Journal of Ibero-Romance Creoles

Volume 9 (2019)

Language contact in Brazil and the genesis of creole languages 

Dante Lucchesi (Universidade Federal Fluminense)

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This article seeks, first of all, to answer the question of why Portuguese did not creolize in Brazil. Based on inferences from the Brazilian case, the article presents a more general reflection on the conditions that allowed the emergence of creole languages ​​in the Caribbean, since there is a strong parallel between the former plantation societies of this region and those of northeast Brazil. The first principal conclusion is that the socioeconomic specificities of Brazilian society in the colonial period vis-à-vis the plantation societies of the Caribbean did not allow a representative and lasting process of creolization of Portuguese. Rather, the assimilation of this language by millions of Indians and African slaves, and its nativization among their descendants produced a set of structural changes that today separate popular Portuguese from the linguistic variety of the Brazilian literate elite but didn't reach the radical stage of creolization. The points covered in the analysis allow us to question the dichotomy between homestead and plantation society, as well as the view that creoles result from successive approximations of the superstrate language by the speakers of substrate languages, as an adequate explanation for the formation of creole languages. Thus, the conclusion reached here is that creolization is characterized by a rupture in linguistic transmission that triggers a process of simplification and deep restructuring of the language of the dominant group by the speakers of the substrate. This understanding fits in better with the fact that creole languages ​​are languages ​​qualitatively distinct from their lexifiers, and not mere varieties of them.

Keywords: sociolinguistic history of Brazil, genesis of creole languages, irregular linguistic transmission, homestead society, plantation society.