Segments in this Video

Overview of Pidgins (04:12)


English pidgins and Creoles are spoken throughout the Pacific, and particularly in Melanesia. Pidgin spoken in Papua New Guinea developed from the need for natives and world traders to communicate. Viewers observe pidgin in action.

Pidgin: Improvised Contact Language (03:36)

Pidgins usually begin as improvised contact languages between trader and tribesmen. In this segment, viewers observe pidgin used when a European visits remote New Guinea tribes. Certain characteristics are common to all pidgins.

New Guinea: Pidgin and Creole (03:00)

New Guinea tribal members prepare themselves for a celebration with special face painting. A European and his tribal wife teach their children pidgin as the language of the future. When pidgin is spoken as a first language, it is called a Creole.

African Pidgins (02:39)

The British slave trade created the first pidgin. This segment covers various forms of "black English" in Africa.

Sierra Leone: Pidgin English (Krio) (04:43)

In Sierra Leone, an English pidgin called Krio is spoken by everyone. In this segment, viewers hear Krio in the marketplace as a language of trade.

Barbados: Pidgin English(Bajan) (06:23)

Barbadian English is a distinctive local Creole with its own traditions and is spoken by blacks and whites alike. In this segment, viewers hear this Caribbean pidgin spoken by cane cutters and Europeans.

Jamaican English: Creole (05:54)

Jamaican Creole is the language of reggae and of "dub" poetry. Though the language of authority is Standard English, the language of the streets is Jamaican English, which may become the official language of Jamaican business.

Jamaican Creole Written Down in Dub Poetry (02:45)

Dub poetry is a form of performance poetry consisting of spoken word over reggae rhythms. In this segment a dub poet living in England explains the value of putting Jamaican Creole into written words and performing them.

Jamaican Blacks in London Speak Creole (04:03)

Jamaican Creole gives Caribbean blacks a national language of unification and of protest. British blacks in England need to speak British English in shops and when talking to white friends.

Immigrants from Indian Subcontinent in Britain (02:42)

A wave of immigrants from the Indian subcontinent came to Britain where they have integrated well into British society and have no need for a pidgin to preserve their cultural identity.

Spoken English in Calcutta (03:58)

In India, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, and Pakistan, English has found a distinctive identity. Bengali reporters speak English in formal settings and take interviews in English for their Calcutta English-language newspaper.

India's English Language Newspapers (04:22)

As English-speaking Bengali reporters get further from Calcutta, they speak an English with a heavy Indian flavor as they interview a fish farmer. In his newspaper article, the reporter uses Bengali words sprinkled in with standard English.

Indian English: Promotion by Writers (05:21)

In a writers' workshop, participants champion the use of spoken and written Indian English. They strive to write a "gloriously impure" form of English. A moderator summarizes the film and asserts that English is an ever-changing language.

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The Empire Strikes Back

Part of the Series : The Story of English
DVD (Chaptered) Price: $149.95
DVD + 3-Year Streaming Price: $224.93
3-Year Streaming Price: $149.95



Will standard English, as it was known in the 20th century, disappear? Will English continue as the global tongue, or will its numerous varieties become, as offshoots of Latin did, a host of mutually unintelligible languages? This classic PBS program features new varieties of English that have transcended British and American influence. The program focuses on some of the most successful examples of “New English,” including Jamaican creole, the English of India, and the pidgin of Melanesia, brought to Papua New Guinea by maritime trade. The program concludes with the possibility that the world’s first global language will endure alongside its unrecognizable descendants. (59 minutes)

Length: 59 minutes

Item#: BVL36931

ISBN: 978-1-4213-6095-9

Copyright date: ©1986

Closed Captioned

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Only available in USA and Canada.