On the emergence of new language varieties

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Creoles are traditionally assumed to lack stylistic depth. Researchers recognize a <i>basilectal</i> variety and/or a <i>mesolect</i>, which is generally assumed to result from contact between the <i>basilect</i> and a European language. While the historical foundation of this model has been much called into question, the sociolinguistic premises have received relatively little attention. This paper addresses this issue by exploring current sociolinguistic practices in the Eastern Maroon community based on data from participant observation, findings from a questionnaire-based language survey, and an analysis of natural recordings in French Guiana. The paper demonstrates that the Eastern Maroon Creole has distinct regional and stylistic varieties that play an important role in the identity politics of the community. Due to ongoing social change, they are undergoing social and linguistic changes, and new styles of speaking are emerging. Change is by no means unidirectional and is conditioned by a range of social forces.


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