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Selected Books by Edmund Blair Bolles

  • Galileo's Commandment: 2500 Years of Great Science Writing
  • The Ice Finders: How a Poet, a Professor, and a Politician Discovered the Ice Age
  • Einstein Defiant: Genius vs Genius in the Quantum Revolution

« Progress or Rut? | Main | Orgins' End »



Does Bickerton exclude creoles from his 'envelope?' That would be very surprising. In fact, I think Bickerton would say that creoles are vitally important for telling us what sorts of things are a part of the envelope. Since creoles are in a sense 'new-born' languages, they have the ability to tease apart the parts of linguistic complexity that are biological and those which are cultural. That's because while creoles are fully constrained biologically, they have experienced very little cultural development. Therefore, any complexity exhibited by 'more developed' languages (such as large vocuabularies), but not by creoles would be considered a product of culture and not biology.
BLOGGER: Bickerton is not clear on this point in the article I'm citing. In his own work he argues that creole languages from many different parts of the world have a very similar set of rules, rules that are different from their supposed source (eg, Haitian Creole vs French). The first letter I ever had published in the New York Times was a defense of Gullah as a real language (somebody had used Gullah as a fancy synonym for gibberish), but I think it takes many generations before a creole can match a modern, non-creole language for range of expressiveness. It is probably something worth futher inquiry, however.


Yes, Bickerton's point in doing comparative creole is to show that since so many unrelated creoles emerge with such similar properties, these properties must be the results of the biological programming that underlies language.

All of the 'expressiveness' that a creole must gain (largely, we're talking about vocabulary here) to match a non-creole language is due to cultural influence and not biological underpinnings.

I'm almost certain this would be Bickerton's position.
BLOGGER: I don't think anyone would argue that the first generation of creole speakers have a language that is as rich in syntax as, say, the third generation. In fact, Bickerton could place the age of some speakers of Hawaiian English on the basis of which syntactic forms they had.

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