reply to post by TheWalkingFox
You know, because of the Norman period, I always thought modern English is a de-creolized creole. I think there are a lot of people against this
thought because of the implication that it somehow belittles our language. However, a hallmark of creoles is that they are isolating languages
(languages that have rigid syntax and simple or non-existent morphology). English indeed is very isolating, with few inflectional morphemes (that is
mini-words that don't have a meaning on their own, but only modify the meaning of the word they're added to):
-s, -ing, -ed, -en*, -t* (verbal morphemes in English - *are irregular or dialectal)
-s (plural morpheme)
-'s/s' (possessive morpheme)
-er, -est (gradation morphemes)
Compare with Spanish:
-o, -as/-es, -a/-e, amos/-emos/-imos, -ais/-eis/-is, -an/-en; -e'/-i', aste/iste, -o'/io', -asteis/-isteis, -aron/ieron; -aba/ia, -abas/ias,
(ibid), -abamos/-iamos, -abais/iais, -aban/-ian; -ando/-iendo; -ado/-ido; and many more (verbal morphemes
-s (plural morpheme)
-o/a, -os/as (adjectival morphemes)
This is unusual when you compare it to the languages it came from. Indeed, all Indo-European language are morpheme-rich, with ample conjugations. We
are unique in this instance of preferring separate words to conjugate our verbs in most instances: would, will, did*, used to*, (if) was/were to*
ENGLISH: I go / He goes / I went / I was going or
used to go / I will go / I would go
HAITIAN: M' ale / Li ale / M' te ale / M' te ap ale / M' pwal ale / M' ta ale
FRENCH: Je vais / Il va / Je suis alle / Je allais / J'irai / J'irais
SPANISH: Yo voy / el va / yo fui / yo iba / yo ire' / yo iria
NOTE: 1) English has a simple past form that is usually regular with -ed, but in some cases not (like went).
2) Haitian Creole "te ap" are usually contracted to "t'ap" but for clarity I didn't do it.
3) French Je suis alle' is called the passe compose and it replaced a conjugation similar to the Spanish one below it in more recent times - it is
akin to English "I have gone" in literal sense, even though you understand it as "I went".
4) Spanish does not need the pronouns yo or el because their conjugations are very clear on who does what. In English and HC you cannot eliminate the
pronoun because there is no conjugation (except in present tense English he/she/it where we put an -s on the end). In French, for pronunciation
reasons stemming from more recent sound changes, too many forms sound the same, even though they still write them differently.
The chart above shows that HC and English are more similar when it comes to verb conjugation for two reasons: 1) English tends to use a separate word
for all tenses but the past and 2) English requires use of pronouns which many European languages do not require, or only in some cases for
For example, if I walked up to you and said "know" in a question intonation, would you know what I meant? No. It can't be a command (which is
usually the only time an English verb can stand on its own: Go! Come! Eat!), if it's a question, then who is doing the knowing? Do I know? Do you
know? In Spanish, the same problem would not exist: If I said "Sabes?" You would know I was addressing you. If I said "Saben?" You would probably
understand that I'm talking to you about those people over there (whoever they are). Etc...
The reason I said "de-creolized" above is because we have to remember that change in language happens from the ground up, but there are also things
like social stigma, prescriptivism and others that affect how someone views the "proper" way to speak the language. If we are to assume that the
elite of England during the Norman period spoke French and the peasantry spoke "Old English", then there would have been a give and take between the
classes. Upward mobility would have meant learning Norman French; Speaking with your chattel would have meant attempting English. Neither group was
going to succeed perfectly. In the end, a lingua franca would have formed; a pidgin. As the "chattel" had children, the children would have learned
this "pidgin", which turned it into a creole - a native learned hybrid. (The elites would still have taught their children Norman French - odds are
though, that people like wet nurses, care-givers and assistants would have spoken the English creole and eventually the children of the elite would
have learned that language as well).
I just realized I'm going on and on and some or most of you might not even follow what I've written so far...
In that case, I'm going to stop here. But I suggest looking into this hypothesis (called the English Creole Hypothesis by linguists) and learning
more about it on your own. What I've written above departs from the scant stuff I've found on the subject. I've added more of my personal research
into Creoles, such as Haitian Creole and de-creolized creoles (such as African American Vernacular English)...but I can't assume you're all versed
in linguistics or its terminology, so ...go forth and research!