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9424: FW: 9401: Re: 9398: dictionary (fwd)
From: albert valdman <email@example.com>
Haitian Creole is blessed with a large number of BILINGUAL
dictionaries but two factors limit their eventual usefulness and
1. There is no extensive MONOLINGUAL dictionary, such as the
Webster's, Longman's for English or the Petit Larousse or Petit
Robert for French;
2. The market is too small to interest a commercial publisher to make
the large investment that a top notch Creole-English and English-Creole
dictionary would require.
So all existing dictionaries have their limitations and the job
remains to be done.
I am grateful to Carrol Coates for his compliment concerning the
dictionaries produced by teams of the Indiana University Creole
Institute: "a beautiful job of lexicography". In this connection,
we are puzzled by some of the other comments he has distributed to
the Corbett list concerning our products. These products strive to
meet primarily scholarly criteria--we are not a commercial publisher.
Nor are I assume the authors of the other top dictionaries available,
notably the Freeman-Laguerre work.
If the members of the Corbett list interested in Creole dictionaries
will indulge me, I will set forth some basic lexicographic principles.
Briefly, there are two criteria in evaluating a dictionary: the
breadth of the nomenclature, that is the number of entries and
subentries it contains; the nature of the microstructure, that is,
the information provided about each entry and subentry. In a bilingual
dictionary this is mainly to what degree the microstructure guides
the learner in finding out the full meaning of the entry or how to
use it. A third, but not insignificant criterion is the physical
nature of the product: paperback or hardbound, size of type, clarity
of format, etc.
Another important point about bilingual dictionary are the functions
it is intended to serve and the intended users. In French the two
basic functions are called "version" and "thème". For English users
(as versus Haitians) who are learning HC or wish to work with it a
HC (Haitian Creole)-English dictionary aims to enable them to
understand texts, both written and oral--version. In that case, the
larger the nomenclature, the better, for the context of the text will
help the reader figure out the meaning. Contextual examples (the
main part of the microstructure) are helpful. They also serve to
validate the existence of the entry or subentry. An English-Creole
dictionary is destined to help the user construct sentences in
HC--thème. In that case, contextual examples and a rich set of
subentries are essential, for they serve as models for the
constuction and accurate and appropriate sentences in which the
eqivalents of the English entry occur.
With this in mind, I turn to the substance of the comments from our
Our Learner's Dictionary of Haitian CReole is exactly that: it is
an Engish learning tool that cannot in any way be compared to
HC-English dictionaries that serve a different goal. It does not
pretend to match the nomenclature (number of entries) of the 1981
Haitian Creole-English-French Dictionary (HCEF) nor, certainly, that
of the much more inclusive and recent Freeman-Laguerre Haitian
The perceptive user of the Fequiere Vilsaint ANGLE/KREYOL//ENGLISH KREYOL
DICTIONARY will have observed that it is essentially based on the
index of the 1981 HCEF dictionary and, as Vilsaint has graciously
acknowledged, the near totality of the examples he provided are taken
from the HCEF. Note that in the HCEF we are careful to credit our
source for each example we have not constructed ourselves but extracted
from the Alain Bentolila et al's Ti Diksyonnè Kreyòl-Fransè with the
The reader will no doubt ask why did we not also use our examples
from the HCEF in the Learner's Dictionary. It is because these
examples have a different function in a "thème" dictionary, and we
felt that it was necessary in most cases to construct different
We are puzzled by Coates' claim that "Valdman told me he excluded
plants and animals [and I don't know what else] because he didn't
think they would be very useful for the non-Haitian writing Kreyol!!!)".
Surely his memory must have failed him or he misunderstood what I
Valdman confided to him. I am surprised that as eminent a scholar
as Carrol Coates would quote an alleged oral statement and
punctuate it by !!!. That this statement is a patent
misinterpretation, to say the least, can be easily seen by
consulting the Learner's Dictionary in which one finds, for example,
DONKEY bourik, as well as detailed treatment of some of the senses
of CHICKEN for some animals, or CORN or ORANGE for some plants.
What was probably said to the distinguished specialist of Haitian
literature was that in order to keep the work within manageable size,
the number of entries had to be reduced. Imagine trying to provide
something comparable in size to the English-French section of
the Oxford-Hachette Dictionary! A count of entries--and, importantly,
subentries--will assuredly show that the Learner's Dictionary
matches any English-HC dictionary available that contains
equivalents supported by ORIGINAL contextual examples rather
than simple equivalents.
The fact that Carrol Coastes' copy of the HCEF has fallen apart
testifies to his extensive use of it! Alas, disintegration is the
fate of most of the available dictionaries of HC whose cost the
authors have striven to reduce by eschewing hard binding.
Fortunately, support form Indiana University made it possible for us
to distribute the Learners' Dictionary as a durable product. For our
next HC dictionary we will strive aslo to improve the quality of the
format, see our most recent lexicographic product, A Dictionary of
Louisiana Creole (Indiana University Press).
>>X-Authentication-Warning: whitman.webster.edu: majordom set sender
>>to firstname.lastname@example.org using -f
>>Date: Mon, 29 Oct 2001 16:12:45 -0600 (CST)
>>From: Bob Corbett <email@example.com>
>>To: Haiti mailing list <firstname.lastname@example.org>
>>Subject: 9401: Re: 9398: dictionary (fwd)
>>From: "Carrol F. Coates" <email@example.com>
>> Casey, I'll risk sending this to the list since there may be some
>>other people who don't know of the availability of dictionaries.
>>Unfortunately, there is no dictionary (to my knowledge) that has as
>>extensive coverage in English to Kreyol as the Freeman/Laguerre for
>>(Haitian) to English. Fequiere Vilsaint published a small DIKSYONE
>>ANGLE/KREYOL//ENGLISH KREYOL DICTIONARY in 1991 (he may well have
>>and pub. new editions). Albert Valdman's English-Kreyol dict. was
>>published recently (3-4 years ago?) by the University of Indiana Press
>>is probably still available (I can't find my copy this instant to give
>>exact ref.). It is a beautiful job of lexicography and production, but
>>very useful, to my mind, because it had such a limited number of entries
>>(Valdman told me he excluded plants and animals [and I don't know what
>>else] because he didn't think they would be very useful for the
>>writing Kreyol!!!) Valdman's original mimeographed dictionary in two
>>volumes was possibly more extensive, but it was reproduced on poor paper
>>that was ready to crumble so I did not pay the high price.
>>This won't help presently, but B. Freeman told me he is working on a
>>companion "English-Haitian" volume.
Rudy Professor of French & Italian and Linguistics
1020 E. Kirkwood Ave.
Ballantine Hall 604
Bloomington, IN 47401-7103