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Reviewed by:
  • Haitian Creole–English Bilingual Dictionary
  • Jean-Robert Cadely
Haitian Creole–English Bilingual Dictionary. Edited by Albert Valdman and Iskra Iskrova. Bloomington, Ind.: Creole Institute, Indiana University, 2007. Pp. xxxiv + 781. $57.50 (cloth).

This volume is a companion to the earlier English-to-Haitian Creole work, A Learner’s Dictionary of Haitian Creole, by Albert Valdman, Charles Pooser, and Rozevel Jean- Baptiste (1996). This new dictionary contains a great deal of information and represents a major addition to the existing corpus of bilingual dictionaries of Haitian Creole. Its main purpose is to assist both English speakers studying the Haitian Creole language and native speakers of Haitian Creole wishing to improve their skills in English. As a second objective, the dictionary is also intended to “provide an authoritative indication of Creole lexical resources” (p. i). This purpose can thus help with the literate use of the language and accelerate its formal recognition in every area of social activity.

According to the editors, the dictionary is “the most thorough bilingual dictionary on Creole” (p. i). Its extensive coverage of the vocabulary includes thirty thousand entries and about twenty-six thousand subentries. Entries are organized in alphabetical order; headwords are written in boldface, English equivalents are presented in roman type, and examples, in the form of a profusion of sentences and expressions, are in italics. Morphemic, geographical, and social variants, reflecting the absence of a written standard as a force for normalization appear in parentheses in the same entry. For instance, in the entry for fanmsay ‘midwife’ the pronunciation variants famsay, fanmchay, famsaj, and fanmsaj, are also recorded. The dictionary uses the “speech of monolingual Creole speakers as a target” (p. v). Hence, entries do not represent features that some linguists use to distinguish the speech of speakers bilingual in French and Haitian Creole from that of monolingual speakers, such as the occurrence of front rounded vowel sounds [y] 〈u〉, [ø] 〈eu〉, and [œ] 〈èu〉. The use and representation of these vowels are recurring points of contention in the development of Haitian Creole orthography due to disagreements regarding their very existence as phonemes. Thus, the common alternations diriduri ‘rice’, blebleu ‘blue’, and sèu ‘sister’ are not recorded. On the other hand, the editors have, surprisingly, included in some entries the variation between nasal [ã] and nonnasal [a] before a nasal consonant, commonly interpreted as one of the main characteristics that distinguish bilingual Haitians from monolingual speakers. The following entries contain both the nasal and nonnasal variant: lamelanmè ‘the sea’, kanavalkannaval ‘carnival’, and kannalkanal ‘canal’. One wonders in this case on what ground the editors chose a monolingual form over its bilingual variant for some entries.

Other alternations are also noted, such as the labialization of /r/ in brabwa ‘arm’, bribwi ‘noise’, and prestopwesto ‘rapidly’, as well as the velarization of /w/ in pwasonprason ‘fish’, pwenpren ‘fist, point’, and pwèstrès ‘thick’. However, one of the most common alternating words, pwapra ‘ bean, pea’, is not represented in this list. It would be interesting to know whether these alternations are related or not to the bilingual-monolingual distinction. Also missing from the dictionary are certain items commonly used in everyday speech. For instance, the entry for the verb konfonte indicates “see konfwonte,” but this last item is absent from the dictionary. The noun konfwontasyon ‘confrontation’ is, however, provided without sample sentences illustrating the context of usage.

A good feature of the dictionary is that it records even uncommon meanings of words. When the usages of a word are significantly different grammatically, they are treated as different entries linked by cross-references. This well-known practice in lexicography, especially in the making of bilingual dictionaries, offers users a rich range of equivalents for a word. For instance, in the case of the word titès, three entries are [End Page 350] provided, corresponding respectively to the adjective ‘picky’, the noun ‘childhood’, and the noun expression ‘narrow-minded person’. (A native speaker of Haitian Creole would question the first and third English meaning provided for this word. I believe that the first meaning of the word titès is ‘groveling, petty’.)

The work...


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