A harmonized writing system for the Mauritian Creole Language

Grafi-larmoni
Vinesh Y Hookoomsing

September 2004

1 Introduction
In the history of humanity, language codification in written form goes back to the early days of civilization when the first writing system was invented in Mesopotamia. At about the same time, the Egyptian hieroglyphs and the Chinese ideograms represented advanced systems of written communication. Then came the invention by the Phenicians of the first alphabet. From the parchment to the printed book: the first knowledge revolution that started the slow but steady process of democratization of knowledge and information is attributed to Gutenberg’s invention of printing. But well before Gutenberg, the first printed book appeared in China around 1390. From the printed to the eletronic medium: the latest knowledge revolution has abolished the barriers of time and space, making information and communication immediately accessible in real time anywhere, any time. From the first printing machine in 18thC Mauritius to desktop publishing: several millennia of language and technological evolution have been compressed in three centuries, the time it took for the Mauritian Creole language (MCL) to free itself from the shackles of history and become the most popular SMS and internet medium. A product of language contact, innovation and creativity in extreme human and social conditions, MCL evolved rapidly to become within such a short time the first language par excellence of the Mauritian linguistic community. Independence and the need for national symbols gave a new destiny to MCL as the language of national unity and the marker of our distinctiveness. Ever since, the task of codification and standardization of MCL has been on our agenda. The work accomplished through individual and group initiatives has already taken the language quite a long way on the road towards formal recognition. It represents a considerable achievement which must be duly acknowledged

2 Writing Mauritian Creole: a brief historical perspective
How best to write Mauritian Creole? The relevance of Philip Baker’s question, raised in 1978, was self-evident (see below for more details). No one would imagine that in the early years of 19th century Mauritius, such an idea would come to the mind of a colonial writer naturally belonging to the dominant Francophone group. Indeed the earliest written traces of MCL and comments on the language invariably referred to the language as the slave’s patois or broken French. As early as 1749, Baron Grant1 in one of his letters from 18th century Ile de France, refers to a group of slaves pointing towards the horizon and exclaiming “in their corrupted French, ça blanc là li beaucoup malin; li couri beaucoup dans la mer là-haut; mais Madagascar li là.” Bernardin de St Pierre2, in his letters contained in the Voyage à l’Ile de France published in 1773, gives a brief account of his encounter with a slave boatman : “Le Patron me dit dans son mauvais patois : ‘ça n’a pas bon Monsié’. Je lui demandai s’il y avoit quelque danger, il me répondit : ‘Si nous n’a pas gagné malheur, ça bon’.” C Thomi Pitot3(1805), in his refutation of B de St Pierre’s account of slavery in Voyage à l’Ile de France, has recourse to an imaginary conversation in Creole with a slave to portray the latter, ‘un noir mozambique, entre la fleur et la vigueur de l’âge, paré d’un simple langoutis (un linge autour des reins)’, as a happy man well treated by his master. Freycinet4 (1827), who visited Mauritius in 1818, refers for his part to the ‘patois inventé par les noirs’ and comments on the potential linguistic value of ‘les règles de cette langue’:

1

Source: “The History of Mauritius, or the Isle de France, etc., composed principally from the papers and memoirs of Baron Grant, who resided twenty years in the island, by his son Charles Grant, Viscount de Vaux”.1801, London. Reprinted by Asian Educational Services, New Delhi, 1995, p. 297 2 Bernardin de St Pierre, Voyage à l’Ile de France, I, 257, Paris, 1773. 3 C. Thomi Pitot, “Quelques observations sur l’ouvrage intitulé Voyage à l’Ile de France par un officier du Roi” presented to the Société d’Emulation de l’Ile de France on 3 August 1805. 4 Louis de Freycinet, Voyage autour du monde, tome 1, vol. 2, p. 406, Paris, 1827.

Indépendamment du français, qui forme la base du langage à l’Ile de France, une sorte de patois a été inventé par les noirs, qui, ne pouvant se plier à notre syntaxe, prononcer nos mots difficiles, et saisir la valeur propre de quelques-unes de nos expressions., les ont travestis à leur manière. Peu à peu l’usage a fait loi ; et peut-être ne seroit-il pas sans intérêt aujourd’hui d’examiner les règles de cette langue créole, qui n’est pas dénudée de charmes. His remarks on the varieties of MCL are also extremely interesting from a sociolinguistic perspective, with the Malagasy variety occupying one extreme and the European variety (« usité, par goût et par habitude, parmi les mulâtres et les personnes riches de l’île ») at the other extreme. To the visitors, Creole is unquestionably the language of the slaves, whereas Thomi Pitot, a colon settled on the island, does not even state the language in which his conversation takes place, which would imply that the language is shared by both slave and master. The relation thus established with Creole appears to indicate a process of nativisation confirmed by another colon, François Chrestien5, author of the first collection of songs and poems as well as adaptations of La Fontaine’s fables in MCL. His reflexions on the difficulty of writing in Creole are worth quoting as they constitute the first orthographic statements on the language: Il est fort difficile d’écrire le Créole; surtout de façon à en conserver la prononciation, qui en fait une partie du mérite, et à le plier aux règles de la poésie …. Il m’a donc fallu créer une espèce d’orthographe et écrire dans le genre des Vadé ; mais plutôt pour me rapprocher de la prononciation que du français, comme dans ces mots : Çanté (chanté), la-bousse (la bouche), la-sasse (la chasse). Ein’ jour, prononcez Ei-n’zour (un jour). Ein’ coup-là, id. Ei-n’coup là (dans le moment). Ein’ béf, id. Ei-n’béf (un bœuf) Pour chaqu’en’ id. pour chaquène (pour chacun) sans faire marquer l’e muet dans la mesure du vers etc. ce qui d’abord présente quelque difficulté pour la conception rapide, je pense cependant que cette note et une légère attention suffiront. Baissac’s monumental work on MCL (language, 1880; and folklore, 1888) is well known. The orthographic conventions adopted by the author are explained at length in his
5

François Chrestien, Essais d’un bobre africain, Isle Maurice, 1822. The extract appears in the “Avantpropos nécessaire” p. 3-4, reproduced in the 1998 edition by Norbert Benoît, p. 112.

introduction to Etude sur le patois créole mauricien. While being explicitly etymological, they are based on a number of principles that are worth quoting : Pour dérouter le moins possible l’œil habitué à la physionomie du mot français, nous la lui avons conservée partout où nous l’avons pu. Nous avons, cependant, toujours réuni l’article au substantif, avec lequel il fait corps, ainsi que nous l’avons établi. Nous avons, de même, pour être conséquent avec notre analyse, donné aux verbes en er la terminaison é du participe passé, duquel est provenu le verbe créole ; et nous écrivons d’après le même principe, couderoce, coudepoing pour coup de roche, coup de poing, la préposition de étant devenue partie intégrante d’un mot composé. A l’aide de l’accent aigu, de l’accent circonflexe, du tréma et de l’e muet, nous avons figuré de notre mieux la prononciation créole, sans hésiter, dans certain cas, à nous affranchir complètement de l’orthographe française : c’est ainsi que nous écrivons fére pour faire, lhére pour l’heure, léquére pour le cœur, laliquére pour la liqueur, tranzé pour étranger, zoréye pour oreille, Zôrze pour Georges, maïe pour maïs, àçthére pour à cette heure. Enfin, quoique le pluriel ne se manifeste jamais en créole dans la forme des mots, nous avons, pour guider l’œil du lecteur, conservé l’s du français, mais au substantif seulement. (1880:LIVLVI) For all his erudition, Baissac had a very poor opinion of MCL and of its potentialities as a language. Many decades later, in his Chroniques du pays créole, Clément Charoux6 reacted strongly against some of Baissac’s derogatory statements on MCL: Charles Baissac, expert philologue, le compare à un mur en pierres sèches ne permettant que l’érection d’une bâtisse de quelques pieds de haut: bâtisse si l’on veut, ma « bâtisse » m’est chère! before ending on a more lyrical, though ambiguous note : l’âme profonde et collective du pays créole s’émeut au contact de notre vieux parler colonial – peut-être peut-on dire national.

