Open letter to the MIT Department of Linguistics : « To promote a Creole lexicography of high scientific quality »
By Robert Berrouët-Oriol
Published in Haiti in Le National on February 1, 2022
Mr. Danny Fox
MIT Department of Linguistics and Philosophy
77 Massachusetts Avenue, 32-D808
Cambridge, MA 02139, USA
c.c.: Faculty, MIT Department of Linguistics and Philosophy
Isabelle Bitman, Program Coordinator, MIT Center for International Studies
Haitian Studies Association, USA
Haitian Studies Institute (City University of New York)
Agence universitaire de la Francophonie / AUF – Caribbean Office
International Committee for Creole Studies
Minister of National Education of Haiti
Rectorate, State University of Haiti
Dean’s Office, Faculty of Applied Linguistics, Université d’État d’Haïti
Conference of Rectors, Presidents and Heads of Haitian Higher Education Institutions (Corpuha)
Association of French and Creole Teachers of Haiti (APROFH)
FOKAL (Fondasyon konesans ak libète, Haiti)
Rectorate, University of the West Indies in Martinique
Dean’s Office, Department of Language, Linguistics and Philosophy, The University of the West Indies at Mona, Jamaica
The Steven J. Green School of International & Public Affairs, Florida International University (Haitian Studies Program)
CONFEMEN (Conference of Ministers of Education of the States and Governments of the Francophonie)
Inter-American Organization for Higher Education (IOHE)
European Observatory of Plurilingualism
International Academy of Linguistic Law (AIDL-IALL)
Creole Linguistics Research Group, School of Languages, Westminster University, London
European Creole Language Research Group
Michaëlle Jean Foundation (Ottawa)
Montreal, February 1, 2022
Dear Mr. Director
This open letter, addressed in English and French to the Department of Linguistics of one of the most prestigious American scientific institutions, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), is intended to challenge this institution in full view of the public, while submitting to public debate a citizen’s reflection on the role of this university in the production/dissemination, through the Haitian educational system, of a pre-scientific and pre-lexicographic English-Creole lexicon of 848 whimsical, erratic and non-compliant « Creole » equivalents. Entitled « Glossary of STEM terms from the MIT – Haiti Initiative », this lexicon was obviously designed by English speakers unfamiliar with the Creole language and Haitian culture, lacking proven competence in professional lexicography, and is the only lexicographic tool used by the MIT – Haiti Initiative Project at the Matènwa School (La Gonâve Island). It is also used in teacher training seminars without any known scientific evaluation by the Haitian Ministry of Education. The purpose of this open letter is also to question, from the point of view of the methodology of professional lexicography, the blind endorsement of one of the most prestigious American scientific institutions in the dissemination in Haiti of a « Glossary » of great lexicographic mediocrity: how and why does the MIT Department of Linguistics, which has no known expertise in lexicography, cover with its scientific authority the use in Haiti of a pre-scientific tool that it would never have authorized in its own teaching? It will also expose the fact that the MIT Department of Linguistics has not followed up on my written proposal to form an ad hoc international committee to evaluate the « Glossary of STEM terms from the MIT – Haiti Initiative ». The present open letter, against the tide of any attempt to silence the free exercise of critical thinking, will expose the main issue at stake: in the face of the systemic atrophy of Creole lexicography induced by the diffusion in the national educational system, out of all control of the Haitian State, of a lexicon devoid of the least rigor on the lexicographic level but endorsed by a powerful American university, it is essential to institute a rigorous plea for a Creole lexicography of high scientific quality elaborated by linguists-lexicographers of Creole mother tongue and open to a fruitful collaboration with foreign lexicographers working in Martinique, in the United States, in France, etc. . The background of our critical questioning covers a major concern: in terms of quality of education, is it justified and desirable to teach science and technology in Creole using a « Glossary » that does not include coherent and lexicographically motivated Creole equivalents, even though the analysis of these pseudo « Creole » equivalents has shown that they do not respect the basic structures of Creole? Since the challenges of teaching Creole as a first language are major ones, should we endorse the use of mediocre Creole lexicographic and didactic tools that do not meet methodological standards and whose content does not can be understood neither by the teachers nor by the Creole-speaking learners? In other words, can we endorse, in the Haitian educational system, the teaching of Creole as a mother tongue with the help of -mostly-, a supposedly lexicographic tool that intends to contribute to the « lexical development of the Creole language » but that includes « Creole » equivalents that no Creole-speaking speaker can understand? The topic addressed in this open letter, as well as all of the preceding questions, deserve to be carefully studied and publicly debated by teachers, linguists, educationalists, textbook writers, and school principals concerned with quality, inclusive education that is committed to the linguistic rights of learners.
