Louisiana French (French: français de la Louisiane, Louisiana Creole: françé la lwizyàn) refers to the group of French dialects spoken in the U.S. state of Louisiana and formerly elsewhere in colonial Lower Louisiana. It comprises several distinct varieties. Figures from the United States Census report that roughly 3.5% of Louisianans over the age of 5 reported speaking French or a French-based creole at home. 7% of the population of the state understands and/or speaks French.
|150,000 to 200,000 (2012)|
Blue indicates Louisiana parishes where French is spoken as of 2011. In total, 7% of Louisianans speak French.
The most widely spoken form of Louisiana French is Colonial French, also known as Louisiana French-Choctaw of the Louisiana Creole people. It developed before the arrival of Acadian migrants during the Great Upheaval of the 18th century. Additionally, Louisiana Creole French is a related creole language.
Speakers of Louisiana French are not only the French Creole people but also the Chitimacha, Houma, Biloxi, Tunica, Choctaw, Cajun, Acadian and the French among others. Individuals and groups of individuals, through innovation, adaptation and contact, continually enrich the French language spoken in Louisiana, seasoning it with linguistic features sometimes only found in Louisiana.
Louisiana French todayEdit
As of 2011, there are an estimated 150,000 to 200,000 people in Louisiana who speak French. In comparison, there were an estimated one million native French-speakers in Louisiana in about 1968. The dialect is now at risk of extinction as children are no longer taught it formally in schools.
French in Louisiana mediaEdit
French on Louisiana radio stationsEdit
- KRVS 88.7:, Radio Acadie University of Louisiana at Lafayette, Lafayette, Louisiana
- KBON 101.1 FM: Louisiana Proud, Eunice, Louisiana
- KLEB 1600 AM: Golden Meadow, Louisiana
- KLRZ 100.3 FM: Rajun' Cajun Larose, Louisiana
- KJEF 1290 AM Cajun Radio, Jennings, Louisiana
- KLCL 1470 AM Cajun Radio, Lake Charles, Louisiana
- KVPI 1050 AM, Ville Platte, Louisiana
- KVPI 92.5 FM, Ville Patte, Louisiana
French periodicals, newspapers, and publicationsEdit
- Les éditions Tintamarre, Centenary College of Louisiana, Shreveport, Louisiana.
- La revue louisianaise, University of Louisiana Lafayette.
- La revue de la Louisiane, now defunct, was the journal launched by James R. Domengeaux.
French on Louisiana cable networksEdit
French in the communityEdit
French language masses in LouisianaEdit
- Our Lady of Fatima Roman Catholic Church, Lafayette, Louisiana
- St Martin de Tours Roman Catholic Church, St. Martinville, Louisiana
Recurring French language festivities/eventsEdit
- Festival International de Louisiane, April, Lafayette, Louisiana
- Festivals Acadiens Et Créoles, October, Lafayette, Louisiana
- ALCFES (Association louisianaise des clubs français des écoles secondaires)
- Francophone Open Microphone, Houma, Louisiana
- La table française, Dwyer's Café, Jefferson Street, Lafayette, Louisiana
- La table française, Arnaudville, Louisiana
- La table française, La Madeleine, Baton Rouge, Louisiana
- Creole Families Bastille Day Heritage Festival, Ville Platte, Louisiana weekend of July 14, Civic Center
- French film: Nuit blanche à Bâton-Rouge, Louisiana State University Center for French and Francophone Studies, Baton Rouge, Louisiana 
- Rendez-vous des Cajuns, Liberty Theater, Eunice, Louisiana
French-language Public School Curriculum (French Immersion)Edit
As of autumn 2011, Louisiana has French-language total immersion or bilingual French and English immersion in ten parishes: Calcasieu, Acadia, St. Landry, St. Martin, Iberia, Lafayette, Assumption, East Baton Rouge, Jefferson and Orleans. Students placed in the program begin in kindergarten or first grade and continue until high school.
The Council for the Development of French in Louisiana (CODOFIL) recruits teachers locally and globally each year. Les Amis de l'Immersion, Inc. is the parent-teacher organization for students in French immersion in the state. Les Amis organizes summer camps, fundraisers and outreach for teachers, parents and students in the program.
