Mixed language

A mixed language is a language that arises among a bilingual group, typically very abruptly, combining aspects of two or more languages but not clearly deriving primarily from any single language.[1] It differs from a creole or pidgin language in that, whereas creoles/pidgins arise from populations trying to imitate a language where they have no fluency, a mixed language arises in a population that is fluent in both of the source languages. A mixed language, by definition, therefore belongs to more than one language family.

Because all languages show some degree of mixing[2] by virtue of containing loanwords, it is a matter of controversy whether the concept of a mixed language can meaningfully be distinguished from the contact phenomena of certain languages from the type of contact and borrowing seen in all languages.[3][4] Scholars debate to what extent language mixture can be distinguished from other mechanisms such as code-switching, substrata, or lexical borrowing.[5]


Other terms used in linguistics for the concept of a mixed language include hybrid language, contact language, and fusion language; in older usage, 'jargon' was sometimes used in this sense.[6] In some linguists' usage, creoles and pidgins are types of mixed languages, whereas in others' usage, creoles and pidgins are merely among the kinds of language that might become full-fledged mixed languages.

Thomason (1995) classifies mixed languages into two categories: Category 1 languages exhibit "heavy influence from the dominant group's language in all aspects of structure and grammar as well as lexicon" (Winford 171). Category 2 languages show a "categorial specificity of the structural borrowing" or a uniform borrowing of specific categories (Winford).[citation needed]

Mixed language and intertwined language are seemingly interchangeable terms for some researchers. Some use the term "intertwining" instead of "mixing" because the former implies "mixture of two systems which are not necessarily the same order" nor does it suggest "replacement of the either the lexicon or of the grammatical system", unlike relexification, massive grammatical replacement, and re-grammaticalization. The grammar of a mixed language typically comes from a language well known to first-generation speakers, which Arends claims is the language spoken by the mother. This is because of the close relationship between mother and child and the likelihood that the language is spoken by the community at large.[citation needed]

Arends et al. classify an intertwined language as a language that "has lexical morphemes from one language and grammatical morphemes from another". This definition does not include Michif, which combines French lexical items in specific contexts, but still utilizes Cree lexical and grammatical items.[3]

Yaron Matras distinguishes between three types of models for mixed language: "language maintenance and language shift, unique and predetermined processes ("intertwining"), and conventionalisation of language mixing patterns". The first model involves the use of one language for heavy substitutions of entire grammatical paradigms or morphology of another language. This is because a speech community will not adopt a newer dominant language, and so adapt their language with grammatical material from the dominant language. Bakker (1997) argues that mixed languages result from mixed populations. Languages "intertwine", in that the morphosyntax (provided by female native speakers) mixes with the lexicon of another language (spoken by men, often in a colonialist context). This appears to have been the case with Michif, where European men and Cree, Nakota, and Ojibwe women had offspring who learned a mixture of French and Cree. The third model "assumes a gradual loss of the conversational function of language alternation as a means of expressing contrast". In other words, language no longer becomes a means of differentiation between two speech communities as a result of language mixing.[7]

Lexical reorientation, according to Matras, is defined as "the conscious shifting of the linguistic field that is responsible for encoding meaning or conceptual representations away from the language in which linguistic interaction is normally managed, organised, and processed: speakers adopt in a sense one linguistic system to express lexical meaning (or symbols, in the Buhlerian sense of the term) and another to organize the relations among lexical symbols, as well as within sentences, utterances, and interaction. The result is a split, by source language, between lexicon and grammar."[7]

Other Languages
Afrikaans: Mengtaal
العربية: لغة مختلطة
беларуская: Змешаныя мовы
brezhoneg: Yezh kemmesk
čeština: Smíšený jazyk
Deutsch: Mischsprache
Esperanto: Mikslingvo
français: Langue mixte
Frysk: Mingtaal
한국어: 혼합 언어
italiano: Lingua mista
македонски: Мешан јазик
Nederlands: Mengtaal
日本語: 混合言語
Piemontèis: Lenghe mës-cià
português: Língua mista
Romani: Xamomi chhib
slovenčina: Zmiešaný jazyk
українська: Змішані мови
中文: 混合语