Avoiding bias in comparative creole studies: Stratification by lexifier and substrate

Susanne Maria Michaelis

Abstract

One major research question in creole studies has been whether the social/diachronic circumstances of the creolizaton processes are unique, and if so, whether this uniqueness of the evolution of creoles also leads to unique structural changes, which are reflected in a unique structural profile. Some creolists have claimed that indeed the answer to both questions is yes, e.g. Bickerton (1981), McWhorter (2001), and more recently Peter Bakker and Ayméric Daval-Markussen. But these authors have generally overlooked that cross-creole generalizations require representative sampling, especially when working quantitatively. Sampling for genealogical and areal control has been a much discussed topic within world-wide typology, but not yet in comparative creolistics. In all available comparative creoles studies, European-based Atlantic creoles are strongly overrepresented, so that typical features of these languages are taken as “pan-creole” features, e.g. serial verbs, double-object constructions, or obligatory use of overt pronominal subjects. But many of these Atlantic creoles have the same genealogical/areal profile, i.e. European (lexifier) + Macro-Sudan (substrate). I therefore propose a new sampling method that controls for genealogical/areal relatedness of both the substrate and the lexifier, which I call “bi-clan” control (where “clan” is a cover term for linguistic families and convergence areas).

Keywords

creole languages; creole universals; sampling; genealogical and areal bias; grammaticalization

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