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.
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.
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.
Prairie French is spoken among Cajun, Creole and Black residents in southwest Louisiana.
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.
|Words of Native American Origin|
|Raccoon||Choctaw or Mobilian shaui|
|Bowfin||Choctaw shupik, "mudfish"|
|Pecan||Algonquian via Mobilian|
|Sunfish||Choctaw patàssa "flat"|
|Persimmon||Illinois piakimin, via Mobilian|
|(Black)bird||Possibly Atakapa t'sak|
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.