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|9.6 million (2007)|
|Latin (Haitian alphabet)|
Official language in
Recognised minority language in
|Regulated by||Ministère de l'éducation nationale et de la formation professionnelle|
|9.6 million (2007)|
|Latin (Haitian alphabet)|
Official language in
Recognised minority language in
|Regulated by||Ministère de l'éducation nationale et de la formation professionnelle|
Haitian Creole (Kreyòl Ayisyen; pronounced: [kɣejɔl ajisjɛ̃] French: Créole Haïtien), often called simply Creole or Kreyòl, is one of Haiti's two official languages, along with French. Haitian Creole is spoken by about twelve million people. Haitian Creole is the language of 90-95% of the country, while the remaining percent is bilingual in both Creole and French. It is a creole based largely on 18th-century French with some influences from Portuguese, Spanish, Taíno, and West African languages. Haitian Creole emerged from contact between French settlers and African slaves during the Atlantic Slave Trade in the French colony of Saint-Domingue. Haitians are the largest speaking Creole community.
Despite Haiti's constant political turmoil, there were some significant steps taken to raise the status of the Creole language. In the early 1940s under President Élie Lescot, attempts were made to standardize the language. Lescot brought in two American linguistic experts, Frank Laubach and H. Ormond McConnell, to develop a standardized Creole orthography. However, the orthography was not well received although some regarded it highly. Its official orthography was standardized in 1979. The Constitution of 1979 classified French as the "langue d'instruction" or language of instruction, and Creole was classified as an "outil d'enseignement" or a tool of education. The more recent Constitution of 1987 recognizes Creole as the "sole language that unites all Haitians." It is in this Constitution that Creole and French are both recognized as the official languages of Haiti.  The use of Haitian Creole in literature has been small but is increasing. Even without government recognition by the end of the 1800s, there were already significant literary texts written in Haitian Creole such as Oswald Durand's "Choucoune" and Georges Sylvain's "Cric?" "Crac!".  Félix Morisseau-Leroy was one of the first and most influential authors to write in Haitian Creole. Since the 1980s, many educators, writers and activists have written literature in Haitian Creole. More recently, on October 28, 2004 on the country's newly instated "Creole Day" Haiti's official newspaper "Le Matin" published its first paper entirely in Haitian Creole.  Today numerous newspapers, as well as radio and television programs, are produced in Haitian Creole.
As required by the Joseph C. Bernard (Secrétaire d'État de l'éducation nationale) law of 18 September 1979, the Institut Pédagogique National established an official orthography for Kreyòl, and slight modifications were made over the next two decades. For example, the hyphen (-) is no longer used, nor is the apostrophe. The only accent accepted is the grave accent (à, è, or ò).
There are many theories on the formation of the Haitian Creole language.
One states that a form of creole had already started to develop on West African trading posts before the importation of African slaves into the Americas, and that since many of those slaves were being kept for some amount of time near these trading posts before being sent to the Caribbean, they would have learned a rudimentary creole even before getting there.
Haitian Creole has a systematic orthography where spelling strictly follows pronunciation, except for proper nouns and foreign words. According to the official standardized orthography, Haitian Creole is composed of the following 32 sounds : a, an, b, ch, d, e, è, en, f, g, h, i, j, k, l, m, n, ng, o, ò, on, ou, oun, p, r, s, t, ui, v, w, y, z. Of note is the absence of letters c, q, u and x. Letter k is to be used for the sounds of letters c and q. Letter u is always associated with another letter (ou, oun, ui), while letter i (and its sound) is used to replace the single letter u in French words. As for letter x, its sound is produced by using the combination of letters k and s, k and z, or g and z.
The first technical orthography for Haitian Creole was developed in 1940 by Ormonde McConnell. It was later revised with the help of Frank Laubach, resulting in the creation of what is known as the McConnell-Laubach orthography.
The McConnell-Laubach orthography received substantial criticism from members of the Haitian elite. Haitian scholar Charles Pressoir critiqued the McConnell-Laubach orthography for its lack of front rounded vowels because of their highly symbolic value in Kreyòl. Another criticism was of the broad use of the letters /w/ and /y/. Pressoir argued that these letters looked “too American.” This criticism of the “American look” of the orthography was shared by many educated Haitians, who also criticized its association with Protestantism. The last of Pressoir’s criticisms was that “the use of the circumflex accent to mark nasalized vowels” treated nasal sounds differently from the way they are represented in French and, therefore, would inhibit the learning of French.
