Date: Wed, 20 Apr 1994 12:36:50 CDT From: Mike Picone Subject: Re: Cajun query To answer the queries on Cajun language & culture: 1. Should Cajun language be labelled as a language or as a dialect? A dialect, if one considers mutually intelligibility with Metropolitan French to be the criteria. (However, don't most languages end up being called a `language' for political reasons?) But this is complicated by the fact that a continuum exists such that some would include Louisiana Creole in the realm of Louisiana French. 2. Is Cajun language a composition of several languages, and if so, which languages? Louisiana French is owing to the combination of elements from `Colonial French', Acadian French, Creole and lexical contributions from Spanish, Choctaw, African languages and other Native American languages. But it is not homogeneous, and different varieties will exhibit greater or lesser commonality with Colonial or Creole. In almost all cases, however, the Acadian element is dominant. 3. Is Cajun language still spoken on a large scale in Louisiana? Is it still being used in, for instance, local newspapers, local radio and TV stations, etc.? Estimates vary, but there remain several hundred thousand speakers of Cajun French in Louisiana and Southeastern Texas. Fluent speakers are generally over 55 yrs. old. This is due to transmission failure because of the official policy of stigmatization pursued in Louisiana until 1968. There are only a couple `newspapers' in French (one by CODFIL=Council for the Development of French in Louisiana, La Gazette de Louisiane) but very few read them because Cajun French speakers are typically illiterate in French. On the other hand, some local news programs and religious broadcasts on TV set aside a few minutes for French each day. There are a few radio programs and even a couple of radio stations that broadcast predominantly of exclusively in French. 4. Is Cajun language spoken by several population groups or just one group of the population? There is a mosaic that includes whites, African Americans and Native Americans. Some African Americans speak Creole varieties, others are indistinguishable from the white Cajun majority. The whites include the descendants of the Acadian immigrants, descendants of other French colonists arriving both before and after the Acadian immigrations (1765- 1785), and immigrants of many other nationalities that assimilated to the dominant Acadian>Cajun code. Germans are especially well represented. 5. Could you give some examples of typical Cajun words or sayings, etc.? The two classic phrases are: Laissez rouler les bons temps `Let the good times roll' La^che pas la patate `Hang in there' (lit. don't drop the potato) 6. Has Cajun language undergone any major developments through the ages or has it more or less remained the same as it was in the 18th century? It's hard to say since there are few written records of earlier forms of Cajun French. Clearly, however, there has been change. The vocabulary has been enriched in past periods, but with growing bilingualism and English dominance, code-switching and other `intercode' phenomena have replaced French-sourced productivity. 7. Is Cajun language also spoken in schools in Louisiana or should standard American English only be spoke in schools? There are some immersion programs in Louisiana public schools to promote French among the young. In most cases it is not Cajun French that is being taught, though teachers (who are usually from France, Quebec or Belgium) do get some orientation concerning local French. From the turn of the century until the policy reversal in 1968, French in school was greatly discouraged and, for a time, even against the law. 8. Also, if there is some sort of Cajun (cultural) institution, could you send me the name and the address of this institution? Two possibly useful adresses: University of Southwestern Louisiana Center for Acadian and Creole Folklore Lafayette, Louisiana 70504 CODOFIL 217 West Main Street Lafayette, Louisiana 70501-6843 For a very readable overview of Cajun culture: _Cajun Country_ by Ancelet et al, University Press of Mississippi, 1991. It also contains some transcriptions of Cajun French stories, jokes and songs with translations. That's all I have time for. Hope it will be helpful to you. Mike Picone University of Alabama