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The term relexification refers to the process of replacing (all or a large number of) the words of one language with the words from another language, while the grammar of the original language remains intact. This term was originally used for creole languages, whose grammar is often thought to be derived from their (e.g. African) substrate languages, while their words derive from the European lexifier languages.

  • “The vocabulary derived from one source language has been largely a more recent vocabulary derived from another language, while the original grammatical structure is preserved... This process of relexification seems to be the converse of restructuralization.” (Stewart 1962:46)
  • “Given the concept of lexical entry, relexification can be defined as the process of vocabulary substitution in which the only information adopted from the target language in the lexical entry is the phonological representation.” (Muysken 1981:61)


The term was coined by Stewart (1962) (Goodman 2003:312).


  • Goodman, M. 2003. William A. Stewart 12 September 1930 – 25 March 2002. Journal of Pidgin and Creole Languages 18.2:311-317.
  • Muysken, Pieter. 1981. Half-way between Quechua and Spanish: The case for relexification. In: Highfield, Arthur R. & Valdman, Albert (eds.) Historicity and variation in creole studies. Ann Arbor: Karoma, 52-79.
  • Stewart, William A. 1962. An outline of linguistic typology for describing multilingualism. In: Franck A. Rice (ed.) Study of the Role of Second Language in Asia, Africa and Latin America. Washington: Center for Applied Linguistics.