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#1084: On becoming a "half-bilingual" in half-"Ayiti"? DeGraff comments (fwd)

From: Michel DeGraff <degraff@MIT.EDU>

Poincy writes:

> 	An Ayitian living in Ayiti can be either monolingual or bilingual (I
> would say half-bilingual because possessing the French language can be a
> question). The transit from the former to the latter is done through the
> education system. Today both languages are officially imposed nationwide
> on entry levels of primary school (and for a few more years), beyond
> that point teaching Ayitian loses its purpose.

Poincy does not seem to realize that this statement (and much else in his
latest posting) entails that the vast majority of Haitians must give up
their (unique) mother tongue in order to become full citizens in their own
country.  Worse yet, it is claimed that Creolophone Haitians' duties and
privileges as citizens can only be exercised in a foreign language ---
actually the language of their erstwhile colonizers.  It's (somewhat) like
saying that the Dutch MUST master German before they can become citizens
with full power.  Try making this argument in the Netherlands... In Haiti's
case, no fault is found with an absurd and rotten neo-colonial system;
instead it's the age-old victims of this apartheid who become the guilty
party who must once again bear the cost of the historical injustice
inflicted upon them.  This is a classic manifestation of "State against
Nation" in M.-R. Trouillot's terminology.  "Ayiti has lived..."? 

I'll just quote a short passage from Hubert Devonish's book _Language &

  ``The function of an official language in any country, particularly in an
  underdeveloped ex-colonial country [...], ought to [...] involve
  the mass of the population in the decision-making processes of their
  society, as well as in its economic development.'' 

  ``The language variety spoken as the language of everyday communication
  by the ordinary members of a community is the most effective language
  medium for releasing creativity, initiative and productivity among the
  members of such community.  Such a language is also the most effective
  means of promoting popular participation in, and control of, the various
  decision-making bodies within the state.  A revolutionary official
  language policy would, therefore, have to be committed to the creation of
  a unit between the language variety or varieties used for everyday
  communication among the mass of the population, and the language variety
  or varieties used for official purposes.''

I hope that Saint-Domingue (sorry, I mean, Haiti, or is it Ayiti --- which
is the `half-bilingual' country?) will one day live differently from how it
has lived thus far.

MIT Linguistics & Philosophy, 77 Massachusetts Ave, Cambridge MA 02139-4307
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