So I’m doing a research project on perceptions of Cajun French and issues with linguistic insecurity in Louisiana for a linguistics class, and I’m curious. For those of you with some kind of background experience in French, or even for those of you who don’t but are interested in responding, do you see Cajun French as a “corrupted” version of French, or do you see it as a language in its own right?
(This isn’t for any kind of research and won’t be cited in the paper. I’m just curious to see what other Francophones out there think about this.)
I have no real background in linguistics, although I considered teaching French and Spanish once upon a time. I never considered Cajun French to be a language - I thought it was more of a mish-mashof languages - mainly because what little of it I’ve heard seems randomly incomprehensible.
Then again, I couldn’t give you a good definition of what constitutes a language either.
Just as a link of general interest to this thread, here’s a link to a story from NPR about towns that have used parts of the WTC in memorials… there’s one in Lafayette, LA with an inscription in some variety of Louisiana French (term used to denote one of the varieties of French, without specifying which of the three [listed in Ringo’s above post] it is). Give it a listen and see if you can hear the differences between that French and Standard French.
FairyChatMom: Don’t feel bad, it took all 13 of us in the class 2 days to come up with a definition of what a language is. Simple answer: a system of communication.
Zazie: Wow. That’s pretty amazing, but not totally surprising. One of my sources talks about how students who were enrolled in the first French immersion schools of the late '60s/early '70s couldn’t talk with their Cajun French-speaking grandparents because the vocabulary differences between CF and Standard French were so, so marked (Rottet 2001, Language Shift in the Coastal Marshes of Louisiana).
Ringo - I’ve found that in my research, too. Sociolinguistics is a fascinating field… as a follow-up question out of curiosity, did you recognize those different languages/dialects being used in specific contexts, or just note that there were different ones out there being used?
I’m a South Louisiana girl of Cajun descent and I took French classes from 4th grade through high school. I’m not exactly fluent but that’s another story. Suffice it to say, I passed.
Anyway, to get to the point, a lot of times when people around here talk about French they refer to it as the “mother French.” That would seem to indicate that people around here think of Cajun French as a corrupted form of French. I’m not sure exactly how I see it. The Cajun people were French in the first place, but away from France and other French people, our languages evolved differently. I wouldn’t call it a corrupted form of French, but I’m not sure I think of it as a language in it’s own right either. To tell the truth, I think my poor little brain is treading in waters much too deep.
I can tell you this though, if it helps, French and Cajun French cuss words seem to differ a bit. Also, many people I know who speak Cajun French have told me that it’s not very difficult to communicate with French speaking people using Cajun French.
[QUOTE Also, many people I know who speak Cajun French have told me that it’s not very difficult to communicate with French speaking people using Cajun French. **[/QUOTE]
I am surprised Kathleen de Trelare, I remember when I went to New Orleans a long time ago, not being able to understand this one man who spoke Cajun to me!
Would you mind posting a couple of sentences in Cajun so I see if I can understand them?
You got me very curious Lapin de poussière!
PS : I find your name so cute. In France, the dust bunnies are called sheep “mouton”
matt_mcl, you made a really good point. I should have included “Cajun French as a dialect” in the OP. I’m in the middle of reading a rather biased source and didn’t take the recommended 3 steps back from the source. :smack:
Kathleen de Trelare, there’s a really interesting correlation in the reading between Cajun French and the Western French dialects of French. The lion’s share of the LA Cajun community came from Acadia (areas of NE Atlantic-coast Canada), but Acadians were originally mainly from Western France (specifically Poitou, Aunis, Angoumois, and Saintonge, as cited in Rottet 2001, whom I cited earlier in this thread). CF is actually closer to those regions’ dialects than Standard French as we know it today anyway, which accounts for certain vocabulary differences.
Zazie, glad I could spark curiosity! I figure that’s my job as a teacher. And thanks for the comment about my name - so they’re called moutons de poussière? Hehe. Well, both of those are better than my grandmother’s name for them - she calls it “ghost poo” instead!
My Acadian French teacher used to argue that Acadien preserves more of the older phrases in everyday usage, while in standard French those same phrases are considered literary or archaic.
For example, I took immersion French in Nova Scotia. Some years later, in Quebec, I used the phrase “je ne suis point” instead of “je ne suis pas” and got some funny looks - but I’d picked it up from the Acadiens. Similarly, a québécoise friend earnestly corrected my use of “icit” instead of “ici” - it was “too rural” for her taste.
[Disclaimer] My background in French is studying it for 7 years in high school and college and becoming at least conversational enough that I was mistaken for being French on several occasions when travelling to the French West Indies. However, I haven’t spoken it with any regularity in at least 20 years, so even if I heard a Parisian speaking now, I wouldn’t be able to do an exact translation anymore, as I’ve lost quite a bit of my vocabulary.[/Disclaimer]
That said, I at least recognized the language spoken in the linked example right away as being French – clearly it wasn’t Spanish, Italian, German or Danish, etc. – but my knowledge of various dialects of French has always been absolutely nil, so I doubt I could have been able to distinguish between it and “standard” French, even then (though I may not have understood it and thought it because my French was lacking in some way).
Also, if you’re going by the “accent” used by the speaker to denote a difference, I have to say that it sounded to me like someone who doesn’t even speak Cajun French, let alone any French at all, and was merely reading in their best “rendition” of Cajun French. I can “read” Italian outloud, but I sure as heck won’t be pronouncing half the words right. That could potentially make a difference as to how one perceives this example in relation to Cajun French vs Standard French, if one includes pronunciation as a difference.
If you listen to it, Zazie, I’d love to know what the actual vocabulary differences are from Standard French (they do provide an English translation, so even if you don’t understand half of it in the Cajun French, you’ll find out what they said in English and can re-translate it into Standard French).
All right, I listened to the audio link (thanks for reminding me it was there Shayna, it went right over my head!).
I understood everything of it although it was pronounced with a very strong american accent. To me it sounded like regular French!
So I guess Cajun is not as different as I though it was.
I still would like to see it written down, as I have some doubts about a couple of words but I don’t know if it was the word itself or the accent of the gentleman reading it.
I will look for things on the web.
I didn’t really find what I wanted, and I am gonna let go of the computer for the day.
What I found tho, is that some web sites explained that the Cajuns going to Louisiana lost the writting of the French language a long time ago and when some tried to write again (poetry, songs, etc…) it became kind of a phonetic language because the real spelling of French words was “lost”.
This fits well to explain how creole works as well. My friend Edson from Haitii talks creole to me once in a while and when I see it written it is just like litteraly writting down what you hear, it’s funny!
For example : “que” becomes “ke”, quoi “koi”, etc…
Here’s the link to Asteur, the “gazette du monde cadien.” At first glance, the grammar/language doesn’t look too different from standard French. (The one thing I did notice was that in an article, someone said “contacter Earline Broussard au” and then gave Mme Broussard’s phone number. I’ve never heard “au” followed by a phone number in standard French - but that could be my mistake!) For some vocabulary, check out their Mot de la semaine.
Something I noticed on the audio from NPR is that I didn’t hear liason. It was most noticeably absent from between “Les attaques” in the first sentence and “Ces attaques” in the second sentence.