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Louisiana Creole (kréyol la lwizyàn; French: créole louisianais), also called Louisiana French Creole, is a French-based creole language spoken by far fewer than 10,000 people, mostly in the state of Louisiana. Due to the rapidly shrinking number of speakers, Louisiana Creole is considered an endangered language.
|kréyòl, kouri-vini, gombo, fransé, fransé kasé|
|Native to||Louisiana, (particularly St. Martin Parish, Natchitoches Parish, St. Landry Parish, Jefferson Parish, Lafayette Parish, Pointe Coupee Parish, Louisiana and New Orleans); also in California (chiefly Southern California), Illinois, and in Texas (chiefly East Texas).|
|< 10,000 (2010)|
Creole-speaking parishes in Louisiana
Origins & historical developmentEdit
Louisiana was colonized by ethnic French immigrants from Canada (Nouvelle France) and France. It was established on slightly higher land, above the wetlands and bayous, by the Iberville brothers at the headwater of the Mississippi delta in 1699 at the Gulf of Mexico, above the estuary of the river. The French colonists were small-scale homesteaders and cattle ranchers who had little success in enslaving the indigenous peoples who inhabited the area; the French needed laborers as they found the climate very harsh. They began to import African slaves, as they had for workers on their Caribbean island colonies. It is estimated that, beginning about 1719, a total of 5,500 persons were transported from the Senegambia region of West Africa. These people originally spoke a Mande language related to Malinke. They were in contact with slaves speaking other languages such as Ewe, Yoruba and Kikongo. The importation of slaves by the French regime continued until 1743.
Louisiana Creole is a contact language that developed in the 18th century from interactions among speakers of the lexifier language of Standard French and several substrate or adstrate languages from Africa. Prior to its establishment as a Creole, the precursor was considered a pidgin language. The social situation that gave rise to the Louisiana Creole language was unique, in that the lexifier language was the language found at the contact site. More often the lexifier is the language that arrives at the contact site belonging to the substrate/adstrate languages. Neither the French, the French-Canadians, nor the African slaves were native to the area; this fact categorizes Louisiana Creole as a contact language that arose between exogenous ethnicities. Once the pidgin tongue was transmitted to the next generation as a lingua franca (who were considered the first native speakers of the new grammar), it could effectively be classified as a creole language.
The boundaries of historical Louisiana were shared by the Spaniards and the Anglo-Americans. By the time of the Louisiana Purchase by the U.S in 1803, the boundaries came to include most of the Central U.S, ranging from present-day Montana; parts of North Dakota, Wyoming, Colorado; all of South Dakota, Nebraska, and Kansas; part of Southeast Texas; all of Oklahoma; most of Missouri and Arkansas; as well as Louisiana.
The first document found to acknowledge the existence of the Louisiana Creole was a transcript from a murder trial in 1978. The documentation does not include any examples of orthography or structure.
In a document that is dated 1807, a grammatical description of the language is included in the experiences of an enslaved woman named Robin. This was prior to arrival in Louisiana of French-speaking colonists and African slaves from Saint-Domingue; the whites and free people of color (also French speaking), were refugees from the Haitian Revolution, that had established the second republic in the western hemisphere. The statements collected from Robin showed linguistic features that are now known to be typical of Louisiana Creole.
The term “Criollo” appeared in a legal court document dated 1972; the Spanish reference to the language stated that the language was used among slaves and whites.
Slavery of Africans intensified after France ceded the colony to Spain in 1763, following its defeat by Great Britain in the Seven Years War in Europe.[clarification needed] Some Spaniards immigrated to the colony, but it was dominated by French language and culture. Like South Carolina, Louisiana had a "minority" population of Africans that greatly outnumbered the European settlers, including those white Creoles born in the colony.
Language shift, endangerment and revitalizationEdit
In the case of Louisiana Creole, a diglossia resulted between Louisiana Creole and Plantation Society French (PSF) also known as Colonial French. The latter was frequently associated with plantation owners, plantation overseers, small landowners, military officers/soldiers and bilingual, free people of color. Over the centuries, Louisiana Creole's negative associations with slavery have stigmatized the language to the point where many speakers are reluctant to use it for fear of ridicule. In this way, the assignment of "high" variety (or H language) was allotted to PSF and that of "low" variety (or L language) was given to Louisiana Creole (please refer to diglossia for more information on H and L languages).
The social status of Louisiana Creole further declined as a result of the Louisiana Purchase. Americans and their government made it illegal for Louisiana Creoles to speak their language. Public institutions like schools refused to teach children in their native tongue and children and adults were often punished by corpel punishment, fines, and social degradation. By the 21st century, other methods were enforced. The promise of upward socioeconomic mobility and public shaming did the rest of the work, prompting many speakers of Louisiana Creole to abandon their stigmatised language in favor of English. Additionally, the development of industry, technology and infrastructure in Louisiana reduced the isolation of Louisiana Creolophone communities and resulted in the arrival of more English-speakers, resulting in further exposure to English. Because of this, Louisiana Creole exhibits extensive influence from English, including loanwords, code-switching and syntactic calquing.
