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Scope of our Creole Language

Scope of our Creole Language

Scope of our Creole Language

After over 40 years of independence, we found ourselves still relying only on the two european languages (English and French) as windows onto the world. Despite that these two languages will always be important and useful codes in our communication, our Creole language should be refined and codified, in order to attain similar status with the other two languages.

Our Creole language has been in a diglossic situation with the two european languages since its inception, according to linguists. The diglossic situation being one language (French) is superior than the other language (Creole), which is considered inferior. The Creole is, with both languages (English and French), in a diglossic situation. Except that with the French language, it is called a classical diglossia: Creole being a (low) variety deriving from French, a (high) variety. As with the English language, the relation is still diglossic but the two languages are different genetically.

We have to remember that these categorisations are made by linguists in order to understand status and function of language. Our language, like other languages, is a variety that exists in its own right. We should never feel ashame of being one of the native speakers of the Creole language – after all, it is our mother-tongue. Since the very beginning it has helped us, making us what we are today – a harmonious Nation-State. We have also to remember that the French language was in an exactly similar situation to what we are today, before becoming an international code. The French language derived from the popular Latin (low variety), and it was in a classical diglossic situation with the standard Latin (high variety). What was to become the standard French was itself an approximation of the popular latin. (So was the English language with its Germanic ascestor). But with centuries of work, and of men that believed in their language variety; and, of course, with investment, research and a language policy, the French became a universal code. In the same way, we can make our language into a high variety, if we care enough to work hard at it, investing into it. Our Creole language is, what linguists called, in a continuum, which means it is a living phenomenon that changes, and modifies itself in time. But without our help it will take centuries before it is recognised, if ever, as a national standard language.

Out of a tragic and difficult period in our island history we have managed to come out with a positive instrument: our Creole language. That instrument have brought cohesion among the different groups that form our society. Our Creole language, we have to face it, is the very element that is cementing the whole Mauritian Nation. It launched us from the beginning into this journey, that today has become a success story. Should we not pay more attention to this phenomenon that is our local language; assist it positively, to the best of our ability, in its movement in the continuum. One thing we should never do is to look at our language as belonging to, or forming part of, one ethnic community only. That will be the mistake. That will surely be an obstacle to its progress; an impediment in the process of liberalising or affranchising our language. Which eventually, and literally, will free us from European linguistic bondage(s?). Think of the scope forward, free in our own natural mindset. If not on a par with the major European languages, our Creole language could at least be a high variety. Which means an academic tool to probe all fields of research; and, also, we will be able to assert our identity, with language as our cultural symbol, with even more dignity.

Mauritian International

London, UK

1995

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© C Cuniah

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