End of ADS-L Digest - 11 Feb 1995 to 12 Feb 1995 ************************************************ There are 8 messages totalling 199 lines in this issue. Topics of the day: 1. Cajun English Dialect 2. Call for abstracts for midwest, correction: make it 1995 3. hel-l (2) 4. pickle- low party (4) ---------------------------------------------------------------------- Date: Mon, 13 Feb 1995 09:01:04 -0600 From: Shana Walton Subject: Cajun English Dialect Hey y'all, I had just told the linguistic anthropoogy folks that I did my diss on Cajun English, and so Peter Patrick asked me to post a message to this list describing what I'd done and how I defined Cajun English. My diss was on the uses of Cajun English as an ethnic identifier, ethnic boundary marker for self-identifying Cajuns, especially for those who live their lives in English these days. I did a year and a half of field work in Terrebonne Parish. For those of y'all who know the area, I lived south of Houma along Bayou Terrebonne in Bourg, a few miles above Montegut. I interviewed people who were natives of Montegut, Pointe-aux-Chenes and (over on Bayou Petit Caillou) Chauvin. I collected and analyzed oral histories as well as recording naturally-occurring conversation (whatever that means). Also did the sociolinguistics thing with a matched-guise test to look for attitudes toward Cajun English. Nothing's published. I'll be happy to share with any who'd like more info. One chapter of the diss was devoted to a quick linguistic analysis of Cajun English (phonology, suprasegmentals and some syntax). I completely avoided defining Cajun English by not calling it that. I used the word that the people who live in that area use to refer to their own speech. Down there, they call it "flat." And people who have heavy accents talk "flat, flat, flat." In Terrebonne Parish, the term is a regional AND ethnic boundary marker. For instance, you can refer to the local Houma Indian speech as "flat," (depending on the speaker, of course). Locals talk in general terms about how people in "south Louisiana" (by which they mean South of New Orleans -- not the prairie Cajuns) all talk "flat." People in Lafourche Parish as said to talk even "flatter." Justin Wilson, many say, never talked "flat" in his life. (Talk about a lightning rod for anger.) Several people told me that you aren't a Cajun unless you "talk flat." The word "flat," marks different boundaries at different times, depending on the setting, speakers, need, etc. Carl Blyth (UT) once told me that people in Pointe Coupee (I think -- I'm working from memory here and may have gotten the wrong parish) have the expression, "parle plat." And Pat Mire (who did that great movie "Dance with a Chicken") told me that growing up in Eunice he'd heard it a lot. However, lots of prairie Cajuns have never heard the term. Anyway, for the linguistic analysis I just got people to say, "OK, this is flat, this isn't," etc. and then analyzed the differences between the reports of what is and isn't flat. There's no question in my mind, however, that when you talk about Cajun English you *have* to deal with *regional* and *class* questions in addition to ethnic identification. And the issues surrounding ethnic identification are complicated as well. In Terrebonne Parish, anyway, the label "Cajun" has as much to do with economic class, racial lines (perceived), and recent memory as it does with who actually came over from Nova Scotia. Or at least it does where I did my field work (among upper working class, lower middle class folks). Sorry for going on at such length, I just wasn't really sure what people are interested in: questions of defining the dialect, pieces of the phonology or suprasegmentals (which are crucial), or the surrounding cultural milieu in which the dialect resides. Feel free to add, question, debate, narrow the focus, or whatever. -- Shana Walton Mississippi Oral History Program University of Southern Mississippi swalton[AT SYMBOL GOES HERE]whale.st.usm.edu (601) 266-5606