World Library  
Flag as Inappropriate
Email this Article

Post-creole continuum

Article Id: WHEBN0005865545
Reproduction Date:

Title: Post-creole continuum  
Author: World Heritage Encyclopedia
Language: English
Subject: Diglossia, Decreolization, English-speaking world, Liberian English, Pidgins and creoles
Collection: Diglossia, Pidgins and Creoles
Publisher: World Heritage Encyclopedia

Post-creole continuum

The post-creole continuum or simply creole continuum refers to a situation wherein a creole language consists of a spectrum of varieties between those most and least similar to the superstrate language (that is, a closely related language whose speakers assert dominance of some sort). Due to social, political, and economic factors, a creole language can decreolize towards one of the languages from which it is descended, aligning its morphology, phonology, and syntax to the local standard of the dominant language but to different degrees depending on a speaker's status.


  • Stratification 1
  • Other examples 2
  • Notes 3
  • References 4


William Stewart, in 1965, proposed that the terms acrolect and basilect be the sociolinguistic labels for the upper and lower boundaries respectively of a post-creole speech continuum.[1] In the early 1970s Derek Bickerton popularized these terms (as well as mesolect for intermediate points in the continuum) to refer to the phenomenon of code-switching used by some users of creole languages who also have some fluency in the standard language upon which the contact language is based. University of Chicago linguist Salikoko Mufwene explains the phenomenon of creole languages as "basilectalization" away from a standard, often European, language among a mixed European and non-European population.[2] In certain speech communities, a continuum exists between speakers of a creole language and a related standard language. There are no discrete boundaries between the different varieties and the situation in which such a continuum exists involves considerable social stratification.

The following table (from Bell 1976) shows the 18 different ways of rendering the phrase I gave him one in Guyanese English:

1 ɡeɪv hɪm wʌn
2 wan
3 a ɪm
5 ɡɪv hɪm
6 ɪm
8 dɪd ɡɪv
9 ɡɪ
10 dɪd
11 ɡiː
12 ɡɪ hiː
15 bɪn
16 ɡiː
17 æm

The continuum shown has the acrolect form as [aɪ ɡeɪv hɪm wʌn] (which is nearly identical with Standard English) while the basilect form is [mɪ ɡiː æm wan]. Due to code-switching, most speakers have a command of a range in the continuum and, depending on social position, occupation, etc. can implement the different levels with various levels of skill.[3]

If a society is so stratified as to have little to no contact between groups who speak the creole and those who speak the superstrate (dominant) language, a situation of diglossia occurs, rather than a continuum. Assigning separate and distinct functions for the two varieties will have the same effect. This is the case in Haiti with Haitian Creole and French.

Use of the terms acrolect, mesolect and basilect attempts to avoid the value judgement inherent in earlier terminology, by which the language spoken by the ruling classes in a capital city was defined as the "correct" or "pure" form while that spoken by the lower classes and inhabitants of outlying provinces was "a dialect" characterised as "incorrect", "impure" or "debased".

Other examples

It has been suggested (Rickford 1977; Dillard 1972) that African American Vernacular English is a decreolized form of a slave creole. Once African-Americans acquired knowledge of their right to equality under law, their recognition and exercise of increased opportunities for interaction created a strong influence of standard (American) English onto the speech of blacks so that a continuum exists today with Standard English as the acrolect and varieties closest to the original creole as the basilect.

In Jamaica, a continuum exists between Jamaican English and Jamaican Patois.[4]


  1. ^ Stewart (1965:15)
  2. ^ Salikoko Mufwene: Pidgin and Creole Languages
  3. ^ DeCamp (1977:?)
  4. ^ Meade (2001:19)


  • Bell, R.T. (1976), Sociolinguistics: Goals, Approaches, and Problems, Batsford 
  • DeCamp, D (1977), "The Development of Pidgin and Creole Studies", in Valdman, A, Pidgin and Creole Linguistics, Indiana University Press 
  • Dillard, John L. (1972), Black English: Its History and Usage in the United States, Random House,  
  • Meade, R.R. (2001), Acquisition of Jamaican Phonology, Dordrecht: Holland Institute of Linguistics 
  • Rickford, John (1977), "The Question of Prior Creolization in Black English", in Valdman, A, Pidgin and Creole Linguistics, Indiana University Press 
This article was sourced from Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License; additional terms may apply. World Heritage Encyclopedia content is assembled from numerous content providers, Open Access Publishing, and in compliance with The Fair Access to Science and Technology Research Act (FASTR), Wikimedia Foundation, Inc., Public Library of Science, The Encyclopedia of Life, Open Book Publishers (OBP), PubMed, U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Center for Biotechnology Information, U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health (NIH), U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, and, which sources content from all federal, state, local, tribal, and territorial government publication portals (.gov, .mil, .edu). Funding for and content contributors is made possible from the U.S. Congress, E-Government Act of 2002.
Crowd sourced content that is contributed to World Heritage Encyclopedia is peer reviewed and edited by our editorial staff to ensure quality scholarly research articles.
By using this site, you agree to the Terms of Use and Privacy Policy. World Heritage Encyclopedia™ is a registered trademark of the World Public Library Association, a non-profit organization.

Copyright © World Library Foundation. All rights reserved. eBooks from Project Gutenberg are sponsored by the World Library Foundation,
a 501c(4) Member's Support Non-Profit Organization, and is NOT affiliated with any governmental agency or department.