Research Paper

'Semicreolization'? – The restructured Portuguese of the Tongas of São Tomé, a consequence of L1 acquisition in a special contact situation

Abstract

This paper discusses aspects of language transmission among the Tongas of São Tomé, the descendants of indentured Africans, on the Monte Café plantation where restructured Portuguese developed alongside an Umbundu-based koiné. It considers the sociohistorical context of language acquisition and transmission, and the role of Portuguese L2 influence in primary linguistic data (PLD) for L1 acquisition in this speech community. In the Tonga Portuguese of a first generation born to African parents, these processes gave rise to broad restructuring relative to (i) agreement rules (number, gender, and subject-verb), (ii) verb and tense and aspect marking, (iii) the signalling of definite and indefinite reference, and (iv) negation. These restructurings constitute a variable set resembling, in form and function, structures found in varieties of Creole Portuguese. However, the consequences in Tonga Portuguese are only slight in comparison, so the language appears to have been partially creolized. The motivation for restructuring is viewed both from DeGraff’s perspective of a Universal Grammar approach to acquisition and creolization, stressing the quality of PLD and its role in yielding unmarked structures, and from the perspective of Bantu substrate influence. Finally, discussion turns to Holm’s notion of ‘semi-creole’ and the validity of classifying Tonga Portuguese in these terms.

How to Cite

Baxter A., (2002) “'Semicreolization'? – The restructured Portuguese of the Tongas of São Tomé, a consequence of L1 acquisition in a special contact situation”, Journal of Portuguese Linguistics 1(1), p.7-39. doi: https://doi.org/10.5334/jpl.47

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Authors

Alan Baxter (Departamento de Português, Universidade de Macau, MACAU S.A.R.)

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Creative Commons Attribution 4.0

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