The promotion of a pseudo lexicographic « model » in the Haitian educational system : the pieces of the case
(1) A political-administrative agreement implemented outside of any proven control by the Haitian state
Resulting from an agreement signed in April 2013 between the MIT – Haiti Initiative Project and the Haitian State represented by Prime Minister Laurent Lamothe, one of the great barons of the neo-Duvalierist PHTK political-mafia cartel in power in Haiti for the past ten years, the educational intervention conducted in Haiti under the auspices of the MIT Department of Linguistics is carried out according to the terms of a document of an administrative and political nature. An agreement signed between the Haitian state and a foreign institution is both a political/legal and administrative agreement. On the administrative side, the April 2013 agreement sets out the operating procedures and pedagogical orientation of the activity in question (the teaching of mathematics, science and technology in the Creole language), while on the political side, its « expectations » are set out in the agreement, on the political level, its political « expectations » are not exposed but can be detected, among other things, in the public political support given by the MIT – Haiti Initiative Project to the PSUGO of the PHTK mafia-political cartel (see the article by Michel Degraff in the Revue transatlantique d’études suisses, 6/7, 2016/17: « Mother tongue as a foundation of knowledge: the MIT-Haiti initiative: towards an effective and inclusive Creole education ». In this article, Michel DeGraff claims that « There are already commendable efforts to improve the situation in Haiti, where quality education has traditionally been reserved for the few. A recent example is the Free and Compulsory Universal Schooling Program (PSUGO) launched by the Haitian government in 2011 with the goal of guaranteeing free and compulsory schooling for all children. » In a video posted on YouTube during June 2014, Michel Degraff argues, without revealing his sources or providing compelling evidence, that 88% of children attend school because of Psugo: « Gras a program Psugo a 88 pousan timoun ale lekòl »… For the record and for the sake of history, it is necessary to re-establish the truth by recalling that the PSUGO set up by the PHTK political-mafia cartel turned out to be a vast enterprise of corruption and misappropriation of public funds unanimously denounced by Haitian teacher associations, the press and the human rights sector. It was the subject of a rigorous and well-documented study by Charles Tradieu, teacher-researcher, specialist in education sciences and former Minister of National Education under the title of « Le Psugo, une des plus grandes arnaques de l’histoire de l’éducation en Haïti » (Port-au-Prince, June 30, 2016). It is also worth noting that nowhere in the public references to the April 2013 agreement is there any mention of any obligation that the MIT – Haiti Initiative Project would have to report to the Haitian state on the implementation of its pedagogical project, particularly with regard to the alleged Creole « lexical language development » recorded on its website. Similarly, the official website of the Haitian Ministry of Education makes no mention of any monitoring and evaluation mechanism for the « Glossary of STEM terms from the MIT – Haiti Initiative ». This absence of a monitoring and evaluation mechanism for the agreement concluded in April 2013 between the MIT – Haiti Initiative Project and the Haitian State illustrates the reality that the Haitian State has resigned in a regalian area of the country’s governance, and that this resignation allows any foreign institution, most of the time with a strong financial base, to parachute anything into the national education system. It is also important to take into account that the political-administrative agreement between the two parties does not call upon the lexicographical expertise of a Haitian institution, namely that of the Faculty of Applied Linguistics of the Université d’État d’Haïti, which, since 1978, has been working on Creole and French, the two languages of Haiti’s historical linguistic heritage co-officialized in article 5 of the Haitian Constitution of 1987.
