Mark Liberman has a fascinating post at the Log about the fact that “for 450 years or more, miners in Potosí (in what’s now Bolivia) have communicated among themselves in a mixed language spoken only by mine-workers in connection with mining operations.” It was first documented in a dictionary composed by Garcia de Llanos (1609-10), Diccionario y maneras de hablar que se usan en las minas y sus labores de ingenios y beneficios de metales [Dictionary and ways of speaking that are used in the mines and their engineering works and ore dressings]. Pieter Muysken says: “The main source grammatically for the language was undoubtedly Quechua, referred to in the dictionary sources as la lengua general de los indios [the general language of the Indians]. However, not all endings are Quechua. There are some Spanish and many Quechua endings, and some Aymara endings as well.” The post has some details about how it works, and in the comments Barrie England mentions the British mining dialect, Pitmatic (see this 2007 LH post).


  1. This I think is fairly common in Latin America. In San Andres y Providencia’s (islands northwest of Colombia’s Atlantic coast line) habitants speak of course Spanish but also a very interesting mix of “Criollo” and Spanish. This is a language that is only spoken in those particular islands and not in Colombia per se.
    So it is interesting that these hybrid tongues are developed in different parts of South America as well.

  2. Has anyone tried to see if there are rules for which language is preferred in choosing between pairs of synonyms in these hybrid tongues? I would think that ease of pronunciation by speakers of both languages would be a factor. For instance, I’m told that Arabic has no P sound.* In a hypothetical Franco-Arabic hybrid or pidgin, would the French word for a thing be preferred where the Arabic equivalent has a glottal stop in it, and the Arabic word where the French word has a P? That seems plausible, but I wouldn’t know. Have linguistics professors studied this?
    *I still recall the illustrative joke: Two Arab businessmen meet in an airport. A asks B “Where have you been?” B says “Bombay”. A asks “Bombay, India or Bombay, Italy?”

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