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An Annotated Bibliography On Haitian Creole

(by Emmanuel W. VEDRINE)

Acknowledgements & General Introduction

Without the help of the people mentioned below, I would not have been able to complete this research. Before going into details, I want to especially thank my sister Jesula Vedrine who sponsored this five year bibliography project. Though she is not a writer or researcher, the support and encouragement she provided for me to further develop research in the area of the native language have been invaluable. I also thank my brothers and sisters (Rev. Dr. Soliny Védrine, Clerilna Védrine, Sonia Védrine, Jeremie Védrine and Silvenise Védrine) and my niece Jennifer Chery for their moral support.

The first person who started providing me with some documents to review for this research was Nekita Lamour. Lamour is an outstanding person in the Haitian community in Massachusetts, an essayist whose works are published in many periodicals. A devoted educator, Lamour is also well-known for her activism in the Haitian-American community of Boston and Cambridge. I had to visit several sites in order to locate documents for this research. I want to thank Eunice Etienne, a librarian at “Bibliothèque Nationale d’Haiti, for sending me some documents on Kreyòl published in some Haitian newspapers in Haiti. I appreciate the devotion of Professor Albert Valdman who gave me permission to review documents on Kreyòl at The Creole Institute of Indiana University. A special thank is due to Deborah Piston, the secretary of the Institute. Ms. Piston made the documents available for me to review during my allotted research time. I would also like to thank fellow country men Jean-Marc Cenet and Jean Rene Cupidon (Indiana University-Bloomington, Dept. of Mathematics) for their support during my stay in the city of Bloomington.

I also tried to establish contacts with some Haitian researchers and writers abroad (in Haiti, France, United States, and Canada) to see if they could help me find some documents. In the process, I met face to face with Michel-Ange Hyppolite (Kaptenn Koukourouj) at Boston University where we participated in a literary debate on the works of the Haitian poet, Jean-Claude Martineau (April, 1997). I also met Jan Mapou (Jean-Marie Willer Denis) during my trip to Florida. One of the pillars of  “Sosyete Koukouy”, Mapou has made great contributions to the Haitian language and its literature. I am grateful to Yvon Mésidor, Francia Etienne and Emmanuella Zama for their hospitality during my stay in Montreal.  A special thank to Ms. Claudette Morel (the CIDIHCA) and Ms. Sylvena Clarke (librarian, University of Massachusetts-Boston).

I want to thank Ms. Patricia Reicher (president of “Haitiana Publications” in New York) who gave me permission to review documents and Teaching materials on Kreyòl at her center in Cambria Heights. I can not forget these two authors: Féquière Vilsaint and Maude Heurtelou (Educa Vision, Florida) who have contributed so much in developing educational materials in Kreyòl and English and who provided me with some other documents on Kreyòl to review. Another important writer who has made great contributions to the Kreyòl literature is Kesler Brézault (Keslèbrezo). Brézault, founder and editor-in-chief of “Edisyon Lagomatik” (Montreal) and former editor-in-chief of the magazine Soleil des Iles, is also a poet and novelist who visits Boston from time to time not only to take part in literary activities, but also to encourage Haitian authors and artists in their works. I would especially like to thank Dr. Jean Metellus (physician, novelist, essayist and poet) in Paris who responded quickly with regard to a reference needed for this research.

I would also like to thank some fellow Haitians and non-Haitians in the Boston community for their devoted efforts and help, one way or another: Professor Michel DEGRAFF (Massachusetts Institute of Technology), Tontongi (editor-in-chief of Tanbou.com), Joel Theodat (Boston Public Schools), Professor Marc Prou (University of Massachusetts-Boston), Dr. Jeffrey Allen, Marilyn Mason (MIT2), Bob Corbett (Haiti Mailing List), Rose-Ann Auguste (APROSIFA), Frantz Ambroise (Harvard University), Samuel Jerome, Yves Pasteur, Charlot Lucien (H.A.A.M), Orèsjozèf (Orèsjozèf Publications), David Cangé (journalist and director of “Radio Haiti Diaspo Inter”), Boston). Cangé has been active in the Boston community for a number of years. Not only did he give me a free thirty minutes for my radio talk show “Chache Konnen ak Védrine”, but he also gave much appreciated moral support. I also want to thank other people in the Haitian media such as Serge Claude Valmé (businessman, poet, singer and director of  “Radio Vwa Lakay”), Jako (Ayiti Fokis), Eddy Le Phare (host of “Lèt ak Kilti”, a literary critique radio talk show), Yvon Lamour (educator and director of the Haitian radio program, “Anba Tonèl Lakay”) and Widneer Jean-Michel (“Radio Choucoune Universelle” – Brockton, Massachusetts). All of them are doing a great job in the Haitian community of Massachusetts and are always willing to make their microphones available to interview me or to comment on my literary works.

I can’t forget other journalists such as Lunique Geffrard (founder and editor-in-chief of Haitian American News, Haitian American Tribune and The Nations Tribune), Roody Barthelemy (co-founder of the Haitian newspaper, Kreyòl Connection, in West Palm Beach, Florida), Carl Fombrun (radio Kanival, Miami), Marcus Garcia (Haiti en Marche, “Prix Jean Dominique de la liberté de presse”), Father Jean Hoet (director of  the Kreyòl newspaper, Bon Nouvèl, Haiti). I want to think the staff of the Kreyòl newspaper, Ayiti Fanm (Lyn Hyacinthe and Evelyne Margron) and the editor and staff of Libète, Gotson Pierre (SICRAD) for sending me their newspapers. Lastly, I want to thank Jorave Telfort (for his review of the entire manuscript), Marilyn Mason (for the English editing of some interviews), Dr. Anna Wexler (for her patience in reviewing part of the manuscript and for the English translation of one my poems, “Lago ak Lavi”), Dr. Leor Alcalay (for his reviewing part of the manuscript), Pierre M. Chery (for the French translation of the introduction and also for French translation of “Lago ak Lavi”), Michael Howard Lewis (for his reviewing part of the manuscript) and finally, Jean-Marc Madelon (for his help with computer programming) and Jean-S. Sahaï (a friend from Guadeloupe) who is fighting to preserve the Kreyòl language. I dedicate this book to all of those who, somehow, contribute to this seminal work.