(2) The blind promotion of a pre-scientific « model » opposed to the methodology of professional lexicography
On the MIT-Haiti Initiative website, in the chapter « Kreyòl-English glosses for creating and translating materials in Science, Technology, Engineering & Mathematics (STEM) fields in the MIT-Haiti Initiative », the modeling of the « Glossary of STEM terms from the MIT-Haiti Initiative » is stated as follows: « The pedagogical activities of the MIT-Haiti workshops clearly show that the vocabulary of many Kreyòl speakers, including teachers and students, is deficient in certain scientific fields. This is due to the fact, related to colonial and neo-colonial historical biases, that formal STEM education in Haitian schools has traditionally excluded Kreyòl from written materials. Therefore, one of the positive side effects of MIT-Haiti activities (STEM workshops, production of high quality Kreyòl materials, etc.) is that we are enriching the language with a new scientific vocabulary that can serve as an indispensable resource for teachers and students. These activities contribute to the lexical development of the « Creole » language. [Far from being confined to « positive side effects of the MIT-Haiti activities, » the apparent lexicographic activity of the MIT-Haiti Initiative intends de facto to constitute a « model » intended to disseminate « the language of a new scientific vocabulary » which, as an « indispensable resource for teachers and students, » will thus contribute « to the lexical development of the Creole language. At the bottom of a blatant and claimed amateurism, this pretense to elaborate a « model » that turns out on analysis to be totally alien to the methodology of professional lexicography has opened the way, within one of the most prestigious American scientific institutions, to the production and modeling of a highly fanciful and erratic, pre-scientific and pre-lexicographic lexicon that does not conform to the Creole language system.
(3) The « Glossary of STEM terms from the MIT – Haiti Initiative »: modeling a highly fanciful, erratic, pre-scientific and pre-lexicographic lexicon that does not conform to the Creole language system
Presented as a « dynamic document », the « Glossary of STEM terms from the MIT – Haiti Initiative » is a lexicon (and by no means a « glossary », despite the English title) comprising 848 « Creole » equivalents: it constitutes, as we have demonstrated, a fanciful, erratic pre-scientific and pre-lexicographic production that does not conform to the Creole language system. Based on the methodology of professional lexicography, we have rigorously demonstrated this in our article published in Haiti in Le National dated July 21, 2020, « Lexicographic treatment of Creole in the « Glossary of STEM terms from the MIT – Haiti Initiative ». Our rigorous demonstration of the pre-scientific and pre-lexicographic character of the « Glossary » of the MIT Haiti Initiative was the object, on the Potomitan site, of a verbomotor attempt at justification, undated and, above all, deprived of any lexicographic analysis under the title « Inisyativ MIT-Ayiti ap chache lengwis, tèminològ ak tout kalte edikatè ak syantifik ki gen jèvrin e ki kwè nan pouvwa lang kreyòl la pou n’bati lekòl tèt an wo « . This misleading and deceptive thought, which turns its back on any credible lexicographical argument, bears the signature of Michel DeGraff, « Pwofesè lengwistik, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Fondatè e Direktè, Inisyativ MIT-Ayiti, Manm fondatè, Akademi kreyòl ayisyen » (from which he was brutally excluded).
In contrast, our critical assessment of the « Glossary of STEM terms from the MIT – Haiti Initiative » is based on strict and clearly identified lexicographic criteria: (1) the determination of the editorial project/program of this lexicon and the targeting of the users for whom it is intended; (2) the appeal to a reference corpus and the methodology for studying this corpus; (3) the criteria for the choice and the representativeness of the nomenclature established in the « Glossary »; and (4) the notional conformity between the terms of the source language (English) and the terms of the target language (Creole).
