Documenting Unserdeutsch: Reversing colonial amnesia

Maitz, Péter; Volker, Craig A. (2017). Documenting Unserdeutsch: Reversing colonial amnesia. Journal of Pidgin and Creole languages, 32(2), pp. 365-397. Benjamins

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Unserdeutsch, also known as Rabaul Creole German, is the only known German-lexifier creole. This critically endangered language has its origins in an orphanage in German New Guinea for mixed-race children, where Standard German was taught by mission personnel. Unserdeutsch was creolised in one generation, and became the in-group language of a small mixed-race community. It is now spoken by around 100 elderly speakers, nearly all immigrants to Australia. The current project is only the second documentation based on actual fieldwork and has a specific focus on the use and vitality of the language as used by the last generation of speakers. It has the aim of producing an Unserdeutsch corpus that will facilitate both future linguistic research and contact with the language for the descendants of Unserdeutsch speakers. Preliminary findings show variation among speakers along a continuum from heavily creolised basilect to an almost European German acrolect. Most of the lexicon is derived from German, while a number of basilectal grammatical constructions are the result of the loss of marked features in German and possible imperfect second language learning as well as relexification of Tok Pisin, the presumed substrate language.

Item Type:

Journal Article (Original Article)


06 Faculty of Humanities > Department of Linguistics and Literary Studies > Institute of Germanic Languages

UniBE Contributor:

Maitz, Péter


400 Language > 410 Linguistics
400 Language > 430 German & related languages








Péter Maitz

Date Deposited:

03 Dec 2018 11:17

Last Modified:

14 Feb 2019 10:54

Uncontrolled Keywords:

German, Papua New Guinea, pidgin, creole, endangered languages, relexification, language documentation, Rabaul Creole German, Unserdeutsch, Tok Pisin


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