Globalization: Social & Geographic Perspectives

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Creolization of Language

March 15th, 2011 · 2 Comments

Creolization is the process of borrowing ideas and commodities between cultures. As the world becomes increasingly globalized, this exchange has become more evident. We attribute things like sushi, McDonalds and music to creolization, but we overlook one of the most important things to spread throughout cultures- language.

Language has spread and evolved over the course of human history, morphing from simple grunts and sounds to one of the most complex aspects of our race. There are over seven thousand languages spoken in the world, from major ones like Mandarin, English and Spanish, to lesser-known ones like Sicilian, Hungarian and Zulu. Languages can be grouped together based on their region of origin. Indo European and Semitic families have all branched off into many different languages. The Indo-European family breached off into Latin, Greek, Germanic and Celtic, and these groups later were divided into even more languages, such as Italian, French, German, English, Greek and Gaelic. The Semitic family branched off into languages such as Arabic and Hebrew.

The change of language has to do with its movement throughout similar regions, due to things such as trade, farming, war and migration from place to place. One obvious example of language changing over a geographic location is dialects. Although these changes might be slight, they are still an important part to any regions culture. Different words and expressions may mean one thing in a particular dialect, and something completely different in another. As words spread through an area, the people will tailor them until they fit the specific needs of the group. English has incorporated many words from Greek, Italian and Spanish , such as alphabet, bicycle, fiasco, graffiti, hurricane and renegade. Hybrid languages, such as ‘Spanglish’ also incorporate elements of creolization into their words. Another example of the creolization of language is slang. Wikipedia says, “Its use implies that the user is familiar with whatever is referred to, or with a group of people who are familiar with it and use the term.” How many times have you heard the word ‘mad’ or ‘hot’ used as an adjective, or referred to something as sick? Slang uses well known words in a way that differs from their original meaning, and members of different societal groups use it as a way of recognizing one of their own. Even time can change a language, for example: Shakespeare’s use of Old English compared to our modern English, or Ancient Greek compared to modern Greek.

Through language, new aspects of culture can blend in with older ones, making communication with people of different regions or generations an interesting task. Cultures can mix to form new languages, new dialects, or even new slang terms. Culture, along with language, is a fluid entity, constantly changing to adapt new ideas and norms.

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2 responses so far ↓

  • 1    Samantha Plaut // Mar 15, 2011 at 8:51 pm

    I found this very interesting because it’s obvious, I didn’t even think about the fact that language is a huge part of creolization. Language has evolved so much and it’s so true as you said that languages come from each other. And also different words come from other languages and may change the meaning over time. I think language is something that will just keep changing and is a very interesting aspect of creolization to see how it keeps changing!

  • 2    Prof. Hala // Mar 25, 2011 at 9:54 pm

    I love this. Slang, in particular, is a great example of the way that an object’s meaning (in this case, a word), changes based on context (time/place), the location of the audience. ‘Sick’ had one set of meanings in NYC in 1910 and it has another set of meanings today, meanings that vary by social location. The process how slang becomes part of the ‘official’ language (recognized in respectable dictionaries) is also very interesting. In the case of dialects, I can’t resist sharing the aphorism that “a language is a dialect with an army,” which is actually relevant to the topic of state sovereignty, coming up next week. In case you’re not familiar, it basically calls attention to how power and authority influence the way we categorize ways of writing/speaking as ‘languages’ or ‘dialects.’ For many groups seeking sovereignty or whose sovereignty seems threatened, calling their ‘language’ a ‘dialect,’ especially a dialect of their putative oppressors’ language, is a supreme insult.

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