A creole is usually defined both with reference to and in contrast to pidgins. Here are the important defining features of a creole language:

  • In contrast to pidgins which have no native speakers creoles have native speakers: A child born into a pidgin-speaking community will acquire this pidgin as a first language. Thus, the pidgin will be turned into a creole by the process of nativization.

  • Creoles always develop out of a pidgin.

  • The process whereby a creole develops and a pidgin acquires native speakers is called creolization.

  • Creolization may occur at any of the developmental stages of a pidgin. Depending on the developmental stage at which creolization starts to happen, there is either gradual creolization or abrupt creolization.

  • Gradual creolization happens in the extended / expanded pidgin stage. In other words, creolization starts at a stage where the pidgin is highly developed. It is already characterized by established linguistic norms of usage.

  • Abrupt creolization describes the process before a stable pidgin could emerge. Here, the process of creolization takes place at an early developmental stage of the pidgin. At this point, it is still characterized by a lack of stable linguistic norms of usage.

Derek Bickertonís (1981) Language Bioprogram Hypothesis is a theory of genesis referring specifically to cases of abrupt creolization.

  • Creole-speaking communities may exhibit a Post-Creole continuum.

The Post-Creole Continuum

(Information taken and adapted from Sebba, 1997)