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About Haitian Creole Language

Haitian Creole language (Kreyòl ayisyen; pronounced: [kɣejɔl ajisjɛ̃]), often called simply Creole or Kreyòl, is a language spoken in Haiti by about eight million people, which is about 80% of the entire population of some ten million, and via emigration, by about one million speakers residing in the Bahamas, Cuba, Canada, Cayman Islands, Dominican Republic, French Guiana, Martinique, Guadeloupe, Belize, Puerto Rico, and United States. The language is notable for being the most widely spoken creole language in the world.

Haitian Creole is one of Haiti's two official languages, along with French. It is a creole based largely on 18th-century French with various other influences, most notably African languages (including some Arabic), as well as Spanish and Taíno - and increasingly English.

Partly due to efforts of Félix Morisseau-Leroy, 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. The official status was maintained under the country's 1987 constitution. The use of Creole in literature has been small but is increasing. Morisseau was one of the first and most influential authors to write in Creole. Since the 1980s, many educators, writers and activists have written literature in Creole. Today numerous newspapers, as well as radio and television programs, are produced in Creole.

Grammar

Haitian Creole grammar differs greatly from French and inflects much more simply: for example, verbs are not inflected for tense or person, and there is no grammatical gender — meaning that adjectives and articles are not inflected according to the noun. The primary word order (SVO) is the same as French, but the variations on the verbs and adjectives are minuscule compared to the complex rules employed by French.

Many grammatical features, particularly pluralization of nouns and indication of possession, are indicated by appending certain suffixes, like yo, to the main word. There has been a debate going on for some years as what should be used to connect the suffixes to the word: the most popular alternatives are a dash, an apostrophe or a space. It makes matters more complicated when the "suffix" itself is shortened, perhaps making only one letter (such as m or w).

Note that in Haitian creole although the lexicon is mostly French, the sentence structure is of that of the West African Fongbe language as most of the slaves brought to Haiti came from the former kingdom of Dahomey (present day Benin).

Pronouns

There are six pronouns, one pronoun for each person/number combination. There is no difference between direct and indirect. Some are of French origin, others are not.

Plural of nouns

If a noun is definite, it is pluralized by adding yo at the end. If it is indefinite, it has no plural marker, and its plurality is determined by context.

Possession

Possession is indicated by placing the possessor after the item possessed. This is similar to the French construction of chez moi or chez lui which are "my place" and "his place", respectively. Unlike in English, possession does not indicate definiteness ("my friend" as opposed to "a friend of mine"), and possessive constructions are often followed be a definite article.

Usage outside of Haiti

Haitian Creole is used widely among Haitians who have relocated to other countries, particularly the United States and Canada. Some of the larger Creole-speaking populations are found in Montreal, Quebec (where French is the official language), New York City, Boston, and Central and South Florida (Miami, Fort Lauderdale, and Palm Beach). To reach out to the large Haitian population, government agencies have produced various public service announcements, school-parent communications, and other materials in Haitian Creole. For instance, Miami-Dade County in Florida sends out paper communications in Haitian Creole in addition to English and Spanish. In the Boston area, the Boston subway system and area hospitals and medical offices post announcements in Haitian Creole as well as English. North America's only Creole-language television network is HTN, based in Miami. The area also has more than half a dozen Creole-language AM radio stations.

There is controversy over whether to teach Creole in Miami-Dade County Public Schools.[citation needed] Some people[who?] argue Creole is a peasant language that is not fully developed for literary purposes; others[who?] argue it is important for children to learn a written form of their parents' native tongue.

Haitian language and culture is taught in many colleges in the United States as well as in the Bahamas. Indiana University has a Creole Institute founded by Dr. Albert Valdman where Haitian Creole, among other facets of Haiti, are studied and researched; the University of Kansas, Lawrence has an Institute of Haitian studies, founded by Dr. Bryant Freeman. Additionally, the University of Massachusetts Boston, Florida International University, and University of Florida offer seminars and courses annually at their Haitian Creole Summer Institute. Tulane University, Brown University, Columbia University, and University of Miami are also offering classes in Haitian Creole. The University of Oregon and Duke University will soon be offering classes as well.

Haitian Creole is the second most spoken language in Cuba, where over 300,000 Haitian immigrants speak it. It is recognized as a language in Cuba and a considerable number of Cubans speak it fluently. Most of these speakers have never been to Haiti and do not possess Haitian ancestry, but merely learned it in their communities. In addition, there is a Haitian Creole radio station operating in Havana. The language is also spoken by over 150,000 Haitians (although estimates believe that there are over a million speakers due to a huge population of illegal aliens from Haiti) who reside in the neighboring Dominican Republic, although the locals do not speak it.

 

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