THE SHIPWRECK OF CREOLE LEXICOGRAPHY AT THE MIT HAITI INITIATIVE
By Robert Berrouët-Oriol
Montreal, February 14, 2022
Note – English version of the article « Le naufrage de la lexicographie créole au MIT Haiti Initiative » published in Le National on February 15, 2022.
In memory of Pradel Pompilus, pioneer of Haitian lexicography.
FRAUD, noun – The act of deceiving or misleading another person
by contravening the rules, to use trickery to mystify him.
/ Synonyms: deception, swindling, trickery, falsification, trickery.
(Dictionnaire vivant de la langue française, n.d.)
« (…) there is no production of robust and reliable knowledge outside the collective of scientists who are interested in the same objects, facts and questions. Scientific knowledge must be tested and verified by competent colleagues or peers, namely those who are concerned with the same questions or are at least familiar with the scientific approach to the specific subject matter (…) ». (« Science and its problems: scientific fraud, a means of diversion? », by Serge Gutwirth and Jenneke Christiaens, Interdisciplinary Journal of Legal Studies 2015/1 (Volume 74).
The meaning and relevance of the terms « fraud » and « frauder » appeared at the perimeter of my « semantic memory » (Balota and Coan 2008; Laisney, Eustache, and Desgranges 2009) when I carefully read linguist Michel Degraff’s article published in Haiti’s Le National on February 10, 2022, « Verite se tankou lwil nan dlo. » This article is a response to my « Open letter to the MIT Department of Linguistics : « To promote a Creole lexicography of high scientific quality » published in Haiti in Le National on February 1, 2022 and subsequently on many sites overseas. The French and English versions of my « Open Letter » were sent to some forty Haitian and international institutions and to a large number of interlocutors through mailing lists. These institutions included FOKAL, the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), the International Committee for Creole Studies, the Board of Directors and the Advisory Board of the Haitian Studies Association of the United States, the Rectorate of the Université d’État d’Haïti the Rectorate of the University of the West Indies in Martinique, the Michaëlle Jean Foundation in Canada, the Conference of Rectors, Presidents and Heads of Haitian Institutions of Higher Education (CORPUHA), the International Academy of Linguistic Law (AIDL-IALL), etc. In the email he sent me on February 12, 2022 in response to my « Open Letter to the MIT Department of Linguistics: « To Promote a Creole Lexicography of High Scientific Quality », the Director of this Department informs me that he does not supervise the MIT – Haiti Initiative. Nor does he mention the main recommendation contained in my « Open Letter » of February 1, 2022, namely an international lexicographical evaluation by an independent ad hoc committee of experts with the protective measure of immediate withdrawal of the « Glossary of STEM terms from the MIT – Haiti Initiative » from the Haitian educational system.
1 « Fraud » and « lexicographic scams » at the MIT Haiti Initiative: the underside of the cards…
In the light of what should now be called « The wreck of Creole lexicography at the MIT Haiti Initiative« , several questions are posed upstream, and one of them, relating to the semantic area of the terms « fraud » and « defraud », refers to the very history of the epistemology of science, where it happens that fraud, which must be distinguished from scientific error, must be flushed out in the competitive market of scientific research: « (…) the actions of fraud that run counter to the correct course of scientific practice are not very difficult to circumscribe. These are deliberate, malicious or deceptive violations of the « objectivity » and/or « collective trust » that characterize scientific practice » (see the article « Les sciences et leurs problèmes : la fraude scientifique, un moyen de diversion ? », by Serge Gutwirth and Jenneke Christiaens, Revue interdisciplinaire d’études juridiques 2015/1 (Volume 74). The question of intellectual integrity is also raised upstream in relation to the principles of fairness and reliability that are discarded when one tries to « give credibility » to a work whose scientific foundations are objectively contestable and publicly challenged (On ethics in the scientific field, see Etienne Vergès, professor at the University of Grenoble and director of the research group « Droit et sciences »: « Ethique et déontologie de la recherche scientifique », Presses de l’Université Toulouse 1 Capitole, 2008).
