Toward the end of the nineteenth century, a strong racist discourse was displayed in texts about Creole languages. Authors such as Mauritius-born Charles Baissac established explanations about the emergence of Creole languages and their specific structure, arguing that these particularities can only be seen as a result of contact between two races of different physical, mental, and social predispositions. As shown in Edward Said's “Orientalism,” scientific work in philology (and other disciplines) cannot be separated from structures of power and domination. Creole languages formed an urgent problem for colonial France as they initially emerged from the prestigious French language and yet had to be integrated into the paradigm of inferiority of colonized peoples and cultures. Linguistic descriptions of Creoles are therefore marked with a strong effort to reconcile the French heritage of these languages with the claim of domination over the community of Creole speakers.

Still, contradictions and nuances in the texts of late-nineteenth-century research on Creole languages, carried out often by native speakers who had grown up in the colonies, may help to identify statements that transport an individual view of the triangular relation between language, race, and mind. Even in its not quite institutionalized state as a discipline, early creolistics displays a remarkable degree of cross-national connections that demonstrate how difficult it is to classify philological branches along national affiliation.

The text of this article is only available as a PDF.
You do not currently have access to this content.