American Indian Pidgin English (fwd)

David Robertson drobert at TINCAN.TINCAN.ORG
Sat Mar 20 01:44:18 UTC 1999

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---------- Forwarded message ----------
Date: Fri, 17 Mar 2000 07:55:20 -1000
From: "Emanuel J. Drechsel" <drechsel at>
To: David Robertson <drobert at>


following your suggestion of yesterday, I am sending you a copy of my
"Praying Indian/Haskell" message, in case it did not go out to CHINOOK. Here
it is:


It is quite possible to argue, as I have acknowledged on previous occasions,
that single communities deprived of their native languages and other
traditions (e.g. the "Praying Indians" of early historic New England or
students of Indian boarding schools such as Carlisle and Haskell) spoke
something like AIPE; but incidental reliable attestations would hardly make
a pidgin that extended across entire regions of North America or much of the
continent. As regards Flanigan's dissertation to which Sally refers below, I
would not only raise some of the very points already made in my preceding
but mention another fundamental difference between AIPE on the one hand and
indigenous pidgins such as Delaware Jargon, Eskimo Jargon, Mobilian Jargon,
Chinook Jargon, etc. on the other: Europeans and their American descendants
could literally put some English or AIPE into the Indians' mouth (as
suggested by the Simms quote in my response yesterday). Such would not have
been possible for indigenous pidgins on any regular or grand scale, simply
because Europeans and their American descendants would have been
ill-prepared to make up realistic samples of Delaware Jargon, Eskimo Jargon,
Mobilian Jargon, or Chinook Jargon. If they let their fantasy roam, they
would have inadvertently reverted to their experiences with other peoples
speaking English such as African slaves. In other words, Europeans and their
American descendants could easily make up AIPE, but would have had a much
greater difficulty to do the same for any indigenous pidgin. For this
reason, I also contend that historical data for Delaware Jargon, Eskimo
Jargon, Mobilian Jargon, and Chinook Jargon are much more reliable than
those for AIPE.

Yet what about the argument of fairly regular patterns in AIPE phonology and
syntax that Sally raises below? I would have no problem recognizing these,
for we should indeed expect such by any theory of linguistic stereotyping,
which I argue applies to AIPE. Structural regularities thus do not
necessarily provide a good argument for the accuracy of AIPE attestations.
There is another aspect worthy of consideration here. The very structural
uniformity of AIPE attestations renders them suspect from a variationist
perspective, for by any theory of second-language learning we would actually
expect AIPE to have shown a much greater range of linguistic variation than
is evident from the historical record because of first-language interference
from the many different languages spoken by Native Americans. Accordingly,
we would expect a Delaware to have spoken a distinctly Algonquian-"flavored"
form of AIPE, while Muskogean patterns and loans should have appeared in the
AIPE speech of, let's say, a Chickasaw. Still other semantactic and lexical
differences would have been evident in the AIPE by Southwestern Indians. Yet
I regret to say that I have failed to find any such major regional
variations in AIPE so far.

However, my reservations about AIPE as a pidgin would not disagree with what
Sally suggests in the third paragraph below; quite on the contrary, it is
fully consistent with my arguments. I would like add on this occasion that I
am not on a campaign challenging Sally. I believe that both theoretically
and methodologically she and I are closer in our thinking than our exchange
might suggest. In my opinion, her work on Delaware Jargon and Chinook Jargon
is exemplary, and her book _Language Contact, Creolization, and Genetic
Linguistics_ (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1988/co-authored
with Terrence Kaufman) stands out as a cornerstone in the study of contact

Best regards, Manny

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