Topics in Linguistics: Creole Languages and Caribbean Identities >> Content Detail

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Part 1: Introduction and Overview
1Overview of syllabus.

"Creole" people and "Creole" languages in space and in time.

General and language-/linguistic-specific background.

Introduction of basic terminology and fundamental - and often erroneous - assumptions in Creole linguistics. (The linguistic study of Creole languages is also known as "CREOLISTICS".)

The set of assumptions that we will critically examine throughout this class includes the foundational axiom of Creolistics, namely the so-called "PIDGIN-TO-CREOLE LIFE-CYCLE."

[According to the PIDGIN-TO-CREOLE LIFE-CYCLE, any Creole language would have emerged abruptly as the antecedent PIDGIN acquired native speakers. One correlate of that axiom is that Creole languages fall outside the class of structurally "normal" / "genetic" languages with "normal" / "genetic" pedigree as defined by the family-tree model of gradual linguistic change / speciation: languages in the standard family-tree (e.g., French) are assumed to have developed gradually from "normal" full-fledged languages (e.g., Latin), not from structurally reduced Pidgins.]
Part 1 (continued): Introduction and Overview
2What is the subject matter? Recapitulate from last time: What does it mean to study Creole Languages and Caribbean Identities?

How does it all happen? The socio-historical and cultural context of Creolization. The dynamics of language contact.

What can Creole linguistics and attitudes about Creoles teach us about Caribbean identities?

What can Creole linguistics and attitudes about Creoles teach us about identity formation outside the Caribbean? And what can Creolistics teach us about (the identities of) linguists and other scholars who write about Creole languages? Creolistics as a case study of the interface between power and (the production of) knowledge.

Implications for, or parallels with, other kinds (e.g. cultural) 'creolization'. Linguistic creolization and/vs. cultural creolization.
Part 2: Socio-historical and Linguistic Issues. Case Study I: West-Indian Creoles
3The 'anglophone' Caribbean. Introduction. Socio-historical overview.

What does 'West-Indian Creole' sound like? What does it look like? A sampling.

Are all Creoles equal? The so-called Creole Continuum.

Linguistic sketches. Morphology and syntax of West-Indian (English-lexicon based) Creoles.

Gaining familiarity with Jamaican Creole aka Patwa - analyzing a Patwa text, Big Tings Laas Wiik.

Can we identify 'Creole features'? How?

Meta-linguistic attitudes. Issues of (mis - ?) identification. The politics of Patwa.

The socio-linguistics of stigmatized language varieties - in the Caribbean and beginnings. Why are certain stigmas (which?) associated with Creole languages? By whom?

Prescriptivism vs. descriptivism revisited.
Part 3: Socio-historical and Linguistic Issues. Case Study II: Haitian Creole
4The case of Haiti.

Locating Haiti in space and in time. A socio-historical and cultural sketch.

A (socio-) linguistic sketch. Diglossia?

Meta-linguistic attitudes vis-à-vis Haitian Creole.

Morphology and syntax of Haitian Creole.
Part 4: Elucidating Creole Genesis: Theoretical Debates. Myths and Facts
5More on Haitian Creole morpho-syntax.

Creole Genesis: The Haitian case. What's to be explained?

Earlier theories and their assumptions about the contributions of Europeans and Africans in Creole genesis. Prejudices, fallacies and facts.

Problems for traditional approaches to language classification and to the classification of diachronic phenomena ( e.g., "language change" vs. "Creole genesis"; cf. the deeply-rooted dualism that opposes Creole vs. non-Creole languages from the 17th-century onwards).

An overview of 'modern' attempts to explain linguistic creolization.

Three major theories: Substratist (pro-Africanist), Superstratist (pro-Europeanist) and Universalist (pro-'creationist'). A debate.

Creole-genesis theories and their (implicit) claims on the origins of Creole culture and on the formation of Caribbean identities.

Does Creole genesis really require a 'separate' (i.e., sui generis) theory? "Cartesian-Uniformitarian" approaches.
Part 5: Toward a Cartesian-Uniformitarian Perspective on "Creolization"
6Did all Creoles develop in the same "catastrophic" way? Did Creoles develop in radically different ways from how non-Creoles have evolved? Can Creole morphology be used to typologically set apart from non-Creole morphology on the basis of purely-synchronic and purely-structural criteria?

What role do language acquisition (first and second) and language use and processing play in Creole genesis and in language change more generally?

Interaction between internal/cognitive and external/sociohistorical factors in the creation and transmission of linguistic structure.

Creole-genesis theories and meta-linguistic attitudes. The role of (post -) colonial history and of culture in the formation of Creole languages and Creole studies. Relationship between power and the production of knowledge - in Creole studies and beyond.
Project prospectus due
Part 6: Bringing it Back Home
7Are there any "Creole" (- like) languages in the U.S.? A socio-linguistic look at African-American English (AAE) and at Gullah.

On the genesis (or geneses) of AAE and of Gullah?

AAE, Gullah and 'de-creolization' - myth or reality?

AAE: Creole origins + de-Creolization?

The socio-linguistics and politics of AAE. The Ebonics debate.

Validation AAE. Learning from Oprah and others.

A comparative look at West-Indian Creoles, Gullah and AAE.
Part 7: West-Indian Literature
8Patwa in West-Indian literature: siiryos bizniz!

'Creole literature': an oxymoron?

Literature and/vs. 'Orature'.

What language(s) should West-Indian poets express themselves in?

Language and identity in Caribbean literature.

Louise Bennett, Mutabaruka, Michael Smith, Derek Walcott, Lorna Goodison, etc.
Part 8: Back to beginnings: Caribbean Plantation Life
9La ultima Cena 'The Last Supper' (film). An apercu from 19th-century Cuba.

The socio-historical context of Creolization (revisited).

Slavery within European civilization.

Christianity and slavery. The docile slave as good Christian.

Christianity and slavery. Irreconcilable conflicts.

Linguistic and cultural continua.

Maroon phenomena.

Sex and gender in the formation of Caribbean identities.

Re/production and resistance.
Part 9: Creole Identities
10Discuss proposals for term papers.

Representing Creoleness. Perspectives from history, from orthography, from literature and from sociology.

What is to be represented, and how? The Haitian Creole orthographic debates.

How do Creole speakers chose to project themselves to the world? Past, present and future of (representing) Creoleness. Apparent paradoxes.

Creole speakers' attitudes toward elements of their Creole language and culture.

Caribbean literature (revisited). "How to be a Caribbean writer?"

More on Creole Identities. Haiti vs. the Dominican Republic.

Mirrors of the Heart (film).
Part 9 (continued): Creole Identities
11Religion in the Caribbean.

Vodou in Haiti. The Divine Horsemen (film).

Yoruba religion in cuba. Oggun: Eternally Present (film).

Caribbean religions: 'New world' syncretisms and/or links to a mythical Africa?

Other cultural aspects of Creolization. Dance, music etc.

Creole genesis (revisited).

To conclude: what does it all mean?

Epilogue: where do we go from here?
Part 10: Final Projects and Presentations
12Students presentations of their final projects.Term papers due


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