A twice-mixed creole?

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Saramaccan, a maroon creole of Suriname, shows evidence of having a split lexicon where the majority of its words are marked for pitch accent but an important minority are marked for tone. The basic origins of this split would appear to be clear: pitch-accented words represent transfer of a European-like accent system, while tonal words represent transfer of an African-like tone system. If this is the right account, its apparent simplicity raises an important question: Why didn’t it happen more often? While a definitive answer cannot yet be given, it is suggested that a likely explanation is that the split lexicon was not a product of creolization but, rather, the result of a restricted kind of language mixing, which took place after marronage, and that this mixing was employed as a means of establishing a distinct speech variety for the nascent Saramaccan community.


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