“On traduit la langue en français”

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Tayo is a French-lexified contact language spoken by the people of St-Louis, a village on the outskirts of Nouméa, New Caledonia. The formation period of Tayo occurred between 1860 and 1880. Its first generation of monolingual speakers was born in the early years of the twentieth century. Some of this generation was still living in St-Louis towards the end of the twentieth century. Their speech, recorded chiefly during the late 1980s, provides evidence of early forms of the language that is relatively free of any decreolising influence. Research carried out to date on Tayo indicates that many of its structures depart radically from what has been considered a “typical” creole pattern; instead, they appear to more closely resemble structures in the substrate languages. This chapter presents a brief description of the sociohistorical background surrounding the formation of Tayo, and identifies and examines the structures that make up Tayo’s tense-modality-aspect (TMA) system. The main features of the TMA systems of Tayo’s major substrate languages, Cèmuhî, Drubéa and Xârâcùù, are then described in order to compare them with corresponding Tayo features and to identify congruent structures among the four languages. An explanation is offered for the presence of some substrate TMA features in Tayo and the absence of others.


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