Universiteit Leiden

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Public lecture: On the Diversity and the Formation of Creole Languages

Tuesday 21 May 2024
Cleveringaplaats 1
2311 BD Leiden

On May 21, the French Language and Culture program will host a public lecture on creole languages. The lecture will be given by Prof. dr. Marlyse Baptista, professor at the University of Pennsylvania and a leading expert on creole languages. She is in Leiden in connection with a workshop on creole languages that will take place one day later (WoCL). We are very pleased that she has agreed to also give a lecture for a general audience.

Creole languages, such as Sranan, Papiamentu and Kréyol Matinik, mostly originated in a colonial context, where lack of language rights was accompanied by an extreme situation of language contact. Often the lexicon of creoles contains many words borrowed from Western languages, such as English, Dutch, Portuguese, Spanish or French. An example is the following proverb from Kréyol Matinik, a French based creole language spoken in Martinique:

Kréyol Matinik:             Sé          grenn    diri         ka                fè            sak         diri
Frans:                                  c’est      graine   riz           présent     faire       sac         riz
English:                               it.is       grain    rice        present      make    bag         rice

Translation:                    ‘Grains of rice make a bag of rice.’

The grains of rice symbolize all the little tasks we have to do. Together, these ultimately make that there is (too) much work to be done. The example illustrates that many of the words of Kréyol Matinik come from French, while the grammatical form of the sentence is quite different. Kréyol really is another language, which speakers of French cannot understand without learning it first. Something similar applies to Sranan, a creole that is widely spoken in Surinam. Much of its vocabulary comes originally from English and Dutch, but the language cannot be understood by someone who speaks both English and Dutch.

In her lecture Marlyse Baptista uses the Atlas of Pidgin and Creole Language Structures to explore the diversity of creole languages from across the world. She will also examine a number of theories that explain how languages change and how they influence each other, and, as in the case of creole languages, how new languages can emerge.

The lecture will be in English, but questions can also be asked in French.

Day en time:     21 May, 16.15-17.30
Place:                   Lipsius, room 1.47, Cleveringplaats 1, Leiden

Even though we understand that this lecture is yet another ‘grenn diri’, we hope to welcome you in Leiden on the 21st of May. There is no entrance fee, but please register via this link.

Registreer via this link

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