Jonathan Edelstein over at The Head Heeb has a great post about a trial in the Bronx County Supreme Court, where a witness—one of a pair of Sierra Leonian brothers who were victims of attempted murder—spoke only Krio, and the court had to decide whether it was an actual language (requiring an interpreter) or just “English with a bad accent.” Go to his blog and scroll down to April 14 and the heading “Krio and the courts”; I’d give a permalink, but it would just take you to a 404. (Jonathan, I too was once a hapless sufferer in the world of Blogger; come on over to Movable Type! Oh, and thanks to Barry at Amptoons for the tip.)


  1. Steve, is it pidgins that are combinations of bits of other languages, and creoles are pidgins when spoken by children as their first language? Or did I get that the wrong way round?
    In which case, the pidgin that is [one of?] the official language/s of Papua New Guinea, has no native [creole] speakers??

  2. You got it the first time. A pidgin (from the Chinese Pidgin word for ‘business’) is a simplified language used between people of different speech communities; a creole is a native language that has developed from a pidgin. Tok Pisin, a main language of Papua New Guinea, is a genuine creole even though its name is derived from “Pidgin”; Andrew Dalby says “Tok Pisin is the native form of the English words ‘Pidgin Talk’: in context this distinguishes it from the local languages, collectively referred to as Tok Ples ‘language of the place’.” He adds that “it is the mother tongue of over 100,000 young people, a number that is growing rapidly.”

  3. You know, after I read this on Head Heeb, my first reaction (before blogging it, even) was to come over here and see if you had any comments on the story. 🙂

  4. Uh oh, I’m getting predictable!

  5. I hadn’t realized that “pidgin” and “creole” were distinct terms. Thanks for the clarification. (And MT seems like too much work for someone with my borderline HTML literacy.)

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