3 Independence: from Creole patois to standardization process (1970s – 1980s)
6

Morisyen.

The

Clément Charoux, Chroniques du Pays Créole, Maurice, 1953.

The 1960s ushered in a new era not only for the country but also for MCL. With independence at the crossroads, the country needed symbols and markers that could function at national level and bring the diverse Mauritian population together. MCL was one of them. Thus, in 1965, after the successful outcome of the final round of constitutional conferences that paved the way to independence, Sir Seewosagur Ramgoolam is reported to have addressed from London the following message through BBC to the nation in the making: Mo banne frères hindous, musulmans, créole, chinois, franco-mauriciens, zotte tout travaille ensemble. Faire Maurice paisible et prospère dans l’intérêt publique.7 The role and function of MCL as the medium of national unity was developed by Dev Virahsawmy in a series of pioneering articles which appeared in the local press in 1967. Combining the drive of nationalism, the insights of Linguistics and the power of rhetoric, Dev Virahsawmy was the first to set the agenda for the recognition, development and standardization of MCL. Its major items may be summarized as follows: MCL is the language par excellence of our national unity and identity It is distinctively Mauritian and therefore should be called Morisyen rather than Creole, to avoid the confusion between the language and the ethnic marker Morisyen is neither a patois nor a broken variety of French. It is a language in its own right with a distinct system of pronunciation, grammar and vocabulary The linguistic structures of Morisyen must be studied and described in view of the standardization of the language A standard orthography must be devised for Morisyen to be developed as a full-fledged written language Morisyen should become the vehicle for the production of a new truly Mauritian literature

Another pioneer creolist emerged more or less at the same time: Philip Baker. He developed a standard orthography for MCL which differed from the one proposed by Dev Virahsawmy on several points and more importantly on nasal vowel transcription. Philip Baker also developed a correspondence course in MCL. In 1972 he published the first
7

Quoted in Moonindranath Varma, The Struggle of Dr Ramgoolam, Mauritius, 1975, p. 210

comprehensive description of MCL which has remained a reference until now. The initial work of compiling MCL words in view of the first MCL dictionary, which subsequently became a joint Baker/Hookoomsing publication, also goes to his credit. From the mid 1970s onward, the Ledikasyon Pu Travayer (LPT) movement emerged as the main if not the sole organisation actively involved in the standadization of MCL, using it for literary contests and promoting it as a literary medium. The first decades of the post-independence period represent indeed MCL’s golden era, during which the creative power of a new generation of writers and cultural artists is unleashed in a variety of media: songs and short stories, poems and plays, pamphlets and manifestos, novels and translations, readers and educational materials. To complete this brief overview of the early initiatives that paved the way for the recognition and promotion of MCL, mention must be made of the first post-independence creative publication, Tention Caïman, by René Noyau8 in 1971. Written in the nonstandard French-based orthography, Tention Caïman represents a solitary attempt to revive the traditional Creole narrative and recast it into a literary mode of expression of popular wisdom and clairvoyance. It is also a stark reminder of the complex and conflicting language-culture-identity link that was to resurface in the 1990s in the form of the collective “malaise créole”.

8

René Noyau, Tention Caïma, Mauritius, 1971. He writes in his introduction: “Quand nous fini lire so créole, éna éne commentaire qui nous lire avec réflexion. Après ça, nous lire so français zistoire-la”; and in his end notes: “…nous bisin prend plime comance écrire cé qui nous conné…nous écrire pou travailleur coma nous…nous aprane lire…nous aprane pou nous capave écrire bien dans nous langaze…Soi-disant nous langaze créole-la, éne langaze bébête…Tout cé qui parmi nous qui capave écrire éne ti livre, faire li.

4

MCL orthographies viewed in the broader context of Creole language standardization

The process of standardization of MCL was initiated in the late 1960s in the favourable context of independence. However it must be borne in mind that the standardized orthographies proposed for MCL were not created ex nihilo. Indeed the theoretical and practical issues related to the transformation of Creole languages from oral to written languages have been on the agenda of Creole-speaking societies for quite some time. Creolists working in isolation came together for the first time at the international conference on Creole languages held at the University College of West Indies in Mona, Jamaica in March 1959. It was hailed as a historic meeting which gave birth to Creole Studies as a field of study. The conference ended with an open session during which the role of Creole in the schools was lengthily debated with members of the public. Well before the Mona Conference, an American Methodist priest, McConnell, had proposed a standardized orthography for Haitian Creole. His diacritic model with the circumflex accent as nasalizer was already in use in Haiti in the 1940s and was subsequently replaced by the “n/nn” model in the 50s. The “circumflex accent” model known in Haiti as the McConnell-Laubach orthography comprised: • • • the following eighteen symbols based on the International Phonetic Alphabet (IPA): a, b, d, f, g, I, k, l, m, n, o, p, r, s, t, v, w, z; the following eight symbols based on the French alphabet: ch, é, è, gn, j, ou, u (representing the semi-vowel found in uit, réuni) and y (as in payer); the following nasal vowel symbols: â, ê, ô, and the oral vowel ò.

Following criticisms from a group of Haitian intellectuals led by C-F Pressoir, a governmental committee was set up in 1951 to review the McConnell-Laubach orthography. The committee proposed the following changes: • • the nasal vowels /ã/, /ẽ/, /õ/, represented by â, ê, ô should be replaced by the following digraphs: an, in, on; the sequence vowel + pronounced nasal consonant n, represented by ân, ên, ôn, should be represented as follows: ann, inn, onn;

• •

the semi-vowel w (as in wi, bwat) should be replaced by ou (as in oui, bouat); the semi-vowel /j/ represented by y in certain positions (as in words ending in – yon) should be replaced by i (-ion).

The revised orthography, known as the Faublas-Pressoir orthography, and later as the ONAAC orthography (Office National pour l’Alphabétisation et l’Action Communautaire), was adopted and used by the government for its literacy projects, by religious bodies and by organisations and individuals as well as by political groups. Some twenty years later, Haitian orthography was again the object of fresh debate as a result of variations, divergences and inconsistencies noted in actual usage. A team of linguists from l’Université Paris-V, in collaboration with the local Institut Pédagogique National (IPN) revisited the ONAAC orthography and proposed several modifications. The revised orthography, known as the IPN orthography, was adopted by the government as the official writing system to be used for Haitian Creole in the 1979 legislation introducing the language as medium of instruction in the primary school. The IPN orthography brought several significant modifications, such as: • • • • • • the nasal vowel /ẽ/ is now represented by en instead of in; consequently, /ẽ/ + n is represented by enn, instead of inn; the sequence i+n is made up of the oral vowel /i/ and the nasal consonant /n/ as in the given example: bekasin; the oral vowel /e/ is represented by e instead of é; the semivowels /j/ and /w/ are represented exclusively by y and w; the digraph gn is replaced by y.

Haitian orthography went through a process of experimentation and harmonization that lasted more than half a century. The problematic aspects presented above are very similar to those encountered in the course of writing MCL in a standardized orthography. An additional feature shared by both Haitian Creole and MCL is that the standardization process was initiated not by the state but by motivated individuals and NGOs. Seychellois Creole language (SCL) too experienced a similar process of harmonization during the early years of the post-1977 revolutionary period. In 1978 Annegret Bollée and Danielle d’Offay proposed a new standardized orthography for SCL, presented as

“une sorte de compromis entre une transcription purement phonémique et l’orthographe traditionnelle en usage aux Seychelles” (p. 12). The major features of the compromise concern: • • • • • Mute e and é: the two forms are used word-finally in a number of words, and their distribution is determined by a set of more or less complex rules; The nasal vowels represented by an, en, on, become oral vowels+pronounced n with the addition of final mute e, (e.g., bane, zene, zone); The digraphs ou, oi, ui, as in“fou, fouet, lafoi, fuite” have the same values as their French equivalents; i and y as complementary semi-vowels: e.g., lipié, nasion, yer, veyé, may; gn as in gagne/gagné.

