What is the difference between Creole and Patois?

By: | Post date: 2016-07-13 | Comments: 2 Comments
Posted in categories: General Language, Linguistics

Originally Answered:

Is creole and patois the same thing? Why or why not?

In a prescientific sense, of course. Patois is what French people called the corrupted gibberish that white people spoke in France, and Creole is what French people called the corrupted gibberish that brown people spoke in the colonies.

Thank god for science, right?

A creole in linguistics is the development of a pidgin language, as it becomes learned by children, and starts acquiring more of the irregularities and patterns of normal languages. Creoles often resulted when French colonials spoke broken French to dispossessed colonised peoples, and those peoples turned that broken French into their own language. Haitian Creole for example. So a creole is a particular stage in the development of new languages.

You’ll occasionally hear the suspicion that English was at one stage a creole, though the breakdown of inflection when the Vikings came to town is not quite the same scenario.

Dialects are regional variants of languages. You might occasionally hear linguists use patois as a more regionally restricted subclass of dialect. But patois has a snooty derogatory connotation to it, and dialectologists tend not to think of their objects of study in that way; so you won’t see them use it.


  • Jon says:

    Not the Vikings but the Norman French speakers

    • Yes, the Vikings. The speculation that English was a creole was specifically about the Danes and the English in the Danelaw sharing word roots but having different grammatical inflections; it was invoked to account for the fact that by Middle English, those inflections had disappeared. And however great the influence of Norman French was, it never got as deep as grammatical inflection.

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