3. On “Kreyolofoni”: Why do we still use the label “Creole” to refer to “Creole languages”?


So the idea is
that if English is more of a creole
than Haitian creole, then why is the term creole to
only creole languages, right? That’s a very valid question. And nowadays in Haiti
and also in Mauritius– I don’t know whether
you’re aware of this debate in Mauritius. People ask, why do we call
Mauritian creole, the creole? Why don’t we just
call it Mauritian? Why don’t want we just call
Haitian Creole Haitian? And so, as a
linguist, might take, when I’m being
asked that question is that– well, the people
who speak the language, most of them call it Creole. So who am I, as a
linguist, to say, no, you won’t call it Haitian. You see, because we have a
basic principle in linguistics, at least in when you consider
the sense of linguistics, it’s supposed to be descriptive,
not supposed to prescribe– to tell people, no,
this is what you say. You’re supposed to
report what we say. And I have a little
anecdote when it comes to– because people feel
that the term is negative– that
the term, creole, because it’s been used to
refer to lesser languages, it’s best to get rid of it. And now as someone brought up– I don’t know who
asked that question. So as someone brought up,
since we know at least we can claim that we have
evidence that English, in terms of its structures–
in terms of its history, might be more of a creole
than Haitian Creole. So the creole doesn’t
make sense if you think of Creole as
a structural term, but the point here is that– so the word creole
means different things to different people. So in Haiti, if someone
called the language Creole, they don’t think of Bickerton. They don’t care about Bickerton. They didn’t even know
who Bickerton is. They don’t know
who McWhorter is. They don’t know who,
you know, [INAUDIBLE] or these other linguists who
say all these ugly things about creole languages. Like, they don’t care if that’s
what they call the languages, and they’re happy with the term. So for them, the term
has changed meaning. The term means just,
this is my language. The same way with words like– let’s say the word neg. OK, so this is the word
that actually, you know– in Haiti, we have
this word, neg. Now where does it come from? It comes from the French negge. Now, the French negge, you can
probably– so this is Haitian creole. This is French. Now you can tell
that, well, this is connected to Negro, right? Now in the movie that we
talked about many times, I Am Not Your Negro, you
can see that the term Negro can be seen as having
some negative connotation. It’s not positive, right? But guess what? In Haiti, the term
neg is positive. You see? Like, I can call you
[HAITIAN SPEECH] you know, you might– well, I wouldn’t say it– well, exactly, it’s
you’re my negro, right? But it doesn’t mean
there’s something negative about calling someone– like, if you were to live in
Haiti yourself– you know, you’re a white person– after a couple of years, my
people might call you neg. You see, you become neg,
and here, the term neg just means person. You know, human? You’re human. You see? So in Haiti, the
term neg, although it derives from negge, which can
be perceived as being negative, it’s become just a noun
that refers to human being. In fact, we saw that– in
fact, we’ll go back to that. Dessaline, himself, said that in
Haiti now, after independence, we’re all neg. We’re all negroes even
if you have white skin. That was 1805, right. Dessaline told all Haitians
that legally, everyone in Haiti, we’re independent. We’ve established our
freedom of sovereignty. Everyone is black whether
you’re white, whether you’re Polish, whether– since you live in
Haiti, you’re black. And that was actually
quite forward, right. He was post-modern. He understood that race
was not biological– that race was a
political concept. From the same perspective,
one could say, well, creole in Haiti means language. It’s my language, so you know? And then there are
groups like on Facebook. There’s a group
called Kreyolofoni– you know, Kreyolofoni, the
claim that we can look at all Kreyolofoni,
Kreyo-Lo-Fo-Ni, right. So the root here is
Kreyol, and then they use– it’s like
francophonie– you know, this French linguistic
culture empire. It’s well, let’s do our own
and talk about Kreyolofoni, because we believe
that we from Mauritius, Seychelles, from
[INAUDIBLE],, from Martinique, from Guadalupe, from Guyane,
we all speak that language that we call Creole, and we
share historical concerns interests in common. So let’s call create
this Kreyolofoni that will make us stronger. AUDIENCE: What is the
language of the [INAUDIBLE]?? Like, what do
people [INAUDIBLE]?? MICHEL DEGRAFF:
Actually, interestingly, you should go to
the Facebook page. Do that, because they have
interesting recordings of different– like, people from Guadulupe,
people from Martinique, Gauguin, Mauritius
speaking the creole. They even have
Christian [INAUDIBLE],, which is this famous French
politician know from Vienne– a black woman race
drawn very eloquent. They recorded her speaking
Guianese Creole, Gwiyan**. You see? And then you can
understand them. You know, I can– when I went to
Mauritius, I could speak Creole in Mauritius, and
people could understand me. I could understand Mauritians
speaking Creole, so there is some evidence to Kreyolofoni– that there is a certain– there’s some level of
mutual understanding. AUDIENCE: So that kind
colonized which countries, because [INAUDIBLE] talked
about the substrates? MICHEL DEGRAFF: The
[INAUDIBLE],, yeah. Yeah. AUDIENCE: Would that be
like of our practice? MICHEL DEGRAFF:
Definitely, you’re right. You’re right. But it’s thanks to the
French that we have this– it’s what you call
solidarity, right? But, you know, it’s history. You know, you can
either use it for you or use it against you, right. In this case, you’re
saying, well, we have this mutual,
common interest based on our similar languages,
and let’s call it Kreyolofoni, and let’s turn it into
a political power. It’s very idealistic,
but, you know, why not? AUDIENCE: So what about like
not describing it, like, people, but what about within
linguists, using the term creole to classify
languages that originated through a colonization process? Like, should that
space stay the same? MICHEL DEGRAFF: Well, no,
because now in science, you can read the
final terms, right? So this is different. So when you’re
doing science, it’s like when, you know– so
H2O, water, for a chemist is not water for a gardener. So a gardener will use
water to sprinkle flowers without thinking about
the structure of water, but if you’re a
chemist, the word water has a different meaning
for you, and you might want to define what you
mean by water in that case. So it’s just in linguistics, I
think that you can say, well, I’m going to use creole
with a particular sense. And for me, it’s just so– you know, I’m going to
point to these languages with the people call who
them creole, who speak them, and I’m going to use
the name that they use. But I’m not going
to assume that it means something similar for
all creole languages, you see?

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