The immersion programs as of autumn 2011 are as follows:
|Church Point Elementary||K-4||Church Point||Acadia|
|Pierre Part Primary||K-4||Pierre Part||Assumption|
|Pierre Part Middle||5-8||Pierre Part||Assumption|
|Belle Rose Primary||K-2||Belle Rose||Assumption|
|Winbourne Elementary||K||Baton Rouge||East Baton Rouge|
|Henry Heights Elementary||K-5||Lake Charles||Calcasieu|
|Gillis Elementary||K-5||Lake Charles||Calcasieu|
|Prien Lake Elementary||K-5||Lake Charles||Calcasieu|
|Moss Bluff Middle||6-8||Lake Charles||Calcasieu|
|S.J. Welsh Middle||6-8||Lake Charles||Calcasieu|
|Alfred M. Barbe High||9-12||Lake Charles||Calcasieu|
|Daspit Elementary||K-6||New Iberia||Iberia|
|North Lewis Street Elementary||K-6||New Iberia||Iberia|
|S. J. Montgomery Elementary||K-3||Lafayette||Lafayette|
|Myrtle Place Elementary||K-3||Lafayette||Lafayette|
|Edgar Martin Middle||6-7||Lafayette||Lafayette|
|Paul Breaux Middle||6-8||Lafayette||Lafayette|
|Audubon Montessori||K-8||New Orleans||Orleans|
|Ecole Bilingue de la Nouvelle-Orléans||Nursery-6||New Orleans||Orleans|
|Hynes Elementary||K-3||New Orleans||Orleans|
|International High School of New Orleans||9-10||New Orleans||Orleans|
|International School of Louisiana||K-8||New Orleans||Orleans|
|Lycée Français de la Nouvelle-Orleans||PK-4||New Orleans||Orleans|
|Park Vista Elementary||K-2||Opelousas||St. Landry|
|South Street||K-3||Opelousas||St. Landry|
|Cecilia Primary||K-3||Cecilia||St. Martin|
|Teche Elementary||4-6||Breaux Bridge||St. Martin|
|Cecilia Junior High||7-8||Cecilia||St. Martin|
|Cecilia High School||9-12||Cecilia||St. Martin|
CODOFIL Consortium of Louisiana Universities and CollegesEdit
The Consortium of Louisiana Universities and Colleges unites representatives of French programs in Louisiana universities and colleges, and organizes post-secondary level Francophone scholastic exchanges and provide support for University students studying French language and linguistics in Louisiana. Member institutions include these:
- Centenary College of Louisiana, Shreveport
- Delgado Community College, New Orleans, Louisiana
- Dillard University, New Orleans
- Grambling State University, Grambling, Louisiana
- Louisiana College, Pineville, Louisiana
- Louisiana State University (Alexandria, Baton Rouge, Eunice, Shreveport)
- Louisiana Tech University, Ruston, Louisiana
- Loyola University, New Orleans
- McNeese State University, Lake Charles, Louisiana
- Nicholls State University, Thibodaux, Louisiana
- Northwestern State University, Natchitoches, Louisiana
- Our Lady of Holy Cross College, New Orleans
- Southeastern Louisiana University, Hammond, Louisiana
- Southern University at Baton Rouge, Baton Rouge, Louisiana
- Southern University at New Orleans, New Orleans
- Tulane University, New Orleans
- University of Louisiana at Lafayette
- University of Louisiana at Monroe
- University of New Orleans, New Orleans
- Xavier University of Louisiana, New Orleans
The grammar of Louisiana French is mostly the same as that of standard French as spoken worldwide.
Some syntactical features which are no longer present in the rest of the French-speaking world have remained, however, current in Louisiana.
|Tense||Informal grammar||Formal grammar|
|Present progressive||I am eating.
Je suis après manger.
|I am eating.
Je suis en train de manger.
|Past progressive||I was eating.
J'étais après manger.
J'tais après manger.
J'tais apé manger.
|I was eating
Je mangeais; or,
J'étais en train de manger.
|Passé composé ||I came.
Je suis venu(e).
|Imperfect ||They salted the meat.
Ils saliont la viande.
|They salted the meat.
Ils salaient la viande.
|Future ||I will go to sleep.
Je va aller dormir.
|I will go to sleep.
