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Creoles, pidgins, and sundry languages: essays in honor of Pieter Seuren(1).

Readers familiar with Pieter Seuren's work in theoretical linguistics may be somewhat surprised to find an issue of Linguistics in his honor entirely devoted to creoles, pidgins and "sundry(2) languages." After all, this is an area he has worked in only occasionally, although the bibliography below still counts no less than fifteen publications on this topic. In fact, as he once told me, Pieter has been fascinated by creoles ever since, as a student at the University of Amsterdam, he became aware of Jan Voorhoeve's work on Sranan (Surinam's most widely spoken creole) in the early 1950s. But it was not until the late 1970s that he got a chance to take up that interest, when he became involved in a research project on multilingualism in Surinam. This research entailed several field trips to Surinam, which resulted in two papers on the verbal system of Sranan (1981, 1983). It was around this time that he and Voorhoeve wrote a proposal for a research project on the syntactic development of Sranan, which was carried out by the editor under Pieter's supervision. As a result of that, my relationship with Pieter is based on our mutual interest in creoles rather than his more widely known work in theoretical linguistics. This is the main reason for the thematic restriction of this issue: it reflects (the limitations in) the competence of the editor, not of the honoree. Nevertheless, I hope that the papers collected here may serve as a fitting tribute to Pieter Seuren as a creolist AND as a theoretical linguist.

I first became aware of Pieter's interest in creole languages as a student of his when he included the tense and aspect system of Sranan in the topics he discussed in his Philosophy of Language class. For me it was something of a surprise to find that someone deeply interested in rather arcane topics such as truth values and presuppositions had done field work on a creole language. Later I learned that this was quite typical of Pieter, who combines a deep theoretical interest in the more abstract properties of language with a passionate love of language as it is used in everyday life. His involvement with Sranan and its speakers is evident from the fact that he was one of the founders of the Instituut ter Bevordering van de Surinamistiek [Institute for the Advancement of Surinam Studies] and of its journal OSO, which publishes articles on the history, culture, and languages of Surinam. He was also involved in a Surinamese cultural association called Wi na wan [We are one], which offered Sranan courses as one of its activities. His practical interest in Sranan transpires from the fact that he designed a spelling system for it (1982-1983), which later became the basis for the official orthography. Another creole, apart from Sranan, that has drawn his attention is Morisyen, a French-based creole spoken in Mauritius. Of the papers he wrote on this language, two were published in Linguistics, both of them dealing with aspects of its verbal system (1990, 1995). Pieter's interest in creoles has always been driven primarily by theoretical considerations, especially the insight they provide into the relationship between syntax and semantics. This idea was pursued in a seminal paper on semantic transparency in creole genesis (1986), co-authored with the late Herman Wekker.

Personally, I became associated with Pieter when he became the supervisor of my doctoral dissertation in 1983, replacing Jan Voorhoeve, who had died earlier that year. My relationship with him, therefore, is concerned with "Pieter the teacher" at least as much as with "Pieter the scholar." Apart from his invaluable linguistic insights, I have learned from him what it means to be an individual scholar, namely to carve out one's own path and stick to it, whether it is followed by others or not.

The original reason for putting this issue together was Pieter's departure from the University of Nijmegen upon his reaching the age of 65 in July 1999. Unfortunately, it turned out to be impossible to get it finished by then. That is why it can only be offered now as a kind of belated birthday present. It seems fitting that the papers collected here are being published in an issue of Linguistics, a journal Pieter has been affiliated with as a member of its Advisory Board for many years.

I thank the contributors for their cooperation and the editorial staff of Linguistics for their help in preparing this issue for Pieter. May he have many more years to share with us his ideas and insights on creoles, pidgins, "and sundry languages."

University of Amsterdam


(1.) Correspondence address: Instituut voor Algemene Taalwetenschap, Universiteit van Amsterdam, Spuistraat 210, NL-1012 VT Amsterdam, The Netherlands. E-mail:

(2.) I use this word on purpose here. Trying to analyze it when I first encountered it (in Pieter's "Predicate raising in French and sundry languages"), I could only come up with sun+dry, which didn't seem to make any sense (languages as dry as the sun?). Ever since I learned its true meaning, I've been waiting for an opportunity to use this word, which has some kind of special attraction for me. This volume, which is about not only creoles and pidgins but some other languages as well, seems to provide the right occasion.

Bibliography of Pieter Seuren's publication on creoles

(1981). Tense and aspect in Sranan. Linguistics 19, 1043-1076.

(1982 [1983]). De spelling van het Sranan: Een diskussie en een voorstel. Nijmegen: Transculturele Uitgeverij Masusa. (Also published [1982]. OSO 1 [1], 71-79; and [1983]. OSO 2 [1], 67-82.)

(1983). The auxiliary system in Sranan. In Linguistic Categories: Auxiliaries and Related Puzzles, vol. 2, Frank Heny and Barry Richards (eds.), 219-251. Dordrecht: Reidel.

(1984). The bioprogram hypothesis: facts and fancy. Behavioral and Brain Sciences 7(4), 208-209. (Peer commentary on Derek Bickerton, The Language Bioprogram Hypothesis. BBS 7 [4], 173-188.)

(1986). Adjectives as adjectives in Sranan: a reply to Sebba. Journal of Pidgin and Creole Languages 1 (1), 123-134.

(1986). Semantic transparency as a factor in creole genesis (with Herman Wekker). In Substrata versus Universals in Creole Genesis, Pieter Muysken and Norval Smith (eds.), 57-70. Amsterdam: Benjamins.

(1986). Predicate raising and semantic transparency in Mauritian Creole. In Beitrage zum 2. Essener Kolloquium uber "Kreolsprachen und Sprachkontakte," Norbert Boretzky, Werner Enninger, and Thomas Stolz (eds.), 203-229. Bochum: Brockmeyer.

(1986). La transparence semantique et la genese des langues creoles: le cas du creole mauricien. Etudes Creoles 9(1), 169-183.

(1987). A note on siki. Journal of Pidgin and Creole Languages 2(1), 57-62.

(1990). Still no serials in Seselwa: a reply to "Seselwa serialization and its significance" by Derek Bickerton. Journal of Pidgin and Creole Languages 5 (2), 271-292.

(1990). Linguistics 28(4): Issues in Creole linguistics, co-edited with Salikoko Mufwene.

(1990). Verb syncopation and predicate raising in Mauritian Creole. Linguistics 28(4), 809-844.

(1991). The definition of serial verbs. In Development and Structures of Creole Languages: Essays in Honor of Derek Bickerton, Frank Byrne and Thom Huebner (eds.), 193-205. Amsterdam: Benjamins.

(1993). The question of predicate clefting in the Indian Ocean creoles. In Focus and Grammatical Relations in Creole Languages, Frank Byrne and Donald Winford (eds.), 53-64. Amsterdam: Benjamins.

(1994). Soaps and serials. Review article on Serial Verbs, Claire Lefebvre (ed.). Journal of Pidgin and Creole Languages 9(1), 131-149.

(1995). Notes on the history and the syntax of Mauritian Creole. Linguistics 33 (3), 531-577.
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Publication:Linguistics: an interdisciplinary journal of the language sciences
Geographic Code:4EUNE
Date:Sep 1, 2000
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