Where is Haitian Creole Going?

Haitian Creole is the vernacular language of Haiti, spoken by all its inhabitants and serving as the only form of communication for over 90% of the population. Middle class Haitians are mainly bilingual, but they do not compose a large portion of the population.

The Creole faces a long road ahead for many reasons, including:

  1. Haiti’s sub-par infrastructure
    1. Most rural areas only have narrow dirt roads, making it difficult to traverse the small country.
    2. Public transportation between large population centers is almost non-existent, so Haitian Creole retains its regional dialects.
  2. French-dominated higher education
    1. There are few universities that instruct in Haitian Creole, partially because it may not be as profitable. In this way, the educated French and bilingual elite will remain the same across generations.
  3. Secondary education clashes with the home
    1. Instruction in Haitian Creole hardly extends beyond primary school, so it is common for students to struggle in secondary school when they are required to take classes in French. This also reinforces the negative divide in language prestige between French and Creole.
  4. Haitian Creole continuously takes from French
    1. Latin died after its offspring, the Romance languages, took hold. However, this is not the case for Creole since French is still a thriving language. Therefore, Creole is changing simultaneously alongside French, borrowing words for novel technological advances and expressions.
  5. The French orthography is more grounded and traditional
    1. Many Haitian businesses take French names and advertisement is often in French.

To read about a current event related to Haitian education, follow this link: http://www.nytimes.com/2014/08/02/opinion/a-creole-solution-for-haitis-woes.html?_r=0

Theories: Pidgin Languages and Their Creoles

grammaticalsimilarities‘I did not see him’ or ‘I have not seen him.’

Creole languages derive from pidgin languages. A pidgin language is defined as a reduced language that results from the extended contact between groups of people with no language in common (contact usually involving trade). Pidgin languages can produce creole languages (which are more stable) once children begin learning the pidgin as their native language. In the case of Haitian Creole, one creolization theory says this contact occurred between the French-speaking plantation owners and linguistically diverse African slaves. A second rationalizes that the slaves had contact, instead, with “poor” whites who used imperfect dialects of standard French. Either way, the resulting language took the majority of its lexicon from French and fundamental grammar structures from African languages. Nonetheless, each theory implies a different attitude toward the legitimacy of the creole, the latter insinuating that Haitian Creole is less of its own language.

Creole children of slaves were not allowed to go to school, so they had no way to learn proper French. Thus, the genesis of the Creole was dependent upon the group of French speakers exposed to slaves and freed-slaves. Today, Haitian Creole varies regionally in its lexicon and socially in its phonology and register. During the 18th century, creoles became distinguishable from their European counterparts because new Europeans coming in contact with the creoles originating from their native tongue noticed a difference and could not as easily understand. Over time, the intelligibility between Haitian Creole and French decreased. Creoles are not distinct solely because of their linguistic determinants, but also because of the social conditions under which they were formed.

A Haitian Perspective on Creolization:

Intro: What is a Creole?

The term “Creole” originally referred to descendants of Portuguese settlers who were born and raised overseas. Now the term is mainly dominated by people of mixed ancestry, referring to a mother tongue formed by the interaction between two languages from an earlier pidgin stage. The earliest known attestation of any creole language came from Martinique in 1671, just as the French were permanently settling in Saint Domingue. Haitian Creole, or Kreyol, emerged from contact between French settlers and African slaves during the Atlantic Slave Trade in Haiti. In addition, white settlers picked up the language. Haitians now encompass the largest Creole-community in the world.

When “Creole” is referred to in this assessment, it is referring to the Haitian Creole language when capitalized.