In 1983, the Bollée-D’Offay orthography is replaced by a modified orthography from which most of the above features are absent. Thus: • • • • • é is eliminated; the sequence oral vowel+ne is replaced by oral vowel+nn (e.g., bann, zenn); the distinction between i and y as semi-vowels is removed: thus, lipye, nasyon; the digraph ou is maintained as (in fou), but not oi and ui: the latter two are replaced by w+ oral vowel, as in: aswar, lerwa, fwet, lafwa, fwit; gn is replaced by ny, as in gany/ganyé.

A new feature, reflecting automatic nasalization of the vowel preceding a nasal consonant, has been added, as a result of which the written form is unnecessarily burdened, e.g., fanm (femme), zanmen (jamais), konnen (connais). The 1983 revised orthography was made official and is still in force. Writing Creole in a standardized orthography is now an accepted principle in the Creole speaking world, particularly in the case of French-based Creole languages. In the French “Départements d’Outre-mer”, linguists and creative writers played a crucial role, whereas in independent Haiti and the Seychelles, the decisive factor has been state recognition and taking over from individual and group initiatives. Mauritius has followed a liberal middle road with the standardization process left into the hands of private initiative while the state continues to acknowledge the national role and function of MCL and its practical importance as the natural language for communicating

with the people. Thus when the Mauritian government was approached in the early 1990s to host the 7th Colloque International des Etudes Créoles, it accepted and entrusted the organisation to a committee presided by the Minister of Culture and Arts, rather than Education. In other words, it gave its blessing as part of its cultural policy of promoting diversity of languages and cultures. Significantly, there was no follow up on a proposal submitted within the context of the hosting of the Coloque for the setting up of a technical committee in view of the standardization of MCL (see Annex 1).

5 Standardized writing systems proposed for MCL I. Dev Virahsawmy: (1967-1998)
As mentioned earlier, the first proposal for a standardized orthography for MCL goes back to 1967. In an article entitled Defence of an orthography, published in l’Express of 8 September 1967, Dev Virahsawmy writes: The orthography which writes Mauricien as Morisiê (pronounced Morisien) is not based on English but on the sound system of the language. It is an attempt to write down the language as it is spoken using a standard, accurate, regular and economical system. Every sound is given a symbol which is used for that and only that particular sound and by this device uniformity is achieved. The alphabet used is that which has been devised by the “l’Association Phonétique Internationale”. The new orthography is illustrated by a story taken from Baissac’s Folklore de l’Ile Maurice and rewritten in the phonemic-based “modern Morisiê” instead of Baissac’s “highly gallicized one”. The pronunciation of some of the vowels used in the new orthograph is explained thus: i as French “i” in “pli” e as French “é” in “fée” u as French “ou” in “tout” ê as French “ain” in “bain” â as French “an in “banc” ô as French “on” in “bon”

In 1985 Dev Virahsawmy revisits his “grafi aksan sirkonfleks”, as it was commonly called, and discusses lengthily the need to take into account the orthographic environment. Variations in pronunciation and phonetic values, quoted as being part of the multilingual/multicultural context, make it impossible to have an orthography based on purely phonemic principles. To illustrate his point he raises a number of orthographic issues and proposes several new symbols justified by the fact that “le mauricien devient de plus en plus la matrice et le véhicule du Mauricianisme pluriculturel” (l’Express, 4 April 1985).

The new symbols proposed are: h to transcribe the increasing number of borrowed English and Indian words containing the aspired “h”; sh to cater for the corresponding sound in words and names such as sherif, shakti, Shanti, Shoba; double vowels to cater for long vowels, e.g., ee, as in kees (from English case), ii as in diil (English deal), aa as in haarr (Hindi haar) double rr to cater for the rolled r found in Indian words, thus rroti, horrni, surr; x and q could also be introduced as non-phonemic symbols, to be used for the teaching of Maths.

Restyled graphie d’accueil, the revised writing system is revisited again in 1988 in a further attempt to emphasize the pluricultural nature of MCL. In an article entitled La sacro-sainte graphie, (l’Express, 3 September 1988), Dev Virahsawmy refers the reader back to the issues raised in his previous article and makes a series of bold proposals for a writing system which, among other things, would: respect the specificity of the Mauritian language; take into account the lexifier languages (French, English and “autres langues du terroir”); facilitate the shift from “Morisiên” to the other languages and vice-versa.

His most far-reaching proposal is to abandon the circumflex nasaliser and adopt the “n/nn” convention popularised by Ledikasyon Pu Travayer (LPT). The following modifications are added to those already made in 1985: a mute ‘e’ is added to words ending in er to help the reader who is competent in French, and also to facilitate the shift to French, e.g., santere, lalimiere; the acute accent is introduced in word-final position, as in santé (song); the “trema” is used where necessary, as in peï (“pays”), aïr (“haïr”); zeän (“géant”); u is replaced by ou;

-

-

The clusters ks (but not kz) and kw are replaced by x and qu respectively, as in exkiz (“excuse”), axepté (“accepter”), quen (“coin”), qui (cuire); [t] and [d] are palatalised when followed by i; they should therefore be represented by ch and j, respectively (e.g., chipchi instead of tipti; jiri instead of diri); s in final position is doubled to make sure it is pronounced, as in kess (“caisse”), keess (Eng. “case”).

-

This new graphie consensuelle will be subjected to yet further changes during the early 1990s. Thus: the grave accent is introduced on final èr to differentiate è, as in lèr and e, as in miter (from English metre); the palatalised [t] and [d], that were represented by ch and j are now transcribed as tch and dj (e.g., tchiptchi instead of chipchi, djiri instead of jiri)

The following extract from his Testaman enn Metchiss (1999), written in the graphie consensuelle, gives an idea of the ideological confusion between graphic signs and cultural symbolism: Grafi Morisien, si li bien pran ankonsiderasion tou bann faktèr ideolozik, kiltchirel ek pratchik, pou sertennman kontribié pou devlopman enn kiltchir Morisien djinamik ek progresiss…(p. 11). The cumbersome nature of the graphie consensuelle became soon obvious even to its author. It was later repudiated and replaced by the new orthography proposed by a team of Catholic priests in collaboration with Dev Virahsawmy. The new Grafi Legliz, associated with the Catholic Church, is discussed later below.

II. Philip Baker
Philip Baker’s book, KREOL: A Description of Mauritian Creole, published in 1972, is a landmark in the history and development of MCL. The only other detailed and

comprehensive description of MCL goes back to Baissac’s Etude sur le patois créole de Maurice, published in 1880. His description of the sounds of MCL (chapter 3) lists a total of twenty-six MCL phonemes or sounds which form part of MCL’s pronunciation system. This is followed by a chapter on “writing Kreol” in which “a practical orthography for Kreol” is presented. Based on the principle defined by the linguist Kenneth Pike, according to which “a practical alphabet should be chosen in such a way as to obtain an acceptable balance between phonemic principles and general sociological situations”, Baker considers in the then prevailing social context that “the nearest to ‘an acceptable balance’ which could be devised would be a substantially phonemic transcription: (i) (ii) which avoided adopting symbols for Kreol which are usually accorded very different phonetic values in English and/or French; which adopted only those symbols which are available on local presses and typewriters.

Based on these considerations, he establishes a list of twenty-one symbols representing consonants, vowels and semivowels (“approximants”) for the proposed MCL alphabet. The remaining five phonemes (that is, sounds forming part of the language’s system) are all nasal vowels and consonants. Choosing an appropriate and acceptable representation of nasalization has been a stumbling block for most Creole orthographic systems proposed up to now. While being aware of this, Baker surprisingly proposes a solution by adopting h from among the remaining unused Roman letters. The explanation given is that “its shape recalls that of n while a written ‘h’ is very uncommon in post-vowel position in both English and French”. Thus eh, ah, oh would correspond to French ein, an, on. The fourth nasal symbol, yh, representing a nasal semivowel would correspond to French gn. What Baker considers as “the only apparent disadvantage of this use of h”, namely that “this symbol would be assigned a value in Kreol unknown in any major language”, turned out to be the major disadvantage of his otherwise practical orthography.

