Louisiana Creole French: Pt. I Historical and Sociolinguistic Background Gillia Barrows Linguistics 455 Spring 2006 Type and Parents • Language of Louisiana, USA • Creole (conservative) – Closely resembles other Caribbean creoles (Haitian, etc) • Mix of French (lexifier) & various African languages (possible basilects) • 20,000 – 80,000 speakers modernly • Highly endangered Louisiana Louisiana today Louisiana: a short History • Became French colony 1699 (claimed by LaSalle) • 1699-1717 colonized by Mixture of non-elite French-speaking settlers – from what is now Canada, various parts of France – Small population of their Native American slaves – (colonization continues throughout 18th and 19th centuries) Map of America, including Louisiana territory ca 1720 • African Slave trade begins ca1717 – Monopoly on Louisiana trade by the French Company of the Indies • Acquired slaves mainly from tip of Western Africa (Senegambia) • Slave and Indian revolts throughout early 18th century, due in part to solidarity of common mistreatment Senegambia • Acadians (from Nouvelle France) emigrate to Louisiana area throughout middle and late 18th century – Expelled from Nouvelle France by British takeover(?) Nouvelle France • ~1763 Louisiana ceded to Spanish at end of Seven Years’ War – French culture and communities remain insular under liberal Spanish rule Map of Louisiana under Spanish Rule • 1800 Napolean forces Spain to give Louisiana back to France • Ca 1800 ~10,000 Frenchspeaking refugees from Saint Domingue (modern Haiti) arrive in Louisiana area – Mixture of whites, slaves, and free black people (free men) Saint Domingue ca 1800 • 1803 Louisiana Purchase (US from French) – Immigration of Englishspeaking Americans increases • 1812 Louisiana becomes 18th state of USA – American settlers continue to immigrate Louisiana Purchase Historical Language Influences on Louisiana Creole French (LC) • Mixture of nonstandard French language varieties of early French settlers 1699-1763 – Riffraff from all parts of France, many from the Western provinces, sent to colonize the unpopular territory of Louisiana; speaking various forms of non-standard French • Western dialects – Coureurs de bois (“wood runners”) from Canada, speaking Canadianized French • Influences of Native American languages of Canada? – (Algonquin, Iraquoian) • Settlers from Canada, speaking Canadianized French • Small lexical influence from Native American language(s) of Louisiana area? – Primarily Choctaw (itself an immigrant population language from more Eastern territories around modern Mississippi) Drawing of Choctaw women, Louisiana 18th c. Photo of Choctaw child, Louisiana late 19th c. • Mixture of African language varieties, mainly Mandekan dialects 1717-1731 – 1717 first slaves imported from Bight of Benin, approx. 450; others from Angola, Congo • Spoke Kwa languages, Bantu • Probably did not begin creolization due to small population size – 1717-1731 Largest early slave population from Senegambia • Spoke mutually intelligible Mandekan dialects • Raised slave population to roughly twice that of free men • Mandekan dialects become basilect in creolization process • Cajun varieties of French – spoken by Acadian refugees middle to late 18th century • Lower class German form of French French-Canadian settlers – Spoken by Germans settlers throughout 18th century who assimilated to French language, but took on own dialect of it • Spanish – 1763-1803 (exerts small, mainly lexical influence on Louisiana Creole form) Spanish settlers • Sudden influx of slaves from the Mina post/Gulf of Guinea 1777-1788 – Doubled the number of slaves in Louisiana – Probably same Kwa, Mandekan, Bantu languages, perhaps others(?) – Because of strong extant creole-speaking commmunity, had little impact on creolization process Slave Compound, Gulf of Guinea Africa with Gulf of Guinea area outlined Gulf of Guinea • Varieties of French (ironically more standard than the Louisiana varieties) brought by Frenchspeaking refugees from St. Domingue (Haiti) ca. 1800 – ~10,000 mixed free men and slaves, Free blacks from St. Domingue • English (American) 1830s onwards American settlers arriving by boat Historical Environment of LC Birth • Population equality between basilect/acrolect speakers • Habitation (vs. plantation) culture – Relatively few slaves to each small plantation (habitation) • Increased communication between slaves and their owners • Shared social status between slaves and nonslaves – Communication/trade throughout lower classes • these factors led to large influence of lexifier (French) on the forming creole – may have led to complete lexifier assumption if no intervening factors • Two major influxes of slaves with slow importation numbers between – 1717-1731(Senegambia, Mandekan dialects) – 1777-1788 (various places and languages) • Common basilect slave language – Mandekan dialects – mutually intelligible Bay of New Orleans • Encourages a cohesive slave community with common nonlexifier language • these factors led to the formation of a creole rather than complete assimilation to lexifier (French) Slaves outside church, Louisiana 19th century(?) • All combine to construct LC as a creole that is conservative – very closely related to its lexifier language (acrolect) •Some debate regarding what basilect language(s) is/are for this reason Louisiana Habitation Sociolinguistic Variation • Bilingual, trilingual+ language communities – English, Standard French (SF)/ Colonial French, Cajun (CF/LF), Louisiana Creole French (LFC/LC) – Many people speak at least two dialects fluently, usually more • Language prestige continuum – LC at lowest end of overt prestige scale, which follows the categories as listed above • Code-switching – Due to prestige differences, speakers usually switch in and out of LC and the other dialects to establish solidarity/construct themselves within society • Variable forms of LC –in some areas more related to Cajun or Germanized French as lexifier influences than Colonial French as lexifier influence • LC: highly endangered –Only four areas remain where LC is spoken widely Map of LC-Speaking Areas LC spoken in light blue parishes Why These Areas? • 1. St. Martin Parish: – Presence of some of the larger plantations in 18th century Louisiana (led to stronger creole, as slaves outnumbered whites) – Many Cajuns • LC may have evolved over time under influnece of large number of Cajun French speakers in St. Martin/Breaux Bridge areas – Area with largest number of LC speakers today • 2. Point Coupee and East Baton Rouge Parishes: – – – – Presence of many plantations, some very large by Louisiana standards Blacks outnumbered whites Many whites who shared low socioeconomic status with blacks LC became main form of communication • No Cajuns, so not a Cajun-like form, vs. St. Martin Parish above • 3. St. Tammany Parish: – – – – • Isolated by Lake ponchartrain and Bayou Lacombe Mixed blood people Runaway slaves, Indians, free people of color LC appears in its most stabilized form 4. St. James and St. John the Baptist Parishes (German Coast): – German settlers hearing LC and Colonial French every day, absorbed it linguistically – Shared low socioeconomic status with blacks – (area of low socioeconomic status) Bibliography • Enthnologue.com. “Louisiana Creole French.” http://www.ethnologue.com/show_language.asp?code_lou. • Marshall, Margaret. “Origin and development of Louisiana Creole French” French and Creole in Louisiana. Ed. Albert Valdman. New York: Plenum Press, 1997. • Neumann, Ingrid. La Creole de Breaux Bridge, Louisiane: Etude Morphosyntaxique – Texts – Vocabulaire. Hamburg: Helmut Buske, 1983. • Valdman, Albert, ed. French and Creole in Louisiana. New York: Plenum Press, 1997. • Valdman, Albert et al, ed. Dictionary of Louisiana Creole. Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press,1998.