Tom Klingler

Tulane University


Beyond Cajun: Towards an Expanded View of Regional French in Louisiana

Picone (2003) rightly critiques the traditional tripartite division of French-related varieties in Louisiana into Colonial French, Acadian or Cajun French, and Louisiana Creole as an oversimplification that obscures the complex mix of linguistic sources that have gone into the composition of French Louisiana. He devotes particular attention to the problematic use of the term ‘Colonial French’ in reference to the prestige variety widely used in Louisiana during the nineteenth century, after the end of the French and Spanish colonial regimes. He re-baptizes this variety ‘Plantation Society French’ in recognition of the crucial role that the wealth of Louisiana’s plantation economy played in its maintenance and spread in the state during this period. In this study I pursue the reassessment of the standard view of French in Louisiana, initiated by Picone, by questioning our understanding of another of the three traditionally recognized varieties, Cajun French. I show that the identification of this label with the ethnic group called Cajuns renders it inapt to account for the full range of speech varieties that, based purely on linguistic analysis, might logically fall within its scope: Many speakers of these varieties do not identify themselves ethnically as Cajuns, and many live in regions that did not receive Acadian settlement. I propose as an alternative the ethnically neutral term ‘Louisiana Regional French’ to encompass these varieties spoken by Cajuns and non-Cajuns alike.

Picone, Michael D. 2003. French dialects of Louisiana: A revised typology. Paper read at the Colloquium on French in the United States/Colloque sur le français aux Etats-Unis. Indiana University, April 22-24 2003.