Upon analysis, we have demonstrated that the electronic file that records the « Glossary of STEM terms from the MIT – Haiti Initiative » nowhere presents any editorial project/program. Contrary to established usage and the rules of modern lexicography, this « Glossary » is characterized by the absence of a « Preface » or a « Foreword » or a « User’s Guide » intended to present its editorial project/program and to target the users for whom it is intended. The user, if he thinks about it, must go elsewhere on the MIT – Haiti Initiative site to « discover » that the « Glossary » claims to work towards the « production of high quality Kreyòl material » and, in the process, « [enrich] the language with a new scientific vocabulary that can serve as an indispensable resource for teachers and students. Lacking a presentation of the methodology that led to its elaboration, the « Glossary » adventurously claims to « [contribute] to the lexical development of the Creole language ». By way of comparison, the excellent work of linguist Albert Valdman, the « Haitian Creole-English Bilingual Dictionnary » (Creole Institute, Indiana University, 2007, 781 pages), records upstream the rigorous methodological framework of its elaboration through the statement of its editorial program and the mode of consignment of the dictionnary’s headings. These introductory chapters are entitled « A User’s Guide to the Dictionnary »/ »Explanatory Charts » (pp. XIX to XXI) and « Detailed Discussion of the Content of Entries » (pp. XXIII to XXVIII). Secondly, we have shown that in the electronic file that records the « Glossary of STEM terms from the MIT – Haiti Initiative », the call to a reference corpus and the methodology of study of this corpus are not mentioned at all: we do not know where neither the English terms nor the supposedly Creole equivalents come from. We do not know who chose them (English-speaking teachers with no training in lexicography and little knowledge of Creole?), by virtue of what lexicographical criteria and according to what methodology they were selected. Nor is it known whether the « Creole » equivalents are neologisms and if so, by whom they were coined and according to what criteria. This huge methodological gap is amplified by the absence of criteria for the selection and representativeness of the nomenclature established in the « Glossary ». And relatedly, no protocol is claimed or provided to justify the notional conformity between the terms of the source language (English) and the terms of the target language (Creole). The notional non-conformity between English terms and pseudo « Creole » equivalents is one of the most serious shortcomings of the « Glossary of STEM terms from the MIT – Haiti Initiative »: it is « technically » impossible, it is linguistically improbable, that Creole speakers have invented and, worse, cobbled together so-called « Creole » equivalents that are essentially agrammatical and that no Haitian Creole speaker can understand. In this light, the general presentation of the « Glossary of STEM terms from the MIT – Haiti Initiative » is clearly a « lexicographic fraud » when its creators claim that « It is a dynamic document that is constantly being edited, thanks to the comments of the MIT-Haiti workshop participants and Internet users (via email, social media, etc.). Contrary to this assertion, the management of the MIT – Haiti Initiative, in a document dated December 1, 2021 kept in our archives, claims that « Nou gen yon ekip solid ki maton nan pwodiksyon dokiman syantifik an kreyòl »… And as if to amplify the « lexicographic fraud », recorded on the MIT – Haiti Initiative general page, it is hastily stated that (…) we have benefited from the input of more than 250 STEM professors who have participated in MIT-Haiti workshops in Haiti since 2012″… These MIT-Haiti workshop participants, « 250 STEM teachers » — presumably Creole-speaking but curiously stricken with « programmed echophrasy » and conveniently deprived of linguistic competence in their native language by « pedagogical grace » and under the auspices of the MIT Haiti Initiative — would thus have produced and/or validated hundreds of « Creole » equivalents that no Creole-speaking speaker can understand? It is worth recalling here that the notion of « notional conformity », from the source language to the target language, is a central rule in the elaboration of bilingual lexicons and dictionaries, and this rule is totally absent from the MIT – Haiti Initiative « Glossary ». Notional conformity and respect for the system of the language are two major principles closely linked in the theory and practice of lexicography (see Christine Bagge: « Équivalence lexicale et traduction », META magazine, volume 35, no. 1, March 1990, Presses de l’Université de Montréal; see also Jean-Claude Boulanger: « L’aménagement du lexique spécialisé dans le dictionnaire de langue. Du prélexicographique au microstructurel « , in Pierre Martel et Jacques Maurais (dir.), Tübingen, M. Niemeyer, coll. » Canadiana Romanica « , 1994, no 8, p. 253 – 268). The notional conformity and the respect of the language system, two major methodological principles in lexicography, are revealed on analysis to be completely foreign to the pseudo-lexicographic approach of the MIT – Haiti Initiative: this is also where the amateurish, erratic and fanciful character of its « Glossary » lies.
