the pidgin as a first language. What we know about the history and origins of existing creoles suggests that this may happen at any stage in the development of a pidgin."
    (Mark Sebba, Contact Languages: Pidgins and Creoles. Palgrave Macmillan, 1997)

    "There are several possible fates for a pidgin. First, it may eventually drop out of use. This has happened to Hawaiian pidgin, now almost entirely displaced by English, the prestige language of Hawaii. Second, it can remain in use for generations, or even centuries, as has happened with some west African pidgins. Third, and most dramatically, it can be turned into a mother tongue. This happens when the children in a community have nothing but a pidgin to use with other children, in which case the children take the pidgin and turn it into a real language, by fixing and elaborating the grammar and greatly expanding the vocabulary. The result is a creole, and the children who create it are the first native speakers of the creole."
    (R.L. Trask, Language and Linguistics: The Key Concepts, 2nd ed., ed. by Peter Stockwell. Routledge, 2007)

  • Pidgin Spoken in Nigeria
    "Againye tried to be a good nurse, attentive but not cloying, fetching me a stool to use while I bathed from a bucket and petting my head as I napped, saying, 'Pain you well well' in soothing pidgin."
    (Mary Helen Specht, "How Could I Embrace a Village?" The New York Times, Feb. 5, 2010)
Pronunciation: PIDG-in
Also Known As: pidgin language, auxiliary language
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