English in Louisiana: Cajun and Creole English

Major immigration of English speakers begins with Louisiana statehood in 1812. Shift from other languages, in particular French, to English began as early as the mid-19th century; however, serious decline of the language began in the 20th century, and is likely due to many factors, in particular the change to the state constitution in 1921 that banned any language other than English for instruction in public schools. Today, English has replaced French as the state’s dominant language, though French often retains a symbolic status and may be used by young (often Anglophone) people in limited domains, such as music. The varieties of English spoken in south Louisiana, however, are often influenced by French. They retain French lexical items (e.g. bouder “to pout,” honte “ashamed,” envie “a desire,” and classically parrain “godfather,” cher(e) “dear,” couillon “stupid,” and the marker mais “but”) and sometimes also pronunciations. Syntax may also be affected, as in the use of object pronouns (me, you, him) for stress: “I’m not hungry, me.” Yes and no may also be used as tags, often in conjunction with stressed object pronouns: “Mais, I’m not hungry, me, no.”

Speakers of Cajun and Creole Englishes, especially those who have had many years of exposure to Standard American English via the school system, may use the two dialects interchangeably for effect. Moreover, there has been a recent rise in the use of Cajun English by younger generations, particularly among males, who may see social and economic value in its use (Dubois & Horvath 1998).