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A creole is defined as a pidgin (or trading language) which becomes a full language after being used by a new generation as their first language. Generally they take most of their grammar from one parent langauge and most of their vocabulary from the other.

But recently I have heard of a term "mixed language".

What is the difference between the two?

  • Wikipedia says mixed languages are very rare. They arise from "situations of thorough bilingualism", and "it is not possible to classify the resulting language as belonging to either of the language families that were its source". None of the languages Wikipedia mentions I have ever heard of... – Cerberus Sep 16 '11 at 0:56
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I think this extract from the Mixed language's wikipedia article will help you:

Different from a pidgin:

A mixed language differs from a pidgin in that the speakers developing the language are fluent, even native, speakers of both languages, whereas a pidgin develops when groups of people with little knowledge of each other's languages come into contact and have need of a basic communication system, as for trade, but do not have enough contact to learn each other's language.

Different from a creole:

In a mixed language, both source languages are clearly identifiable. This differs from a creole language, which generally has one identifiable parent, in addition to diverse input which cannot be traced to any particular language. While creoles tend to have drastically simplified morphologies, mixed languages often retain the inflectional complexities of both parent languages.

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  • 2
    From the sounds of this then a mixed language is like an extreme case of code-switching, where the whole community is on board. – LaurenG Sep 16 '11 at 0:45
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    @LaurenG Basically -- but there are also rules to the code switching. I recently heard Michif described as "the verb is Cree, and noun phrases are French." (Wikipedia echoes this.) In the more usual case of bilingual code switching, speakers have free (or at least radically less constrained) choice of when to go back and forth. – Aaron Sep 16 '11 at 7:02
  • Light Warlpiri also sounds like this. – kaleissin Sep 16 '11 at 18:51

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