Police Court

From the Barkerville beat: a sample of another pidgin language…

A Chinese witness is quoted verbatim.

police court


(Before H.M. BALL, Esq., S.M.)

WEDNESDAY, Nov. 2, 1870.

A celestial, named Ah Sing, charged a compatriot of the name of San Wey with breaking open a box of his with intent to steal. His evidence was as follows:

Last night, about 7 o’clock, I went out of my house in Chinatown, and on my return found prisoner coming out; he ran away; I found my box broken open and everything in disorder. I no sabee law this country. Californee, spose man steal, he put jail.

Prisoner was committed for trial a the Assizes.

— from the Barkerville (BC) Cariboo Sentinel of Nov. 5, 1870, page 3, column 4

I’m guessing you understand < sabee > is ‘understand’.

The most fascinating point about the (West Coast) Chinese Pidgin English quotation above is that it’s got three instances of “null” preposition.

That is, ‘in this country’, ‘in California’, and ‘in jail’ each have no CPE word equivalent to ‘in’.

This same trait is common in pidgin/creole languages (including Chinuk Wawa, especially the Kamloops dialect), as well as other languages worldwide.

But as I keep on noticing, non-pronounced material — no matter how grammatically significant — frequently goes unmentioned by linguists.

That’s why I’ve devoted so much attention to “nulls” on this website. Learn to use them well, and be fluent in Chinook Jargon.

What do you think?