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The Atlas of Pidgin and Creole Language Structures (APiCS)

  Editors: Susanne Michaelis, Philippe Maurer, Magnus Huber, Martin Haspelmath  

Palm treeThe goal of APiCS is to gather comparable synchronic data on the grammatical and lexical structures of a large number of pidgin and creole languages. It will appear in two volumes: In the first volume, the data will be presented in the form of maps. A seond volume, the encyclopedic companion volume, will contain sociohistorical and grammatical surveys of each language. The data will also be made available as an interactive electronic database on CD-ROM.

The project will cover 60-80 pidgin and creole languages. The language set should contain not only the most widely studied Atlantic and Indian Ocean creoles, but also less well known pidgins and creoles from Africa, South Asia, Southeast Asia, Melanesia and Australia, including some extinct varieties.

The database will consist of 150-200 structural features which will be drawn from all areas of grammar: phonology, morphology, syntax and lexicon. A feature will have between two and fifteen feature values, shown on the maps by different colours and shapes of the language symbols. The electronic version of the database will contain an interactive map-generating tool as well as a search tool that will allow various research questions to be addressed and that will make possible various output forms for presenting the maps. Furthermore, the CD-ROM will include sound files of every language, enabling the users to listen to a short spontaneous narrative text that is glossed and translated.

The presentation of the data in map form has two goals. On the one hand, maps are more easily accessible to students and lay persons who have a general interest in creoles, but who would be less likely to pay attention to data presented as tables with numbers. On the other hand, the properties of creoles are often dependent on their geographical distribution, as similar creoles are often spoken next to each other. Since pidgins and creoles are not distributed equally around the world, and because some areas, such as the Caribbean, have a high density of creoles, the main world map of each feature will be accompanied by blowup maps showing certain areas in detail.

The second volume will contain concise prose descriptions of the sociohistorical context of each language, as well as synchronic grammatical surveys highlighting the major distinguishing features.

The database is conceived of as extendable, open for addition of further data as well as for new kinds of data such as relevant substrate languages, superstrate varieties or historical data on population movements.

This two-volume publication will be a comprehensive and authoritative reference work on pidgin and creole language structures bringing together the expertise of dozens of specialists from around the world. APiCS will thus serve as an invaluable tool for teaching and research, making systematic data on these languages readily available for a wide range of research questions (theories of creolization, uniformity and diversity of creoles, general properties of language contact, typological characteristics of contact languages).

The Atlas of Pidgin and Creole Language Structures (APiCS) is inspired by the World Atlas of Language Structures (WALS), which shows the geographical distribution of 142 features in an average of 400 languages world-wide. Pidgins and creoles were not completely excluded from WALS, but since the primary goal was to present the precolonial linguistic areas, pidgins and creoles were backgrounded. APiCS will contain many features on which information is also available in WALS, so that creoles and pidgins can readily be compared with their substrate and superstrate languages, as well as with the world's languages in general. However, the Atlas will not copy WALS blindly, but will add many features that did not make it into WALS but are important for creoles. Other features that appear in WALS will be modified to suit the needs of the APiCS users.

Each language will be the responsibility of a single author or a team of authors, which are requested to fill out a questionnaire for the 150-200 structural features and to write a sociohistorical and grammatical survey article for their language.

The following time schedule is envisaged:

2006  February: first preparatory workshop in Leipzig
  April: Atlas discussion at Gießen workshop
  October: second workshop in Leipzig
  November: first questionnaire will be sent out to contributors
2007 spring: workshop in Leipzig
  May: deadline for returning first questionnaire
  autumn: workshop in Leipzig (more)


revised questionnaire will be sent out to contributors
  spring: workshop in Leipzig
  September: deadline for returning revised questionnaire
  autumn: workshop in Leipzig
  December: deadline for submitting profile texts and sound files
2009    editorial work on both volumes and electronic version
2009/10   publication of the two volumes
Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology - Department of Linguistics