The official creation of the orthography was essentially an articulation of the language ideologies of those involved and therefore brought out political and social tensions between competing groups. A large portion of this tension lay in the ideology held by many that the French language is superior, which led to resentment of the language by some Haitians and an admiration for it from others. This orthographical controversy boiled down to an attempt to unify a conception of Haitian national identity, a highly politicized and controversial topic of which there are many competing views.
Haitian Creole grammar is highly analytical: 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 in French.
Many grammatical features, particularly pluralization of nouns and indication of possession, are indicated by appending certain markers, like yo, to the main word. There has been a debate going on for some years as to whether these markers are affixes or clitics, and therefore what should be used to connect the affixes to the word: the most popular alternatives are a hyphen, an apostrophe or a space. It makes matters more complicated when the affix itself is shortened, perhaps making only one letter (such as m' or w').
|Ma bécane/becane à moi[in 17th century popular French] |
|Keke che |
|Bekann mwen |
|Mes bécanes |
|Keke che le |
|Bekann mwen yo |
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.
|1/singular||Mwen||M'||Je, me, moi||"I", "me"|
|2/singular||Ou (*)||W'||Tu, te, vous||"thou", "you" (sing.)|
|3/singular||Li (***)||L'||Il, elle, on||"He", "she"|
|2/plural||Nou or Ou (**)||Vous||"You" (pl.)|
|3/plural||Yo||Y'||Ils, Elles||"They", "them"|
(*) sometimes ou is written as w – in the sample phrases, w indicates ou.
(**) depending on the situation. In southern Haiti, zòt is used. (***) in the northern part of Haiti, "Li" is often shortened to "i" as in Guadeloupe, Martinique and the other Lesser Antilles
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.
|Liv yo||Les livres||The books|
|Machin yo||Les autos||The cars|
|Fi yo mete wob||Les filles mettent des robes||The girls put on dresses.|
Possession is indicated by placing the possessor or possessive pronoun 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. In northern Haiti, an "a" or "an" is placed before the possessive pronoun.
Unlike in English, possession does not indicate definiteness ("my friend" as opposed to "a friend of mine"), and possessive constructions are often followed by a definite article.
|Lajan li||Son argent||"His/her money"|
|"Fanmi mwen" or "fanmi m" or "fanmi an m"||Ma famille||My family|
|Kay yo||Leur maison / Leurs maisons||"Their house" or "their houses"|
|"Papa ou" or "Papa w"||Ton père||Your father|
|Chat Pierre a||Le chat de Pierre||Pierre's cat|
|Chèz Marie a||La chaise de Marie||Marie's chair|
|Zanmi papa Jean||L'ami du père de Jean||Jean's father's friend|
|Papa vwazen zanmi nou||Le père du voisin de notre ami||Our friend's neighbor's father|
The language has two indefinite articles, on or simply yon (pronounced /õ/ or /jõ/), and French un/une. Yon is derived from the French il y a un, (lit. "there is a/an/one"). Both are used only with singular nouns, and are placed before the noun:
|On/yon kouto||Un couteau||A knife|
|On/yon kravat||Une cravate||A necktie|
There is also a definite article, roughly corresponding to English "the" and French le/la. It is placed after the noun, and the sound varies by the last sound of the noun itself. If the last sound is an oral consonant and is preceded by an oral vowel, it becomes la:
|kravat la||La cravate||The tie|
|Liv la||Le livre||The book|
|kay la||La maison||The house|
|Lamp lan||La lampe||The lamp|
|Bank lan||La banque||The bank|
|kouto a||Le couteau||The knife|
|Peyi a||Le pays||The country|
If a word ends in "mi" or "mou" or "ni" or "nou", it becomes an:
|Fanmi an||La famille||The family|
|Mi an||Le mur||The wall|
If the last sound is a nasal vowel, it becomes an:
|Chyen an||Le chien||The dog|
|Pon an||Le pont||The bridge|
If the last sound is a nasal consonant, it becomes nan, but may also be "lan"
|Machin nan||La voiture||The car|
|Telefonn nan||Le téléphone||The telephone|
|Madanm nan / Fanm nan||La dame / La femme||The woman|
There is a single word sa that corresponds to French ce/ceci or ça, and English "this" and "that". As in English, it may be used as a demonstrative, except that it is placed after the noun it qualifies. It is often followed by a or yo (in order to mark number): sa a = This here / that there (ceci / cela)
|Jaden sa bèl||Ce jardin est beau||This/that garden is beautiful.|
As in English, it may also be used as a pronoun, replacing a noun:
|sa se zanmi mwen||C'est mon ami||This/that is my friend|
|sa se chyen frè mwen||C'est le chien de mon frère||This/that is my brother's dog|
Many verbs in Haitian Creole are the same spoken words as the French infinitive, but there is no conjugation in the language; the verbs have one form only, and changes in tense, mood, aspect etc. are indicated by the use of markers.
