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Re: DerekBickerton's Island 2 experiment

From:David Peterson <digitalscream@...>
Date:Saturday, October 27, 2001, 7:37
<<    Hey, anyone (esp'ly good ol' Kou, ROMILLY or Christophe - the websearch
know about Derek Bickerton's Island 2 experiment and his 200-word
experimental ConLang he is using/was using in this experiment 8 years ago???>>

HA, HA, HA, HA!!!!!! Oh, man, I'm sorry! I saw the name "Derek Bickerton" and I
started laughing. He's become a running gag in my Pidgins and Creoles class. ;)

Anyway, I have a bunch of information on this, and it can be summarized in three points:

1.) He never did it; he couldn't get the funding, and there were other problems.

2.) This type of experiment was tried one other time in history, and it failed.

3.) I'm currently running this experiment for my pidgins and creoles class.  ~:D

I actually said something about this on the list, but no one responded, and it
kind of died out. I have six people doing it, and I had about 220 words
initially, many coming from the Swadesh list. I deleted some though (who needs
a word for "louse", anyway?) and added others (a word for "swim" but no word
for "fish"; a word for "bird" but no word for "fly"). As the experiment ran on
(it's now in its sixth week), I added a couple of other words (for instance,
last week I had them watch a Bugs Bunny cartoon and explain it in Language X
[that's the name I gave the list of words], so I added a word for "rabbit").
Anyway, at the end of the semester, I'm going to write up a 25 page paper on it
for the class, and then I may keep it going, in which case my professor says
he'll get me published somewhere.

Anyway, I can send you my list of words, if you like.  As for some developments:

1.) They used the word for "hold" for the concept of "to have".

2.) They adopted SVO, which is probably more indicative of (most of) them being
native English speakers rather than Bickerton's bioprogram theory.

3.) Just this past week, one of them used a serial verb construction, and the rest
followed suit. (The idea was that a bird puts bugs bunny in a bag, and he said,
"bird put rabbit go bag". I was expecting "bird put rabbit at bag" ["at" is the
only preposition, aside from "with"], but then he did that, and I was just

Now, for a brief list of problems:

1.) Most of them are native English speakers and all have lived in America for
many years, so they have a shared cultural and linguistic background, which
automatically facilitates communication.

2.) Everyone meets only once a week, so it's not as if they're being immersed.

3.) One girl (Sonali) doesn't seem to get the idea that she shouldn't be using any
English at all during our meetings.

4.) Some innovations have been forgotten (for instance, an early development was
the word for "with" used as the all-purpose preposition, though that was
quickly dropped).

5.) And, of course, there's a limited amount of time and resources (all my
materials are coming out of my own pocket). This experiment is by no means
attempting to simulate the creation of a real pidgin. Basically it's just a
"given the constraints, what will these guys do" type of experiment.

So, that's about it. If you have any other questions, you can ask me, or I can
give you my prof.'s e-mail address. I'm sure he'd be happy to talk about
anything related to pidgins and creoles.