In this article, I demonstrate that the article « Verite se tankou lwil nan dlo » by Michel Degraff uses a fraudulent argumentative process intended to « give credibility » to a pre-scientific and pre-lexicographic work, the « Glossary of STEM terms from the MIT – Haiti Initiative« . This is shown, in the depths of Michel Degraff’s text, by the rigorous examination of the « entries » of this « Glossary » as well as by the analysis of the mechanism of its elaboration carried out outside the methodology of professional lexicography. I do this after having read, once again, all the information on the MIT Haiti Initiative website related to the « Glossary »: In his article, Michel Degraff blindly maintains that « (…) Berrouët-Oriol ap envante fo nouvèl [sic] sou Inisyativ MIT-Ayiti san li pa konsilte okenn pami plizyè dokiman ki disponib sou sit wèb Inisyativ la ak nan lòt piblikasyon – tankou : Le National; Le Nouvelliste; AlterPresse; Ayibopost; Jounal Bon Nouvèl; New York Times; Boston Globe; Boston Review; Science Magazine; Open Democracy; Language: The journal of the Linguistics Society of America; e latriye. » The fraudulent equation of any rigorous lexicographic critique with « fake news » gives full measure to the fact that the MIT Haiti Initiative’s « Glossary » has never been subjected to the evaluation of a Haitian institution competent in Creole lexicography and scientific and technical Creole translation (e.g., the Faculty of Applied Linguistics of the State University of Haiti): “Peer review » is a common and obligatory practice in universities, but Michel Degraff avoids it on the mystifying grounds of preventing the dissemination of « fake news »… This same refusal of any lexicographical evaluation can also be seen at the international level, and no document published on the MIT Haiti Initiative website attests, for example, that the University of Indiana, which has had a vast expertise in Creole lexicography for some fifty years, was not called upon to contribute to the elaboration of the « Glossary ». The « lexicographic scam » was thus implemented outside the national and international academic circuits of lexicography, even though it is attested that the MIT Department of Linguistics has no proven expertise in lexicography… I will come back to this point in connection with the institutional dimension of the wreckage of Creole lexicography at the MIT Haiti Initiative.
1.1. Illustration: inadequacy, inconsistency, agrammaticality and total semantic opacity of a very large number of « Creole » equivalents in the « Glossary of STEM terms from the MIT – Haiti Initiative
Here is a sample of terms found during a consultation, dated February 11, 2022, of the online version of the « Glossary of STEM terms from the MIT – Haiti Initiative » :
English Terms « Creole » ** Equivalents from the MIT-Haiti Initiative
air resistance rezistans lè [1,3,4]
air track pis kout lè // pis ayere [1,2,3,4]
and replica plate on epi plak pou replik sou [1,2,3,4]
escape velocity vitès chape poul [1,3,4]
multiple regression analysis analiz pou yon makonnay regresyon [1,2,3,4]
center of mass sant mas yo [1,2,3,4]
checkbox bwat tchèk [1,2,3,4]
flux meter flimèt [1,3,4]
line integral entegral sou liy [1,2,3,4]
how many more matings would you like to perform? konbyen kwazman ou vle reyalize? [1,4]
(** [Analytical remarks on « Creole » equivalents]: 1 = false and/or fanciful equivalent and/or does not constitute a lexical unit; 2 = equivalent not conforming to Creole syntax; 3 = equivalent presenting a total semantic opacity; 4 = equivalent whose lexical category is not specified)
Faced with these so-called « Creole » equivalents — which Michel Degraff adventurously describes as « interactive » and « dynamic » — the Creole-speaking speaker, even if he or she is neither a linguist nor a lexicographer nor a translator, notices that these terms in the « Glossary » are inadequate and do not render any scientific notion intelligible in Creole: they are false equivalents and/or fanciful equivalents and/or do not constitute lexical units. Furthermore, in the Glossary, equivalents such as « how many more matings would you like to perform? » = konbyen kwazman ou vle reyalize? » are not lexical units that should be included in a « lexicographic entry. Rather, they are phrases that, in a dictionary for example, could illustrate a context of use or an explanatory note for a given term. This type of example, among others, illustrates the reality that the « Glossary » was elaborated by English-speaking « technicians » without any proven competence in lexicography – I will come back to this crucial point. (For a conceptual analysis of the notion of « lexical unit », formally and semantically autonomous and essential in lexicography, see the excellent article by Fabienne Cusin-Berche, « La notion d’unité lexicale » en linguistique et son usage en lexicologie » published in Linx, Revue des linguistes de l’Université Paris Ouest Nanterre La Défense, 40 / 1999). With the « internal grammar » that every speaker of a language possesses, the Creole-speaking speaker notices that a large number of terms in the « Glossary » do not conform to the rules of Creole syntax and that they are characterized by a total semantic opacity. The « internal grammar » of the Creole speaker does not allow him/her to decode and understand the supposedly « Creole » equivalents such as « pis kout lè // pis ayere », « epi plak pou replik sou », « dyagram fòs », « gwoup emik », « fòs volay », « kouran ki endui », « (in this last example, the English-speaking authors of the Glossrary, who are neither scientific translators nor lexicographers with a good command of Creole, confuse the notions of « lexical unit » and « explanatory sentence » in a thick conceptual fog). The non-conformity with the rules of Creole grammar is exemplified in the « Glossary » equivalents of the type « epi plak pou replik sou » in which words are placed one after the other outside the « internal logic » of the Creole language. When consulting the MIT Haiti Initiative Glossary, the Creole speaker does not understand the equivalents given for « creoles » such as « epi plak pou replik sou » just as he or she cannot understand a Creole equivalent such as « *MIT kanaval zwit dòmi manje kòd sekatè chante demen alfabè. This agrammatical sequence of words cannot produce meaning or comprehensible meaning for the Creole speaker. (On any of the different aspects of this problem, see the article by linguist Hugues Saint-Fort, « Quand commet-on des fautes en kreyòl, » Potomitan, October-November 2016; see also the book by linguist Robert Damoiseau, « Éléments de grammaire comparée français-créole haïtien, » Éditions Ibis rouge, 2005. On the notions of « grammaticality », « grammaticalisation » and « grammatisation », see among others Clotilde Castagné-Véziès (Université Lumière Lyon 2), « La grammaire à l’épreuve de la langue et de la métalangue », CORELA (Cognition, représentation, langage) vol. 16 no. 1, 2018).
For comparison, here are the French equivalents recorded in the Grand dictionnaire terminologique of the Office québécois de la langue française for the same random sample of terms found in the MIT Haiti Initiative’s « Glossary »:
English Term French Term
air resistance resistance atmosphérique (n.f.)
air permeability perméabilité à l’air (n.f.)
résistance à l’air (n.f.)
[fields of application: astronautics, paper industry, physics]
air track rail à coussin d’air (n.m.)
[field of application: railroads]
escape velocity vitesse de libération (n.f.)
[field of application: astronomy | astronautics]
multiple regression analysis analyse de régression multiple (n.f.)
régression multiple (n.f.)
[field of use: statistics]
center of mass centre de masse (n.m.)
Associated term = barry center centre de gravité (n.m.)
[field of application: physics]
check box / checkbox button case à cocher (n.f.)
[field of application: computer > computer screen]
flux meter / fluxmeter fluxmètre (n.m.)
[field of application: electricity, physics]
line integral intégrale de ligne (n.f.)
intégrale curviligne (n.f.)
[field of application: mathematics]
The comparison using this table is enlightening in several ways and it supports, among others, the observation of the falsity and inadequacy of a very large number of « Creole » equivalents contained in the « Glossary ». For example, the defining features of the French equivalents of « air resistance » appear in their denominative univocity: « atmospheric resistance », « air permeability », « air resistance ». The idea of « resistance » and its notional complement « permeability » is precisely highlighted in the translation choice, while the segment « lè » in the complex term « rezistans lè » refers to indeterminate and imprecise polysemic features and it is not known to which meaning of « lè » « rezistans lè » is linked. On the other hand, in Albert Valdman’s excellent and rigorous Haitian Creole-English Bilingual Dictionary (Indiana University, Creole Institute, 2007), on pages 419-420, the term « lè » appears in its various meanings and lexical categorizations: « lè » /prep = preposition/ = « time (hour) »; « lè » = « clock » watch » /n. = noun/ ; « lè » (« è », « dè », « zè » /n./noun/ = « air » ; « lè » = « melody », « tune » /n. = noun/ ; « lè » /n. = noun/ = « appareance » ; « lè », « lò » /conj. = conjunction/ » when « , » while « .
