Language and hybridization : Pidgin tales from the China Coast
Date of Issue2000
School of Humanities and Social Sciences
This essay looks at the history of pidgin and creole studies in the context of linguistic theory with particular reference to the study of ‘Chinese pidgin English’. It argues that, although linguistics makes the claim to be an objective and systematic science, an examination of the past reveals that its own discourses have been shaped by a range of powerful forces from outside the disciplinary study of language. In the case of pidgin and creole linguistics (or ‘creolistics’), one obvious influence is from European ‘race theory’ of the late nineteenth century, seen most clearly in the adoption of a vocabulary which includes terms such as monogenesis, polygenesis and hybridization. In the case of Chinese pidgin English, early accounts of the use of ‘broken English’ are found in the memoirs of sailors and merchants on the South China coast, and these were later supplemented by missionary and colonial accounts from Canton, Hong Kong and the treaty ports of China. The most influential account was that of Leland (1876), whose ‘comic’ account of Pidgin-English Sing-song contributed to the formation of a cultural imaginary of Chinese people at a time of growing anti-Chinese racism in the UnitedStates and Britain. Although many pidgin and creole scholars have denied a direct link between racial mixing and language mixing, it appears evident that the fear (and attraction) of racial miscegenation was at the heart of many western responses to pidgin English in China.
© 2000 [Taylor & Francis] This is the author created version of a work that has been peer reviewed and accepted for publication by [Interventions], [Taylor & Francis]. It incorporates referee’s comments but changes resulting from the publishing process, such as copyediting, structural formatting, may not be reflected in this document. The published version is available at: [http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/136980100360788].