Cafeteria principle

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In creole linguistics, the term cafeteria principle refers the idea of language mixing by creating an image of a language selecting features from various sources like a person choosing items for lunch at a cafeteria (following Bickerton 1981:49).


Bickerton (1981) attributes this principle and the term to Dillard (1970).


  • Bickerton, Derek. 1981. Roots of language. Ann Arbor: Karoma.
  • Dillard, J. L. 1970. Principles in the history of American English: Paradox, virginity, cafeteria. Florida FL Reporter 7: 32-33.
  • Siegel, Jeff. 2008. In praise of the cafeteria principle: Language mixing in Hawai‘i Creole. To appear in: Michaelis, Susanne (ed.) Substrates and superstates. Amsterdam: Benjamins.