Michel DeGraff

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Michel Degraff
Michel Degraff at MIT.jpg
Degraff at M.I.T.
Alma materUniversity of Pennsylvania
Known for
  • Arguing that Haitian Creole is a full-fledged language
  • Advocacy for the language of instruction in Haiti to be Haitian Creole
AwardsNational Science Foundation $1 Million Grant to promote teaching of Science in Haiti in Haitian Creole
Scientific career
FieldsLinguistics Syntax Morphology Language Change Creole Studies Haitian Creole, Education in Haiti Linguistics-Ideology Interface
ThesisCreole grammars and acquisition of syntax: The case of Haitian

Michel Frederic DeGraff[2] is a Haitian creolist who has served on the board of the Journal of Haitian Studies.[3] He is a tenured professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology[3] and a founding member of the Haitian Creole Academy.[4] His field of scholarship is Creole language, also known as Lang Kreyòl Linguistics.[3] He is known for his advocacy towards the recognition of Haitian Creole as a full-fledged language.[3] In the fall of 2012, he received a $1 million grant from the National Science Foundation to introduce online Creole language materials in the teaching of STEM in Haiti.[3] He believes that Haitian children should be taught in their native language at all levels of instruction, contrary to the tradition of teaching them in French.[5] Degraff believes that instruction in French, a foreign language for most Haitian children, hinders their creativity and their ability to excel.[5]

Early life[edit]

As a child growing up in a middle-class Haitian family and attending a top school where the instruction was in French, Degraff reports that despite being a top student, he often felt that French was a hindrance as not speaking it well caused complexes of inferiority among otherwise bright children.[5] He remembers believing that he spoke one and a half languages, Haitian Creole being the "half", when in fact the language that all children spoke well by default was Creole.[5] He recalls that French, although imposed at home and at school, was never used for jokes or on the soccer field.[5]


Dr. DeGraff holds a PhD in computer science from the University of Pennsylvania.[6] Prior to his PhD, he studied computer science at City College of New York.[6] He arrived at City College from Haiti in 1982.[6] He developed an interest in linguistics during an internship at Bell Labs in New Jersey in 1985.[6]

Work in Haiti[edit]

Dr. Degraff currently works with introducing ICT to Haitian children being instructed in Creole at the Matènwa school in La Gonâve. The children are encouraged to use Google Translate to read what is available on the web in languages other than Creole. With a National Science Foundation grant, he is also using computer games in Creole to teach them math skills.[5]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "2005 LSA Institute - People - Michel DeGraff".
  2. ^ Mercéus, Bertrand, ed. (4 December 2014). "Les 33 académiciens du créole haïtien investis dans leur fonction". Le NOuvelliste. Retrieved 22 June 2016. (in French)
  3. ^ a b c d e Zéphir, Flore (Fall 2012). "Creolist Michel Degraff: A profile of Commitment, Advocacy, Excellence and Hope". Journal of Haitian Studies. 18 (2): 268.
  4. ^ "Michel DeGraff named charter member of the Haitian Creole Academy". Whamit!. 15 December 2014. Retrieved 2015-11-02.
  5. ^ a b c d e f Ulysse, Katia (11 August 2011). "Michel Degraff: Our Word is Our Bond". Voices from Haïti. Retrieved 17 March 2015.
  6. ^ a b c d Dizikes, Peter. "A Champion of Creole". MIT. Retrieved 5 January 2015.

External links[edit]