|Li ale travay nan maten||Il va au travail le matin.||He/she goes to work in the morning.|
|Li dòmi aswè||Il dort le soir.||He/she sleeps in the evening.|
|Li li bib la||Il lit la Bible.||He/she reads the Bible.|
|Mwen fè manje||Je fais à manger.||I make food. (I cook)|
|Nou toujou etidye||Nous étudions toujours.||We always study.|
The concept expressed in English by the verb "to be" is expressed in Haitian Creole by three words, se, ye and sometimes e.
The verb se (pronounced "say") is used to link a subject with a predicate nominative:
|Li se frè mwen||Il est mon frère||he is my brother|
|Mwen se on doktè||Je suis médecin/docteur||I am a doctor|
|Sa se on pye mango||C'est un manguier||That is a mango tree|
|Nou se zanmi||Nous sommes amis||We are friends|
The subject sa or li can sometimes be omitted with se:
|Se on bon ide||C'est une bonne idée||That is a good idea|
|Se nouvo chemiz mwen||C'est ma nouvelle chemise||This is my new shirt|
To express: "I want to be", usually vin "to become" is used instead of se.
|Li pral vin bofrè m (mwen)||Il va devenir mon beaufrère||He will be my brother-in-law|
|Mwen vle vin on doktè||Je veux devenir un docteur||I want to become a doctor|
|Sa pral vin on pye mango||Ça va devenir un manguier||That will become a mango tree|
|Nou pral vin zanmi||Nous allons devenir amis||We will be friends|
|"Ayisyen mwen ye" = "Mwen se Ayisyen"||Je suis haïtien||I am Haitian|
|Koman ou ye?||Comment êtes-vous?||How are you?|
|Mwen gen yon zanmi ki malad||J'ai un ami malade||I have a sick friend.|
|Zanmi mwen malad.||Mon ami est malade.||My friend is sick.|
The verb "to have" is genyen, often shortened to gen.
|Mwen gen lajan nan bank lan.||J'ai de l'argent dans la banque.||I have money in the bank.|
The verb genyen (or gen) also means "there is/are"
|Gen anpil Ayisyen nan florid.||Il y a beaucoup d'Haïtiens en Floride.||There are many Haitians in Florida.|
|Gen on moun la.||Il y a quelqu'un là.||There is someone here or there.|
|Pa gen moun la.||Il n'y a personne là.||There is nobody here or there.|
There are three verbs which are often translated as "to know", but they mean different things.
konn or konnen means "to know" + a noun (cf. French connaître).
|Eske ou konnen non li?||Connais-tu son nom ?||Do you know his/her name?|
konn or konnen also means "to know" + a fact (cf. French savoir).
|Mwen pa konnen kote li ye.||Je ne sais pas où il est||I do not know where he/she is.|
(note pa = negative)
The third word is always spelled konn. It means "to know how to" or "to have experience". This is similar to the "know" as used in the English phrase "know how to ride a bike": it denotes not only a knowledge of the actions, but also some experience with it.
|Mwen konn fè manje.||Je sais comment faire à manger||I know how to cook (lit. "I know how to make food")|
|Eske ou konn ale Ayiti?||As-tu été à Haïti ?||Have you been to Haïti? (lit. "Do you know to go to Haiti?")|
|Li pa konn li franse.||Il ne sait pas lire le français||He/she cannot read French (lit. "He knows not how to read French.")|
Another verb worth mentioning is fè. It comes from the French faire and is often translated as "do" or "make". It has a broad range of meanings, as it is one of the most common verbs used in idiomatic phrases.
