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#3688: Poincy commnts on Haitian orthography
From: Jean Poincy <firstname.lastname@example.org>
I've tried to resist the temptation to give my two cents on the correct
spelling of Ayitian words, but my weakness on not letting any arbitrary
or emotional idea pervades the list unchecked prevails. As most of the
list are pounding on Ms. Grey in favor of Mr. DeGraff's common sense
argument, they fail to ask one crucial question. Failing to do so
portrays them as a wandering flock awaiting the messiah with whatever
guidance s/he could bring without questioning it.
Not that I am not for a standard way of writing the language, but my
concern has always been the way linguists like Mr. DeGraff and those
that he refers to as the icons of the Ayitian language go about
standardizing the language. DeGraff has always failed to give a
satisfying explanation to challenges that I presented before him. To the
price of being ignored, I am again challenging Mr. DeGraff to clarify
this point which I sense is at the heart of Ms. Grey's position (I could
Although, I embrace DeGraff's spelling of the misspelled word Ms. Grey
is being accused of (just for the sake of following the standard), I
have been always wondering how the linguists came about to spell words
the way they do. Despite seemingly sound arguments they would present
to justify their choice of spelling, to me their decisions are more
frivolous than scientific.
Considering that scientific studies get their fuel from realities, the
linguists' results lack of such. Most of their works exclude the
illiterate Ayitians use of the language in regards to the way they
pronounce them. By which, I mean their studies to help bringing the
language to a higher level are products mainly of a linguistic
laboratory. In fact the true laboratory is Ayitian markets (not to stay
the deep bush of Ayiti). I was bewildered, when DeGraff mentioned in one
of his posts that Ayitian market women are trying hard to learn the
language while in the market. That shows a lack of understanding or
knowledge of the Ayitian reality. Simply, it is not the reality. If
there is a bit of the reality, we will not find more than half of one
out of ten. This can't be a realistic sample to draw conclusion. That's
Furthermore, the mere fact that most Ayitian vocabularies are rooted
both phonetically and orthographically in French; any arbitrary
deviation would make the result bias, unscientific therefore frivolous.
This is what these linguists have done. Let's look at "Mambo" and
"Manbo". Whatever the ethnic origin of the word is, its reproduction in
Ayitian has a phonetic reflection of how "am" or "an" sound in French.
Now that sound is French or any other ethnic sound deformed to sound
like French, a rational mind would expect the spelling to stay the same
without losing its original sound as if it would be said in French. Ms.
Grey is right when she says the word was never intended to be said in
Ayitian, therefore keeps the French spelling. In French before "B" and
"P" the letter "M" follows the vowels, in our case "Ma"m"bo, where "m"
is silent. If one were not aware of these technical subtleties, s/he
would write the word with "n" rather than "m". Should we ask Mr.
DeGraff or the French Academy to explain the reason why it is so? I
don't know what Mr. DeGraffI would say, but I bet you frivolity will not
be behind what the latter would give as a reason.
Unless the linguists, DeGraff & co. know something that we don't know
and be willing to share it with us to make his point sound, I embrace
the position that there was some phonetic twists to part from the French
the way they did to dump "m" and carry "n" instead. We can notice their
phonetic frivolities in other letters like "e" which can bear on its
head the following accents: " é ", " è " and " ê ". My focus is on the
first one, " é " where the linguists drop the accent to have " e " and
retains the same sound as if it would be said in French. However,
nothing has changed for the second. It retains the same spelling and the
same sound in Ayitian as if it was said in French. That scheme zooms
above my layman' s brain.
The linguists' argument would be: since the closed " e " in French does
not exist in Ayitian, therefore to distinguish " é " from the " è " and
facilitate the task for the commoners the accent above " é " is dropped.
Life becomes easy. We should not talk of the non-existence of the sound
in Ayitian, but rather of the poor education of the people. Their
resolution lies in the fact that uneducated or improperly educated
Ayitians have a hard time to pronounce the closed " e " for what it
sounds like in French and render the sound of " é " instead. For all "
é " sound are written " e ".
They completely dismiss the fact that an improper education process was
in place. I would sincerely appreciate any scientific clarification from
any linguist on this aspect. That would help others to understand why
they have to follow standard forms of spelling rather than pounding on
one's head for his/her choice of spelling. Having said this, I am
asking Mr. DeGraff to reopen his linguistic 101 that he closed before
the term so he can teach us about the phonetic twist the icons of
Ayitian used to move it forward.
If all unjustified demarcations from the French spelling are due to
pride, or to dissociation of Ayitian from creole languages of others,
I've no quarrel. It will be hard to swallow a phonetic reasoning on the
items cited above
Ayiti has lived, lives and will live