Reunion creole in New Caledonia: What influence on Tayo?

Karin Speedy*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

5 Citations (Scopus)


According to Ehrhart and Corne, Tayo is an endogenous creole that crystallized under the peculiarly plantation-like circumstances present at the St-Louis mission in the late 19th century. Noting some linguistic similarities with Reunion Creole, Chaudenson (1994) raises the question of whether Reunion Creole had had any influence on the development of Tayo. This notion is refuted both by Ehrhart (1994) and Corne (1994, 1995, 1999, 2000a, 2000b), although Corne (2000a) concedes that due to some linguistic and socio-demographic evidence, Reunion Creole influence on Tayo cannot be excluded. This paper revisits this debate and reopens questions that earlier researchers appear to have closed by discussing the implications of two texts written in Reunion Creole and published in New Caledonia. The first is a Georges Baudoux text containing the 'Reunion Creole' of Socrates, a black Reunion Creole taken to New Caledonia in 1870 to work as a coolie. The second is a political text attacking a 'Creole' candidate running for election on the Conseil Supérieur des Colonies published in 1884 by journalist Julien Bernier, an immigrant from Reunion. Accepting the authenticity of these texts raises questions pertinent to the debate on Tayo genesis. Given that réunionnais was being spoken in New Caledonia when Tayo was developing, were any speakers in contact with the Kanaks of St-Louis? What, if any, influence did their language have on the developing St-Louis patois? I discuss these questions by re-examining socio-historical evidence and by making some brief comparisons between the New Caledonian Reunion Creole texts and Tayo.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)193-230
Number of pages38
JournalJournal of Pidgin and Creole Languages
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2007


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