|Kòman ou fè pale Kreyòl?||Comment as-tu appris à parler Créole ?||How did you learn to speak Haitian Creole?|
|Marie konn fè mayi moulen.||Marie sait faire de la farine de maïs.||Marie knows how to make cornmeal.|
The verb kapab (or shortened to ka, kap or kab) means "to be able to (do something)". It refers to both "capability" and "availability", very similar to the French "capable".
|Mwen ka ale demen.||Je peux aller demain||I can go tomorrow.|
|Petèt mwen ka fè sa demen.||Je peux peut-être faire ça demain||Maybe I can do that tomorrow.|
|Nou ka ale pita||Nous pouvons aller plus tard||We can go later.|
|Mwen pale Kreyòl.||Je parle Créole||I speak Creole|
|mwen manje||j'ai mangé||I ate|
|ou manje||tu as mangé||you ate|
|li manje||il/elle a mangé||he/she ate|
|nou manje||nous avons mangé||we ate|
|yo manje||ils/elles ont mangé||they ate|
(Note that manje means both "food" and "to eat" – m ap manje bon manje means "I am eating good food".).
For other tenses, special "tense marker" words are placed before the verb. The basic ones are:
|t ap||past progressive||a combination of te and ap, "was doing"|
|ap||present progressive||With ap and a, the pronouns nearly always take the short form (m ap, l ap, n ap, y ap, etc.)|
|a||future||some limitations on use|
|pral||near or definite future||translates to "going to"|
|ta||conditional future||a combination of te and a, "will do"|
Note: For the present progressive ("I am eating now") it is customary, though not necessary, to add "right now":
Also, those examples can mean "will eat" depending on the context of the sentence.
Near or definite future:
Additional time-related markers:
They are often used together:
A verb mood marker is ta, corresponding to English "would" and equivalent to the French conditional tense:
The word pa comes before a verb (and all tense markers) to negate it:
Most of the lexicon of Creole is derived from French, with significant changes in pronunciation and morphology; often, the French definite article was retained as part of the noun. For example, the French definite article la in la lune ("the moon") was incorporated into the Creole noun for moon: lalin. However, the language also inherited many words of different origins, among them Wolof, Fon, Kongo, English, Spanish, Portuguese, Taino and Arabic, a testament to the numerous contacts with different cultures that led to the formation of the language.
Being a living language, Haitian Creole creates and borrows new words to describe new or old concepts and realities. Examples of this are "fè bak" which was borrowed from English and means 'to move backwards' (the original word derived from French is "rekile" from reculer), and also from English, "napkin", which is being used as well as the original Creole word "tòchon".
|annanna||/ãnãna/||(Taino) "anana" (Also the source of the word in French)||"pineapple"|
|bagay||/baɡaj/||(French) bagage, "baggage"||"thing"|
|bannann||/bãnãn/||(French) banane, "banana"||"Plantains"|
|bekàn||/bekan/||(French) bécane /bekan/||"bicycle"|
|Bondye||/bõdje/||(French) Bon Dieu /bõdjø/||"God" or "God!"/"Good Lord!"|
|chenèt||/ʃenɛt/||(French) (Antilles) la quénette||"mamoncillo", "chenette", "guinip", "gap" [nb 1]|
|chouk||/ʃõk/||(Fula) Chuk – to pierce, to poke||"poke"|
|dekabes||/decahbes/||(Spanish) dos cabezas - two heads||"2 headed win during dominos"|
|dèyè||/dɛjɛ/||(French) derrière /dɛʁjɛʁ/||"behind"|
|diri||/diɣi/||(French) du riz /dy ʁi/||"rice"|
|fig||/fiɡ/||(French) figue /fiɡ/||"Banana"|
|je||/ʒe/||(French) yeux /jø/ (plural of "oeil")||"eye"|
|kiyèz, tchok, poban||/kijɛz, tʃɔk, pobã/||"hog banana" [nb 2]|
|kle||/kle/||(French) clé /kle/, "key"||"wrench" or "key"|
|kle kola||/kle kola/||(French) clé /kle/, "key" + Eng. "cola"||"bottle opener"|
|kònflèks||/kõnfleks/||(English) "corn flakes"||"breakfast cereal"|
|kawotchou||/kautʃu/||(French) caoutchouc, "rubber"||"tire"|
|lakay||/lakaj/||(French) la cahutte /la kayt/ la case"the hut"||"house"|
|lalin||/lalin/||(French) la lune /la lyn/||"moon"|
|makak||/makak/||(French) macaque /makak/||"monkey"|
|manbo||/mãbo/||(Kongo) mambu or Fongbe nanbo||"vodou priestess"|
|matant||/matãt/||(French) ma tante, "my aunt"||"aunt", "aged woman"|
|mwen||/mwɛ̃/||(French) moi /mwa/||"me","I","myself"|
|nimewo||/nimewo/||(French) numéro /nymeʁo/||"number"|
|oungan||/ũɡã/||(Fon) houngan||"vodou priest"|