Today, Louisiana Creole is spoken by fewer than 10,000 people. Though national census data includes figures on language usage, these are often unreliable in Louisiana due to respondents' tendencies to identify their language in line with their ethnic identity. For example, speakers of Louisiana Creole who identify as Cajuns often label their language 'Cajun French', though on linguistic grounds their language would be considered Louisiana Creole.
Efforts to revitalize French in Louisiana have placed emphasis on Cajun French, to the exclusion of Creole. A small number of community organisations focus on promoting Louisiana Creole, for example CREOLE, Inc. and the 'Creole Table' founded by Velma Johnson. In addition, there is an active online community of language-learners and activists engaged in language revitalization, led by language activist Christophe Landry. These efforts have resulted in the creation of a semi-standardized orthography and a digitalized version of Valdman et al.'s Louisiana Creole Dictionary. A first language primer was released in 2017.
Speakers of Louisiana Creole are mainly concentrated in south and southwest Louisiana, where the population of Creolophones is distributed across the region. St. Martin Parish forms the heart of the Creole-speaking region. Other sizeable communities exist along Bayou Têche in St. Landry, Avoyelles, Iberia, and St. Mary Parishes. There are smaller communities on False River in Pointe-Coupée Parish, in Terrebone Parish, and along the lower Mississippi River in Ascension, St. Charles Parish, and St. James and St. John the Baptist parishes.
There are also numbers of Creolophones in Natchitoches Parish on Cane River and sizable communities of Louisiana Creole-speakers in adjacent Southeast Texas (Beaumont, Houston, Port Arthur, Galveston) and the Chicago area. Louisiana Creole speakers in California reside in Los Angeles, San Diego and San Bernardino counties and in Northern California (San Francisco Bay Area, Sacramento County, Plumas County, Tehama County, Mono County, and Yuba County.). Historically, there were Creole-speaking communities in Mississippi and Alabama (on Mon Louis Island), however it is likely that no speakers remain in these areas.
The Creole experience in Louisiana is a close cousin to Creole cultures world-wide. The nearest examples are found in the Caribbean: Cuba, Haiti, Guadeloupe and Martinique. The Indian Ocean holds: Réunion, Mauritius, Seychelles and Goa. In South America, the Guianas and Brazil are recognized as Creole countries.
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Definite articles in Louisiana Creole vary between the le, la and les used in standard French (a testament of possible decreolization in some areas) and a and la for the singular, and yé for the plural.[dubious ] Louisiana Creole exhibits subject-verb-object (SVO) word order.
|1st person||I||mo||me||mò||mine||mokin/mochin (masculine)
|3rd person||he, she||li, ça||him, her||li||his, her, hers||sokin/sochin
|1st plural||we||no, not, nouzòt||us||nouzòt, nou, zòt||our, ours||nokin/nochin
|2nd plural||you||vos, vouzòt||you||vou, vouzòt||your, yours||vokin/vochin
|3rd plural||they||yé||them||yé||their, theirs||yékin/yéchin
In theory, Creole places its definite articles after the noun, unlike French. Given Louisiana Creole's complex linguistic relationship with Colonial French and Cajun French, however, this is often no longer the case. Since there is no system of noun gender, articles only vary on phonetic criteria. The article a is placed after words ending in a vowel, and la is placed after words ending in a consonant.[dubious ]
Another aspect of Louisiana Creole which is unlike French is the lack of verb conjugation. Verbs do not vary based on person or number. Verbs vary based on verbal markers (e.g., té (past tense), sé (conditional), sa or "a[alé]" (future)) which are placed between the personal pronouns and conjugated verbs (e.g. Mo té kourí ô Villaj, "I went to Lafayette"). Frequently in the past tense, the verbal marker is omitted and one is left to figure out the time of the event through context.
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The vocabulary of Louisiana Creole is of primarily of French origin, as French is the language's lexifier. Some local vocabulary, such as topography, animals, plants are of Amerindian origin. The language has a small number of vocabulary items from west and central African languages (namely Bambara, Wolof, Fon) in folklore and in the religion of Voodoo. Much of this non-French vocabulary is shared with other French-based creole languages of North America, and Louisiana Creole shares all but a handful of vocabulary with Louisiana French.
Included are the French numbers for comparison.
|How are things?||Konmen lé-zafè?||Comment vont les affaires ?|
|How are you doing?||Konmen to yê? Konmen ç'ap(é) kouri?||Comment allez-vous ? Comment vas-tu?|
|I'm good, thanks.||Çé bon, mèsi. Mo bien, mèsi.||Ça va bien, merci.|
|See you later.||Wa (twa) pli tar.||Je te vois (vois-toi) plus tard. (À plus tard.)|
|I love you.||Mo laimé twa.||Je t'aime.|
|Take care.||Swinn-twa.||Soigne-toi. (Prends soin de toi.)|
|Good Night.||Bonswa. / Bonnwí.||Bonne nuit.|
The Lord's PrayerEdit
Nouzòt Popá, ki dan syèl-la
Tokin nom, li sinkifyè,
N'ap spéré pou to
rwayomm arivé, é n'a fé ça
t'olé dan syèl; paréy si la tèr
Donné-nou jordi dipin tou-lé-jou,
é pardon nouzòt péshé paréy nou pardon
lê moun ki fé nouzòt sikombé tentasyon-la,
Mé délivré nou depi mal.
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