Creolists employ metaphor from a variety of semantic domains to render the processes through which cultures combine and to characterize new forms that emerge from their contact. Melville J. Herskovits, viewed as a proto-creolist, explored the retention and transformation of African cultural elements in the Americas. He used both metaphor and schematic, social-scientific explanations to create a conceptual framework for the study of acculturation and cultural change. Syncretism and reinterpretation, two key Herskovitsian terms of significance for creolization studies, refer to the reconciliation of cultural elements and beliefs from different cultures in contact, and to processes that give old meanings to new forms and retain old forms with new meanings.

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