Dynamics of orthographic standardization in Jamaican Creole and Nigerian Pidgin



ABSTRACT:  Jamaican Creole and Nigerian Pidgin, both English-derived contact languages that coexist with standard English (StE) in their respective settings, are traditionally oral languages for which no orthographic standard has yet been established. Aided by a significant increase in written usage in computer-mediated communication (CMC), the past decade has seen tendencies towards grass-roots standardization in the orthography of these two languages. In this paper we (1) identify the dynamics of orthographic standardization for each of the varieties using corpora of CMC data (in particular e-mails and discussion forums posts), (2) discuss the differential results for the two varieties based on the different sociolinguistic situations of Jamaica and Nigeria, and (3) point to possible consequences for language planning in the two countries. We conclude that, without any state-driven initiative toward the standardization of Pidgin/Creole orthography, the gap between the orthographic systems usually recommended by linguists, or “experts” (cf. Sebba, 1998a), and the practices that are being established by “users” is likely to widen further.