|Ozetazini||/ozetazini/||(French) Aux États-Unis /etazyni/||"United States"|
|piman||/pimã/||(French) piment /pimã/||a very hot pepper|
|pann||/pãn/||(French) pendre /pãdʁ/, "to hang"||"clothesline"|
|podyab||/po jab/||(French) pauvre diable or (Spanish) pobre diablo||"poor devil"|
|pwa||/pwa/||(French) pois /pwa/, "pea"||"bean"|
|tonton||/tõtõ/||(French) tonton||"uncle", "aged man"|
|vwazen||/vwazɛ̃/||(French) voisin /vwazɛ̃/||"neighbor"|
|yo||/jo/||(Fon) ye||"they / them / their" – plural marker|
|zonbi||/zõbi/||(Kongo) nzumbi||"soulless corpse / living dead / ghost"|
|zwazo||/zwazo/||(French) les oiseaux /wazo/ (frontal "z" kept with liaison)||"bird"|
Despite similar words in French (nègre, most notable for its usage in a pejorative context to refer to black people and blanc, meaning white person), the meanings they carry do not apply in Haiti. The term nèg from nègre in French is generally used for any man, regardless of skin color (i.e., like "guy" or "dude" in American English). blan is generally used for a foreigner of any color. Thus a non-black Haitian man might be called nèg—although the circumstances in which this might occur are unclear—while an African American would probably be referred to as a blan.
There are many other Haitian Creole terms for specific tones of skin, such as grimo, bren, roz, mawon, etc. Some Haitians consider such labels as offensive because of their association with color discrimination and the Haitian class system, while others use the terms freely.
Haitian Creole is a very figurative language, and as such uses a lot of proverbs and colourful expressions to illustrate many situations. Speakers of Haitian Creole will use them frequently, showing knowledge of the language and of the Haitian culture.
Alongside the usage of a phonetic orthography used to represent Creole, there exists in Haiti a French-based orthography (l'orthographe francisée), or rather several variations of this which were present long before the introduction of the phonetic orthography. There have been arguments against the phonetic writing system of Creole. The main complaint is that it looks nothing like French and so may hinder the learning of French at school. For example, it relies on the Germanic letters K and W, which are seldom used in French. Unlike the phonetic orthography, the French orthography is not standardized: It has no official rules or regulations on spelling, so spelling often varies depending on the writer; some use exact French spelling, others adjust the spelling of certain words to represent the Creole accent, and still others drop silent letters at the ends of words since Creole rarely uses the liaisons of French. The result is that a phrase represented phonetically like "Li ale travay le maten" may be represented many ways using the French orthography.
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 first 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.
Haitian language and culture is taught in many colleges in the United States as well as in the Bahamas. York College at the City University of New York features a Minor in Haitian Creole. 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 who reside in the neighboring Dominican Republic, although the locals do not speak it. However, some estimates suggest that there are over a million speakers due to a huge population of illegal aliens from Haiti.
After the devastating earthquake that hit Haiti in 2010, international help badly needed translation tools for communicating in Haitian Creole. Furthermore, international organizations had little idea whom to contact as translators. As an emergency measure, Carnegie Mellon University released data for its own research into the public domain. Microsoft Research and Google Translate have implemented alpha version machine translators based on the Carnegie Mellon data.
In addition, several free apps have been published for use on the iPhone & iPod Touch, including learning flashcards by Byki and two medical dictionaries, one by Educa Vision and a second by Ultralingua, which includes an audio phrase book and a section on cultural anthropology.
|Haitian edition of Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia|
|Haitian Creole test of Wiktionary at Wikimedia Incubator|
|Wikibooks has a book on the topic of: Haitian Creole|
|Wikiversity has learning materials about Haitian Creole|