Date: Wed, 1 Feb 1995 08:38:07 CST


Subject: Re: hmm.. what's cajun English, then?

The popular neglect of things Cajun, which has only recently known

reversal, seems oddly paralleled in academia. Perhaps this is because

it has not figured among the burning issues in Southern dialectology. In

my view this is a mistake. A comparison between the linguistic histories

of Anglo-African interaction and Franco-African interaction would likely

be very instructive and maybe even shed light on some elusive

questions by providing a second benchmark. In any event, and for whatever,

reasons, it remains true that "the type of English spoken by most

natives of the Acadiana region is perhaps the least studied variety of

contemporary American English" (Connie Eble, "Prologomenon to the Study

of Cajun English" in The SECOL Review, fall 1993). There is an incredible

scarcity of publications on Cajun English. One can quite literally count

them on one hand. Ann Martin Scott edited a special edition of the

Louisiana English Journal entitled Cajun Vernacular English (1992), which

is aimed a educators in Louisiana, not linguists (a review of it by Eble

figures in the same issue of The SECOL Review; my review of it is

forthcoming in the The Journal of Pidgon and Creole Languages). Apart from

these, there is an earlier lexical study by Babington & Atwood (1961), and,

as Eble points out, the transcribed speech of 35 residents of Acadian

parishes in LAGS. That's about it.

Cajun English exists not only among older Cajuns, for whom it could simply

be ascribed to linguistic interference from French in many cases, but it

also exists among many of their English-monolingual offspring and thus

constitutes an authentic, native dialect for the latter population.

By the way, one must be careful not to limit the label "Cajun" in its

application. It encompasses much than just the

descendants of the Acadian immigrants back in the latter half of the 18th

century. Many other ethnic groups assimilated to the Cajun language and

culture. And with the eradication the of "Colonial French" of New Orleans,

Cajun French eventually became the de facto standard for the area. It has

some traits similar to French-based creoles (like progressive aspect _ape'_)

which leaves me off where I started, saying that Franco-African interaction

could be an instructive area of linguistic investigation compared to Anglo-

African interaction in the South.

Mike Picone

University of Alabama