Roger Thayer Stone Center For Latin American Studies

Tulane University

Albert Valdman Lecture: Kapwa ap kenbe djanm - Sociolinguistic Variation in Northern Haiti

March 5th, 2010
3:00 PM

Location
Greenleaf Conference Room
100A Jones Hall
Tulane University

Among French-based creoles, Haitian Creole has the highest degree of standardization, with a written norm—Standard Haitian Creole (SHC)—based on the speech of Port-au-Prince monolingual speakers. For instance, SHC lacks front rounded vowels and postvocalic /r/ and is reaching the rest of the country through the media and schools.

To evaluate the incursion of SHC into the North region, a sociolinguistic study of Northern Haitian Creole (NHC) was conducted in Cape Haitian, Haiti‘€™s second largest city, and surrounding countryside. Besides stereotypes such as the possessive pronoun kin (vs. SHC pa), we found that several NHC features first described in Étienne (1974) are still ubiquitous in the North.

In this presentation, we look at social factors and linguistic conditioning (syntactic and phonological) of three sociolinguistic variables, shedding light on the current vitality and status of NHC features. While the frequently occurring third person singular pronoun seems to have remained below the level of consciousness, the preposition ak ‘€˜with‘€™, which alternates between local ake and standard ak / avè / avèk, appears to be at least a marker, if not a stereotype (Valdman 2008). As for the possessive, which varies between the local form N + a + NP and the standard N + NP, it is pointed out in some speakers‘€™ metalinguistic comments, but its status as a marker or stereotype is unclear.

Using a subset of 24 speakers from the more than 120 in our corpus, we show that regardless of their individual sociolinguistic status, all three variables show a robust preference for NHC features in most syntactic contexts. This study contributes to the growing body of literature applying the tools and methods of variationist sociolinguistics to creole languages, in an effort to assess the effects of the standard on other geographic varieties.

Albert Valdman is the Rudy Professor of French and Linguistics (emeritus) at Indiana University and author of Ann Pale Kreyòl: An Introdcutory Course in Haitian Creole and Haitian Creole – English Bilingual Dictionary. This event is sponsored by the Roger Thayer Stone Center for Latin American Studies.

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