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Bookmark and Share Paper 1405

Segmental Typology of African Creole Languages: Examining Uniformity, Simplification and Simplicity
Thomas B. Klein
42-50 (complete paper or proceedings contents)


This paper presents and analyzes a broad sample of the phonemes of African creole and creoloid languages and contrasts it with the sound inventories of superstrates and potential substrates. The parameters of phoneme inventory size, vowel quality inventory, and the number of stop series are discussed in detail. It is found that the African creole languages are more uniform in comparison with their potential Niger-Congo, Nilo-Saharan, and Afro-Asiatic substrate languages, but not generally in relation to the lexifier languages English, French, Portuguese, and Arabic. Significant simplification is found only in terms of the total sound inventory, but not for vowel qualities and stop series. The typology of the phonology of the African creoles is not simple in an absolute sense. Instead, it centers on the typological middle. These findings necessitate a revision of popular conceptions of the alleged uniformity, simplification and simplicity of creole languages spoken in Africa and elsewhere.

Published in

Selected Proceedings of the 36th Annual Conference on African Linguistics: Shifting the Center of Africanism in Language Politics and Economic Globalization
edited by Olaoba F. Arasanyin and Michael A. Pemberton
Table of contents
Printed edition: $250.00