Multilingualism, Indigenization, and Creolization


The contact between languages in multilingual contexts can lead to language change and the formation of new varieties of language. The term indigenization is used to refer to the contact-induced linguistic changes that result in a new dialect, while creolization refers to the emergence of a new language. This chapter looks at these closely related phenomena and their social contexts, and discusses the psycholinguistic and sociolinguistic processes that bring them about.


Linguistic indigenization occurs when a language is transplanted in a new location and learned and used by the local population. According to Mesthrie and Bhatt (2008: 11), indigenization ‘refers to the acculturation of the [transplanted language] to localized phenomena, be they cultural, topographic or even linguistic (in terms of local grammatical, lexical and discourse norms).’ In other words, its use in a new environment brings about changes in the transplanted language. Unlike other kinds of linguistic change, however, these changes reflect the influence of the local languages and culture. They also reflect widespread second-language learning of the transplanted language by the local population. The continued use of the transplanted language by the local population, rather than by its original speakers, leads to the conventionalization of the changes and the emergence of new norms, and a new dialect.

Such new dialects, often called ...

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