Je vais aller dormir.
Lexically, Louisiana French differs little from other varieties of French spoken in the world. However, there are several lexical treats stemming from many linguistic origins; some are unique to Louisiana French while others are shared sporadically throughout the Francophone world.
|English||Louisiana French||Normative French|
|automobile, car||un char||une voiture|
|ball||une pelote||un ballon|
|catfish||une barbue||un poisson chat|
|cookie||une galette||un biscuit, un petit gâteau, un petit gâteau sec|
|dollar (U.S. dollar), currency||un piastre||un dollar|
|dude||un bougre||un gars, un mec|
|eggplant, aubergine||une brème||une aubergine|
|goat||un cabri||une chèvre|
|noise||du train||du bruit|
|now (right now)||drette-là, asteur, asteur-là||maintenant|
|possum, opossum||un rat de bois||un opossum|
|raccoon||un chaoui||un raton laveur|
|shoe||un soulier||une chaussure|
|tail (of an animal)||une tcheu||une queue|
|to look at||guetter, garder||regarder|
|where, whereto||àyoù, etyoù, éyoù||où|
|why||quoi faire, pourquoi||pourquoi|
Placenames in Louisiana French usually differ from those in International French. For instance, locales named for American Indian tribes usually use the plural article (les) before the name instead of the masculine or feminine singular article (le/la). Likewise, movement towards those locations uses the plural, aux, before the place name. That vary by region. In Pierre Part, Louisiana, for example, the elderly have often been heard to say La Californie, le Texas, La Floride. People in Lafayette, Louisiana, also use articles in front of the state names. It depends which region and how well the person knows French.
|English||Louisiana French||Normative French|
|Carencro||(le/au bayou) Carencro, St-Pierre||Carencro, St-Pierre||Carencro|
|New Iberia||Ibérie||la Nouvelle-Ibérie||la Nouvelle-Ibérie|
|Natchitoches||(les/aux) Natchitoches||(les/aux) Natchitoches||Natchitoches|
|New Orleans||en ville||la Nouvelle-Orléans||la Nouvelle-Orléans|
|Arkansas||(les/aux) Arcs||(les/aux) Arcs||l'Arkansas|
|Illinois||(les/aux) Illinois||(les/aux) Illinois||l'Illinois|
|Lake Charles||(le/au) Lac-Charles||(le/au) Lac-Charles||Lac-Charles|
In informal Louisiana French, most US states and countries are pronounced in English and therefore require no article (California, Texas, Florida, New York, New Mexico, Colorado, Mexico, Belgium, Morocco, Lebanon, etc.).
In formal Louisiana French, prefixed articles are absent, but the names of the states and countries usually are in French (Californie, Texas, Floride, Belgique, Liban).
In informal Louisiana French, contractions are often absent.
- J'ai appris de les grand-parents
(I learned from the grandparents) instead of standard *J'ai appris des grand-parents.
- La lumière de le ciel (the skylight) instead of standard *La lumière du ciel.
Francophones and Creolophones have worked side-by-side, lived among one another, and have enjoyed local festivities together throughout the history of the state. As a result, in regions where both Louisiana French and Louisiana Creole are or used to be spoken, the inhabitants of the region often code-switch, beginning the sentence in one language and completing it in another.
Taxonomies for classing Louisiana French have changed over time. Until the 1960s and 1970s, Louisianans themselves, when speaking in French, referred to their language as français, or créole. In English, they referred to their language as Creole French and French simultaneously.
In 1968, Lafayette native James Domengeaux, a US Representative, created the Council for the Development of French in Louisiana (CODOFIL), whose mission was to oversee the promotion, visibility and expansion of French language usage in Louisiana. His mission was clear: (re)create a European French bastion in Louisiana by making all Louisianans bilingual in International French and English. To accomplish his goals, he teamed up with political leaders in Canada and France, including former French President Georges Pompidou. Louisiana French, he found too limiting, so he imported Francophone teachers from Europe, Canada and the Caribbean to teach normative French in Louisiana schools. His penchant for International French caused him to lose support in Louisiana: most Louisianans, if they were going to have French in Louisiana schools, wanted Louisiana French, not "Parisian French."
