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Caribbean Journal of Education

"Roots of Language" by Derek Bickerton, Karoma Publishers, 1981

Publication Date: 
January 1983

Bickerton claims that his work is intended to provide at least a partial answer to three questions. These are, (1) How did Creole languages originate?, (2) How do children acquire language?, and (3) How did human language originate? He argues that these three questions are related one to the other, and that answers to these three questions are included within the theory which he is putting forward. The foundation of his theory rests on the answers which he puts forward in response to the first question. According to him, in the language contact situation out of which Creole languages emerge, there develops a pidgin, initially. This pidgin contact language, which is not spoken as a native language by any of the people involved in the contact situation, is not, in Bickerton's view, a real language, but a language variety made up of a mass of relatively unstructured and highly variable language forms. Children growing up in such language situations and exposed solely to the pidgin, have to, somehow, process the linguistic data which they hear and form hypotheses which Will lead them to create a native language, a new language, for themselves. The way that such children create a native language out of amorphous, variable pidgin language data which is all that they have as a language input, is an indicator, for Bickerton, that there exists among human beings a bio-program which predisposes them to create full-fledged human languages in circumstances such as these.

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