Six years later, in a draft paper entitled How best to write Mauritian Creole? (1978), Baker acknowledges the inappropriateness of h as nasaliser and suggests a more elaborate solution based not on one but two nasalizers: a diacritized m and and a diacritized n. After lengthy discussion on the choice of diacritic, consensus was reached on a revised orthographic system which was finalised and adopted in view of the MCL dictionary jointly authored by Baker and Hookoomsing (1987). The new system, named Lortograf-linite, has not attracted many users, but it has the merit of having attempted to respond adequately to some of the more complex orthographic issues, particularly the problem of nasal transcription and that of verb variation. Defined by its authors as “en lortograf kome ṅ pu kreol (Moris, Rodrig ek Sesel) ek bhojpuri, baze lor zot prop sistem soṅ ek reg gramatikal”, its innovative aspects deserve a brief presentation. As already pointed out, a major preoccupation of the search for a standardized orthography for MCL has been the representation of nasalized vowels. The solutions proposed ranged from the circumflex accent (Virahsawmy) to “vowel+n” (LPT). Dev Virahsawmy maintained his diacritic nasalizer for more than a decade after finally adopting the “n/nn” convention. Lortograf-linite reintroduces the diacritic, with a notable innovation. Indeed the chosen diacritic is a dot, placed not on the vowel but on the nasal consonant which it precedes, and that consonant may be either ṁ or ṅ. The choice of ṁ is determined by etymological and/or derivational considerations. Thus ṁ is used when: - the nasal vowel is followed by ‘b’ or ‘p’, e.g.: aṁbarase, lalaṁp, lapoṁp,
loṁbraz, taṁbav, bileṁbi, rezeṁbe, zaṁblon

-

the nasal vowel is present in the radical word (or in word final position) e.g., noṁ, (prenoṁ) but is converted into vowel + consonant ‘m’ in the derived words: noṁ/nome, nomini, nominasyon the nasal vowel is present in the radical of a word and also in its derived forms, e.g.: kaṁ, kaṁpe, kaṁpman; taṁ, letaṁ, taṁporer the nasal vowel is derived from the consonant ‘m’ present in the radical of a word and followed by ‘b’ or ‘p’: “tom/toṁbe/toṁbaz; tom/toṁbalis/toṁbo;
laflam/flaṁbo; bom/boṁbarde; tem/teṁbre

-

Another new feature worth mentioning is the proposal to include an additional symbol to transcribe the median vowel /∧/ found in words of English origin such as ‘sir, first-aid, freezer, computer, girl-friend, cutter, burger’ which are commonly used in MCL. The additional symbol proposed is the diacritic vowel ë and ër for its long form, e.g.: sër, fërsted, frizër, kompyutër, gërlfren, këtër, bërgër.

III. Ledikasyon Pu Travayer (1977 to date): the “n/nn” continuity
The various avatars of Dev Virahsawmy’s and Philip Baker’s orthographic systems outlined above clearly demonstrate the evolutionary nature of language standardization. It is also a dynamic process in which the contribution of the linguist and the creative writer is significant. But it has to be sustained and, in the absence of state support and recognition, as is generally the case for Creole languages, the importance of collective and organisational backup is crucial for the consolidation and progress of the standardization work. In this respect, the role played by Ledikasyon Pu Travayer (LPT) has been a determining factor. LPT’s standard writing system for MCL goes back to the mid 1970s and coincides with its own creation. In an article published in Le Militant of 3 September 1977, commenting on its own experience of literacy work in MCL, LPT states: Nu kwar dan Moris nu ankor dan enn lepok rodaz kot buku konvansion ankor akseptab. (…). LPT anvi met li o-kler ki nu pa fanatik lor konvansion ki nu pe servi aktielman. Si dime pu bann rezon istorik, nu bizin adopte enn diferan konvansion, ki par nu lexperians, nu truve pli fasil pu bann dimunn aprann lirekrir, nu va zanz nu system ekrir.

Details of LPT’s “n/nn” orthography with accompanying examples have been compiled from its booklet, How to write KREOL properly. They are presented below.

Vowels a a+y = ay a+r = ar a+n = an a+nn = ann a+e = ae a+o = ao a+i = ai a+u = au y+a = ya E e+y = ey e+r = er e+n = en e+nn = enn e+a = ea e+I = ei e+o = eo e+e = ee

Examples arwi may far ban bann laen baobab laik laul sinnyal eskiz lapey ler byen senn sineas pei feodal kree lasam payanke lamar disan banann farata lapay larmwar plan lamann

lalyann tete butey laswer lyen lantenn teat reorganiz zweer*

Nyaz lete soley lantern labalenn

reelir

There may also be “e” plus “u”, but we cannot think of an example. There are two main problems with “e”; firstly, people have difficulty pronouncing an “e” at the end of a word, when it has not got an “accent aigu” on it; secondly, the nasalised “e” (as in “byen”) can also be expressed by “in” (“byin”); both forms persist, for the time being.

*

Note: this word does not correspond to any word in MCL. The closest to it would be zwer (player).

I I+r = ir I+n = in i-nn = inn I+a - ia O O+r = or O+y = oy O+n O+nn O+a = oa O+e = oe O+i = oi U U+r = ur U+y = uy U+nn = unn U+a = ua U+e = ue U+i = ui Consonants

lili lir insilt minn Jiad zot lor bonoy diplon konn boa poet eroik tutu fur muy dimunn ruaz suez chopsui Examples

imam lanpir inklir lalinn poto stor boy bon sonn boem eroinn ule lur fuy mifunn

Layti lasir inperyalis jinn Lapolis lenor amoy selon bobonn

Matu tur suy

We will look at the “easy” consonants first; we say they are easy, not for any inherent reason, but because they are less controversial for social-historic reasons. B D F L M P S T V bebet dadi laf lalo mama papa farus mat vavang baba ladu mofinn alal dilem pipet solda tamtam mov rob malad fet malad fim jip lasann plato Liv

Rare consonants There are four consonants which are rare: - h as in Holi, Hema, haldi (also as “oli”, and “aldi”) - ch as in chacha, chalni - j as in jip, japni, jalsa - w as in wanntann, warning, arwi Consonants with points to ponder There are a number of consonants which need a short explanation: - G: while in French, we write (and say) “garage”, in Kreol the second “g” is replaced by a “z”; we thus get “garaz”. This is not a real problem; it is just an “interference” from French. - K: the consonant “k” is very common in Kreol, and is used for all sounds of “k” whether root words are written with a “k”, a “c” or a “q”. - N: the sound “n” has only one complication. At the beginning of words “n” is easy. At the end of a word (or syllable) however, the “n” needs to be doubled to have the same sound. A single “n” at the end of a word (or a syllable), as we found in the “vowel” section, nasalises the vowel. Note, however, that “u” does not take a single “n”, but only a double. - R: the sound “r” at the beginning and at the end of a word (or syllable) is pronounced differently. The different pronunciation is at its most evident in the word ‘rar”. - X: the consonant “x” is used for the sounds “ks”, as in: expilse; expropriye. - Y: the letter “y”, like “r”, has a different value at the end of syllables from at the beginning.

In a paper submitted by LPT members, they welcome the idea of harmonization rather than uniformization when it comes to recommending a writing system in a context where several converging standard orthographic systems are in use. A number of their comments are quoted below because of their potential implications from an educational point of view: • Si ena enn sistem ekri ki pe itilize depi 28 an, pena buku nesesite pu modifye li tro buku kan pu servi enn grafi onivo nasyonal. Pena gran itilite pratik pu sanz seki pe deza servi. Grafi ki LPT servi fin itilize parmi plizir milye dimunn dan nu kur lir-ekrir e lezot kur an KM. Nu sistem ekrir li marse. Dapre nu lexperyans dimunn ki vinn anprann lir ekrir penan problem pu adopte e servi grafi n/nn. E zot reysi anprann lir-ekrir.

• • •

Anprann literesi li enn zafer e anprann enn langaz li enn lot zafer. Donk, kan nu pe travay lor grafi li pa vremem itil pu gete kimanyer li kapav resanble plis u mwins ar lekritir Angle, Franse u lezot langaz. Enn lot problem se pu get literesi kuma nek enn mwayen pu al ver enn 2yem langaz. Alor lerla ena tandans pu gete kuma KM pu pli pros ar sa 2yem lang-la. Devlopman enn sistem ekri li bizin osi lye ar plezir lektir. Sirtu pu zanfan ki pe kumans al lekol.

