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  • English-Haitian Creole Bilingual Dictionary ed. by Albert Valdman, Marvin D. Moody, and Thomas E. Davies
  • Jeannette Allsopp (bio)
English-Haitian Creole Bilingual Dictionary, edited by Albert Valdman, Marvin D. Moody, and Thomas E. Davies. Bloomington, IN: iUniverse, 2017. Pp. xxxvii + 1, 103. $39.95. ISBN: 978-1-5320-1601-1.

The English-Haitian Creole Bilingual Dictionary (EHCBD), edited by Albert Valdman, Marvin D. Moody, and Thomas E. Davies, is the most recent product of the Indiana University (IU) Creole Institute, of which Albert Valdman, Emeritus Rudy Professor of French/Italian and Linguistics at IU, was the founder and director. Valdman's co-editors are Marvin D. Moody, a former member of the French Linguistics faculty in the Department of French and Italian at IU, and Thomas E. Davies, an experienced translator of Haitian Creole and the author of a spellchecker for Haitian Creole. The EHCBD is unidirectional from English to Haitian Creole (HC), as its name indicates, and is the companion to the Creole Institute's 2007 Haitian Creole-English Bilingual Dictionary (HCEBD), which is similar in structure and presentation and is unidirectional from Haitian Creole to English.

The EHCBD contains approximately 30,000 entries, many of which are verbs, with a large number of multiple senses, and about 25,000 sub-entries, which include "multiword units or idiomatic expressions whose meaning cannot readily be derived from the individual meaning of the constituent words" (v). The work is thus a huge compilation of almost 60,000 items.

The dictionary's microstructure contains not only the headword and the identification of the various parts of speech, followed by glosses or definitions, but also one or more English citations accompanied by HC translations. The following example illustrates these microstructure features in a relatively brief entry:

churn v.intr. [be upset] bouyi My stomach is churning. Vant mwen ap bouyi.

The front matter of the dictionary provides a general introduction to Haitian Creole, what it is and where it is spoken, as well as the question of mutual intelligibility between neighboring Creoles, such as those of the other islands of the Lesser Antilles. Helpfully, the introduction explains how the French-based Creoles of the Atlantic differ in both vocabulary and pronunciation from those of the Indian Ocean, such as [End Page 234] the Creole of the Seychelles. The phonological variety chosen for the EHCBD represents the speech of monolingual Creole speakers from the central part of the country, including the capital, Port-au-Prince; readers are informed, however, that there is much variation even within HC.

The original orthography of HC was adapted from the French spelling system and was used until the 1940s, when an alphabet was devised based on a systematic phonological representation of the language. A modified version of this, in the form of the Pressoir-Faublas alphabet, was developed by members of Haiti's Institut Pédagogique National and was officially accepted in 1979 by the Jean-Claude Duvalier government. This version continues to be used today in all official publications, written texts, and school programs presented in Creole, and it is the orthography used in the EHCBD. The phonological representation of the alphabet is rendered using IPA symbols.

The considerable amount of phonological variation in spoken Haitian Creole is certainly reflected in the dictionary, and given the lack of standardization in HC, written texts show morphological variation as well, especially in interrogative pronouns in which the interrogative form ki is compounded with a meaning-bearing noun such as lès, which can be written as a solid compound kilès or as two words ki lès, both meaning 'which one?'. Furthermore, because of the considerable variation in the spoken form of words, there is also variation in spelling, such as the HC equivalent for 'orange', which can be spelled oranj, zoranj, or zorany, or for 'mountain', which is spelled mòn and montany. Similar variation in pronunciation and spelling is also found in other Caribbean French-based Creoles, such as those of Dominica and St. Lucia, where differently spelled equivalents for 'eggplant' are found—in St. Lucia, bélanjenn; in Dominica and St. Lucia, melongene. In HC the equivalent is berejèn or berejenn...


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