Derek Bickerton (1926-2018), the insular linguist, and his work

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Derek Bickerton was a world-famous linguist and author. He died in 2018, at the age of 91 years. He has written scholarly books about creole languages, human evolution, the brain, but also poetry and novels. Ten years before he died, he had written a kind of intellectual biography focusing on his research on creole languages and pidgins which he had called Bastard Tongues: A Trailblazing Linguist Finds Clues to Our Common Humanity in the World’s Lowliest Languages. These (according to the public, not according to him or me) lowliest languages are pidgins and creoles.

When this book came out in 2008, published when he was 81 years old, I did not get to read it. For one thing, there …

Lang Belta: the Belter language from SYFY/Amazon’s The Expanse

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The Belter language, which in the TV show is referred to as Lang Belta, is a Creole language spoken by the Belter people in the The Expanse universe. A creole language can be characterized as a new language, based on the vocabulary of an existing language, but with an innovated grammatical system.

The Expanse takes place 200 years from now, in a future in which Earth has colonized the solar system. In this world, people emigrated to the Asteroid Belt from Earth looking for work, and now survive by scavenging materials in the Belt. In this contribution I will outline the construction and general characteristics of this very complex and interesting Creole and discuss some of its grammatical characteristics.

When Rihanna ‘mumbles’ in her native language

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You probably noticed that you can’t understand what Rihanna is singing in the chorus of her song “Work”. What most people don’t know, is that she isn’t singing in English. The language she is singing in is the creole language ‘Bajan’.

A creole language is a type of language that can arise under certain circumstances, where people who don’t have any language in common need to communicate. Bajan arose several hundred years ago among West African slaves who were transported to the Caribbean island of Barbados and bought by plantation owners. The slaves needed to communicate with each other, but since they came from many different places in Africa, they didn’t have one language in common. However, when people need …