IV. The Church’s Choice Bringing the word of God to the people of the world, particularly during the colonial times, created the need to translate the Scriptures in the indigenous languages. Thus began a process of language description and codification, as a result of which many oral languages of the world were endowed with a writing system. The history of MCL from a socio-religious perspective has yet to be written, but it is known from historical records that the first translation of the catéchisme in MCL goes back to 1828. According to Baker (1976), it was published by Richard Lambert “for the benefit of the Réduit school for slaves” (p.41). A rare, and most probably the only existing copy of the translated version is a reprint published in the Bulletin de la Société de linguistique de Paris (1885:122-32) and reproduced in Chaudenson (1981). The opening lines of the Catéchisme en créole give a fair idea of the adapted etymological orthography used: St. Demande. – Mon cher zanfant vous connéz qui vous? R. – Oui, moi un criatire de Bon Dieû, pass qui li qui faire moi, mon le côr et mon name. In 1884, the Anglican priest, Samuel Anderson, translated the New Testament into Creole using a more or less ‘phonetic’ system, as illustrated by his Creole rendering of the title of St Matthew’s Gospel: L’Evangil selon S. Matthié dan langaz créol Maurice. Criticised for his deviations from French orthography and his use of ‘k’ instead of ‘c’ or ‘qu’, Anderson replied: I (…) hasten to say that I studied the question very carefully before deciding to write the Creole Gospel phonetically. Were I to write for some ten thousand French scholars who do not require the Creole Gospel I would keep to the French orthography and the task would be the more easy for me, but as my

purpose is to give the Gospel to more than 350,000 souls who do not read French and yet use Creole…I determined to write phonetically.9 A little more than a century later, a Catholic priest made history by choosing the 1 st of February 1993, the anniversary date of the abolition of slavery, and the celebration of the commemorative mass to speak of the malaise créole. The understatement from Father Roger Cerveaux triggered a collective expression of long contained frustration and resentment against the Church and the State for the social and cultural marginalization of the poorer sections of the Christian/Creole community. Two years later, the controversial issue of Oriental languages and the CPE examinations brought the malaise créole to the forefront of Mauritian ethnic politics in the context of general elections. The scene was set for the emergence of a new Creole consciousness, with at its core the recognition of the specificity of the Creole language, culture and identity in Mauritian society and institutions, starting from the Church itself and the school. That was the context in which a group of Catholic priests, with the collaboration of Dev Virahsawmy, initiated action for the introduction of standardized written Creole in the Church. The outcome was a new orthographic system which took over from where Dev Virahsawmy had left his graphie consensuelle. The proposed Graphie standard pour le Kreol is presented in a two-page document with an introductory note which reads as follows: Une graphie standard pour le kreol est aujourd’hui une necessité pour l’Eglise en particulier et pour la république de Maurice en general. Il nous faut rendre la bible et l’enseignement religieux plus accessible aux chrétiens et en même temps donner aux Mauriciens un outil plus fiable pour la maîtrise de l’écriture afin qu’ils deviennent ‘literate’ et ‘numerate’, deux compétences indispensables dans un monde moderne. La graphie que nous proposons veut répondre à un besoin pressant. C’est un outil simple, pratique et économique, facile à enseigner. Nous tenons à préciser que le but premier est d’enseigner la lecture et l’écriture à ceux qui en ont grandement besoin et non pour faciliter la lecture en kreol à ceux qui
9

Quoted by Philip Baker, Towards a Social History of Mauritian Creole, Bphil dissertation, University of York, 1976, p.67.

sont déja ‘literate’ en français. Deuxièmement nous voulons faciliter l’usage du computer et le passage à l’anglais, deux compétences extrêmement utiles de nos jours, surtout aux plus défavorisés parmi les chrétiens en particulier et les Mauriciens en général. For his part, Dev Virahsawmy, in Chapter 1 of his Aprann lir ek ekrir morisyen (presented in his website), introduces the writing system that he too has adopted, as follows: Grafi ki pe servi isi se seki Legliz Katolik ek so lagazet, La Vie Catholique, servi; se seki bann tradikter Levanzil dapre Sin Mark finn servi; seki websayt literatir Morisien, Boukie Banane, servi. Fale pa koir ki li enn prodwi fini, fixe, met dan boit. Grafi li dinamik e atraver letan li pou konn enn pake ti sanzman. Me kouma li fin devini aster li donn nou enn bon zouti travay pou fer literesi dan Repiblik Moris avanse. Details of the adopted orthography, as they appear on Dev Virahsawmy’s website, are presented in the following extracts : Titlet A Kapital A Divan Damilie Danbout

a, abe, ade, bat, kat, mat, ba, pa batana, ale, amize, pat, rat, sat, gaga, yapana, azoute tat, zat anvi, anler, kanf, zans, andan, ankor, anpe dans, rans, anpandan, pans, lans, azan, bayan mans,kanz bat,bal bet, laba, leba, kab, sab, krab, bit, bek, bout, taba, tablo, tab, meb, zeb, bouk, bol, bel tablet, baba, gob, job, lib, tabou, lerb cham, chombo, choula, chachi, chok machak, machann, macho, machour, machapa mach

An

An

B

B

c(h)

C(h)

D

D

dal, de, dilo, kado, lede, kad, led, dop, doz, model, rado, lamod, larad, douk, dous, sede, pedal, lasid, foud,

douz, dra, E E

soda, souder

soud

ede, eg, eze, bet, det, fet, de, pe, se, epe, ere, get, let, met, mete, rode, espere set, zet manze

en get 'in' F F Fat, fet, fit, lafin, bafon, bef, laf, maf, fot, fout, kifer, gafe, mouf, touf, flote, frote gonfle, grife souf, sif, sef gaf, get, gos, lagam, figir, bag, meg, peg, gou, glob, longann, boug, reg, tig, grif, gram lagon koleg

G

G

h [get 'ch'] I I Isi, ibiskis, lib, zip, tib, bi, ki, li, tifi, ibou, imans, sil, pik, fiz, zi, poli, giji, ize klib, pit kri, pri inpe, inbesil, pint, inkapab, sinp, indesan pins, sint krint, koin, poin, kinz, sin, bin, lin, prins, fin, divin

In

In

J

J

jam, jim, jos, maja, baja, baj job, jaz, jati, kajal, raja, joukal Ka, koi, ki, lakaz, baka, bak, lak, pak, koko, kime, bakle, bake, jak, sak, larak, kouma, ketrin pake, pike fek, pik, flouk la, li, lay, lot, balo, pali, bal, kal, fel, lav, laz, lez, pouli, pile, mil, sil, mel, loz, loup koulou, zalou moul mo, me, mal, lame, lime, lam, tam, mol, mou, limon, lazam, tamam, map, mas, diaman ram, jam nana, nene, dine, dane, pon, ponn, fin/ ni, nou, noze, done, pone, fen, finn, pan, navet pann, pin/pen,

K

K

L

L

M

M

n, nn

N

penn, pinn dimoun, kloun O O oja, ozonn, bol, mol, tol, loto, otin, okouran rol, fol, kol, foto, bom, rom rato moto, kado,

On

On

onte, onz, mont, kont, bon, gon, son, ons, onziem bronz, sonz, pon, ron, ton, ponp, mons zon, fon Pa, pe, po, pi, lape, pou, plat, tape, plan, plon rape sape, bap, kap, flap, zape, grap, pop, sap, zip, trip

P

P

R

R

ras, ros, ris, laraz, lerim, bar, tar, rar, rouz, res, deranz, aroz par, lar, zar, rasi, riban kar, far Sa, so, si, lasas, lasos, bas, kas, fas, sou, set, lasam, lasid las, mas, ras, souk, sime, tas, vas sit Ta, ti, to tou, bate, bato, bat, kat, sat, teti, tinte, rate, sante, rat, mat, nat, tante manter dat, fat, ouver, bout, oumem, dout, ounnde, ourit rouz koute, kou, dou, fou, gout, gou, mou, nou, pou, sou

S

S

T

T

U (ou)

