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Understanding The Cajun French Language


Who are the Cajuns and What is the Cajun French Language?

Cajuns are an ethnic group in the U.S. state of Louisiana, whose ancestors were exiled from the former French colony known as Acadia (now a part of the Maritime provinces of Canada and in Maine), in 1755, during the catholic ethnic cleansing campaign, known as the Great Expulsion, initiated by British Crown. The term "Cajun" is derived from the English pronunciation of the French word “Acadien”.

Cajun French language is a dialect of French spoken by this ethnic group, with traces of influences from Quebec French, Haitian Creole, European French, and Haitian French. Cajun French language is distinct, mainly in fields of pronunciation and vocabulary, from Parisian or Metropolitan French.

The First Cajun French Language Dictionary

“A Dictionary of the Cajun Language”, the first Cajun French language dictionary was published in 1984 by Father Jules O. Daigle. It is not exhaustive or comprehensive, and omits certain alternate spellings and synonyms considered to be “perversions” by the author. However, it remains to be popular among Cajun speakers and writers, and is commonly considered to be the authority on the Cajun French language.

Where is Cajun French Language Used?

The primary region where Cajun French is spoken is called “Acadiana”, which differs from “Acadia” where Acadian French is spoken. In the United States, Cajun French is mainly spoken in the state of Louisiana, particularly in regions such as Lafayette Parish, St. Landry Parish, Terrebonne Parish, St. Mary Parish, Assumption Parish, St. Martin Parish, Evangeline Parish, Vermilion Parish, Lafourche Parish, and Iberia Parish.

The number of Cajun French language speakers has significantly decreased in recent years, and its survival has been questioned a number of times. This is mainly because majority of the Cajun French speakers live in an English-speaking nation, are bilingual, and are encouraged by parents to use English. However, there have been some attempts to revive the diminishing language by certain organizations such as the Council for the Development of French in Louisiana (CODOFIL).

Some of the Main Differences between Standard and Cajun French:

• In Cajun French language, almost all past tense constructions are made using the verb avoir (to have). Standard French, on the other hand, has important verbs whose compound past tense is made using être (to be).

• “Nous Parlons” in standard French is always “On Parle” in Cajun French.

• Pronunciations not similar with standard French: 1) /a/ is pronounced with tongue towards the back of the mouth, sounding more like /ɑ/. 2) /d/ is pronounced /ʤ/ (before /i/). 3) /k/ pronounced /ʧ/ before /a/. 4) /t/ is also pronounced /ʧ/ before/i/. 5) /r/ is pronounced as an alveolar trill or flap and not the uvular fricative of standard French, and is omitted at the end of a syllable. 6) /wa/ pronounced /we/, and also often more like /ɔ/, with a bit of an offglide towards /u/.

Submitted by:

Valentine Taylor

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