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I'm trying to work up a conlang and having some trouble deciding between a creole and a mixed/intertwined language like Media Lengua, Mednyj Aleut or Michif. Here's the set-up situation:

  • Small nation (N1) speaks L1.
  • Expanding, imperialistic nation (N2) speaks L2.
  • N2 invades N1 and, after several decades of struggle, conquers it.
  • N2 institutes mandatory L2-only laws.
  • L2 is administrative language in N1 territory.
  • 400 or so years of varying degrees of resistance to N2 hegemony.
  • For the first 100 or so years, L2 is brutally imposed on N1 population.
  • Speakers of L1 flout L2-only laws and continue to use L1 whenever they can.
  • Hybrid L1/L2 language develops (L3).
  • L3 develops own literature, cultural usages and dialects.
  • L3 usage increases at expense of L1.
  • Several decades of loosening cultural and linguistic restrictions by N2.
  • N1 gains independence when N2 basically decides to just pull out because of internal issues.
  • L1 is official language of N1 but only ~15% of population is fluent.
  • L3 is "street level" and majority language of N1.
  • Strained but not overtly hostile relations between N1 and N2, including trade.

So, my question is this: Which is more likely for L3 (the hybrid language), a creole or a mixed language?

I'm leaning towards a mixed language because it just doesn't seem to me to be a situation conducive to forming a creole. The original L3 speakers would have had a native command of L1 and formal instruction in L2. So it's not a case where lack of knowledge in either language led to pidginization and eventually creolization. And there wasn't a mix of several other languages that would make them develop a pidgin for common communication; basically everyone spoke L1 to begin with. I figure there'd a be a lot of code-switching going on all the time, which would lead to a hybrid tongue incorporating bits and pieces of both L1 and L2.

My thoughts are that a mixed language taking the majority of its grammar from L1 with 70-80% of its vocabulary from L2 is the way I want to go. This would be explained by continued L1 speech in the home and as a point of pride by a resistance movement preserving a large percentage of the grammar while the formal L2 instruction would have more of an influence on the lexicon. The two parent languages are themselves not related and in fact differ wildly in word order, morphology, phonology, the works.

Or would it be better to reverse that pattern so that L2 contributes the grammar and L1 the lexicon?

Any thoughts or suggestions?

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  • $\begingroup$ Are you looking for any input in general, or only input which can be backed by linguistic literature. I have an opinion that L1 would provide the lexicon and L2 the grammar because its easier to attach symbolic meaning to a word than to a grammatical construct, but I have no sources to cite for that. $\endgroup$ – Cort Ammon - Reinstate Monica Nov 29 '16 at 0:38
  • $\begingroup$ In real life, L2 experiences substrate influences from L1 especially during first 60 years or so; natives of N1 would speak L2 with a distinct dialect of L2 that must be tolerated because adult learners can't learn it fluently en masse (think of people in India speaking English), and they teach it to the next generation, while L1 persists with some "Spanglish" type loan words. It would be rare for a true L3 to emerge unless L1 and L2 are almost perfect socio-economic equals (not this scenario). Religious uses stay most pure in L1, but lots of people lose L1 entirely (a la Gaelic in Ireland). $\endgroup$ – ohwilleke Nov 29 '16 at 0:46
  • $\begingroup$ Every day words (like those in a Swadesh list) are more durable in the face of pressure on a language from competition, than more rarely used words especially those first encountered from N2 sources. L1 extinction and L3 formation are driven by more or less opposite forces. If there was a mixed language mostly L1 grammar and 70%-80% L1 vocabulary (by proportion of words spoken in an average day, not dictionary count) would be closer to historical experience. Think more about L1 and L2 pre-contact, and L1' and N1 dialect of L2' post-contract, than about an L3. $\endgroup$ – ohwilleke Nov 29 '16 at 0:53
  • $\begingroup$ @Cort Ammon I think you probably have it backward. Grammatical cores tends to be durable because it is hard to evolve piecemeal, although large numbers of language learners make languages get simpler in grammar even in the absence of a creole. Lexical items are easier to absorb. For example, English has borrowed gobs of words over time while evolving grammatically much less frequently and incrementally. When undisturbed however, or under substrate influences of adult language learners, grammar does evolve over time. $\endgroup$ – ohwilleke Nov 29 '16 at 0:57
  • $\begingroup$ Each of the mixed languages noted in the original post is dying, despite being not very young, which is natural. Mixed languages tend to be a short lived transitional phenomena on frontiers where invader advantages are diminished viz populations that would otherwise be crushed subtrates. Also mixed languages seem to deal with grammar and lexicon by whole categories of word (two had L1 nouns and noun grammar and L2 verbs and verb grammar). $\endgroup$ – ohwilleke Nov 29 '16 at 1:29
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L2 = French, L1 = English

What is this! The best example of what you are talking about is the language you are writing in!

In 1066 people in England spoke Old English. Sure there were a few Vikings around, and lots of pesky Celts on the borders, but the heart of England spoke Old English. Then William and his band of merrie Frenchmen (Normans) came. The language of the aristocracy was replaced, more or less overnight, by French--more specifically Anglo-Norman, a Langue d'Oil like modern French.