V

V

Va, vit, ver, lavi, lavaz, lalev, manev, voun, vas, pavaz, lever, rev, sov, mov, vis, vaz, viz neve, leve biv wat, waya, tawa, bawa, sew, baw, taw, wi, wok, wit, kawal, sawal biw, paw, wiski, biwbaw, taxi/taksi, maxi/maksi, tax/taks, tex/teks, mix/ miks,

W

W

X/ks

Y Z

Y Z

yapana, youpi, yoga,

yeye, yoyo, travay, bay, youyou, lekay, revey

zaza, zes, baze, bizin, baz, faz, gaz, zozo, zouzou, bouze, raze, jaz, laz, maz,

zako

rouze, manze paz, labriz

An explanatory note states that “'an, en/in ek on' ” should be considered as a single “alfabet” even if they are represented by two letters and that “'en' ek 'in' ” represent “the same sound”. The details presented above appear to be incomplete in terms of symbols as well as explanations. For example, “oi”, “ng” “gn” are not listed, while “c(h)”, “x/ks” and “u/ou are not explained. To know more about the missing symbols, one has to refer to the document Graphie standard pour le Kreol, where they are presented with appropriate comments where necessary. They are explained by reference to French, as follows: - In/in: comme en français (fin, lin, desin…). En français il y a plusieurs formes pour le son ‘in’ (ain, ein, eint) mais en kreol ‘in’ sera la règle mais parfois quand ‘in’ est suivi de ‘n’ il s’avère nécessaire de l’écrire ‘enn’ pour le distinguer de ‘inn’ (venn/vinn, lalenn/lalinn; lasenn/Lasinn;(…) The semi-vowel, ‘y’ alternates with ‘i’ and their distribution is based on their position in relation to the word or syllable: - Y/y: est utilisé en position initiale et finale dans une syllabe ou un mot mais non à l’intérieur d’une syllabe ou mot où il est remplacé par ‘i’ (‘yap-yap’, ‘yenn’, ‘mayo’, ‘travayer’, mais ‘lipie’, ‘lizie’, ‘lesiel’, ‘ledikasion’ (…). The same rules apply to the semi-vowel ‘w’, which alternates with ‘oi’ or ‘ou’: - W/w: est utilisé en position initiale et finale dans une syllabe ou un mot mais non à l’intérieur d’une syllabe ou mot où il est remplacé par d’autres signes (‘wiski’, ‘piaw’, ‘waya’, ‘siaw’; mais ‘twa’, ‘mwa’, ‘swa’, ‘zwa’, ‘bwa’, ‘dwa’, ‘pwa’, etc. deviennent ‘toi’, ‘moi’, ‘soi’, ‘zoi’, ‘boi’, ‘doi’, ‘poi’, etc.; ‘kwenn’ devient ‘kouenn’, ‘kwi’ devient ‘koui’, ‘kwin’ devient ‘koin’, ‘kwar’ devient ‘koir’, ‘vwar’ devient ‘voir’…). Consonant graphemes considered to be problematic are presented as follows:

- C/c: est utilisé en combinaison avec ‘h’ dans des mots comme ‘chombo’, ‘cholo’, ‘chacha’, ‘makacha’, ‘cheke’, ‘choula’, ‘ chake’, ‘chok’, etc. - H/h: est utilisé dans des emprunts venant d’autres langues (haldi, halim, horl) - J/j: est utilisé dans des mots comme ‘jaz’, ‘ jal’, ‘janaza’, ‘ jamalgota’, ‘jaldi’, ‘jos’, ‘jam’, ‘jim’, ‘jerikann’, etc. - X/x: est parfois utilisé à la place de ‘ks’ comme dans ‘exkiz’, au lieu de ‘ekskiz’, ‘sex’, au lieu de ‘seks’, etc. - ng: est utilisé dans des mots tels que ‘tang’, ‘bang’, ‘sang’, ‘leng’, ‘long’, ‘rong’. - gn: est utilisé dans des mots tels que ‘pegn’ (peigne), ‘pagn’ (pagne), ‘sign’ (signe), ‘segne’ (saigner), etc. In a paper summarising his personal thoughts on Les acquis et aménagements de la graphie que l’Eglise utilise, Father Patrick Fabien writes: La graphie actuelle, tout en privilégiant une approche phonétique, tient compte du français dans une certaine mesure. Dans ce texte je voudrais approfondir ce ‘midway’ entre phonétique et l’expérience visuelle de la graphie française pour élaborer une graphie créole cohérente. While acknowledging that the new orthography has obtained consensus and acceptance generally, he proposes the replacement of ‘ou’ as an equivalent of ‘w’ (see above) by ‘u’. The examples he gives illustrate his point better than his explanation: Le son ‘u’ est utile dans les voyelles doubles comme dans ‘minuit’, ‘cuit’, ‘fruit’,. Il faut le maintenir avec le ‘i’. Ce qui donnerait ‘minui’, ‘frui’, ‘kui’, et non ‘minoui’, ‘froui’, ou ‘koui’. His other suggestions concern ‘x’ (see above) and ‘s’. The guiding principle being the need for simplicity, he would prefer ‘ex’ as in ‘exsite’, rather than ‘eksite’, and ‘ek’ as in ‘ekzanp’, instead of ‘exzanp’. In the case of ‘s’, it should be reduplicated in final position to make sure that it is pronounced. His final proposals call for an imperative review of ‘w’ and final ‘e’. The replacement of ‘w’ by ‘oi’ in certain word contexts may complicate the learning of French. The examples quoted are ‘roiyom’ and ‘moiyin’. Rewriting them as ‘royom’ and ‘moyin’ would mean having two symbols, ‘oi’ and ‘oy’ for the same sound. To simplify matters, it would be preferable to opt for ‘w’, but then, writes Father Fabien: “Ceci risque d’apporter un blocage pour la lecture du créole car cette graphie paraît ‘barbare’”.

In the case of the final ‘e’, the proposal is to introduce the “accent aigü”. The argument put forward in support is: Les gens ont de la peine à reconnaître dans le ‘e’ un ‘é’. Je suggère que le ‘e’ final soit écrit avec un accent aigü. En introduisant le ‘é’ on faciliterait de 100% la lecture du créole. Pour le pratiquer quotidiennement avec des groupes, c’est une des grosses pierres d’achoppement. Cette simple modification offrirait une graphie accessible et visuellement agréable. The points raised in his paper are not new. There are plenty of similar examples in the debate that has been going on for decades on how far or how close should Creole standardized orthography be in relation to French. At one extreme we find the French Caribbean creolists who adopted the principle of “déviance maximale”, and at the other the functionalists, like Annegret Bollée and Danielle D’Offay, whose new orthography for Seychellois Creole was presented as a compromise between the phonemic orthography and the traditional, that is, the etymological usage. At the end of the day, the fundamental issue to be addressed is quite straightforward: any orthography must serve a purpose and respond to the needs of the potential users.

6

A harmonized orthography for MCL

After more than thirty years of experimentation and usage, MCL has now reached a remarkably high degree of convergence and stability in terms of orthographic standardization. The time has come for the elaboration of a harmonized orthography based on a palette of symbols currently in use and on the expectations of potential users, particularly in the educational system. Before proceeding, some words of caution are necessary. Our task is to propose an orthographic system, that is, a set of symbols, conventions and rules to be used for switching over from spoken utterances to their written counterparts. An orthographic system therefore is to be viewed as a bridge between the oral and the written norms of a language. It should not be confused with the written language or the written norm of language. The latter develops over time through a gradual process of elaboration of the written code. To quote one of the leading specialists of written language, Joseph Vachek: “a language community which has not yet developed its written norm has not yet developed the latent possibilities of the language to the full”.10 Furthermore, a strictly phonemic orthography, based on a one to one correspondence between the phoneme, that is, a sound belonging to the pronunciation system, and the written symbol, does not promote readability. To achieve this, a certain amount of redundancy is necessary. Finally, language, including its orthography, is a flexible and dynamic system. It evolves and is subject to variation. Orthographic harmonization, as rightly pointed out, does not mean uniformization, which is particularly true in the case of MCL.

10

Joseph Vachek, Written language revisited, John Benjamin Publishing Company, Amsterdam/Philadelphia, 1989, p.20.

