Far be it from us to deny the handicaps stemming from the absence of a norm, but perhaps norms are in fact less important than we Westerners, conditioned by our very standardized written languages, might assume. After all, our own standardization is only a product of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries; however effectively Alcuin of York may have prescribed for Latin, for the vernaculars each scribe and each publishing house had their own conventions in Europe until printing had been established for at least two centuries.
Living as they do in polyglot societies, pidgin speakers are accustomed to linguistic variation: rarely are they biased towards one particular spoken, still less one particular written, norm of pidgin. Possessing usually a rudimentary knowledge of the conventions of written English, they are tolerant of. or indifferent to, variant orthographies for pidgin: unlike the European reader they are not always unconsciously looking for the English etymon or related graphic form.
During the last parliamentary elections in Vanuatu, in December 1991. I was struck by the ease with which the voters of the Islands glanced over and understood the different election posters, some written by Anglophones, others by Francophones. Unfettered by any rule, each author had freely used his imagination to render the modem or technical terms that the voters had never seen written but had heard on the radio. All the scripts were equally accessible: might it not be our European norm that becomes a handicap? By constantly prohibiting any deviation in our languages, we are put off when any disparity appears in languages which should be very familiar.