Acadian French

Acadian French (le français acadien) is a variety or dialect of French spoken by francophone Acadians in the Canadian Maritime provinces, the Saint John River Valley in northern Maine, the Magdalen Islands and Havre-Saint-Pierre, along the St. Lawrence's north shore (where the original Acadian is probably best heard due to the longtime isolation of these localities).

Just as Quebec French, it is a variant of Canadian French. Acadian French derives loosely from late Middle French still widespread in a few French provinces (mainly: Maine, Anjou, Poitou, Saintonge, Aunis and Angoumois) at the time of the French colonization of the Americas and conserves characteristics such as pronunciation and lexical items (vocabulary) reminiscent of the language of Rabelais and Molière. As a result, it shares some resemblance with both Metropolitan and Quebec French and a strong influence of North American English is also present. Cajun French, a regional dialect spoken in Southern Louisiana and other parts of the southern USA, is another off-shoot of older forms of Acadian French.

Since there was no linguistic contact with France from the late 18th century until the 20th century, Acadian French retained features that died out during the French standardization efforts of the 19th century, including an alveolar r, and the third-person plural ending of verbs -ont, e.g. ils mangeont as compared to Metropolitan French ils mangent, which does not have an ending that is pronounced. They also use -ions (now only plural first-person ending of verbs) instead of -ais as the singular first-person ending, in the "imparfait" tense: e.g. j'avions, j'aimions, j'étions... instead of j'avais, j'aimais, j'étais... (meaning: I was having, I was loving, I was being...). This was most likely due to the old pronunciation of -ais endings in France before Louis XIV came to power, which sounded like -ois in most cases (ex: françois for français, j'avois for j'avais, etc.)

Although many aspects of this language (vocabulary, alveolar "r", etc.) are still common in rural areas in the West of France, any speakers of other dialects of French, such as speakers of Metropolitan French, i.e. the French of France, and even of other Canadian dialects, have difficulty understanding Acadian French, even when spoken slowly.

See also Chiac, a mixed language based on French and English, and Saint Mary's Bay French, a distinct variety of Acadian French spoken around Saint Mary's Bay, Nova Scotia.

Phonology (Phonetic Aspects)

Palatalisation of "k" and "g" sounds

  • /k/ and /tj/ is commonly replaced by [tʃ] before a front vowel. For example, queue, cuillère, quelqu'un and cul are usually pronounced tcheue, tchuillère, tchequ'un and tchu. Tiens is pronounced tchin [tʃɛ̃].
  • /g/ and /dj/ often become [dʒ] (sometimes [ʒ]) before a front vowel. For example, bon dieu and gueule become bon djeu and djeule in Acadian French. Braguette becomes brajette. (This pronunciation led to the word Cajun, from Acadian.)

Inversion of "re"

In words, "re" is often pronounced "er". For instance :

  • berloque for "breloque", berouette for "brouette" (wheel-barrow), ferdaine for "fredaine", guerlot for "grelot", s'entertenir for "s'entretenir".


The /ɛr/ sequence followed by another consonant sometimes becomes [ar] or [ɑʁ]. For example, merde and perdre become màrde and pàrdre. This rule is also abundantly consistent in the Quebec French, however the a is nasal (â).

The r in words endings by bre is often not pronounced. For example, libre (free), arbre (tree), timbre (stamp) would become lib', arb' and timb'''

oui, (yes) can sometimes sound like oué or Modern French ouais meaning yeah (oua is also used).

deux, (two) can sometimes sound like doy.

trois, (three) can sometimes sound like tro' (originally troé).

Examples of Acadian words

The following words and expressions are most commonly restricted to Acadian French, though some can also be found in Quebec French.