1.2. « Glossary development »: the choice of the « lexicographic scam » in the acknowledged ignorance of the methodology of professional lexicography
The article « Verite se tankou lwil nan dlo » is interesting and enlightening in several ways, and should be read in conjunction with other data 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 ». Michel Degraff’s article explains the genesis of the « Glossary » as follows: « … brase lide pami pase 250 anseyan ki te patisipe nan atelye MIT-Ayiti depi 2012. Se kontribisyon anseyan sa yo ki te plis ede nan devlòpman glosè sa a. Kounye a, depi w gen konpetans nan domenn syantifik epi kreyòl ou djanm, n ap tou envite w vin kontribye nan koreksyon ak lajisman glosè a. Sa ka ede pi plis toujou si w gen esperyans nan ansèyman an kreyòl… ». The « lexicographic scam » here takes the form, as is commonly said in the legal field, of « forgery and use of forgeries » when it is claimed that it is in the interaction (the « brase lide ») between 250 teachers-« informants » and the MIT – Haiti Initiative that the « Glossary » would have been elaborated and validated, even though the « specialists » of the MIT Haiti Initiative and the alleged 250 teachers-« informants » do not have any proven competence in lexicography or in scientific and technical translation. Michel Degraff being familiar with the trivialization of blinding contradictions, it is worth recalling in what terms the elaboration of the « Glossary » is presented, 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 »: « (…) one of the positive side-effects of the activities of the MIT-Haiti Initiative (STEM workshops, production of high quality kreyòl materials, etc.) is that we are enriching the language of the MIT-Haiti Initiative with a new vocabulary, a new vocabulary, a new language, a new language, a new language, a new language. ) is that we are enriching the language with 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. [Michel Degraff, being a subscriber to the trivialization of blinding contradictions, delivers a completely different version of the mission and objectives of the « Glossary » in the article « Verite se tankou lwil nan dlo »: « Enben, fòk nou klè sou sa: travay sou Glosè MIT-Ayiti a se pa te janm yon aktivite » leksikografi syantifik » ditou pyès. Nou pa te janm gen pretansyon sa a. Depi an lagan, se te aktivite pratik, entèraktif e dinamik sou teren (se pa nan » laboratwa « , non!). Objektif Glosè MIT-Ayiti a se ede nan devlope epi aplike bibit vokabilè kreyòl la nan ansèyman lasyans « (…) se sa ki toujou fèt pou tout lang k ap pran jèvrin. Se moun k’ap sèvi ak lang lan nan aktivite tou lè lè ki souvan kreye tèminoloji ki nesesè nan aktivite sa yo. » As we can see, the string is big and the « lexicographic scam » is chattering in the ritual of the parade: there would never have been any question of « leksikografi syantifik » but there is a pompous claim « [enriching] the the language of a new scientific vocabulary » and « [contribute] to the lexical development of the Creole language » thanks to the miraculous « expertise » of 250 teachers-« informants » who have no proven competence in lexicography and in scientific and technical translation and who cannot receive any methodological guidance from the MIT-Haiti Initiative team, which is also devoid of any proven competence in lexicography and in scientific and technical translation… And for the sake of the parade, Michel Degraff invents from scratch a « lamayòt » called « leksikografi syantifik », as if there was a non-scientific lexicography modeled after Wikipedia, a sort of unregulated catch-all where anyone can drop anything because, he says, « [se] yon aktivite pratik, entèraktif e dinamik ». From a methodological point of view, promoting a UFO called « non-scientific lexicography » is a real « lexicographical fraud »: it consists in wanting to accredit the idea of an « interactive and dynamic » lexicography outside the science of lexicology, therefore outside the science of language and under the mystifying umbrella of the highly controversial « Wikipedia method » according to which any user can « enrich » a knowledge database by injecting anything into it outside any methodological framework and outside the validity of all kinds of unverified contributions. By promoting the confused and nebulous idea of « non-scientific lexicography » — which opens the way to the dogma of a surrealist « lexicographic theology » — Michel Degraff intends to protect himself from any critical evaluation of a « Glossary » whose pre-scientific and pre-lexicographic character he conceals a priori.
The article « Verite se tankou lwil nan dlo » thus institutes an obvious « lexicographic scam » in the sense that, contradicting the information on the MIT-Haiti Initiative website, it promotes a kind of « lamayòt », a lexicographic « model » known only to the real editors of the « Glossary » and not taught in any linguistics faculty, in any university translation and lexicography program worldwide. This lexicographic « model » includes a major characteristic, which is the basis of its pre-scientific and pre-lexicographic character: the users of a natural language would be able to produce a « new scientific vocabulary » including, out of a total of 848 « creole » equivalents, a high number of agrammatical and a-semantic lexical units that they do not understand… Examples : « pis kout lè // pis ayere », « epi plak pou replik sou », « dyagram fòs », « gwoup emik », « fòs volay », « kouran ki endui », « echikye Punnett mono-ibrid pou yon jèn ki lye ak sèks ». Contrary to the erratic views of the lexicographic « model » contradictorily described and promoted by Michel Degraff in his article, the notional non-conformity between the English terms and the pseudo « Creole » equivalents is one of the most serious conceptual and methodological shortcomings of the « Glossary of STEM terms from the MIT-Haiti Initiative »: it is « technically » impossible, it is linguistically improbable that Creole-speaking speakers – « plis pase 250 anseyan ki te patisipe nan atelye MIT-Ayiti depi 2012 »–, have invented and, worse, cobbled together so-called « Creole » equivalents that are essentially agrammatical, semantically opaque, and that no Haitian Creole speaker can understand.
