The Appearance and Development of Haitian Creole

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The Appearance and Development of Haitian Creole

As written in Jacques Arends’ “Pidgin and Creole: An Introduction,” Haitian Creole first originated from a pidgin. With time, this pidgin gradually developed into a creole, later on becoming the co-official language of Haiti. Haitian Creole may be recognized as one of the official languages, along with French, however there are negative associations linked with this creole. For instance, the stereotypical view of a speaker of Haitian Creole still remains as one who is black, poor, and uneducated. Slowly however, things are changing; Haitian Creole is becoming more accepted and the knowledge of its existence is growing as its speakers spread across the world. What made this creole grow and thrive out of its own country, transported to other nations all across the world? This paper will study the unfolding of this creole as well as focus on the way it is spoken in the northeastern United States, since studies show that is where most speakers emigrate to, as stated by Zephir in her works. What will also be discussed is the changes the creole underwent, hand in hand with the various perspectives associated with the creole and the factors that lead to its successful spread.

Before even beginning the topic of Haitian Creole’s migration into the United States, it is important to learn more about the language itself. First a brief history on this creole is necessary- to know the origins of this language and the different social and economic factors surrounding it as time passed. As stated before by Arends, Haitian Creole first started from a pidgin between Haitian slaves in the 16th century. As the years progressed, the pidgin was modified, changed, and soon developed into the creole used today. It was spread across Haiti by various media such as television and newspapers until finally in 1987 its official status became verified in the Haitian constitution (St. Fort).

One would think that Haitian Creole and French would have equal standing as both co-official languages, but studies have shown that only a small minority speak French while the majorities all know Haitian Creole. This fact has also been confirmed when it’s brought up while interviewing my Haitian friend, Stephanie. She is currently a college student in another CUNY school who agreed to sit down with me for a while to talk about Haitian Creole and her thoughts about her culture in relations to her life in New York now. Stephanie exclaims that although she knows both French and Haitian Creole since she learned them in school, most of her community back home spoke in the creole. Hardly ever was French used, except in formal circumstances. Nevertheless, French is the preferred language when it comes to formal occasions, leaving Haitian Creole behind, being considered the “second language.” As Joseph had stated in his work, “The connection between French and Haitian Creole may seem like an example of diglossia, but that is not the case. Only 10% of Haitians know and understand French, while all Haitians are fluent in Haitian Creole.” While Haitian Creole may not be used in formalities, the fact that it is so well-known and used more often than French in Haiti sheds some light into how Haitian Creole has spread out of Haiti. From the percentages Joseph gives, and from what Stephanie had said earlier, one can see that if Haitians migrate elsewhere, they are more likely to bring the Haitian Creole with them instead of French. In doing so, this creole ends up expanding in the area in which it is used. St. Fort states, “In the Diaspora, Haitian Creole is a living language spoken by more than a million living in North and South America, the Caribbean, Europe, and even in Africa.” For many years now, Haitian immigrants have been pouring into the United States, mainly the northeastern states. The author Zephir describes this Haitian movement towards the north saying, “Haitian immigration to...
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