Old Norse-Cree mixed language?

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Ælfwine
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Old Norse-Cree mixed language?

Post by Ælfwine »

I wanted to recently get back into conlanging, and revisit one of my old ideas for a descendant of Old Norse in North America. Though it wouldn't be a straight descendant, but rather a creole or mixed language between Old Norse and a dialect of Cree (perhaps one of the tribes the Norse would have first encountered upon landfall.)

So, what features might a mixed language between Old Norse and a Cree language have? What might the language look like? How might it arise? I reckon Michif will be the best source of inspiration, although I probably won't copy it outright it can at least give me something to work with.

Thoughts?
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Salmoneus
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Re: Old Norse-Cree mixed language?

Post by Salmoneus »

I think I often want to recently have done something...

I'm afraid I'm no expert on creoles. As you probably know, they're a controversial topic: creoles are all very similar, but we don't know why. The three theories are:
- all creoles are naturally alike (eg very minimal morphology) due to the process of creole formation
- existing creoles are all alike because of the process of creole formation when one language is specifically SAE
- existing creoles are all alike because they're all descendents of, or at least highly influenced by, the same language. [this theory ranges from "all the sailors were actually speaking Mediterranean Lingua Franca when they talked to people anyway, regardless of what country they came from" to "once a creole developed in one place, sailors attempted to use that creole to communicate everywhere else, so as new creoles develop they were strongly influenced by expectations derived from the original creole"].

So an Old Norse-Cree creole could look like either a normal creole, or completely unlike it, depending on your opinions. Although personally, I'd think that if it looks entirely unlike a creole, I wouldn't call it a creole, even if it technically was one.

Mixed languages are even less constrained, though as you probably know they're extremely rare, and often the opposite of creoles both in origin (creoles arise when neither speaks the other's language; mixed languages arise when both speak the other's languages) and in form (creoles level out complexities from either language, while mixed languages can compile complexities from both languages).

I'm not sure either is really likely here; both are possible, though. I'd say, given Norse proclivities, that a creole might be more likely (a trade language between two warring but communicating communities), although you could create scenarios for a mixed language (perhaps one side enslaves a huge number of the other? I could imagine a small Norse community enslaving so many Cree that after a few generations it's basically a community of the descendents of slaves?). Wouldn't come naturally to the Norse, though (they don't strike me as a "hey, let's play around speaking the language of our slave girls, and let our half-race children be raised to respect both lineages!" peoples, really...)
Ælfwine
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Re: Old Norse-Cree mixed language?

Post by Ælfwine »

My apologies for the late response, I kept formulating a reply and then later deleting it.

I believe that a pidgin/creole would be the more likely scenario here. Perhaps a pidgin arose naturally from vikings arriving from Greenland and Iceland to the area in order to trade with the natives of the area. This is quite possible, as there is a Basque-Algonquian pidgin documented to have been spoken many years later in the same area. I think I want something more complex than a simple pidgin, however. (Though it would be a good place to start.) So I'm going to start by making a pidgin, hopefully expand it into a creole or even a mixed language. To help me I have An Introduction to Pidgins and Creoles from the Cambridge Textbooks in Linguistics series.

I propose that Old Norse here is the lexifier language, and that Innu-Aimun/Naskapi/Mi'kmaq are the languages giving the rest of the phonology/grammar. Whilst it could be posited that the other way around is far more likely given the Norse's disadvantaged position relative to the Native Americans, I find this to be more interesting in terms of development.

So, below I've started to individually compare each phoneme in every language that I believe the Norse could have come into contact with, and the resultant phoneme. I gave up doing the vowels. The major problem I have with the vowels here is the sheer amount of mergers that would need to take place. It looks like the vowel inventories of Naskapi and Innu derive from a system more similar to Mi'kmaq but at some point lost the quantity distinction in favor of a quality distinction, so comparing them to Old Norse's vowels is not intuitive, unless I can safely surmise that at the time of the pidgin/creole's genesis both of them still had vowel length as a distinctive trait.

Code: Select all

Old Norse Naskapi Innu Mi'kmaq Result
m	m	m	m	m
n	n	n	n	n
ŋ	∅	∅	∅	ng
p	p	p	p	p
b	p	p	p	p
t	t	t	t	t
d	t	t	t	t
k	k	k	k	k
g	k	k	k	k
f	∅	∅	∅	p
v	∅	∅	∅	b?
θ	∅	∅	∅	t
ð	∅	∅	∅	d
s	s	s	s	s
h	h	h	x	h
ɣ*	∅	∅	∅	?
r	(ɹ)	∅	∅	l
l	l	l	l	l
j	j	i	j	j
w	w	u	w	w

hn	∅	∅	∅	n
hl	∅	∅	∅	l
hr	∅	∅	∅	l
hv	∅	ku	ku	kw (c.f. icelandic hv > kv)
hj	∅	∅	∅	j

a	a~æ	ə~ʌ	a	a
a:	∅	∅	a:	a:
æ	a~æ	∅	∅	a
æ:	∅	∅	∅	e:
e	e	e	e	e
e:		∅	e:	e:
i		i	i	i
i:			i:	i:
ɔ	∅	ə~ʌ	∅	a
ɔ:	∅	∅	∅	o:
o	o~ʊ	o~u	o	o
o:
My Blog
Current Projects:
Crimean Gothic — A Gothic language spoken in Crimea (duh)
Pelsodian — A Romance language spoken around Lake Balaton
Jezik Panoski — A Slavic language spoken in the same area
An unnamed Semitic language spoken in the Caucascus.
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