When groups of people who speak different languages come together, they sometimes inadvertently create a new one, combining bits of each into something everyone can use to communicate easily. Linguists call such impromptu tongues “contact languages” — and they can extend well beyond the pidgin and creole that many of us have heard of.
The origin stories of these linguistic mash-ups vary. Some are peaceful, such as when groups meet for trade and need a lingua franca: Nigerian Pidgin English, for example, allows speakers of over 500 tongues to communicate. But others were born of tragedy and violence — like Haitian Creole, Gullah Geechee, Jamaican Creole, and many others that arose from the Atlantic slave trade, when West African peoples combined several tongues with English, creating everyday languages often used among slaves.