In addition to the plural context of Mauritius, there are also the specific linguistic and cultural realities of Rodrigues that must be taken into account. There has not been up to now a significant volume of writing in Rodrigues Creole Language (RCL), as a result of which orthography does not appear to have been an issue for RCL. MCL and RCL are considered as varieties of a common shared language and their regional/dialectal differences should not be an obstacle to the adoption of the proposed harmonized orthography for both MCL and RCL. The harmonized orthography presented below is not a closed system. Based on the standardized writing systems currently in use, it will inevitably go through a period of test and trial. In other words, it too will evolve with time and practice.

TABLE 1

COMMON CONSONANTS AND VOWELS Consonants

Phoneme p b m n t d k g s z f v l r a e o i TABLE 2

Symbol/letter Examples p pake, aprann, rap b bato, kaba, rob m mama, semen, bom n nam, zanana, yenn t tanto, later, zalimet d dilo, ledo, larad k koki, lakaz, lamok g gidon, lagitar, grog s sat, lasal, fos z zako, biznes, baz f fami, lafnet, bef v volan, lavey, lagrev l lavil, talan, bal r ros, lartik, lamar Vowels a alert, balon, beta e eskiz, egrer, dite o oter, zoli, loto i itil, plim, mari

Remarks

See vowel+n in T2

long i: diil (‘deal’)

HARMONIZED CONSONANTS, VOWELS AND SEMIVOWELS

Phoneme ɲ ŋ tʃ ʤ h ks/gz ʃ u ẽ ã õ ^ j w Comments

Symbol gn ng ch di/j h x/xs sh ou in an on œ y/i w

Examples gagn, gagne, pagn, konpagne long, lapang, miting gunga, chak, kucha, chacha media, diab, diaman baj, baja, jukal, jus haj, halim, dahi, hom, horl exit, existe exsite, sex, taxi, axsidan shoping, ofshor, kash, shanti koulou, louke, koul fin, linz, rinte, rezin anz, larzan, lavantir onz, konter, dekon
bœrgœr, kompyutœr gœrlfrenn, kœtœr

Remarks LPT: gayn, ganye, payn, konpanye ba(t)ch, ma(t)ch?

DV: x/ks used freely

LPT: kulu, luke, kul LPT:fin/fen linz/lenz, rinte/rente,

This vowel is not part of MCL system yer, vwayel, karay, LPT: lyon, nasyon lion, nasion wit, labwet, lerwa Grafi Legliz: w/ou

The consonants and vowels presented in Table 1 are generally shared by the various standardized orthographies presented in Chapter 5. The only problematic comment concerns the doubled ii, used to transcribe a long i, as in the example given: ‘diil’. (‘deal’). Another example, quoted by Dev Virahsawmy, is kes/kees (‘caisse/case’). Since there are very few such cases, the need for representing long vowels is debatable. Table 2 contains symbols that are not all shared by the various standardized orthographies presented in Chapter 5. They are proposed as part of the harmonization process. Thus:

- gn has been chosen from Grafi Legliz. LPT uses yn, which has a disadvantage: the order of the combined letters has to be changed in the case of the verbal long form, e.g., gayn, ganye; or in the case of a derived form, e.g., montayn, montanyar. - ch is a shared symbol. There are however one or two common words borrowed from English, e.g., batch, match, written with a ‘t’. Removing it would affect their readability. - di/j. Standardized usage hesitates on their distribution. The argument of degree of palatalization is rather subjective. It would seem that various factors come into play, e.g., position in the word, word origin, readability. - x/xs. x has the value of ‘ks’ as in ‘taxi’, ‘sex’, and the value of ‘gz’, as in ‘lexame’, ‘exose’; xs is proposed for the sake of readability. Compare: ‘exit’ and ‘exsite’. - ou is proposed instead of u. However, considering the fact that u has been in use for a much longer period through LPT’s orthography, there will have to be some flexibility in the use of ou and u. - in, an, on. The representation of nasalization by the n/nn formula is now well established. However, some flexibility will have to be observed since en is also used with the same value as in. - œ is a new symbol, equivalent to the English pronunciation of ‘er’, as in leader. It is found in a number of words of English origin, some of them well established in MCL, e.g., ‘gœrlfrenn’ (‘girlfriend’), ‘marstœr’ (‘master’) while others form part of the office vocabulary or are more recent, e.g., ‘ofisœr’ (‘officer’), ‘printœr’, ‘mixœr’. It is generally word-final and is therefore followed by ‘r’ for the sake of readability. There has been much debate not just on the choice of the symbol itself, but even on the need to have the sound represented as it concerns a specific set of words. It is being included on trial basis. - y/i. The complementary use of y/i has been in use for long, with the semivowel y being replaced by i whenever it is found between a consonant and a vowel, as in tansion, kamion, etc. The same is true for the generalized use of y as semivowel by LPT, which makes sense since i in this position has the same value as the semivowel y. Nevertheless, the complementary use of y/i is proposed for the sake of readability. - w. This semivowel symbol has been in use right from the beginning. Grafi Legliz hesitates between w and ou, because w makes the MCL word look foreign to the reader used to French orthography. On the other hand, the use of the digraph ou very often results in a sequence of three vowels, e.g, ‘louin’ (‘loin’), ‘soue’ (‘souhait’), ‘mouins’ (‘moins’)

Orthographic conventions In addition to the letters, there are established conventions governing punctuation and related matters that have to be addressed. A number of them are presented below: • Punctuation system: the English and French systems have much in common. English punctuation has the advantage of being more widely used as a result of its status as the written official language of administration. It is proposed that MCL punctuation be based on it; The hyphen: it is already used to connect a word and its definite marker, e.g., tifi-la. But when the post-posed la refers to an expanded noun group, e.g., sa tifi ki paret dan televizion la, it is proposed not to use the hyphen. It is used in certain types of compound words: words functioning as a single word, e.g., karo-kann; words combined with dimunitive‘ti’: ti-baba, ti-piman. It is also found in reduplicated words, e.g., mars-marse, roul-roule, bat-bate; The apostrophe: the established usage of the apostrophe to indicate various forms of elision has already been adopted in standardized MCL orthographies, e.g., mo’n koz ar li, li’a koz ar twa, nu ti’a kontan zwenn twa. It is proposed to maintain them. (In actual spoken usage, the contracted forms often contain a semivowel: moyn, lya (or just ya), tya. However, the difficulty of extending the elision to such contracted spoken forms as mwale (mo ale), anwale (anou ale) or just wale (ou ale) illustrates the need to formulate more precise elision rules; Numbers, hours and years: their combination in MCL reproduces a number of variations based on their French counterparts. Compare: Enn kut, de kut, kat kut, sis kut Enn er, dezer, katrer, sizer, dizer Enn an, dezan, katran, sizan, dizan In PB/VH’s dictionary, dezan and dezer are treated as single words; same for katran and katrer, sizer and dizer, but not for sizan and dizan.

These few cases are just a sample of conventions currently in use. There are many more to be discussed and agreed upon. One more issue, perhaps the most difficult one since it concerns names and proper nouns, will have to be addressed. Up to now, place names, whether local or foreign, have been written in standardized MCL orthography in the dictionary. What would be the reaction of people to a proposal recommending that names of people too should be written

according to the norms and conventions of the harmonized orthography? The names of Jesus and his apostles as well as other proper names are already being written in the standardized orthography in a series of documents produced by the Church. It is recommended that a technical committee be set up to look into these and other related orthographic issues.

7 “…making use of MCL in the education of young Mauritians”

There is nothing new in the above extract from the terms of reference of the present report. Teachers have been using MCL in the classroom all the time because it is the first language of the average Mauritian child when s/he steps into the world and begins to relate to it by using words and phrases meaningfully. This is the language that he brings into the school. What is new is the first part of the terms of reference, which sets the prerequisite: a harmonized way of writing the language with a view to…The objective is thus to introduce MCL as a written language, to be learned as such and to be used for reading and writing, and probably for learning other subjects. MCL would thus be part of the school curriculum. That means an MCL syllabus will have to be prepared, and curriculum materials developed: pedagocical grammars and dictionaries, textbooks and readers for the learners, guides, handbooks and training programmes for teachers. Mauritius has a fairly long history of experimenting with languages in the education of its children. There are therefore lessons to be drawn from our own experience of language learning/teaching by trial and error. What makes the challenge more risky is the fact that the process of introducing MCL as a written language triggers simultaneously the complex process of developing the written norm of the language. The prospects of benefiting from outside input are limited, so are our own resources and facilities. Even if we had all the linguistic, educational and resource requisites, there still looms the dark cloud of language politics that could overnight wash away les plus belles intentions. The social implications will also have to be carefully studied. In a socially differentiating school system comprising government, confessional, ZEP, French/English medium private local and international schools, language can be a powerful instrument of inequality.