Simultaneously, an ethnic movement took root in South Louisiana led by Acadian-Creoles like James Donald Faulk, Dudley Joseph Leblanc and Jules O. Daigle. James Donald Faulk, a French teacher in Crowley, Louisiana, introduced using the term Cajun French for Acadian-Creoles and French Creoles who identified as Cajun, for which he created a Curriculum Guide, or Teacher and Student Manual for institutionalizing the language in schools in 1977. Roman Catholic Priest Jules O. Daigle, who in 1984 published his Dictionary of the Cajun Language, followed him. Cajun French is intended to imply the French spoken in Louisiana by descendants of Acadians, an ethnic qualifier rather than a linguistic relationship.
Linguists and social scientists then categorized Louisiana French into a tripartite system based on colonial class lines: Colonial French or Plantation Society French, Napoleonic French, Louisiana Creole French, and Acadian French, but the academic terms did not last long before quickly fading away.
In 2009, Iberia Parish native and activist Christophe Landry introduced three terms representing lexical differences based on Louisiana topography: Provincial Louisiana French (PLF), Fluvial Louisiana French (FLF) and Urban Louisiana French (ULF).
That same year, the Dictionary of Louisiana of Louisiana French, subtitled "as spoken in Cajun, Creole and American Indian communities," was published. It was edited by a coalition of linguists and other activists. The title clearly suggests that the ethno-racial identities are mapped onto the languages, but the language, at least linguistically, remains shared across those ethno-racial lines.
These are the academic taxonomies applied to categorizations of Louisiana French. With nationwide ethnicization came internal subdivisions that, some of the state's inhabitants, insist are ancestral varieties. As a result, it is not odd to hear the language referred to as French, Canadian French, Acadian French, Broken French, Old French, Creole French, Cajun French, and so on. Still other Louisiana Francophones will simply refer to their language as French, without qualifiers. Internally, two broad distinctions will be made: formal French ("good French" or "proper French") and informal French ("broken French").
Formal French is the language used in all administrative and ecclesiastic documents, speeches and in literary publications. Also known as Urban Louisiana French (ULF), it is spoken in the urban business centers of the state. Those regions have historically been centers of trade, commerce and contact with speakers of French from Europe. It would include New Orleans and its environs, Baton Rouge and its environs, St. Martinville (here, along class lines) and other once important Francophone business centers in the state. ULF sounds almost identical to Standard International French, with pronunciation and intonation varying from European to North American.
This variety of Louisiana French, also known as Provincial Louisiana French (PLF) of the Country Creoles has its roots in agrarian Louisiana, but it is now also found in urban centers because of urbanization beginning in the 20th century.
Historically, along the prairies of Southwest Louisiana, Francophone Louisianans were cattle grazers and rice and cotton farmers. Along the bayous and the Louisiana littoral, sugar cane cultivation dominated and in many parishes today, sugar cultivation remains an important source of economy (like in Iberia and St. Martin parishes).
In this variety, R is alveolar, not guttural, the AU in words becomes /aw/, and the vowels at the beginning and end of words are usually omitted (Américain changes to Méricain, Espérer to Spérer). Likewise, É preceding an O frequently disappears in spoken informal LF all together (Léonide changes to Lonide, Cléophas to Clophas).
The nasality and pitch is akin to pitch and intonation associated with provincial speech in Québec. In terms of nasality, Louisiana French is similar to from French spoken in Brussels, Paris and Dakar (Senegal). Among the varieties such as those is, however, a difference in stress (inflection, accentuation), rhythm (cadence and lilt), articulation, timbre (character and quality of each phoneme, or sound), form and sound fluctuations (modulation), and tone (intonation). The pitch of PLF and Provincial Quebec French (PQF) share a predominantly agricultural history, close contact with pre-Columbian peoples and relative isolation from urbanized populations.
Bayou Lafourche FrenchEdit
Particular mention should be made to the Francophones of Bayou Lafourche. An interesting linguistic phenomenon here that is absent everywhere else in Louisiana. Some Francophones along Bayou Lafourche pronounce the G and J in French as the English letter H (like in most Spanish dialects), but others pronounce the two letters in the manner of most other Francophones.
Two theories exist to explain the feature. On the one hand, some activists and linguists attribute this feature to an inheritance of Acadian French spoken in Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and other Canadian maritime provinces, a theory based entirely on observation of shared vocal features rather than the communities being linked by migration.