Here, taken from the « Glossary of STEM terms from the MIT – Haiti Initiative », is a sample of English terms followed by their pseudo « Creole » equivalents that would have, we are led to believe, « benefited from the input of more than 250 STEM professors who have participated in MIT-Haiti workshops in Haiti since 2012 » and that no Creole speaker can understand even though these « Creole » terms are supposed to contribute to the « lexical development of the Creole language ». In the light of a proven « lexicographic scam » spread over more than 800 pages, this sample gives the full measure of what the MIT-Haiti Project has produced in the field of Creole lexicography after announcing the development of a « new scientific vocabulary that can serve as an indispensable resource for teachers and students ». This alleged « vocabulary » (note the notional confusion between « vocabulary » and « lexicon », symmetrical to the confusion between « glossary » and « lexicon ») is certainly « new » but it is not scientific and it can in no way « serve as an indispensable resource for teachers and students »: no Creole-speaker can understand or use this « new scientific vocabulary » which is, it must be emphasized, neither operational nor functional. The following sample illustrates the extent of the « lexicographic scam » of the « Glossary of STEM terms from the MIT – Haiti Initiative » :
|air resistance||rezistans lè|
|air track||pis kout lè|
|and replica plate on||epi plak pou replik sou|
|at rest||nan eta repo|
|bulk modulus||modil elastisite, modil konpresiblite|
|circularly polarized light||limyè ki polarize an sèk|
|conjugate base||konpayèl bazik|
|deprotonated form||fòm depwotonasyon|
|dihybrid sex-linked Punnett square table||echikye Punnett di-ibrid ki asosye ak sèks|
|for mating & replica plating experiments not involving tetrads||pou esperimantasyon sou kwazman ak plak replik ki pa sèvi ak tetrad|
|escape velocity||vitès chape poul|
|F1 ATPase||F1 ATPase|
|generate field vizualization||pwodui vizyalizasyon chan yo|
|ideal gas law||lwa gaz ideyal|
|line integral||entegral sou liy|
|mate & sporulate||fè kwazman & devlope espò|
|multiple regression analysis||analiz pou yon makonnay regresyon|
|non-polar/hydrophobic||ki pa polè / idwofòb|
|prior (conjugate)||konpayèl o pa|
|single-slit experiment||esperimantasyon sou limyè nan yon fant|
The essentially far-fetched, fanciful, amateurish and erratic nature of these « Creole » equivalents is a direct assault on the linguistic competence of any Creole speaker, and it is highly significant that this « Glossary » has not been publicly endorsed by any Haitian linguist or educationalist since it was dropped into the national educational system following its posting online some five years ago and, it must be emphasized, outside of any control by the Ministry of National Education. To our knowledge, no linguist, no lexicologist, no teacher in Haiti has publicly recommended the use of the « Glossary of STEM terms from the MIT – Haiti Initiative » in the teaching, in Creole, of mathematics, science and technology…
One of the major characteristics of the « Glossary of STEM terms from the MIT – Haiti Initiative » is the agrammaticality of the « Creole » equivalents cobbled together in total semantic opacity: most of the time, it is a series of words that do not conform to the syntactic rules of the Creole language. Such agrammatical bricolage is set up as a « system » — the « lexicographic system » of the MIT-Haiti Initiative — and is characterized by its inability to produce meaning for the native speaker of Creole: it is meaningless. For example, in the sequences « pis kout lè » and « epi plak pou replik sou », the constituent elements of these equivalents are cobbled together, thrown together without grammatical coherence and without any semantic logic. The Creole speaker can understand isolated words (« kout », « plak ») but it is impossible for him to understand the meaning of the equivalents grouping these words and the equivalents, cobbled together in an opaque combinatorial fashion, are both a-grammatical and a-semantic. In most cases, there is no semantic compatibility between the different elements of the cobbled-together « Creole » equivalents, and this semantic incompatibility produces a lack of meaning for the Creole-speaking speaker: it is at the root of the opacity of the « Creole » equivalents in this « Glossary ». The danger of the « Glossary » thus lies mainly in its pre-scientific conceptual DNA and the fact that it has been modeled as a system, the MIT-Haiti Initiative « lexicographic system », which is not linked to any known lexicographic tradition. It is with the help of such a system that the MIT-Haiti Initiative has undertaken to build a « new scientific vocabulary » Creole intended to ensure the « lexical development of the Creole language ». In the history of contemporary Haitian lexicography, whose beginnings go back to the pioneering work of Haitian linguist Pradel Pompilus in the early 1950s, this is the first time that a university structure dedicated to teaching in the native Creole language has promoted with a raised eyebrow a pre-scientific « model, » the « lexicographic system » in effect only at the MIT-Haiti Initiative, which produces essentially a-grammatical and a-semantic « Creole » equivalents. The usual protocols for the control and validation of scientific activities in all MIT faculties have certainly not been used to sanction the scientificity of the MIT-Haiti Initiative’s « Glossary », so that it can with impunity claim the « imprimatur » and scientific prestige of its « parent company », the highly reputed Massachusetts Institute of Technology. The highly dubious scientific nature of the MIT-Haiti Initiative’s « Glossary » was thus established « by default » of academic control of a flawed, erratic and smoky model that is contrary to the methodology of contemporary lexicography. In this, the MIT Department of Linguistics bears the heavy responsibility for the diffusion with impunity, in the Haitian educational system, of both a pre-lexicographic system and a « Glossary » devoid of any scientific basis. And the fact that the « lexicographic system » in force only at the MIT-Haiti Initiative -it is absent from the teaching of lexicography on an international scale-, is reserved for Haiti in the teaching and training of teachers gives the full measure of the danger of a pseudo « model » endorsed by the Department of Linguistics of MIT. The MIT-Haiti Initiative is the only one in the world to promote and experiment with its mediocre « lexicographic system », which no linguistic faculty in the world has chosen to include in the training profile of its students.
