[Date Prev][Date Next][Thread Prev][Thread Next][Date Index][Thread Index]

#492: Spelling of Haitian Creole - Mason Comments (fwd)

From: Marilyn P. Mason <mmason@po10.mit.edu>

In response to post #487 re Spelling of Haitian Creole (thanks to Roger
Savain and Albert Valdman for their input), I would like to add my voice to
the discussion.

True, there have been at least 3 major spelling systems since
"1940-something" to the present:  McConnell/Laubach, Pressoir/Faublas (I've
also seen it in the reverse), and the current IPN (since 1979).

In addition, there have been what one can broadly call individualized
hybrids "on the way to 1979" and "ever since 1979".

In my Short Note (Automated Creole Orthography Conversion), which will
appear in a forthcoming issue of JPCL (the Journal for Pidgin & Creole
Languages), I put it this way:

"Although the 1979 Law established a core of fixed rules to which most
Haitian Creole writers adhere, there is less consistent uniformity with
regard to the more peripheral issues of apostrophes, hyphens, contractions,
punctuation, capitalization, proper names, and nasalization."

[It took me a while to frame that sentence and I benefitted greatly from the
input of Michel DeGraff and Emmanuel Védrine before venturing out into that
"no-man's land"!]

FORTUNATELY, two current dynamics could alter that terrain and go a long way
toward easing the normalization and standardization of written Haitian Creole.

1) More and more linguists and native speakers of kreyòl are calling for the
resolution of some of the "still moving targets" in conforming to IPN
[Valdman, Allen & Mason at the Aix Conference in France in June; the ongoing
discussions on the "OnesList" and REKA forums (see Védrine's comments in
Corbett Post #351); the upcoming Spring 2000 REKA meeting in Miami, etc.].

2) Technology has been developed to make it possible with one click of a
mouse button to automatically conform Haitian Creole texts written in older
or hybrid orthographies to meet modern standards.

In the above-mentioned Short Note to JPCL, I state:

"In 1991, I developed a flexible, semi-automated process for converting
texts created in earlier Haitian Creole orthographies to conform to IPN
(Institut Pédagogique National), the legal standard established by the
Orthography Law of 1979..."

"In June of 1991, after considerable experimentation, I devised the
prototype computer program.   By the end of that month, I expanded the
research to include Haitian Creole text that I had never typed.   As a
result of scanning, with the use of optical character recognition (OCR)
software, printed texts of varying age and print quality produced by others
were added to my computer's wordprocessing software.  I was then able to
proceed, by means of the Mason Method of Haitian Creole Orthography
Conversion (MMHCOC), to convert - without retyping text - the outdated
orthographies of samples from Boukan, Jé Nou Louvri and Chanmòt la to IPN."

[Let me add at this point that the document which forced me to develop this
technology was Bib la - referred to by A. Valdman in Corbett List #487.
That was the document upon which I "cut my eye teeth" (to use an American
proverb).  I personally typed that entire document into my computer so that
I would have plenty of text with which to test my orthography conversion
hypothesis AND also have a much-needed orthographically corrected book to
make available to the public after the private experimentation was done.]

[Once my Web Site is up and running, those illustrated, orthographically
updated Bible books will be available for downloading in pdf format.
Written permission was granted for such in 1996 by the Director of the
Haitian Bible Society.]

The article continues:

"I then improved upon the model, achieving the breakthroughs in 1992 and
1993 of extending the methodology beyond the Macintosh environment to also
include MS DOS and Windows, as well as beyond Haitian Creole to also
accommodate languages using the Cyrillic alphabet.  In 1994, the
semi-automated process was reduced to 'one mouse click on a menu item'."

"This proprietary methodology/software was demonstrated and test-marketed in
Haiti in May 1996 and the response from government Haitian Creole literacy
specialists, educators, writers, editors, and publishers was unanimous:
When can we have it?  Nothing else like this exists!  This will
revolutionize the publishing industry in Haiti!"

That was then and this is now.

Precious time is passing.

Yet, constant upheaval, instability, and lack of infrastructure in Haiti -
plus lack of funding and more widespread consensus with regard to the "still
moving orthographical targets" - continue to hold Haiti back from a more
widespread implemention of this technology which was created specifically
for her "lang matènèl".

[We'll be using it in a limited way in collaboration with Roger Savain in
Florida and with Albert Valdman and Emmanuel Védrine at the Creole Institute
at Indiana University, but that's just the tip of the iceberg as to what
could be done for Haitian Creole with this technology.]

In the meantime, we are adapting this technology to the needs of other
countries where the government systems and financing are in place to mount
comprehensive national programs for normalization of their written Creoles.

A report of what we are doing with regard to Haitian Creole and other
Creoles can be found at this URL:


This hotlink under the title Creole Languages for the New Millenium is found 
on the News Page of Haiti Online, which is found at:

I have created a company (Mason Integrated Technologies Ltd) so that (1) our
technology can be further developed and disseminated, and (2) we can provide
localized software and services to private, public, and commercial
institutions, NGO's, and government agencies in order to help with the
normalization and/or standardization of their written languages.

For more information, I can be reached at:

Marilyn Mason

Mason Integrated Technologies Ltd  
P.O. Box 181015
Boston, MA  02118
(617) 247-8885 (office & answering machine)
(617) 262-8923 (FAX)
(617) 834-1842 (cell phone)
MariLinc@aol.com (primary e-mail)
mmason@mit.edu (secondary e-mail)