On the other hand, it has been suggested that there may be a linguistic link to the Hispanophones living at the Mississippi River and Bayou Lafourche junction, who were more numerous than the Acadians in the immediate vicinity.
Interestingly, the Louisiana Creole spoken in Lafourche Parish in and around Kraemer, Choctaw, Bayou Bœuf and Chackbay contains the letters G and J, but they are voiced as they are in LC spoken elsewhere in the state and as the French spoken elsewhere, not as the aspirated Hs in Lower Bayou Lafourche French.
Musically, Louisiana French has been the traditional language for singing music now referred to as Cajun, zydeco, and Louisiana French rock. Today, Old French music, Creole stomp, and Louisiana French rock remain the only three genres of music in Louisiana using French instead of English. In "Cajun", most artists have expressions and phrases in French in songs, predominantly sung in Louisiana English.
Medicine men and women, or healers, called traiteur/traiteuse in French, are still found throughout the state. During their rituals for healing, they use secret French prayers to God or saints for a speedy recovery. These healers are mostly Catholic and do not expect compensation or even thanks, as it is said that then, the cure will not work.
Signage, packaging, and documentation in French exists throughout the state. Beginning in the 1990s, when cultural and ethnic tourism proved a lucrative enterprise, luring large numbers of Francophones to Louisiana, State and local tourism bureau commissions were influential in convincing city, parish and state officials to produce bilingual signage and documentation. French and English bilingual signage is, therefore, usually confined to the old districts of cities, like the French Quarter in New Orleans, downtown Lafayette, New Iberia (trilingual with Spanish), St. Martinville, Breaux Bridge, and several other cities. Locals continue to refer to the place names in English and for postal services the English version is generally preferred.
To meet the demands of a growing Francophone tourist market, tourism bureaus and commissions throughout the state, particularly in southern Louisiana, have information on tourist sites in both French and English (as well as in other major languages spoken by tourists).
Similarly, the state government passed measures in 2011 to provide Louisiana French Language Services at the governmental level, with particular mention to cultural tourism and local culture and heritage. The legislative act was drafted and presented by Francophone and Francophile senators and representatives. It asserts that the French language is vital to the economy of the state. Accordingly, the bill sets forth that each branch of the state government shall take necessary action to identify employees who are proficient in French. Each branch of the state government is to take necessary steps in producing services in the Louisiana French language for both locals and visitors. This bill is, however, an unfunded state mandate.
For 1990 figures, see http://www.census.gov/hhes/socdemo/language/data/census/table4.txt
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- Cane River Valley French – Languages and Labels Archived 2007-12-23 at the Wayback Machine. – Tulane University
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- Robert A. Papen. Louisiana "Cajun" French: A grammatical sketch of the French dialect spoken on Bayou Lafourche (Lafourche Parish). Unpublished manuscript, 1972.
- See http://latinlouisiana2010.wordpress.com/2010/10/24/bayou-lafourche-french/
- Marcia Gaudet and James C. McDonald, ed. Mardi Gras, Gumbo and Zydeco. University Press of Mississippi, 2003.
- Rick Olivier and Ben Samdel. Zydeco! University Press of Mississippi, 1999.
- Michael Tisserand. The Kingdom of Zydeco. Arcade Publishers, 1998.
- Elizabeth Brandon. Folk Medicine in French Louisiana. In American Folk Medicine, ed. Wayland D. Hand, 213-234. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 1976.
- Ellen M. Daigle. Traiteurs and Their Power of Healing: The Story of Doris Bergeron. Louisiana Folklore Miscellany 6 (4), 1991: 43-48.
- Dana David. "A Vernacular Healing System: Reinventing the Circle with Cadien Treaters." Science and Religion: Global Perspectives. Philadelphia, PA: Metanexis Institute, 2005.
- See http://latinlouisiana2010.wordpress.com/2011/07/04/act-106-louisiana-french-language-services/
- Malveaux, Vivian (2009). Living Creole and Speaking It Fluently. AuthorHouse.
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- Valdman, Albert; et al. (2009). Dictionary of Louisiana French: As spoken in Cajun, Creole and American Indian communities. University Press of Mississippi.
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