(4) The questioning of the scientific guarantee of the MIT Department of Linguistics and Philosophy: silences, unspoken words, “kase fèy kouvri sa”
Has the Department of Linguistics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology been informed of the pre-scientific and pre-lexicographic nature and the danger, for the learning of knowledge and skills in Creole, of the « Glossary of STEM terms from the MIT – Haiti Initiative »? The answer is « yes » because on December 15, 2021, we sent an analytical document entitled « Advocacy for a Creole lexicography of high scientific quality » to the Director of the Department of Linguistics and to its 18 teachers. This document, in which we reiterated and exemplified our rigorous evaluation of the « Glossary of STEM terms from the MIT – Haiti Initiative », was not acknowledged in any way, not even in the polite way that is usually the case in relations between scholars…
In this analytical document, we have explicitly asked the Department of Linguistics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology to (1) urgently conduct–with the assistance of international academic institutions known for their work and publications in lexicography–an evaluation of the MIT Haiti Initiative « Glossary », an evaluation based on the principles of professional lexicographic methodology; (2) as a precautionary measure, order the withdrawal of the dissemination of this « Glossary » until its evaluation is made public by the MIT Department of Linguistics; (3) transmit the results of this evaluation to the Haitian Ministry of Education.
In a second email dated December 21, 2021 to the Department of Linguistics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and its 18 faculty members, we reiterated our request and advocated that the evaluation of the « Glossary » be entrusted, on an international scale, to an ad hoc committee composed of lexicographers, linguists and the following personalities: Fritz Deshommes, Rector, Université d’État d’Haïti; Renauld Govain, Dean, Faculty of Applied Linguistics, Université d’État d’Haïti; Jacky Lumarque, Rector, Université Quisqueya (Haiti); Michèle Pierre-Louis, Director, Fondasyon konesans ak libète (Fokal, Haiti); Philippe Blanchet, sociolinguist, University of Rennes 2 (France); Georges Daniel Véronique, linguist, University of Aix-Marseille, (France) and International Committee for Creole Studies; Raphaël Confiant, lexicographer, University of the West Indies (Martinique); Albert Valdman, linguist-lexicographer, Indiana University (ex-Director of the Creole Institute) Just as explicitly, we have advocated that the conclusions and recommendations of the ad hoc international committee be made public in the Haitian press, in international linguistic journals, and in the journal Études créoles published by the International Committee for Creole Studies. Like the one of December 15, 2021, this e-mail of December 21, 2021, also remained unanswered by the Department of Linguistics at MIT… The same is true of the National Science Foundation (NSF), the sponsoring institution of the MIT-Haiti Initiative, to which we sent our two letters in English. For the record and for history’s sake, and out of respect for them, we have forwarded the email of December 21, 2021 to the linguists and personalities mentioned in this correspondence.
The silences, the unspoken words, the « kase fèy kouvri sa » mean that the Department of Linguistics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology has explicitly chosen (1) to exclude by ignoring any critical evaluation of the « Glossary of STEM terms from the MIT – Haiti Initiative »; (2) to continue to give its intellectual and scientific support to an enterprise of dissemination, in the Haitian educational system, of a pre-scientific and pre-lexicographic « Glossary » that is fanciful, erratic and elaborated outside the methodology of professional lexicography and whose « Creole » equivalents do not conform to the systems of the Creole language. From the height of its financial power and scientific prestige, the Department of Linguistics at MIT continues (3) to endorse the promotion of a lexicographic « model » devoid of scientific foundations even though it would not have recommended this type of pre-scientific « model » in the teaching of linguistics on its campus; (4) in so doing, it places itself above Haitian national institutions which, although weakened and operating under difficult conditions, should be involved in the evaluation and validation of all lexicographic tools used in the Haitian educational system.
