JOPOL 3(2020)

“A Picturesque Language, Humorous and Very Pliable”: Descriptions of French-Based Creole Languages in Travel Guidebooks

This article examines the descriptions of French-based Creole languages in travel guidebooks for major tourist destinations in the Caribbean and the Indian Ocean. In a corpus of 63 guidebooks spanning over the past 20 years, we extract elements of metalinguistic discourse about the history and characteristics of Creole languages. We show that guidebooks draw on stereotypical and exoticizing views of these languages which can largely be traced back to colonial times. The analysis highlights three areas of tension which the guidebooks have to handle when trying to provide accurate descriptions while simultaneously answering to the desire for otherness in tourism. Ultimately, the metalinguistic comments in guidebooks are embedded in a logic of commodification of language which is widespread in the context of tourism.

Keywords: Creole languages, travel guidebooks, tourism, language ideologies, stereotypes