3. In praise of the cafeteria principle: Language mixing in Hawai'i Creole

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Bickerton (1981) argues against the influence of substrate languages in creoles, using the term “cafeteria principle” to ridicule the idea that a language could select features from various sources like items chosen for lunch at a cafeteria. However, this chapter demonstrates that several aspects of the morphosyntax of Hawai‘i Creole have been modeled on features of different substrate languages, and therefore that a certain degree of mixing has occurred. On the other hand, the cafeteria principle that is demonstrated is not without certain principles and constraints. Two mechanisms are described that account for the features of one language ending up in another: language transfer in second language use and substrate reinforcement of diffused features. The chapter concludes with a discussion of the availability constraints and reinforcement principles that go some way in explaining why some substrate features end up in a creole while others do not.

  • Affiliations: 1: University of New England (Australia) & University of Hawai‘i



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