  • achaler: to bother (Fr: ennuyer)
  • ajeuve: just now (Fr: récemment, tout juste)
  • amanchure: thing, thingy, also the way things join together: the joint or union of two things(Fr: chose, truc, machin)
  • amarrer: (literally, to moor) to tie (Fr: attacher)
  • amoureux: (lit. lover) burdock (Fr: (capitule de la) bardane; Quebec: toque, grakia) (also very common in Quebec French)
  • asteure: now (Fr: maintenant, à cette heure, désormais)
  • attoquer: to lean (Fr: appuyer)
  • avoir de la misère: to have difficulty (Fr: avoir de la difficulté)
  • bailler: to give (Fr: donner)
  • boloxer: to confuse, disrupt, unsettle (Fr: causer une confusion, déranger l'ordre régulier et établi)
  • boucane: smoke, steam (Fr: fumée, vapeur)
  • bouchure: fence (Fr: clôture)
  • brâiller: to cry, weep (Fr: pleurer)
  • brogane: work shoe, old or used shoe (Fr: chaussure de travail, chaussure d'occasion)
  • brosse: drinking binge (Fr: beuverie)
  • caler: to sink (Fr: sombrer, couler) (also "to drink fast in one shot", caler une bière)
  • chavirer: to go crazy (Fr: devenir fou, folle)
  • cotchiner: to cheat (Fr: tricher)
  • de service: proper, properly (Fr: adéquat, comme il faut)
  • ej: I (Fr: je)
  • élan: moment, while (Fr: instant, moment)
  • esclave: (lit. slave) destitute or pitiful person, poor fool (Fr: miséreux, personne démunie qui inspire la pitié, personne dont l'esprit est borné)
  • espèrer: to say welcome, to invite (Fr: attendre, inviter)
  • faire zire: to gross out (Fr: dégouter)
  • farlaque: loose, wild, of easy virtue (Fr: dévergondée, au moeurs légères)
  • frette: cold (Fr: froid)
  • fricot: traditional Acadian stew prepared with chicken, potatoes, onions, carrots, dumplings (lumps of dough), and seasoned with savoury
  • garrocher: to throw, chuck (Fr: lancer)
  • hardes: clothes, clothing (Fr: vêtements)
  • harrer : Battre ou traiter pauvrement
  • hucher: to cry out (Fr: appeler (qqn) à haute voix)
  • innocent: simple, foolish or stupid (Fr: simple d'esprit, bête, qui manque de jugement)
  • itou: also, too (Fr: aussi, de même, également)
  • maganer: to overwork, wear out, tire, weaken (Fr: traiter durement, malmener, fatiguer, affaiblir, endommager, détériorer)
  • mais que: when + future tense (Fr: lorsque, quand (suivi d'un futur))
  • mitan: middle, centre (Fr: milieu, centre)
  • païen: (lit. pagan) hick, uneducated person, peasant
  • pire à yaller/au pire à yaller: at worst (au pire)
  • ploye: buckwheat pancake, a tradition of Edmundston, New Brunswick (Fr: crêpe au sarassin)
  • pomme de pré: (lit. meadow apple) American cranberry (Vaccinium macrocarpon) (Fr: canneberge; Quebec: atoca)
  • poutine râpée: a ball made of grated potato with pork in the centre, a traditional Acadian dish
  • qu'ri: (from quérir) to fetch, go get (Fr: aller chercher)
  • se haler: (lit. to haul oneself) to hurry (Fr: se dépêcher)
  • se badgeuler: to argue (Fr: se disputer)
  • taweille: Native American woman, traditionally associated with sorcery (Fr: Amérindienne)
  • tchequ'affaire, tchequ'chouse, quètchose, quotchose: something (Fr: quelque chose)
  • tête de violon: ostrich fern fiddlehead (Matteuccia struthiopteris)
  • tétine-de-souris: (lit. mouse tit) slender glasswort, an edible green plant that grows in salt marshes (Salicornia europaea) (Fr: salicorne d'Europe)
  • vaillant, vaillante: active, hard-working, brave (Fr: actif, laborieux, courageux)


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