A Corpus-based Variationist Description of Demonstratives in Haitian Creole

  • Wilson Douce

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


This dissertation sets out to mitigate the crucial problem posed by misconceptions on Haitian Creole (HC) that stem from lack of readily available and verifiable linguistic evidence. The study appeals to Corpus Linguistics (CL) as a modern tool that offers researchers opportunities to look at the use of any language and draw conclusions from attestations rather than (mis)perceptions. This study investigated radio broadcasts from two Haiti’s iconic radio stations, Radio Kiskeya and Radio Signal FM, by transcribing and converting six days of combined radio broadcasts into searchable data treated by the CL platform AntConc, in quest of some specific linguistic facts.

The study uses HC demonstratives as an object of investigation within the variationist framework as postulated by Gadet (2007). In this framework, the data generated by the broadcasts are explored to investigate synchronic, diachronic, diatopic, diastratic, diaphasic and diamesic variations of this linguistic category. The study is envisioned as a prototypical one, to frame the way for other categories of HC then extend to other Creoles. The constituted corpus of 137,850 words allows the description and verification of the system of demonstrative determiners in HC, their functioning in the language, and the types of variations -if any- they contain. The main forms of HC demonstratives singular sa a, the plural sa yo and their alternative counterparts sila a and sila yo are analyzed via a transformative quantitative and qualitative mixed method. Besides the identification and the exemplification of HC demonstratives extracted from the corpus, the five identified uses of demonstratives theorized by Grylling (2019) are identified in the corpus: spatial deictic, background deitic, affective, spatio-temporal, and anaphoric/cataphoric uses of demonstratives. The transformative method based on Cresswell (2017) ends with an action agenda necessary given the inevitable defensive nature of Creole advocates in general and HC in particular. This action agenda aims at pursuing avenues that would lead to maintaining and increasing the generated HC corpus for continuous and viable research in creolistics.
Date of AwardAug 2023
Original languageEnglish
SupervisorEmmanuelle Labeau (Supervisor) & Daniel McAuley (Supervisor)


  • demonstratives
  • deictics
  • variationist framework
  • diachronic
  • diatopic
  • diastratic
  • diaphasic
  • diamesic variations
  • sa a
  • sa yo
  • sila a
  • sila yo
  • action agenda

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