A harmonized writing system for MCL is just one, important but small, element of a strategic plan with a time frame for the most rewarding but also the most challenging educational reform because it is more than just a language issue. The proposed introduction of MCL within the educational system means respecting a fundamental right of the child: the right to learn and be taught in his first language. But the Mauritian child must also learn and master a multiciplity of languages which form part of the historical, cultural and modern setup of his country. The proposed introduction of MCL will inevitably have a bearing, not only on the present setup of language teaching but, more importantly, on the whole policy of languages in education in Mauritius and Rodrigues. It must indeed be recalled that the debate on the language and education issue with reference to MCL has been going on ever since the process of standardizing MCL was initiated. It took an institutional dimension in the mid 1970s when the first comprehensive plan for an integrated educational language reform was prepared by a team of enthusiastic linguists and educators at the nascent Mauritius Institute of Education. The little known initiative followed a Unesco Consultants’ report on educational development in Mauritius and the role of the Institute of Education. Known as the Marcastel report, the Unesco document expressed serious concern on the situation of language teaching and outlined ways and means for improvement. It recommended a national organizational framework for language teaching reform and the creation of a language centre at the MIE which would act as the “professional arm” for research and planning of the reform proposal. Papers in view of implementing the Unesco recommendations were prepared by the MIE team, in which possible solutions were proposed for the introduction of MCL and for the staggering of languages in the school curriculum (see extracts in Annex 2). In 1979, the Report of the Richard Commission on pre-primary and primary education, Laying the Foundations, devoted one full chapter to the language policy issue and proposed “two alternatives though it realises that ultimately the decision is a political and socio-cultural one”:

Alternative A. Since the language of the home is recommended for the preprimary with a gradual transition to spoken French, the Commission feels that for year 1 age 5+ of the the Infant School, the language of the environment should be used still with Oral French and an oral Oriental Language. That in Standard II French and an oral Oriental Language be introduced gradually in the written form and English in the Oral Form; that in Standard III, the three languages be taught formally. The Commission would like to see facilities being made available to all children to learn an Oriental Language from start, subject to parental choice being considered. Alternative B. The language of the environment should be used in Standards I and II and French should be introduced in an Oral form in standard II; and in Standard III French and English be studied in formal form and an Oriental Language in the oral form, the faculty to learn an Oriental Language being offered to all at their parental option. The Commission’s final recommendations were: The Ministry should study the alternatives proposed; Consideration should be given to the risk interest in the simultaneous presentation of several languages at Primary level; It is advisable to have a National Language Commission to study Language Teaching.

The same year, in a discussion paper on Language in Primary Education, Rodney Phillips, who was then a member of the English Section at the MIE, presented a proposal in which the three major first and/or second languages, namely MCL, Bhojpuri and French are at the base of the system (See relevant extracts in Annex 3): French is carried through to the end, whereas Kreol and Bhojpuri, having been exploited in their oral mode, are then phased out when literacy skills gain ascendancy. Bhojpuri gives way to an Oriental Language during Year 3 and Kreol gives way to English in Year 4 (Numeracy) and Year 5 (Environment Studies).

8 By way of conclusion
Viewed in its historical perspective, the decision of the government to commission a harmonized standard orthography for MCL constitutes a landmark in the process of recognition of the language and of its formal introduction in the educational system. The standard orthography proposed will evolve with time and usage along with the development of MCL’s written norm. It should therefore be seen as a dynamic and flexible system. The fact that it will be put to test in the school is in itself a challenging task, since new words and terminology will have to be borrowed and adapted, or coined. They will also have to be validated, which is another argument in favour of creating a body to look into the development of MCL, more particularly of its written norm. At the national education level, the inclusion of MCL will inevitably entail a reformulation of the language policy. The various scenarios proposed over the last thirty years or so represent as many variations on the theme of mothertongue (L1) and second/foreign languages (L2/3) and that of language staggering. In an introductory statement on “the general feeling of malaise about the present state of languages and language teaching in the present Mauritian educational framework”, the authors of MIE project proposal, Languages in Education in Mauritius, referred to earlier, write: This malaise is a three-fold one. Firstly it is generally admitted that there are too many languages competing for the child’s attention in the early years of the primary school. Secondly the sociolinguistic and educational roles that these languages should have in the educational framework have yet to be clearly worked out. Thirdly, and as a direct result of the second, it is generally agreed that the methods of language teaching in Mauritius require radical review leading to harmonisation between languages wherever possible. In this context, one of the proposed scenarios (see Annex 2) introduces a novel concept of integrated blocks of subjects linked by a common language of instruction. In our multilingual school context, this proposal has the merit of opening a new and interesting perspective of more than one language of instruction. This together with many other potentially valuable proposals that have been put forward over the last decades

necessitate the setting up of a national body to look into all aspects of the formulation and implementation of a language policy responsive to the needs and interests of the Mauritian child and of the plural Mauritian society.

References

Baissac (1880) Etude sur le patois créole mauricien. Genève, Slatkine reprints, 1976. Baker, Philip (1972) Kreol. A Description of Mauritian Creole. London, C. Hurst & Co. Baker, P. (1976) Towards a Social History of Mauritian Creole. BPhil Dissertation, University of York. Baker, P & Hookoomsing V.Y. (1978) Lortograf-Linite. Moris. Baker, P. & Corne C. (1982), Isle de France Creoles. Origins and Affinities. Anne Arbor, Karoma publications. Baker, P. & Hookoomsing, V.Y. (1987) Diksyoner Kreol Morisyen. Paris, L’Harmattan. Bentolila, Alain (1984) Le créole haïtien : la longue marche vers la modernité in I. Fodor & C. Hagège (ed) : La réforme des langues. Hamburg, Helmut Buske, Verlag. Bernabé, J. (1976) Propositions pour un code orthographique intégré des créoles à base lexicale française, Espace Créole, no.1. Bollée, A. & D’Offay, D. (1978) Apprenons la nouvelle orthographe. Cologne & Mahé. Chaudenson, Robert (1981) Textes Créoles Anciens, Hamburg, Helmut Buske Verlag. Chaudenson, Robert (1987) Pour un aménagement linguistique intégré : Le cas de la graphie des créoles français, Etudes Créoles, Vol. X, No. 2. Chrestien, François. (1822) Les Essais d’un Bobre Africain. Isle Maurice (ré-édité par N. Benoît, 1998). Dejean, Yves (1980) Comment écrire le créole d’Haïti. Quebec, Collectif Paroles. Hazaël-Massieux, M-C (1993) Ecrire en Créole. Paris, L’Harmattan. Jean, Georges (1987) L’écriture, mémoire des hommes. Paris. Découvertes Gallimard. Ledikasyon Pu Travayer (1981) Alfa-ennbuk; (1985) Diksyoner Kreol-Angle; (1990) How to write Kreol properly; (2002) Langaz Kreol Zordi. Pudaruth, B. L. (1993) Le créole mauricien. Maurice, Editions Le Printemps. Tirvassen (2000) Créole et école dans les îles du sud-ouest de l’Océan Indien, Etudes Créoles, Vol XXIII, No. 1.

Valdman, Albert (ed) (1979) Créole et Enseignement Primaire en Haïti, Port-au-Prince. Valdman, Albert (1978) Le Créole : structure, statut, origine. Paris, Klincksieck. Vernet, P. (1980) Techniques d’écriture du créole haïtien. Port-au-Prince. Virahsawmy, Dev (2004) Aprann lir ekrir Morisyen, Moris, Boukié Banané.

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