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Language Sketch:. Haitian Creole/Kreyòl Ayisyen. Brieanne Conklin Chris Perkins. Map. Introduction. Official name: Kreyòl Creole classification Population of over 7 million. French (regional and colloquial varieties from 17 th and 18 th centuries) African language influence

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Haitian Creole/Kreyòl Ayisyen

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  • Official name: Kreyòl
  • Creole classification
  • Population of over 7 million
related languages
French (regional and colloquial varieties from 17th and 18th centuries)

African language influence

Kwa group of West Africa

Bantu languages of Central Africa

Minimal Amerindian language influence

Haiti (Ayiti)—Arawak or Carib meaning ‘vast land of mountains’

Only very few lexical influences

Related Languages
sociolinguistic background
Sociolinguistic Background

Settlement History

  • Very small aboriginal survival of Spanish rule
  • ~1625 Europeans (French), along with a few African slaves began to settle the area
  • 1664 Louis XIV claimed the West of the island
  • Growth of slave population due to indigo, coffee, sugarcane, tobacco, cotton and cacao industry.
    • Led to classic plantation colony with distinctive Creole culture and Creole language
  • 1697 Spanish recognition of French claim to Saint-Dominigue (Haiti)
sociolinguistic background6
Sociolinguistic Background

Settlement History

  • Slave population
    • 1681~2,000 (approx. 1/3 of total pop.)
    • 1791~700,000 (approx. 92% of total pop.)
  • Haiti became richest French colony providing 1/3 of French foreign trade
  • Struggle for independence had already begun which succeeded in 1803
sociolinguistic background7
Sociolinguistic Background

Sociolinguistic Variation

  • Official languages: French and Haitian Creole
  • All Haitians speak Haitian Creole, but only 10% are considered bilingual in French and H.C.
  • Fluency in French carries higher status

Traditional Uses

  • Haitian used in everyday interactions
  • French used in schools, government, official documents, etc.
  • Not allowed to be used for instruction and education until 1979
basic word order
Basic Word Order
  • Follows SVO word order typical of French
  • Passive structure takes on common S-Aux-V-O
  • Only questions divert from French using SVO+rising intonation exclusively
phonological features
Phonological Features
  • Regional variation makes it difficult to standardize a a phonological description...
  • General phonology similar to French
  • 17 consonants (Hall 1953):
phonological features cont d
Phonological Features (Cont’d)


Front Back

Close i u

e o

є ò

Open a

Other Vowels:

[an] manman

[єn] bєnyєn

[wi] uit

phonological features cont d13
Phonological Features (cont’d)


  • Unlike French, determiners do not reflect gender
  • Instead, there are several alternants of the determiner /la/:

la ~ a ~ an ~ lan ~ nan

  • Form is selected based on phonological environment
syntactic features
Syntactic Features

Determiners and possessive pronouns occur after the noun:

poul ki kouvri pitit li ak-zèl li

chicken REL cover little 3sg with wing 3sg

‘a hen covering her chickens with her wings’ (Arends et al)

dénié vwayaj la

last trip DET

‘the last trip’ (Hall 1953)

syntactic features15
Syntactic Features

Personal Pronouns:

mwen 1sg nou 1pl & 2pl

ou 2sg yo 3pl

li 3sg

  • No gender distinction
  • No distinction between 1st person plural & 2nd person plural
  • Used for subject and object
syntactic features cont d
Syntactic Features (cont’d)
  • Present tense “to be” verb not used

Li malad / Li nan jaden an

3sg sick / 3sg in garden DET

‘He is sick’ / ‘He is in the garden’

  • Markers used for other tenses

Li te malad / Li te anba tab la

3sg was sick / 3sg was under table DET

‘He was sick’ / ‘He was under the table’


syntactic features cont d17
Syntactic Features (cont’d)


  • French negation: “ne ...(verb)... pas”
  • Haitian Creole retains ‘pa’ in negation; however, it functions more like the French “ne”

H.C. Li pa jam tro ta pou chien anraje

3sg NEG ever too late for dog go mad (Arends et al)

French Ce n’ est jamais trop tard pour un chien enrager

It NEG is never too late for a dog to go mad

‘It’s never too late for a dog to go mad’


Arends, J. et al. (1995). Pidgins and Creoles: An Introduction. Amsterdam: John Benjamins.

DeGraff, Michel. Comparativ e Creole Syntax. London, U.K. Westminster Creolistics Series, Battlebridge Publications

--Morphology in Creole genesis: Linguistics and ideology. (2001). Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.

Haitians: Their History and Culture. http://www.culturalorientation.net/haiti

Hall, R.A. (1953). Haitian Creole: Grammar, Texts, Vocabulary. Menasha, Wisconsin: American Anthropological Association.