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Haitian Creole vs. French in Haiti: How Language Divides a Nation. History. 1697- Spanish control ends with the Treaty of Ryswick, which divides the island into French-controlled St. Domingue and Spanish-controlled Santo Domingo

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  • 1697- Spanish control ends with the Treaty of Ryswick, which divides the island into French-controlled St. Domingue and Spanish-controlled Santo Domingo
  • For over 100 years, the colony of St. Domingue was France's most important overseas territory, supplying France with sugar, rum, coffee and cotton. Near the end of the 18th century, nearly 500,000 people, mainly of western African origin, were enslaved by the French
  • 1791-1803-A slave rebellion is launched leading to a 13-year war of liberation against St. Domingue's colonists and later, Napoleon's army
  • 1838-France recognizes Haitian independence in exchange for a financial compensation of 150 million francs
  • First Caribbean nation and Black republic to achieve independence

"Whether we like it or not, one and the other language is a historical part of the Haitian national patrimony. In spite of its minor standing, Creole is one of the traits that defines the Haitian nation and is experienced by each Haitian as a component of his identity. Although issuing from the slave period, Creole in Haiti is not soiled with the vice of servitude, because the struggle for independence gave it a national significance as the language of a people who liberated itself with arms in its hands and Creole in its mouth.“~Alain Bentolila

haitian society
Haitian Society…
  • Before independence, society divided into three classes: Whites (8%), Freed Blacks (5%) and Slaves (87%)
  • After the Revolution, the Freed Blacks became the elite as many of the whites were either killed or fled the country
  • Currently, the bourgeoisie and middle class speak French, are educated, and have political and economic power
haitian society5
Haitian Society…
  • Les inconscients- term given to the underprivileged peasant majority who lack political awareness, survive on subsistence farming, and are illiterate in French
  • Irony: the bourgeoisie control the country but the peasants are responsible for Haiti as it is. Their ancestors led the Revolution, they created Creole, they maintain the country’s exports (upon which the economy is based) and have put into practice the cultural practices (folklore and religion) that Haiti is known for
haitian creole
Haitian Creole…
  • Haitian Creole (kreyòl ayisyen) is a creole language based on French
  • Spoken in Haiti by about 7.5 million people, which is almost the entire population
  • Linguistic influences from Western African languages such as Wolof and Gbe
  • Has several dialects (kreyòl swa and kreyòl rek, smooth and rough Creole respectively)
  • Via immigration, several hundred thousand speakers live in other countries, including Canada, the United States, France, the Dominican Republic, Cuba, and the Bahamas
  • First Caribbean nation to give its native language official status
haitian creole7
Haitian Creole…
  • Since 1961, Haitian Creole has been recognized as an official language along with French, which had been the sole literary language of the country since its independence in 1804.
  • Few speakers are bilingual
  • Many educators, writers, and activists have emphasized pride and written literacy in Creole since the 1980s.
  • There are newspapers, radio,and television programs in this language
  • Referred to as “broken French”
compared with french
Compared with French…
  • Haitian Creole has a simpler grammar
  • Verbs are not inflected for tense or person
  • No grammatical gender
  • The same primary word order (SVO) as French
  • Variations on the verbs and adjectives are not as complex as the rules of French
  • Viewed as harsh, not harmonious, elementary, and debased
Haitian Creole:






Ki lè?




les oiseaux

s'il vous plaît

quel côté

quelle heure

  • Spoken by no more than 10% of the population
  • Associated with elite status along with skin color, educational level, and family name
  • The language of most educational instruction, government, and administration
  • Lack of fluency in French often associated with illiteracy, low socioeconomic status, and backwardness
  • Language follows strict rules based on its spelling
  • Perceived as difficult to learn
  • Associated with de-Africanization
  • The smoothness of the language in comparison to Creole is associated with being refined, well-mannered and educated
dividing a nation
Dividing a Nation…
  • Repression vs. Power
  • Formal vs. Casual Languages
  • The elites vs. The common man
    • Laubach-McConnell spelling system
  • Status of Language representing the nation of Haiti
    • GDP, infant mortality, life expectancy
    • One of the poorest countries in the Caribbean and the world
  • Bentolila, Alain. “Haitian Creole: A Challenge For Education”. Diogenes International Council for Philosophy & Humanistic Studies. V. 37. Spring 1987: p.73-87.
  • Doucet, Rachell C., Schieffelin, Bambi B. “The ‘Real’ Haitian Creole: Ideology, Metalinguistics, and Orthographic Choice”. American Ethnologist. 1994: p.176-200
  • Fontaine, Pierre-Michel. “Language, Society and Development Dialectic of French and Creole Use in Haiti”. Latin American Perspectives. 1981: p. 28-46.
  • Largey, Michael. “Composing a Haitian Cultural Identity: Haitian Elites, African Ancestry, and Musical Discourse”. Black Music Research Journal. 1994: p. 99-117.
  • Parenton, Vernon J., Wingfield, Roland. “Class Structure and Class Conflict in Haitian Society”. Social Forces. 1965: p.338-347
  • http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Haitian_creole
  • http://www.google.com
  • http://www.haiti.org/keydate.htm
  • http://www.saxakali.com/caribbean/LanahL.htm