Keynote Speakers

Peter Bakker

Peter Bakker (Aarhus University): Why are there many Spanish pidgins but few Spanish creoles, and few Portuguese pidgins but many Portuguese creoles?


There are dozens of documented Portuguese creoles, in Upper Guinea, Gulf of Guinea, India, Sri Lanka, Molucca Straits, Indonesia. There are three documented Spanish lexifier creoles, in Colombia (Palenquero), the Caribbean (Papiamentu) and the Philippines (Chabacano, in several varieties).

A recent global survey of Spanish pidgins (Bakker & Parkvall, in press) revealed the (usually scarce) documentation of 17 Spanish pidgins from the Americas, the Caribbean, Asia, Europe, and North Africa, which appeared to display enormous structural diversity. Portuguese pidgins, however, have only been documented in China (Macau and Canton), Brazil, West Africa and Europe.

Portuguese pidgins and Spanish creoles have played a major role in the debates in the history of creole studies.

Until the 1970s, many creolists agreed that West African Portuguese Pidgin would have played a major role in the formation of creoles. A putative Portuguese pidgin/creole would explain the observed similarities between creoles with diverse lexifiers. This is now almost universally rejected. The scarcity of Spanish creoles has been a matter of debate (e.g. McWhorter 2002, Sessarego 2020).

The enormous structural diversity of Spanish pidgins sheds a light on the independence and creativity of humans forming such means of interethnic communication. Most Iberian creoles use the infinitive as the default form of the verb, but most Spanish pidgins do not.

Why do we find these contrasts between Iberian pidgins and creoles, and which implications do these pidgins have for the field, and for Iberian creoles? In my presentation, I will discuss pidgin structural data and their implications for Iberian creoles, and creolization in general.



John Lipski

John M. Lipski (The Pennsylvania State University): "Does the ‘half’ language Media Lengua have a half-life? Empirical approaches to the study of Media Lengua stability"


This presentation addresses a fundamental linguistic question: how do multi-lingual speakers know which language they are hearing/speaking at any given time, or, more generally, what is the minimal linguistic material required to keep languages apart in perception and production? The details come from a unique linguistic environment found in northern Ecuador, where alongside Spanish—spoken as a second language with varying degrees of proficiency—the Andean language Kichwa co-exists with the “new” language Media Lengua, essentially a variant of Kichwa in which all lexical roots have been replaced by their Spanish counterparts. Only the disjoint sets of lexical roots keep the languages apart.

Or do they? Fully relexified languages like Media Lengua are as scarce as the heaviest radioactive isotopes, and like the latter, are predicted to have short life spans when not hived off from their lexical and/or grammatical source languages. Thomason (2003, pp. 23-24) proposes that “[...] the only uncontroversially stable bilingual mixed languages are those that are now spoken outside the bilingual context in which they arose.” Media Lengua was first brought to the attention of linguists by Muysken (1979, 1981), and while no longer spoken in the region studied by Muysken, ML is currently found in three small communities in northern Ecuador (Gómez Rendón, 2008; Lipski, 2017, 2020; Stewart, 2011, 2015, 2020).

A relative chronology can be proposed circumstantially, based on anecdotal accounts as to how and when ML emerged in each community, possibly transplanted from the regions studied by Muysken.This presentation describes an evolving research paradigm that puts the spread and longevity of Media Lengua to the empirical test, encompassing ethnography, sociolinguistics, and a variety of experimental psycholinguistic techniques (e.g. lexical decision, false memory, concurrent memory-loaded repetition, eyetracking, and pupillometry). The results represent a personal quest to bring the widest possible variety of resources to bear on issues of language contact.



Nicolas Quint

Nicolas Quint (Centre National de Recherche Scientifique): "Mapping diatopic variation in Upper-Guinea. Some preliminary results."


Since the 19th century at least, diatopic variation has been recognized as one of the main factors accounting for linguistic internal differentiation in both insular (Cape Verde) and Continental (Guinea-Bissau and Casamance) Upper Guinea Portuguese Creole varieties.

Since 2002, I have been preparing a linguistic atlas encompassing over 350 locations situated in the four Southern islands of the Archipelago of Cape Verde (the so-called Sotavento or Leeward islands, i.e. Brava, Fogo, Santiago, and Maio) as well as in several Creole-speaking places of both Southern Senegal (Casamance) and Guinea-Bissau. In practice, a selection of phonological, morphological, syntactical, and lexical features was systematically checked in each location considered for this study. The whole dataset is now computerized and several tens of linguistic maps have already been produced. In this presentation, I will first introduce this atlas project. Then, I will show some preliminary results, explaining what the existing maps can teach us about the genesis, history, and expansion of the Insular and Continental Upper Guinea Creoles. I will finally conclude about the linguistic and theoretical implications of this research regarding Creole linguistics and other fields of knowledge.



Ele é hende kumo suto. (‘He is people like us / one of ours.’)

Armin Schwegler

Armin Schwegler's final lecture (Abschiedsvorlesung), with introduction speeches by John Lipski and Miguel Gutiérrez Maté


Armin Schwegler (University of California, Irvine): A century of accelerating social and linguistic changes in Palenque (Colombia): A reassessment with a view towards the future

Like so many remote rural communities, historically self-contained Palenque has undergone profound social and linguistic changes over the last one hundred years. This paper aims to highlight the progressive nature of these  dynamics, and how they have more recently triggered significant shifts in speech habits (creole as well as local Spanish) and  attitudes towards “Black Palenquero identity”. 


To provide explicatory background, this paper first traces fundamental social changes that emerged during the first half of the 20th century, several of which set the stage for  the accelerated behavorial and linguistic attitudes that in the second half of the same century. Drawing on years of personal fieldwork experience in Palenque (1985- to present, cp. Schwegler, Kirschen & Maglia 2017), the study then highlights key factors that revolutionized Palenque as a creole community, ultimately transforming it within a single generation from a forgotten maroon village to a much celebrated and internationally recognized epicenter of Latin America’s Black Movement (Movimiento de Negritud). 


Keeping this historical overview in mind, we will then turn our attention to contemporary social and linguistic trends that are laying the groundwork for Palenque’s future as a community bent on self-determination — an idealistic stance almost certainly anchored in its rebellious maroon past. Drawing on Camargo & Lawo-Sukam’s 2015 study of how Palenque currently struggles to meet basic socio-economic needs, we will examine how recent shifts in local power structures from the older to the younger generations has placed the creole language at center stage within the afore-mentioned socio-economic struggle. This, in turn, will invite us to examine how ongoing developments contribute to the conservation of an ethnolinguistic group solidarity that is at the basis of Palenqueros’ remarkable engagement with Latin America’s (and Colombia’s in particular) Afro-Latino movement. Possible long-term consequences of this vigorous commitment to social justice and “progreso” will be considered in the concluding section of the presentation.



Camargo, Blanca & Lawo-Sukam, Alain. 2015. San Basilio de Palenque (Re)visited: African heritage, tourism, and development in Colombia. Afro-Hispanic Review 34: 25-45.


Schwegler, Armin; Kirschen, Bryan & Maglia, Graciela, eds. 2017. Orality, identity, and resistance in Palenque (Colombia): An interdisciplinary approach. Creole Language Library. Amsterdam/New York: John Benjamins.