The Birth of a Language

Some time ago we wrote about code switching, and how this informal phenomenon manifests itself in virtually infinite ways. In that post, we mentioned Spanglish, Belgrano-Deutsch, Portuñol, and Llanito as examples of code switching.

Of course, that list was not exhaustive, as there are many other examples. Indeed, in recent years we can even add a new one to the list: Light Warlpiri or Rampaku. What is interesting here is that, according to the linguist who discovered the language being used by a remote population of Australia (Lajamanu), we are witnessing the birth of a new language.

The discovery came after she noticed that children were constantly switching between English, traditional Warlpiri, and Australian Creole (Kriol), but with the peculiarity of them doing so in every sentence. After recording the children speaking in this mixture of languages, she was able to discover certain patterns, that is, it had its own linguistic structure. Thus, most of the verbs and their morphology came from either from English or Kriol, while the essence of its nominal structure came from traditional Warlpiri. It also has the distinction of having a verb tense indicating that an action happened in the present or in the past, but not the future.

It is estimated that the language dates back to the seventies and eighties, when parents of the younger generation today spoke to their children using a combination of terms from the languages ​​they spoke. These children would be the first native speakers of Light Warlpiri. Having passed this language on to this new generation, it seems certain that it will be transmitted to the next. Here, then, we find not only a case of code switching, but also, the birth of a new language. Indeed, we are the witnesses of its infancy.