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Louisiana Creole French: Pt. I Historical and Sociolinguistic Background Gillia Barrows Linguistics 455 Spring 2006.

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Presentation on theme: "Louisiana Creole French: Pt. I Historical and Sociolinguistic Background Gillia Barrows Linguistics 455 Spring 2006."— Presentation transcript:

1 Louisiana Creole French: Pt. I Historical and Sociolinguistic Background Gillia Barrows Linguistics 455 Spring 2006

2 Type and Parents Language of Louisiana, USA Creole (conservative) –Closely resembles other Caribbean creoles (Haitian, etc) Mix of French (lexifier) & various African languages (possible basilects) 20,000 – 80,000 speakers modernly Highly endangered

3 Louisiana Louisiana today

4 Louisiana: a short History Became French colony 1699 (claimed by LaSalle) colonized by Mixture of non-elite French-speaking settlers –from what is now Canada, various parts of France –Small population of their Native American slaves –(colonization continues throughout 18 th and 19 th centuries) Map of America, including Louisiana territory ca 1720

5 African Slave trade begins ca1717 –Monopoly on Louisiana trade by the French Company of the Indies Acquired slaves mainly from tip of Western Africa (Senegambia) Slave and Indian revolts throughout early 18 th century, due in part to solidarity of common mistreatment Senegambia

6 Acadians (from Nouvelle France) emigrate to Louisiana area throughout middle and late 18 th century –Expelled from Nouvelle France by British takeover(?) ~1763 Louisiana ceded to Spanish at end of Seven Years’ War –French culture and communities remain insular under liberal Spanish rule Map of Louisiana under Spanish Rule Nouvelle France

7 1800 Napolean forces Spain to give Louisiana back to France Ca 1800 ~10,000 French- speaking refugees from Saint Domingue (modern Haiti) arrive in Louisiana area –Mixture of whites, slaves, and free black people (free men) 1803 Louisiana Purchase (US from French) –Immigration of English- speaking Americans increases 1812 Louisiana becomes 18 th state of USA –American settlers continue to immigrate Saint Domingue ca 1800 Louisiana Purchase

8 Historical Language Influences on Louisiana Creole French (LC) Mixture of nonstandard French language varieties of early French settlers –Riffraff from all parts of France, many from the Western provinces, sent to colonize the unpopular territory of Louisiana; speaking various forms of non-standard French Western dialects –Coureurs de bois (“wood runners”) from Canada, speaking Canadianized French Influences of Native American languages of Canada? –(Algonquin, Iraquoian) Settlers from Canada, speaking Canadianized French

9 Small lexical influence from Native American language(s) of Louisiana area? –Primarily Choctaw (itself an immigrant population language from more Eastern territories around modern Mississippi) Drawing of Choctaw women, Louisiana 18 th c. Photo of Choctaw child, Louisiana late 19 th c.

10 Mixture of African language varieties, mainly Mandekan dialects –1717 first slaves imported from Bight of Benin, approx. 450; others from Angola, Congo Spoke Kwa languages, Bantu Probably did not begin creolization due to small population size – Largest early slave population from Senegambia Spoke mutually intelligible Mandekan dialects Raised slave population to roughly twice that of free men Mandekan dialects become basilect in creolization process

11 Cajun varieties of French –spoken by Acadian refugees middle to late 18 th century Lower class German form of French –Spoken by Germans settlers throughout 18 th century who assimilated to French language, but took on own dialect of it Spanish – (exerts small, mainly lexical influence on Louisiana Creole form) Spanish settlers French-Canadian settlers

12 Sudden influx of slaves from the Mina post/Gulf of Guinea –Doubled the number of slaves in Louisiana –Probably same Kwa, Mandekan, Bantu languages, perhaps others(?) –Because of strong extant creole-speaking commmunity, had little impact on creolization process Africa with Gulf of Guinea area outlined Gulf of Guinea Slave Compound, Gulf of Guinea

13 Varieties of French (ironically more standard than the Louisiana varieties) brought by French- speaking refugees from St. Domingue (Haiti) ca – ~10,000 mixed free men and slaves, English (American) 1830s onwards Free blacks from St. Domingue American settlers arriving by boat

14 Historical Environment of LC Birth Population equality between basilect/acrolect speakers Habitation (vs. plantation) culture –Relatively few slaves to each small plantation (habitation) Increased communication between slaves and their owners Shared social status between slaves and non- slaves –Communication/trade throughout lower classes  these factors led to large influence of lexifier (French) on the forming creole –may have led to complete lexifier assumption if no intervening factors

15 Two major influxes of slaves with slow importation numbers between – (Senegambia, Mandekan dialects) – (various places and languages) Common basilect slave language –Mandekan dialects – mutually intelligible Encourages a cohesive slave community with common non- lexifier language  these factors led to the formation of a creole rather than complete assimilation to lexifier (French) Slaves outside church, Louisiana 19 th century(?) Bay of New Orleans

16 All combine to construct LC as a creole that is conservative – very closely related to its lexifier language (acrolect) Some debate regarding what basilect language(s) is/are for this reason Louisiana Habitation

17 Sociolinguistic Variation Bilingual, trilingual+ language communities – English, Standard French (SF)/ Colonial French, Cajun (CF/LF), Louisiana Creole French (LFC/LC) –Many people speak at least two dialects fluently, usually more Language prestige continuum –LC at lowest end of overt prestige scale, which follows the categories as listed above Code-switching –Due to prestige differences, speakers usually switch in and out of LC and the other dialects to establish solidarity/construct themselves within society

18 Variable forms of LC –in some areas more related to Cajun or Germanized French as lexifier influences than Colonial French as lexifier influence LC: highly endangered –Only four areas remain where LC is spoken widely

19 Map of LC-Speaking Areas LC spoken in light blue parishes

20 Why These Areas? 1. St. Martin Parish: –Presence of some of the larger plantations in 18 th century Louisiana (led to stronger creole, as slaves outnumbered whites) –Many Cajuns LC may have evolved over time under influnece of large number of Cajun French speakers in St. Martin/Breaux Bridge areas –Area with largest number of LC speakers today 2. Point Coupee and East Baton Rouge Parishes: –Presence of many plantations, some very large by Louisiana standards –Blacks outnumbered whites –Many whites who shared low socioeconomic status with blacks –LC became main form of communication No Cajuns, so not a Cajun-like form, vs. St. Martin Parish above 3. St. Tammany Parish: –Isolated by Lake ponchartrain and Bayou Lacombe –Mixed blood people –Runaway slaves, Indians, free people of color –LC appears in its most stabilized form 4. St. James and St. John the Baptist Parishes (German Coast): –German settlers hearing LC and Colonial French every day, absorbed it linguistically –Shared low socioeconomic status with blacks –(area of low socioeconomic status)

21 Bibliography Enthnologue.com. “Louisiana Creole French.” Marshall, Margaret. “Origin and development of Louisiana Creole French” French and Creole in Louisiana. Ed. Albert Valdman. New York: Plenum Press, Neumann, Ingrid. La Creole de Breaux Bridge, Louisiane: Etude Morphosyntaxique – Texts – Vocabulaire. Hamburg: Helmut Buske, Valdman, Albert, ed. French and Creole in Louisiana. New York: Plenum Press, Valdman, Albert et al, ed. Dictionary of Louisiana Creole. Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press,1998.


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