The participants of the MIT-Haiti workshop, « 250 STEM professors » – presumably Creole-speaking but curiously stricken with « programmed linguistic echophrasy » and conveniently deprived of linguistic competence in their native Creole by « pedagogical grace » and under the auspices of the MIT Haiti Initiative – would have produced and/or validated hundreds of « Creole » equivalents in fields as specialized as physics, astronomy, statistics, astronautics, computer science, etc. that no Creole speaker can understand? and that no Creole speaker can understand? The absence of lexicographic criteria for the determination of the reference corpus and the nomenclature used according to the methodology of professional lexicography, essentially explains why the « Glossary » is provided with a high number of terms that were originally scientific and that are now accessible in the dictionaries of the common language because having migrated for a long time in the general language they have become common terms (ex. For example, « circle » = « sèk, wonn », « coil » = « bobin », « color » = « koulè », « distance » = « distans », « emitter » = « emetè », etc.). In this case, the claim of the MIT Haiti Initiative’s « Glossary » to « [enrich] the language with a new scientific vocabulary » and to « [contribute] to the « lexical development of the ‘Creole’ language », as mentioned on its website, is a direct part of the « lexicographical scam » thus implemented. And it is essentially to mask such conceptual and methodological deficiencies that the article « Verite se tankou lwil nan dlo » scrolls through a whole list of institutions that supposedly « dialogued » and especially « supported » the fabrication of a pre-scientific and pre-lexicographic « Glossary ». This battalion of institutions cited by Michel Degraff – including the American Embassy in Haiti, the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB), the Prime Minister’s Office (the Haitian government), USAID, the World Bank, etc. – would have endorsed the production of the « Glossary » by financing it? These institutions are cited as fraudulent reinforcements to the alleged « credibility » of the MIT Haiti Initiative’s « Glossary », but no study has yet established that they have any expertise in Creole lexicography… If the hypothesis of funding for the « Glossary » by any of the institutions mentioned by Michel Degraff proves to be true in the future, the MIT Haiti Initiative will have to publicly disclose the amounts of all grants received since the start of their project until today. They will have to get to the bottom of this: who is funding the MIT Haiti Initiative and to whom is it accountable since it is not accountable to the Haitian state?
What is at stake, in terms of substance, in my analytical reflection, which challenges both linguists and Haitian teachers as well as pedagogues, didacticians and designers of Creole school textbooks ? On the scientific level, it is important to remember that the « lexicographic scam » of the MIT Haiti Initiative is of the highest order and that it is covered by the great scientific reputation of the MIT Department of Linguistics: the prestigious scientific guarantee of MIT should in no way be used as an incantatory and mystifying alibi, and should obscure the indispensable need for a critical evaluation of the content of a pseudo-lexicographic tool parachuted into the Haitian educational system outside of any state control. The « lexicographic scam » at the MIT Haiti Initiative is blatant and one of the main dangers it brings is the parachuting into the Haitian educational system -without any proven control from the State-, of a pseudo pre-scientific and pre-lexicographic « model » capable of generating mediocre, disabling and inadequate lexicographic tools, which trivialize and discredit the teaching of science and technology in the mother tongue Creole. This is a major challenge for the Haitian education system, since it is not possible to institute quality teaching in the mother tongue Creole on a national scale with the help of pedagogical and lexicographical tools as mediocre as the MIT Haiti Initiative’s « Glossary ».
