Haitian Immigrants in Black America: A Sociological and Sociolinguistic Portrait

By Fiore Zéphir | Go to book overview

the continuous influx of recent arrivals from the homeland promotes the use of the Haitian language. The presence of these new members who do not speak English provides additional opportunity for native language use, particularly at home; this is a very important factor in the transmission of the native language to the second generation. Third, related to this issue of new migration, one can mention the geographical proximity to the homeland which facilitates frequent visits to Haiti on the part of the immigrants, as well as frequent visits to the United States on the part of the homeland residents. This constant going and coming enables Haitian immigrants to maintain a high level of functional ability in the native language. Fourth, vocational concentration also plays an active role in language maintenance. Within the Haitian speech community, there exist some possibilities for employment: stores, agencies, centers, churches, schools, small businesses, and so on, which provide additional domains of language use, outside the home environment. In sum, the size of the Haitian population has resulted in the establishment of stable Haitian communities that have recreated the Haitian way of life in America, which undoubtedly includes the flourishing of the Haitian ethnic language.


CONCLUSION

This chapter has focused on the functioning of language among Haitian immigrants. All three languages present in the community (Creole, English, and French) have a definite role to play. It was demonstrated that Creole is the dominant language for interactions within closed networks of family and friends. Outside these networks, Creole still maintains its significant function, but an increase in the use of English and French was noted, and this was attributed to an awareness of social factors, such as participants, setting, and purpose of interaction. Such an awareness accounts for the fact that initial contacts among middle-class Haitians tend to be made either in French or in English, depending on the environment in which these contacts occur. After this initial stage, Creole finds a place in these interactions, and code-switching becomes the normal speaking practice.

Additionally, the chapter provided examples of language contact phenomena involving the three languages available to the Haitian community. Finally, it was argued that increased proficiency in English, on the part of this Black immigrant community, would not lead to a situation of native language loss or English monolingualism because of the determination of this group to maintain its ethnic identity. Bilingual stability is predicted to be the sociolinguistic characteristic of this community, even with future generations.


NOTES
1.
It is not uncommon to find Haitians who are fluent speakers of Spanish, and who have some functional ability in other foreign languages. However, for the purpose of the discussion at hand, these additional languages were not considered because they are mainly vehicles of communication with outer groups as, for example, Spanish with Dominicans and Puerto Ricans.

-143-

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Haitian Immigrants in Black America: A Sociological and Sociolinguistic Portrait
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • Tables and Maps vii
  • Preface ix
  • Acknowledgments xv
  • Part I - Haitian Immigrants: Sociological Dimensions 1
  • 1 - Haitians in New York City 3
  • Notes 22
  • 2 - Premigration Experience of Haitian Immigrants 25
  • Notes 40
  • 3 - Emergence and Essence of Haitian Immigrant Ethnicity 43
  • Notes 67
  • 4 - Haitians' Responses to African Americans 69
  • Notes 96
  • Part II - Haitian Immigrants: Sociolinguistic Dimensions 97
  • 5 - Language and Ethnicity in the Haitian Immigrant Context 99
  • Notes 120
  • 6 - Patterns of Language Use of Haitian Immigrants 123
  • Notes 143
  • 7 - Haitians, American Cultural Pluralism, and Black Ethnics 145
  • Notes 160
  • Appendix - Interview Questions 161
  • Bibliography 167
  • Index 177
  • About the Author *
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