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#669: Misquote (?) in Jeff Allen's message: DeGraff clarifies (fwd)

From: Michel DeGraff <degraff@MIT.EDU>

This is just for clarification purposes, with respect to the good name of
one of Haiti's best and most dedicated linguists.

In his lastest message, Jeff Allen may have mistakenly attributed the
following quote to Yves Dejean:

> Secondly:  the quote from the message by Yves Dejean that you refer to:
> From: CreoLIST =20
> posted:  at 14:01 23/08/99 +0200
> subject: on HC orthography
> >=91Chenjanbe=92 (n) - Pou yon moun ki f=E8k ap ekri krey=F2l, li gen pou
> >l f=E8 fas ak kesyon "m=F2foloji" a. Si malchans (pou li) li jwenn yon
> >enstrikt=E8 ki pale krey=F2l k=F2m natif-natal men ki pa konn "ga" [je a ga]
> >nan r=E8g lang nan, s=E8v=E8l li pral bwouye epi l ka di "ala lang konplike
> >pou ekri!". Pa kw=E8 sa! Krey=F2l se yon lang 100% fonetik (sa w tande, se
> >sa w ap ekri). Se pa yon lang kouw=E8 dotyen lang kote ou tande yon son
> >epi w ekri l yon l=F2t jan.
> specifically "Pa kw=E8 sa! Krey=F2l se yon lang 100% fonetik (sa w tande, se
> sa w ap ekri)" 

As far as I can tell, Yves Dejean did NOT write this, and could NOT have
written this. Dejean, like most linguists, does know that the statement
"Kreyo`l se yon lang 100% fonetik" is either redundant (if referring to
speech) or non-sensical (if referring to orthography).  As far as I can
gather from Vedrine's original message, the author of this passage may
be Vedrine himself --- but Vedrine can surely clarify this further.  In any
case, as Allen correctly points out, Dejean's thesis shows that the "100%
fonetik" statement (vis-a-vis spelling) is bogus.  Dejean (1977:306)
writes: "The disparity between speech sounds, their perception and their
transcription forces us to recognize the IMPOSSIBILITY of a purely phonetic
transcription [100% fonetik] that would be perfectly adequate" (my
translation, emphasis added).

Yves Dejean, unlike many other creolists, is not given to empirically- or
theoretically-incoherent claims, and specially nothing like the flagrant
contradiction that Jeff Allen alleges in his latest message.  Of course,
all of us (including Dejean) are fallible and make mistakes, specially when
it comes to fitting our data in intricate theoretical schemes. But Dejean
would not contradict himself so casually, and here I am talking about a
most trusted colleague, whom I respect very much and from whom I've derived
deep insights about Haitian Creole structure.  As a matter of fact, Dejean
is, by far, one of the best linguists working on Haitian Creole. So I am
disturbed by the implications in Allen's message that Dejean, one of our
best creolists, would be given to such oxymorons as the `100% phonetic
orthography' claim.  Thus, my clarification of what must be an honest
mistake --- unless there's a "100% fonetik" article by Dejean that I am
unaware of, which (I guess) is possible, but I a priori seriously doubt it.

This said, I find the discussion on orthography most enlightening, and
there's much to be learnt there on the mechanics of Haitian Creole
orthography.  So keep it up --- I'll now go back to my bench, sit down and
keep listening.

MIT Linguistics & Philosophy, 77 Massachusetts Ave, Cambridge MA 02139-4307
degraff@MIT.EDU        http://web.mit.edu/linguistics/www/degraff.home.html