1.3. Confusion between « spontaneous lexicography » and « programmed lexicography » in the field of language planning1
The article « Verite se tankou lwil nan dlo » contains several clichés, some residues of « marooning echolalia » and vain condescending remarks, but it is more useful for the debate of ideas to expose that it maintains an obscure confusion between « spontaneous lexicography » and « programmed lexicography » in the field of linguistic planning. Having produced no scientific article on Creole lexicography in the last forty years, and no popularized text on lexicography, Michel Degraff nevertheless allows himself to promote his own definition of lexicographic science: « (…) se nan aktivite tou lè jou, san okenn leksikografi, pwofesyonèl sa yo vin ap laji vokabilè teknik lang angle a nan envante mo tankou » imel « , » faks « , » twit « , e latriye. Se pa leksikograf ki kreye yo, non! Nouvo vokabilè sa yo, nan sektè enfòmasyon ak telekominikasyon, vin kreye ann amon nan pratik moun k ap inove e k ap sèvi ak lang lan kòm sa dwa pou mete etikèt sou inovasyon sa yo. » This improbable definition of lexicographic science, Michel Degraff’s version, goes against the lexicographic « system » that the MIT Haiti Initiative promotes. Let’s compare: 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 », here is how the modeling of the « Glossary of STEM terms from the MIT-Haiti Initiative » is described: « 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. [The « lexicographic fraud » is again very evident here: on the one hand it is recognized that « (…) the vocabulary of many Kreyòl speakers, including teachers and students, is deficient in certain scientific fields »; on the other hand, and in a contradictory way, there is a plea for various forms of lexical creativity and « planned neology » since, as it is written on its site, « we [the MIT Haiti Initiative] are enriching the language with 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. What Michel Degraff does not openly assume in his article is that he has no proven expertise in Creole lexicography – even though he is the scientific director of a « Glossary » that is the only lexicographic tool for pedagogical intervention by the MIT Haiti Initiative in the Haitian educational system -, and that he has no known expertise in language planning (he has not published anything on this subject in the last forty years). In this way, he minimizes and evacuates « planned lexicography » and « planned neology » which, at the level of a state’s language policy, are called upon to structure a lexicographic/neological production intended to fill the temporary gaps in a language in new domains through the interaction between lexicographers, terminologists and native speakers. The results of « planned lexicography » and « planned neology » deserve to be studied carefully in the perspective of the simultaneous development of Haiti’s two official languages. In this, we can learn from the Quebec experience. Thus, one of the original features of Quebec over the last fifty years in terms of lexicographic expertise and language planning has been the production of a large number of scientific and technical vocabularies and lexicons of high scientific quality in the French language, resulting from close collaboration between lexicographers/terminologists, language users and specialists in different fields within « linguistic committees of enterprises ». This methodological orientation1 could inspire Haitian lexicographers while guaranteeing the transversality of lexicographic projects as well as their representativeness.
2. The need to promote a Creole lexicography of high scientific quality
Haitian lexicography is relatively young and for the moment it includes a relatively small number of quality publications. It has benefited from the pioneering work of Pradel Pompilus, and the path he laid out in the early 1950s has been enriched by the work of Albert Valdman’s team (Indiana University, Creole Institute) over the past thirty years and by the more recent contributions of young teacher-researchers, notably linguists André Vilaire Chery and Renauld Govain.
The lexicographical and dictionary corpus of Haitian Creole comprises a limited number of titles, very rarely written solely in Creole, and they are mostly designed in bilingual editions or, more rarely, dealing with the terminology of a specific field. Thirty-four years after the co-officialization of Creole and French in the 1987 Constitution, the Haitian lexicographic corpus does not yet include a quality unilingual Creole dictionary written according to the methodology of professional lexicography. For the most part, this corpus is limited to the following documents: « Dictionnaire français-créole » by Jules Faine (Éditions Leméac, 1974); « Diksyonnè kréyòl-franse » by Lodewijik Peleman, Éditions Bon nouvèl, 1976; « Éléments de lexicographie bilingue : lexique créole-français » by Ernst Mirville (Biltin Institi lingistik apliké, Pòtoprins, no. 11: 198-273, 1979); « Leksik elektwomekanik kreyòl, franse, angle, espayòl » by Pierre Vernet and H. Tourneux (eds.), Port-au-Prince, Fakilte lengwistik aplike, Inivèsite Leta Ayiti, n.d. Haitian Creole-English Bilingual Dictionary » by Albert Valdman (Creole Institute, Indiana University, 2007); « Diksyonè kreyòl-franse / Dictionnaire français-créole » by Jocelyne Trouillot, CUC Université caraïbe, 2007; « Diksyonè kreyòl karayib », by Jocelyne Trouillot, CUC Université caraïbe (undated); « Diksyonè kreyòl Vilsen » by Féquière Vilsaint and Maud Heurtelou, Éditions Educavision 1994 ; « Glossary of STEM terms from the MIT – Haiti Initiative » (undated but probably put online about five years ago); « Les emprunts du créole haïtien à l’anglais et à l’espagnol » by Renauld Govain (Éditions L’Harmattan, 2014). To this Creole lexicographic corpus should be added, on the side of Haitian lexicography dealing with French, André Vilaire Chéry’s « Dictionnaire de l’évolution du vocabulaire français en Haïti » (volumes 1 and 2, Éditions Édutex, 2000 and 2002). The first real lexicographical description of regional French in Haiti was made by the Haitian linguist Pradel Pompilus in his doctoral thesis defended at the Sorbonne on December 9, 1961, « La langue française en Haïti » (Paris, Institut des hautes études de l’Amérique latine – Travaux et mémoires, VII, published in 1981 by Éditions Fardin. The third part of this thesis is devoted to the lexicon of Haitian French, the « Haitianisms » according to Pompilus’ terminology. It constitutes a pioneering document, the founding act of Haitian lexicography.
