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 …

How does Lingua Franca induce loneliness? Thoughts upon reading Nolan’s 2020 “The Elusive Case of Lingua Franca”

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How would it be if people of all nations spoke but one language? If the world had a universal tongue so that all people, regardless of their mother tongues, their cultures, and their religions, could easily and readily communicate? And what if it took very little effort to learn this language? A code where all language borders dissolve, and the world is without misunderstanding: a true lingua franca, no less.

This dream is not a new one. As Umberto Eco for instance has eloquently shown in his book “The Search for the Perfect Language”, the romantic notion of a universal language has been around for millennia, and it was highly popular in Europe throughout Renaissance and then Enlightenment. In the …