Cajun French

Cajun French

Cajun French (sometimes called Louisiana Regional French ) is one of three varieties or dialects of the French language spoken primarily in the U.S. state of Louisiana, specifically in the southern parishes. Other Louisiana French dialects include Napoleonic French and Colonial or Plantation Society French, spoken primarily in Orleans, St. Bernard, St. Charles, St. John the Baptiste, Jefferson, West Bâton-Rouge, Pointe-Coupée, Avoyelles, St. Mary, Iberia, Assumption, and St. Landry parishes. Cajun French is not the same as Louisiana Creole.

It is usually presumed that Cajun French is almost solely derived from Acadian French as it was spoken in the French colony of Acadia (located in what is now the Maritime provinces of Canada and in Maine).

Cajun differs from Metropolitan French in pronunciation, vocabulary and intonation.

Parishes where Cajun French was historically spoken


In 1755 (during the French and Indian War), about 75% of the Acadian population living in the Canadian province of Nova Scotia was deported in what is often known as the Great Expulsion (Grand Dérangement). Many of the exiles resettled in Louisiana, establishing the culture and language there. Through the Acadian French language, Cajun is ultimately descended from the dialects of Anjou and Poitou. The word "Cajun" is an anglicization of "Acadien."

Over time Cajun became the firmly established language of many south Louisiana parishes. Cajun was not only spoken by the Cajun people but also by other ethnic groups that lived in Acadian settled areas. Creoles, Amerindian ethnic groups such as the Houma, Chitimacha, Pointe-au-Chien , Bayougoula, Tunica-Biloxi, Atakapa, Opelousa, Okelousa, and Avoyel, through their cohabitation in south Louisiana's parishes eventually became proficient in the Cajun French dialect. Creoles and Amerindians already spoke French prior to the arrival of the Acadian people in Louisiana.

The term "Cajun" is reported to have derived from the English pronunciation of the French word Acadien. Some Cajuns call themselves "Cadiens" or "Cadjins" in French. The first spelling is derived from the French spelling "Acadien" and the second is an approximation, using French phonetics, of the pronunciation of the group name in Cajun French. "Cadien" is the French spelling preferred by Cajun academics. "Cajun" is an English word which is not accepted by Cajun academics to designate the group in French. The primary region where Cajun French is spoken is called Acadiana (not to be confused with Acadia, which refers to the region where Acadian French is spoken). Cajun areas of Louisiana sometimes form partnerships with Acadians in Canada who send French teachers to teach the language in schools.

In 1984, Jules O. Daigle, a Roman Catholic priest, published A Dictionary of the Cajun Language, the first dictionary devoted to Cajun French. It is generally considered the authority on the language, though it is not exhaustive. It does not contain some alternate spellings and synonyms which Father Daigle deemed "perversions" of the language, but which are nonetheless popular among Cajun speakers and writers.

Decline and resurgence

Many residents of Acadiana are bilingual, having learned French at home and English in school. In recent years the number of speakers of Cajun French has diminished considerably, but efforts are being made to reintroduce the language in schools. The Council for the Development of French in Louisiana (CODOFIL) was established during the late 1960s to promote the preservation of French language and culture in Louisiana.

Some people question whether the Cajun language will survive another generation. The number of people who speak Cajun has declined dramatically over the last fifty years. Many parents intentionally did not teach their children the Cajun language to encourage English language fluency, in hopes that the children would have a better life in an English-speaking nation. However, many of these same parents are discovering that their grandchildren are researching and trying to learn the language.

Many young adults are learning enough Cajun to understand Cajun music lyrics. Also, there is now a trend to use Cajun language websites to learn the dialect. Culinary words and terms of endearment such as "cher" /ʃæ/ (dear) and "nonc" (uncle) are still heard among otherwise English-speaking Cajuns. Some of the language will continue to exist, but whether many people will be able to conduct a full and fluent conversation in the language is still uncertain. Currently, Cajun French is considered an endangered language.


Cajun French changes depending on communities and ethnic groups. However, Cajun French has two distinct dialects: Prairie French and Bayou French.

Prairie French

Prairie French is spoken among Cajun, Creole and Black residents in southwest Louisiana.

Bayou French

Bayou French is primarily spoken among Cajuns and American Indians in southeast Louisiana. The Black population of southeast Louisiana now only has a few non-fluent speakers.

Borrowed Words

Words of Native American origin

Words of Native American Origin
Term Gloss Origin
Bayou Choctaw bayuk
Raccoon Choctaw or Mobilian shaui
Bowfin Choctaw shupik, "mudfish"
Palmetto Carib allatani
Pecan Algonquian via Mobilian
Sunfish Choctaw patàssa "flat"
Persimmon Illinois piakimin, via Mobilian
(Black)bird Possibly Atakapa t'sak

See also


Cajun French Dictionary and Phrasebook by Clint Bruce and Jennifer Gipson ISBN 0-7818-0915-0. Hippocrene Books Inc.

Tonnerre mes chiens! A glossary of Louisiana French figures of speech by Amanda LaFleur ISBN 0-9670838-9-3. Renouveau Publishing.

A Dictionary of the Cajun Language by Rev. Msgr. Jules O. Daigle, M.A., S.T.L. ISBN 0-9614245-3-2. Swallow Publications, Inc.

Cajun Self-Taught by Rev. Msgr. Jules O. Daigle, M.A., S.T.L. ISBN 0-9614245-4-0. Swallow Publications, Inc.

Language Shift in the Coastal Marshes of Louisiana by Kevin J. Rottet ISBN 0-8204-4980-6. Peter Lang Publishing, Inc.

Conversational Cajun French I by Harry Jannise and Randall P. Whatley ISBN 0-8828-9316-5. The Chicot Press.

External links

* A beginner's introduction: What is Cajun French?
* Le français cadien par thèmes: Cajun French by Themes
* Faux amis: How to Speak French in Louisiana Without Getting in Trouble
* Glossaire Français Cadien-Français Européen: Cajun-Standard French Glossary
* L'interrogatif en français cadien: Forming questions in Cajun French
* Les pronoms personnels cadiens: Cajun personal pronouns
* Les pronoms sujets et le système verbal: The Basics of Verb Conjugation
* Les animaux dans la métaphore populaire: Cajun animal metaphors
* Un glossaire cadien-anglais: Cajun French to English glossary

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