The critical analysis and proposals contained in my emails of December 15, 2021 and December 21, 2021 to the Department of Linguistics of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and its 18 faculty members are highly topical and cannot be ignored. It is up to this prestigious scientific institution to follow up on them… It is also up to the current Minister of National Education of Haiti to closely study the hypothesis of the upcoming revocation of the agreement concluded in April 2013 between the MIT – Haiti Initiative Project and the Haitian State. Due to the socio-cultural aspects of this issue, this review should be undertaken in conjunction with the Haitian Ministry of Culture.
This open letter is also an opportunity — in the depths of the ethics of scientific work and the questioning of the unequal relationship between certain large university institutions in the countries of the North and the educational systems of the « small countries » of the South — to (re)visit the teachings of sociolinguist Louis-Jean Calvet recorded among others in the online journal GLOTTOPOL #20, July 2012. In his interview with Cécile Van den Avenne, « Linguistics and Colonialism, 1974-2012, an interview with Louis-Jean Calvet » he clarified his thinking as follows: « I have always considered that the scientist could not remain in his ivory tower, in his laboratory, that he had to fulfill a sort of secular function. I am going to line up commonplaces, but to speak of languages is also to speak of the society in which they are used, and in « Linguistics and Colonialism » I spoke, as a linguist, of colonization. Others could have dealt with other aspects of colonization, one could have imagined works on « law and colonization », « religion and colonization »… I was a linguist, I dealt with what I knew, with what I had studied. At the same time, I was taking a stand in a field that was not much talked about at the time, that of linguistic policies, a field on which I have not stopped working since.
In the end, it is important to realize that the « Glossary of STEM terms from the MIT – Haiti Initiative » weakens and seriously undermines the necessary advocacy for the right to the Creole mother tongue in the Haitian education system in accordance with Article 5 of the 1987 Haitian Constitution and the 1996 Universal Declaration of Linguistic Rights (see our book « Plaidoyer pour les droits linguistiques en Haïti / Pledwaye pou dwa lengwistik ann Ayiti », Cidihca and Éditions Zémès, 2018, as well as our article « Le droit à la langue maternelle créole dans le système éducatif haïtien, » Le National, December 11, 2018″). It is now more than necessary to continue and amplify a consistent advocacy for a Creole lexicography of high scientific quality in the service of a quality citizen education. The high quality work of linguists Pradel Pompilus, Pierre Vernet, Renauld Govain, André Vilaire Chéry and Albert Valdman provide a solid methodological foundation, indispensable references for the development of a Creole lexicography of high scientific quality.
THE AUTHOR OF THIS OPEN LETTER / Robert Berrouët-Oriol is a Canadian linguist and terminologist from Haiti who specializes in language planning. For many years, he worked at the Office québécois de la langue française, where he contributed to the analysis, storage, updating and dissemination of scientific and technical vocabularies in the Banque de terminologie du Québec (now known as the Grand dictionnaire terminologique). He then taught linguistics and terminology at the Faculty of Applied Linguistics of the Université d’État d’Haïti. Since April 2021, he has been a member of the International Follow-up Committee of the Dictionary of Francophones, the DDF. Author for several years of linguistic popularization articles published in Haiti in Le National, he published in 2011 the collective reference book « L’aménagement linguistique en Haïti: enjeux, défis et propositions » (Éditions de l’Université d’État d’Haïti and Éditions du Cidihca). In 2017 he published, in tandem with linguist Hugues Saint-Fort, the book « La question linguistique haïtienne / Textes choisis » (Éditions Zémès and Éditions du Cidihca). In 2018, he published the book « Plaidoyer pour les droits linguistiques en Haïti / Pledwaye pou dwa lenguistik ann Ayiti » (Éditions Zémès and Éditions du Cidihca). He also coordinated and co-wrote the collective reference book, « La didactisation du créole au cœur de l’aménagement linguistique en Haïti » (Éditions Zémès and Éditions du Cidihca, 382 pages, May 2021). Poet and literary critic, Robert Berrouët-Oriol is the author of the first theoretical study on « migrant writing » in Quebec, and in 2010 he won the Grand Prix de poésie du Livre insulaire in Ouessant, France, for « Poème du décours » (Éditions Triptyque). Published in 2021 by Triptyque, his eighth poetic work is entitled « Simoun« .