Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Haiti, a Language Island?

Tyler Cowen at Marginal Revolution has been blogging extensively about Haiti, including discussion of possible reasons why Haiti is so poor. 

I wonder if language contributes to it.  Here's my logic:
  • Haiti is almost the only French-speaking nation in the Western Hemisphere.  (Martinique is a part of France, Quebec is a part of Canada.)
  • Networks of communication and trade are very important in the development of economies. (Assumption)
  • Communication is easier when there's a shared language and harder when there isn't one.
  • So over the centuries Haitian people have been at a slight disadvantage in dealing with their potential trading partners in other areas, simply because of language. Over time, that disadvantage could add up.
Meanwhile, over the years the people of the Dominican Republic or the Caribbean nations had no communication difficulties with their neighbors, so they could make deals and share ideas.

1 comment:

  1. The island of Hispaniola, of which Haiti occupies the western third, is one of many Caribbean islands inhabited at the time of European arrival by the Taíno Indians, speakers of an Arawakan language. The Taíno name for the entire island was Kiskeya. In the Taíno societies of the Caribbean Islands, the largest unit of political organization was led by a cacique; hence the term 'caciquedom' (French caciquat, Spanish cacicazgo) for these Taíno polities, which are often called "chiefdoms". Before the arrival of Christopher Columbus, the island of Hispaniola was divided among five or six long-established caciquedoms.

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