Why this bibliography research? --

As of now, there have been more than twenty dictionaries published on Kreyòl during the last twenty years. This indicates the progress made in the language at the lexical level. I think it is necessary to have many types of tools to promote linguistic research in different areas of the rapid developing study of the Haitian language. This stimulated me to work on this project. Furthermore, Haitians (both in Haiti and in the Diaspora) are facing a serious problem with “documentation”. Documents have been published in Haiti since colonial times, but it is not easy to find traces of many of them since there has not been an established system to protect documents in Haiti that are part of the country’s patrimony. Apart from the responsibility the State should have, every single researcher and writer should think of how they can find a solution to this problem or how they can collaborate to improve the situation. The challenge before us is to work together to solve the problem with the support of the State.

One of the questions some critics might ask when they first see this book: is this all that has been published on Kreyòl? The answer would be “No”. A bibliography research is never complete, and this one is not exception. This type of research is endless since people are writing and publishing constantly. One can always find some documents that are not listed in any bibliography. This first edition, attempting to cover publications from colonial times (before 1804) to the end of the year 2000, is a preliminary stage of a longer work which I hope to enrich with further documentation. This bibliography is a project that opens its doors to everyone who wants to collaborate in the advancement of Kreyòl in the 21st century. I hope that this research stimulates everyone who reads it to think about the issue of  “documentation” (in all areas) and how they can help Haiti solve this problem.

Choice of language to write this research –

This bibliographic research appears in three languages (English, French and Kreyòl). These are the three important languages in Haiti now and also in Haitian Studies. The “language issue” has always been an interesting one to me. As Kesler Brézault mentions, when a Haitian is writing in French or in another language, the message that the author is trying to send is like white sugar. One can guess that there is a chemical process taking place to convert brown sugar into white sugar. Many of the vitamins have been lost through the process. In other words, the message an author is trying to convey (when not writing in the native language) always appears as a translation and often in translating, there are elements lost from the original text. At the same time, I do respect the fact that a Haitian writer may choose to write in a language other than Kreyòl. Many Haitian authors growing up in an environment other than Haiti will write in the dominant language of that environment.

When people are talking about “the major languages in Haiti”, they refer directly to French and Kreyòl (two separate languages). Most documents published in Haiti appear in French since most Haitian authors write in French and there are still many foreigners who think Haiti is a French-speaking country; the implication is that most Haitians if not all speak French while in reality about 20% of the population does so and with varying level of mastery.

The debate on Kreyòl and French today would not be the same twenty years ago. “Haiti is a French-speaking country” is a linguistic mistake that I always underling whenever I can see it. The native language, Kreyòl, has always played important role in Haitian society: it is the backbone of our culture and the trademark of our ethnicity. It is clear, The Constitution of 1987 stipulates only one language unites all Haitians – it is the Kreyòl language. The same Constitution recognizes Kreyòl as another official language on par with French. The linguistic situation of Haiti has been (up to now) a diglossia1 where French or Kreyòl can be looked at as a dominant language in some cases. For instance, most of the official documents, including teaching materials, are still written in French. There is a need to render them in Kreyòl. There have also been a great number of teaching materials in Kreyòl (from the last twenty years) covering the elementary and middle school cycles. And now, there are also Haitian researchers and educators in the Diaspora who are developing materials for Haitian Bilingual Programs (elementary, middle and secondary level). Despite all these types of activities, the real change remains in the hands of the government – not only to build free school throughout the country, but also to promote teaching and literacy programs in the Kreyòl language first and try to work toward a solid bilingual program. The day this dream becomes a reality – when all children in Haiti will be able to attend schools freely, to learn how to read and write in their native language, and to master it before learning a second language, education will be a great step in the development of the country and of the genuine movement for schools reform sought by many conscious Haitians.

I welcome suggestions from readers and help from people who want to collaborate to in finding new documents to enrich the research and advance Kreyòl in the 21st Century.


  1. DIGLOSSIA. 1983a. Yves Dejean. “Diglossia Revisited: French and Creole in Haiti”. Word. Vol. 34. No 3, pp. 189-273. “…The first part of this study examines the concept of diglossia formulated by Ferguson (1959) as it applies to the language situation in Haiti. The second part analyzes, also in relation to Haiti, the subsequent development and transformation of this concept. The conclusions from this analysis are not restricted to the theoretical investigation of Creole. They have important practical implications for questions or orthography, literacy, orientation and goals of primary and secondary schooling, the methodology of teaching and learning French, and the appropriate way of discussing language problems with a Haitian audience.”

E. W. Védrine,
Founder of “E. W. Védrine Creole Project”,
Boston, Massachusetts (USA)

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Emmanuel W. Védrine
P.O.B. 255962
Dorchester, MA 02125-5110 (U.S)
evedrine@hotmail.com, e_vedrine@yahoo.com

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