Given Haiti’s relatively limited academic and financial resources, it is necessary to pool skills and resources – under the intellectual and scientific direction of the Faculty of Applied Linguistics of the Université d’État d’Haïti – in order to carry out the various lexicographic projects that the country needs to ensure quality teaching in its native Creole language. This indispensable institutional dimension of lexicographical activity in Haiti must be in line with the continuity of the achievements of Haitian lexicography since the pioneering work of Pradel Pompilus in the 1950s. It must also be inspired by a unique and federative lexicographic model that has proven itself on an international scale, notably in the lexicographic teams of the European Union, the Centre de recherche en terminologie et traduction (CRTT) of the Université Lumière Lyon 2, the Larousse and Robert dictionaries (France), the Usito dictionary (Université de Sherbrooke) and the DDD (Dictionnaire de la Francophonie). This modeling of lexicographical activity in Haiti requires the strengthening of the training in translation/lexicography currently provided by the Faculty of Applied Linguistics in conjunction with the Franco-Haitian Association LEVE in the framework of an innovative partnership. Even though the pseudo lexicographic « model » of the MIT – Haiti Initiative totally evacuates the indispensable didactization of Creole, it is necessary to continue the advocacy for a Creole lexicography of high scientific quality, strongly structured according to strict and clearly identified lexicographic criteria: (1) the determination of the editorial project/program of lexicons and vocabularies and the targeting of the users for whom they are intended; (2) the call for a reference corpus and the use of a reference corpus and the methodology for studying this corpus; (3) the methodological criteria for the choice and representativeness of the nomenclature established in the lexicons and vocabularies; and (4) the notional conformity between the terms of the source language and their equivalents in the target language for bilingual works. The methodological base thus structured will advantageously take into account the work tracks and theoretical/methodological tools outlined in the collective reference book « La didactisation du créole au cœur de l’aménagement linguistique en Haïti » (by Berrouët-Oriol et al., Éditions Zémès and Éditions du Cidihca, May 2021, 382 pages).
(1) On the problem of lexicographic/neological production, see among others :
Boulanger, Jean-Claude (1983). » L’innovation lexicale spontanée et l’innovation lexicale planifiée « , Proceedings of the 10th colloquium of the International Society of Functional Linguistics, Université Laval, August 7-13, 1983, Department of Languages and Linguistics, Université Laval, pp. 117-136.
Boulanger, Jean-Claude (1986), « La néologie et l’aménagement linguistique du Québec », in Language Problems and Language Planning, vol. 10 no. 1, pp. 14 – 29.
Dury, Pascaline (2012). « Neology in specialty language / Detection, implementation and circulation of new terms ». Edited by Pascaline Dury, José Carlos de Hoyos, Julie Makri-Morel, François Maniez, Vincent Renner, María Belén Villar Díaz, Centre de recherche en terminologie et traduction (CRTT), Université Lumière Lyon 2, Journées du CRTT 2012.
Mejri, Salah and Jean-François Sablayrolles (2011). « Presentation / Neology, new theoretical models and NICTs, » in Langages 2011/3 no 183.
Trouillon, Jean-Louis (2010). « Approche de la lexicographie en langue de spécialité », in Recherche et pratiques pédagogiques en langues de spécialité – Cahiers de l’APLI Vol. XXIX No. 1 | 2010.)