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#351: Kreyol: sounds & orthography (Vedrine) fwd (fwd)
From: Emmanuel W. Vedrine <firstname.lastname@example.org>
"SOME SOUNDS OF KREYOL AND COMMENTS ON ITS ORTHOGRAPHY"
The Orthography issue has been making recent appearance in the
REKA's forum (Rezo entènèt Kreyolis Ayisyen, email@example.com)
an online Kreyol forum that have both native and non-native speakers
of Kreyol but most of the discussion are done by native speakers in
They will have a preliminary meeting in Miami (Spring 2000) and they
are in the process of trying to invite some Haitian linguists to
participate and I have proposed them to include a talk/workshop on
the "standardization of Kreyol". This is not a process that will
take a year to be solved or would be solved in one conference as I
pointed out in earlier discussions. Not only it would be hard to
have all Haitian linguists present at the conference, but also it's
not easy task getting in touch with those in Haiti (since most of
them don't have access to the internet and also, don't forget the
daily electricity problem in Haiti).
It was a good idea that Mitch (a non native speaker) points out some
important issues to be raised in discussion of "standardization of
Kreyol" in "OnesList"(firstname.lastname@example.org)
[http://www.onelist.com/info/onereachsplash3.html"] (another forum
on Kreyol). In his comments in Kreyol, he says:
"Yon lòt pwoblèm ankò lang kreyòl la genyen se jan nou ekri mo...Nou met
aksangrav sou 'e' ak 'o' pou moutre diferans jan ou pwonose lèt la, e nou
met aksangrav sou 'a' lè nou vle kenbe son 'a' anvan 'n' kouwè nan mo
'bekàn' oubyen avil 'Leyogàn'..."
[Another problem that the Kreyol language has is how we write words... We
use "aksangrav" on 'e' and 'o' to show a difference how word is pronounced
and we put "aksangrav" on 'a' when we want to maintain the 'a' sound before
'n' such in the word 'bekàn' (bike) or the city of 'Leyogàn'...]
Let's take a look at some some sounds in HC:
1. "a" tablo/board.
Ekri non ou sou tablo a. (Write your name on the board)
2. "an" manman/mother.
Kijan manman ou rele? (What's your mother's name?)
3. "ang" ang/angle, lang/language.
Yon triyang gen twa ang.(A triangle has three angles)
Kreyòl seyon bèl lang. (Kreyol is a beautiful language)
4. "ann" pann/to hang (oneself), vann/to sell.
Dyekiswa pann tèt li. (Dyekiswa hangued himself)
Kisa machann nan ap vann? (What is this vendor selling?)
5. "à" vàn/(water)reservoir, pàn (break down).
Vàn nan plen dlo. (The reservoir is filled with water)
Machin nan anpàn. (The car breaks down)
6. "e" pale/to talk, speak; te/tea.
Ann pale kreyòl! (Let's speak Kreyol!)
Ou renmen te? (Do you like tea?)
7. "en" bezwen/to need.
Si w pa bezwen l, ban mwen l. (If you don't need it, give it to me)
8. "enn" venn/vein, artery; jwenn/to find.
Doktè a gen pwoblèm jwenn venn li. (The doctor has problem finding
9. "É" can be used in Kreyol only when keeping the orthography of
someone's name spelled with "É" for respect. Some people, when
writing, try to adopt a Kreyol spelling (since "É" is a French
sound, not a Kreyol one, but one has to respect the way someone
wants to write his/her name)
10. "è" yè/yesterday, wè/to see, lè/air, when (adv.)
Kisa ou te fè yè? (What did you do yesterday?)
11. "m" (short form of "mwen", first personal pronoun in Kreyol). If
we have gone over the history of the Kreyol orthography (I would say
up to 1979 and beyond) many people have taken a liberty to write it:
"m-, m'" and it just boils down to CONFUSION where the same thing
happens to other short forms such as: l-, l' ("li"); n-,n' ("nou")
and to the yode "y'". There are some newspapers (e.g, "Bon Nouvèl",
"Ayiti Fanm", "Haiti Progrès"...) and some native speakers with more
or less some good writing skills (showed in their wrtten works) who
are trying to write a simplified form of Kreyol that can be looked
for discussion in the process of "standardization". But it's hard
for non-natives to master everything within a short period of time
(re: Mitch comments) and when writing through the internet; it's not
easy to avoid typos. This happens frequently in texts written in
Kreyol). But it's a good idea to work toward perfectionism.
12. "o" oto/car, opalè/laud speaker, oreye (zòrye)/pillow
13. "on" tonton/uncle, son/sound, pon/bridge,
14. "onn" ponn/to laid eggs
15. "oun" moun/people,
16. "ò" kò/body; fò/strong; vòlè/thief; bò/half; by, on the side
of; lòt/other (s), ankò/again
17. "ui" (rare sound in Kreyòl) [uit/eight, zuit/oyster, leuit
(folklore dance)such as in the dance "kwaze leuit", dizuit/eighteen]
18. "w" - ("r" or "w" are acceptable before rounded voyel "o", "ò")
e.g : ròch/wòch ("stone", either spelling is correct), roman/woman
(novel), wonn/ronn (round, like making a round).
19. "y" - yoyo (a toy), Yaya (woman's name), kounyeya (now).
Though some people write "kounye a" (two words that makes this
adverb has an unnecessary indefinite article). But in doing
research, if taping native speaker's voice, most people would hear a
"ya" sound (a "yode"). Few linguists (specialized in Haitian
Linguistics) have been discussing the "standardization" process of HC.
Albert Albert publishes on the issue and has recently presented a paper
related to the theme at the "9ème Colloque Des Etudes Créoles" (in
Aix-en-Provence, France) this summer. However, that does not mean
there does not exist a "convention" as Yves Dejean points out:
"...òtograf se konvansyon. Nan ekri anglè ak fransè, nou suiv yon
konvansyon, yon kondisyon. Men, nou pa kapab di se tèl dat, tèl ane,
tèl kote konvansyon sa a pase. Nan ekri kreyòl nou suiv yon
konvansyon, yon kondisyon. E nou kapab di: se yon dekrè Depatman
Edikasyon Nasyonal Ayiti ki mete kondisyon an. Dekrè a parèt nan
jounal "Le Nouveau Monde", jedi 6 mas 1980." Yves Dejean ("Haiti en
Marche", Vol. VI, #37. 28 okt. - 3 nov. 1992)
[...Orthography is a convention. In writing English and French, we
follow a convention, a condition. But, we can't say it took place
such and such date, year, place. In writing Kreyol, we follow a
convention, a condition. And we can say it was a decree by Ministry
of National Education of Haiti. This decree appeared in he newspaper, "Le
Nouveau Monde", Thursday March 6, 1980. Yves Dejean
("Haiti en Marche", Vol. VI, #37. Oct. 28 - Nov. 3, 1997]
But despite the existence of such convention (mentioned by Dejean above),
many Haitian linguists (in Haiti and abroad) did not have a chance to review
the draft of this said decree and it would have made more sense had they had
the chance to do so in order to discuss important issues with Kreyol
orthography, issues that have never been raised before and that keep coming
out from time to time. Frequent meetings among Haitian linguists in this
sence would be crucial for in an in-depth review of the Kreyol orthography
toward the standardization process.
E. W. Vedrine
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