Date: Sat, 28 Jan 1995 15:33:14 -0500 From: jeffrey howard allen Subject: Re: message on TV and dialect influence in Louisiana (fwd) Just thought that you all would be interested in this reply to me by Kevin Rottet who is finishing up his PhD at Indiana University on Cajun French. He insights are quite helpful for this TV & dialect discussion. Jeff Allen allenjh[AT SYMBOL GOES HERE] OR jhallen[AT SYMBOL GOES HERE] ----------------------------------------------------------- Thanks for including me in the discussion--it looks very interesting and I am not subscribed to the ADS list. I do have a few thoughts where Louisiana is concerned. The issue of the influence of TV on Cajun and/or Creole would have been more meaningful in the 1940s and 1950s than it is today, I think, because today there would in fact be no way to separate TV influences from interactive/ conversational influences. This is because the vast majority of Cajuns today are English dominant and speak English every bit as fluently as you and I do. English is their language. Cajuns (and Indians, in the Terrebonne-Lafourche area where I worked) for whom this is not the case are growing increasingly rare, and are already isolated cases, exceptions to the rule. The only way TV influence could be shown today would perhaps be with examples such as those you cite (e.g. exotic place names like Rwanda). Regarding the question of Standard French on TV influencing Cajun, I imagine this is possible, but saw no evidence of it for two reasons: 1) most TV in French is available in and around Lafayette, which is not where I was doing my work. In Terrebonne-Lafourche there is no more French on TV than there is here, unless one gets cable. 2) Even those Cajuns who have cable often do not watch TV in French because they claim not to be able to understand it. I do not see that a speech form which is largely unintelligible to the masses would have any significant effect on local dialects--it is only if there is intelligibility that there could be any influence. There is, certainly, some Standard French influence, but this comes via the schools (many kids take French in school for a year or two) and via the busloads of French and Canadian tourists that are in Louisiana all the time. So, while I don't see TV influencing Cajun speech today (Cajun French or English), it is certain that the arrival of anglophone TV in remote areas of Louisiana in the 40s contributed to the language shift. This claim has been made in many minority communities, and a lot of foreigners, as you have heard too, I'm sure, claim to have learned most of their English from TV. But this is a somewhat different issue than the one being discussed above, since the ADS discussion seems interested primarily in native speakers of some dialect being influenced by the standard dialect via TV. I would be interested to hear of some more concrete examples of influence from TV--specific words that someone actually noted that could only have been gotten from TV. For rare words such as Rwanda, it would not surprise me at all if your claim is correct. I have a similar anecdote; a friend of mine from Michigan whose parents are from Tennessee, has no Tennessee accent of his own, but speaks perfectly good Michigan-ese, EXCEPT in some rare words that he has probably never heard anyone but his parents say. Two examples come to mind, 'naked' and 'bowels'. It seems to me, than, that words that people have only heard on TV would likewise have a "TV" pronunciation; but I have a hard time imagining how many words we're talking about, except exotic places or high-tech technological terms. If you have some more eamples, I'd be very interested. By the way, I'd be interested in seeing Mike Picone's contribution, but I don't think you sent me that one (or maybe I accidentally deleted it without reading it). If you would forward that I'd appreciate it. Thanks, and keep in touch! Kevin Rottet