The Language Bioprogram Hypothesis (LBH)

  • The Language Bioprogram Hypothesis (LBH) was proposed by Derek Bickerton (1981) and has since been modified.

  • LBH is a theory concerned exclusively with the origin of creoles.

  • LBH is a universalist approach to creole genesis. It is concerned with creoles which are the result of abrupt creolization, i.e. creolization which started to develop before a stable pidgin stage could emerge.

  • LBH explains the structural similarities between creole languages by assuming the existence of a language bioprogram. A bioprogram is an innate mechanism or biological blueprint which is applied whenever there is abrupt creolization. This language bioprogram creates typical creole features.

  • The hypothesis is valid for cases of abrupt creolization. For instance, if a child receives only underdeveloped pidgin input from his/her parents, the language input lacks stable linguistic norms of usage. Here, the (universal) language bioprogram takes action: innate principles govern the child's acquisition of the creole.

  • The basic idea is that the grammatically and lexically highly unstable pidgin is too degenerate to provide adequate input for the child and thus cannot serve as an ideal target language. The question is how the child can develop a fully-fledged language, or a proper native language, when the only source of input is a degenerate pidgin language. According to LBH, the (universal) language bioprogram forms the language in such cases.

  • This special situation of language acquisition differs fundamentally from the usual process of language acquisition. Most of the time, the input is a highly developed language which provides the child with stable linguistic rules. Hence, the child acquires an established set of linguistic rules which is passed on by his/her parentsí speech. In the case of abrupt creolization, however, a corresponding set of linguistic rules has not yet emerged. With pidgin input, the child acquires a new set of linguistic rules, one which did not previously exist. A new grammar emerges, based on the innate principles of the bioprogram.

(Information based on and adapted from Sebba, 1997)