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#3749: Creole Philology or Ecstasy? Xavier overviews the discussion

From: Ednair Xavier <zantray@bellatlantic.net>

When I think of Haitian history and language, I ask myself who is
responsible for the teaching, learning and development of Haitian
Creole, in the absence of the Haitian government, its accountable
institutions and its own enlightened citizens. Bob attempted to bring a
modicum of reason and control to the table, but to no avail, I feel. 
Emotions still run high, and this debate looks like a perfect lightning
rod for frenzy and disorder. I also wonder whether some of the most
adversarial and tenacious debaters of Creole and French would stand the
test of writing their opinions in French or Creole, the two languages in
question. Furthermore, do they know that some of the same problems in
discussion here can be found in French, English and Spanish, etc., but
they are addressed by academicians? In Haiti, is it a case of "dan pouri
gen fos sou bannann mi" (allow me to humbly suggest that this not be
translated unless the translator knows Creole and the other language
very well: otherwise, let it be understood or left alone. Most of all,
please do not come up with "rotten teeth have strength over ripe
bananas". Those who know will agree with me that is ridiculous.)

During the debate, I enjoyed the inspired writings of Bob the tired
communicator, the logical Dannenbaum, the technical Degraff, Alice his
backer, with pun intended, and Poincy the challenger, all good neighbors
whose different arguments echo those of many residents of Corbettown. We
are all privileged to have the opportunity and means to express
ourselves freely, and I have seen none of the above make a claim to
absolute expertise or divine right. Nevertheless, some of us know more
than others about certain things, and we know who we and they are. If we
must ask whether we are in the presence of intelligence or bad faith, we
won't know. This may not be the perfect place to completely test
someone's depth of knowledge and level of goodwill, but where else?

One of the most important dimensions of this debate may be found in
Sociology and Linguistics, thus Socio-Linguistics. It could explain "why
Ayitian vocabularies are rooted both phonetically and orthographically
in French ...(Poincy). Who are the real Creole experts and why? Why are
they so defiantly challenged, sometimes by educated or uneducated non
Haitians? Why is the "Harvard" (perhaps the MIT, Degraff) School of
Haitian Creole is believed to be in Indiana, USA, of all places?

In 1986, I was told by a US government official and ecstatic Caucasian
woman in Washington, who could not say "bonjou" well in Creole, even if
she knew French -she didn't-, that anyone who knows Creole had to have
studied it in Indiana. Imagine this happening to another language or
country! Since 1917 when Franklin Delano Roosevelt, then US assistant
secretary of the navy purportedly wrote Haiti's 5th or 6th constitution
(the first that allowed foreigners to own Haitian land), there has not
been such an unbridled interest in Haitian Creole. Why is this
investment in Creole not made in other Creole speaking lands?

There was no foreign interest in Creole in 1804, the year of
Independence, or 58 years later, around 1858 when Lincoln
compassionately recognized Haiti finally, or from 1915-34 when the US
occupied Haiti, or between then and 1986. Something happened that may
explain today's current attention to and concern for Haitian Creole. The
year was 1905. Since then, Creole has become either a subject of reason
or overwhelming emotion. We will come back to the reasonable and
ecstatic aspects of Creole, soon.