The Haitian-Creole language (kreyòl ayisyen) is a French-based Creole language and is a co-official language in Haiti (along with French). Haitian-Creole developed in the 17th and 18th centuries in the western third of the island of Hispaniola in the Caribbean, wherein French colonizers and speakers of various Niger-Congo languages mixed. Along with 18th century French and several West African languages, it also contains significant influences from Portuguese, Spanish, English, and Taíno, a now-extinct Arawakan language spoken by the Taíno people of the Caribbean. Haitian-Creole is spoken by more than 10 million people, including roughly 95% of the population of Haiti. However, despite its long history in Haiti, and the fact that it is the only language of most Haitians, it only received official status in the Haitian Constitution of 1987.
The largest community of Haitians outside of Haiti is found in the United States, numbering approximately 975,000. Large Haitian communities can also be found in the Dominican Republic, Canada, Cuba, the Bahamas, and France. In the United States, the majority of Haitians reside in South Florida, with other significant populations in New York City, Boston, Philadelphia, and Washington, D.C. Haitian-Creole is currently the 11th most widely spoken language in the United States, with roughly 860,000 speakers according to the 2016 American Community Survey.
There are three main dialect groups of Haitian-Creole, which include the Northern dialect, spoken in Cap-Haitien, the second largest Haitian city; the Central dialect, spoken in the metropolitan area of Port-au-Prince, the capital of Haiti; and the Southern dialect spoken in the area of Cayes, an important city in the south of Haiti.
Haitian-Creole is a highly analytical language, with no verb inflections for tense or person, and there is no grammatical gender. As in French and English, the basic word order of Haitian-Creole is subject-verb-object (SVO), and despite the heavy influence of French, the basic sentence structure is more closely related to the West African Fon language, today spoken mostly in parts of Benin. Haitian-Creole contains six pronouns, with no difference between direct and indirect objects. Since Haitian verbs are not inflected (resembling the French infinitive form), grammatical markers are used to indicate tense, mood, and aspect.
The majority of Haitian-Creole vocabulary is derived from French, with significant changes in morphology and pronunciation. Nouns in Haitian-Creole also often retain the original French definite article as part of the noun. Other sources of Haitian-Creole vocabulary are the West African languages Wolof, Fon, and Kongo, as well as English, Spanish, Portuguese, and Taíno, as mentioned above.
Haitian-Creole utilizes the Latin alphabet and has a phonemic orthography, wherein the graphemes correspond to the phonemes of the language. However, it does not contain the letters q or x. Spelling varied considerably until the Haitian-Creole orthography was standardized in the late 20th century.
FUN FACTS: Haitian-Creole is the most widely spoken creole language in the world. Also, despite its official status in Haiti, most government matters and public education still use French as the primary language, although Haitian-Creole instruction in schools has been increasing.
At Piedmont Global Language Solutions (PGLS), we offer document translation, interpretation, localization, and other language services in Haitian-Creole. Whether you need to translate public information notices into Haitian-Creole, need a Haitian-Creole interpreter for an immigration hearing, or want to localize your website into Haitian-Creole to market your products or services in Haiti, PGLS is here to help with all of your Haitian-Creole language needs.