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#1109: On Ayitian relationship to language as a means to economic development: a reply to DeGraff (fwd)
From: Jean Poincy <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Knowing the usual DeGraff's savvy linguistic approach in matters
relating to Ayiti, I am greatly disappointed by his feeble comment on
Ayitian relationship to both Ayitian and French; actually that did not
touch on the issue at all.
"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."
No, this is a distortion of my thought and an escape for refusing to
acknowledge that the Ayitian reality is missing in linguistic studies
regarding the Ayitian language or for his inability to prove the
contrary. In fact there is no counter argument to have recourse to. The
"opportunist linguists" whom have conducted extensive studies on the
Ayitian language in a "laboratory" never have to face the "Ayitian
relationship to both languages", the core of my argument that DeGraff
failed to address.
I belong among those who believe that the mother tongue is important to
a nation's development, not to the development of its economic
well-being, rather to the development of its ownself mainly
intellectually. Orthewise, I would not insist on calling the language by
its rightful name nor spelling it both in English/French, the way I do,
contrarily to proponent linguists for monlingual Ayiti and whom at the
same time contest the language status of Ayitian, but rather call it
creole. Enough of my justification.
Allow me to restate the whole point I attempted to bring to DeGraff's
attention that he chose to ignore:
The Ayitian people approaches the language issue differently from the
way savvy linguists or other intellectuals approach it. Although Ayitian
is the language they speak best and is their mother tongue, they give a
"preferred status" to French over it. The reason is: the society looks
at people speaking French as educated and those who don't and speak
creole only as uneducated. I can understand this point of view because
to learn how to speak French, one must go to school and once one goes to
school s/he is regarded as an educated person and able to speak French.
Those who feel looked down upon find it a must to place emphasis on
knowing how to speak French. They feel that the society will consider
them as ignorant or "savage" if they don't know French nor cultivate the
passion for it. It is a hard Ayitian truth and it is sad. If today the
society has some inclination toward the native language, this is not out
of love toward it, but because they realize that they have a hard time
speaking the French language right, and their use of it is mediocre.
Hence, they have no choice to resort to their native language as a
rebound while going back and forth between Ayitian and French. That is
If DeGraff has experience with the Ayitian scene or its "true" reality,
all he can do is to prove otherwise. Other than that this matter can
remain for him and the creolists "opportunist linguists" a subject of
Refering to DeGraff's quote of Hubert Devonish :
``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.''
Here it is an erronous perception of people's behavior in society. The
decisiion-making process of a society, which is political, is a
collective one and is never made directly through mass participation.
Indirectly, to their representatives, they have the feeling of
participating in the decision-making process; however, in a well
structured society, they are kept out of the loop in the decision-making
process. When they tend to involve them directly you have chaos and
Ayiti is a case in point. The well thought collective decision is made
by the most able individuals of that society for the well-being of the
whole, and that regardless the language the people speak.
Leave the economic development directly in the hands of the masses
without the fine tuning of the most able ones, you'll see the mess that
will be resulted. Any full direct participation of the masses without
some means to control or regulate their economic activities will lead to
unfortunate diseconomies which will plunge the society into distress.
Economic development does not need spoken language once the needs to
consume is there, which is always there anyway, and the reasons for
exchange meaning the goods are in existence.
Each party will know what they want or don't want and eveything will
fall through. But how to conduct a fair exchange and to manage the
scarce resources to produce the goods can not be left in the immediate
reach of the masses. No specific language is needed there, for that
matter any language is welcome provided one can enable him/herself to
understand it, not as a necessary condition, but for accessory or
Associating the language issue with economic development is a mockery
especially in Ayiti's case. For Ayiti has already its language that will
facilitate all economic activities among the people within the nation. I
could understand the language argument only in this arbitrary case
whence we are dealing with a mute population having the capacity to
learn a language, but does not have this mean of communication. The
whole argument is for education solely. People think that it (education)
plays a great a role in economic development, a point which I agree with
totally, but for a "greater economic development"; however, I reject the
necessity of education as presented considering the primitive nature of
the Ayitian economy for which no formal education is necessary. So much
of the language/economic thread.
Even if Ayitian speak the "Marsian language" they can kick off their
economic development provided they can make out of what they have as
wealth to satisfy their needs.
Ayiti has lived, lives and will live