This linguistic imperialism continued a long time. The Angevan dynasty of England came from Northwest France and maintained its ties to French land. With the inheritance of Eleanor of Aquitaine, almost half of France became fiefdom of the King of England, as a vassal of the King of France. Richard the Lionheart famously did not speak English.

To see how French the place had become, look at the list of signatories of the Magna Carta, about 160 years after Hastings. Lots of honorifics like 'des Roche' and 'de Vere'; surnames like Bigod, Malet, and Basset. Popular first names are William, Henry, Hugh, Roger, Robert, and Richard; all French. Old English names as once adorned kings like Edward, Alfred, Edgar, and Harold can't even be found on the list.

Eventually, the tide flowed the other way. French went out of style, especially as the Hundred Years War ground to a close and France and England coalesced around separate national identities as opposed to dynastic claims of kingship. The rising power of the Parliment gave more authority to the English speaking burghers against the French speaking nobles.

L1 = Old English; L3 = Modern English

Middle English corresponds almost entirely to the time that Anglo-Norman was the chief langauge of the courts. The cutoff date from Middle to Modern English is usually given as 1500. The timeline for Anglo-Norman dominance is about 400 years; excatly what you outline in your question. The first king to speak English as his first language (since before the Conquest) was Henry IV in 1399; the first king literate in English was his son, Henry V (1413). The French langauge ceased being the first language of the nobility soon after. Looking at the war of the Roses from 1455 to 1487 we can see the difference; among the primary commanders there are Edwards as well as Richards, lots of new 'Modern English' names imported from Eastern Christianity via the crusades (George, Thomas), and not a 'de Anything' to be found.

English as L3 has of course expanded and prospered and is quite the literary language. But the effect of L2 on it is substantial. Fully 28% of modern English vocabulary came via French rather than via Old English. Also, many of English's odd properties regarding pluralization, tense, and gender (when compared to more rigorous language like German or Spanish) are due to its almost-a-creole origins. Middle English in particular, as the language of the commoners with little formal culture for 200 years, was greatly simplified in its use of inflection.

Conclusion

The best guide to the situation you want to protray is to look at the changes to English from Old before conquest by N2, to Middle while subjugated by N2, to Modern English after emerging as an independent nation speaking L3. L1 (Old English) still provides the grammar, but it is greatly simplified in the ~400 years as a language of the commoners with little literary expression. It emerges as L3 (Modern English) after independence with a substantial (25 %) intrusion of vocabulary from L2.

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The Evolution of L1 and L2 After They Are In Contract

Think more about L1 and L2 pre-contact, and an L1' evolved version of L1, and an N1 dialect of L2' post-contract, than about an L3.

In real life, L2 experiences substrate influences from L1 especially during first 60 years or so; natives of N1 would speak L2 with a distinct dialect with somewhat simplified or non-L1-like grammar features of L2 that must be tolerated because adult learners can't learn it fluently en masse (think of people in India speaking English, or more obscurely a lot of Hattic phonetics ended up in the Indo-European Hittite language when Hittites conquered Anatolia). When they teach it to the next generation, because native L2 speakers aren't available, the dialect persists.

Almost every language that expands into someplace that is not virgin territory shows substrate influences (including, for example, all major families of Indo-European languages from Greek to Celtic to French and the Berber languages).

Conversely, languages with no contact with other languages in "virgin territory" for long periods of time remain very conservative and static, e.g. Icelandic is closest the original Germanic language called "Old Norse".

Meanwhile, L1 also persists with some "Spanglish" type loan words until it and its culture completely loses socio-economic-culture value in the eyes of people descended from native L1 speakers. Religious uses in literate cultures stay most pure in L1 (see, e.g., Hattic, Latin, Sumerian, Hebrew) long after a language is otherwise dead, but lots of people lose L1 entirely (a la Gaelic in Ireland) after a few hundred years.

What Components Are Likely To Change

Every day words (like those in a Swadesh list) are more durable in the face of pressure on a language from competition, than more rarely used words especially those first encountered from N2 sources.

Grammatical cores tends to be durable because it is hard to evolve piecemeal, although large numbers of language learners make languages get simpler in grammar even in the absence of a creole.

Lexical items are easier to absorb. For example, English has borrowed gobs of words over time while evolving grammatically much less frequently and incrementally. When undisturbed however, or under substrate influences of adult language learners, grammar does evolve over time.

Mixed languages in the examples cited in the question seem to tend to deal with grammar and lexicon by whole categories of word (two had L1 nouns and noun grammar and L2 verbs and verb grammar). If there was a mixed language mostly L1 grammar and 70%-80% L1 vocabulary (by proportion of words spoken in an average day, not dictionary count) would be closer to historical experience.

Mixed Language Formation Is Unlikely In The Circumstances Of The Question

L1 extinction and L3 formation are driven by more or less opposite forces.

It would be rare for a true L3 that is a blend of languages to emerge unless L1 and L2 are almost perfect socio-economic equals (not this scenario).

Each of the mixed languages noted in the original post is dying, despite being not very old as languages go, which is natural. Mixed languages tend to be a short lived transitional phenomena on frontiers where invader advantages are diminished vis-a-vis populations that would otherwise be crushed substrates.

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