[X] Anthropological Linguistics

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Vol. 44, no. 4 (Winter 2002)


Relexification: A Reevaluation Michel DeGraff 321

Book Reviews

The Counselling Speeches of Jim Ka-Nipitehtew (Freda Ahenakew and H.C. Wolfart, translators and editors) and They Knew Both Sides of Medicine: Cree Tales of Curing and Cursing Told by Alice Ahenakew (Freda Ahenakew and H.C. Wolfart, translators and editors) Regna Darnell 415
Kaskaskia Illinois-to-French Dictionary (Carl Masthay, editor) Paul Proulx 417
Yukaghir Texts (Elena Maslova, editor) Bernard Comrie 419
A Grammar of Tukang Besi (Mark Donohue) Paul D. Kroeber 421
The Handbook of Australian Languages. Volume 5: Grammatical Sketches of Bunuba, Ndjebbana, and Kugu Nganhcara (R. M. W. Dixon and Barry J. Blake, editors) Barry Alpher 426
Evolution and the Human Mind: Modularity, Language, and Meta-cognition (Peter Carruthers and Andrew Chamberlain, editors) Andrew Carstairs-McCarthy 429
Gender in Grammar and Cognition. Part I: Approaches to Gender. Part II: Manifestations of Gender (Barbara Unterbeck, Matti Rissanen, Terttu Nevalainen, and Mirja Saari, editors) Olga M. Mladenova 431
Publications Received436


Relexification: A Reevaluation

Michel DeGraff
Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Abstract. According to one version of the Relexification Hypothesis, creole genesis is an instance of incomplete second-language acquisition whereby substrate speakers systematically fail to acquire the structural properties of their distant target, the superstrate (lexifier) language. The output of relexification is an "early creole" with substrate-derived grammar and with superstrate- derived phonetic strings. To date, the most thoroughly argued technical implementation of this version of the Reflexification Hypothesis is the study of Haitian Creole by Claire Lefebvre. In this article, I examine and refute the empirical-comparative, theoretical, and sociohistorical bases of the Reflexification Hypothesis as implemented by Lefebvre and colleagues. Firstly, the basic assumptions and predictions of the Reflexification Hypothesis are inconsistent with well-documented details about the sociohistorical and linguistic profiles of Haitian Creole. Secondly, a systematic comparison of the morphosyntax of Haitian Creole with that of the languages which were in contact during its formation suggests a diachronic scenario that is fundamentally distinct from that envisaged in the Reflexification Hypothesis. Lastly, the foundational principles and central claims of the Reflexification Hypothesis are mutually inconsistent, inconsistent with our current knowledge about language acquisition, or inconsistent with the Principles-and-Parameters framework in which Lefebvre couches her analyses. I conclude by sketching an alternative scenario for the diachrony of Haitian Creole that is compatible with the sociohistorical and linguistic details of the language and with basic results in language-acquisition research.

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