If you listened to our episode about varieties of French in Louisiana, you might have some questions. And if you listened to our bonus, you might have even more (unless you know a lot about French). (And don’t forget to subscribe so you never miss an episode!)
How many people speak Louisiana Creole? fewer than 10k
How many speak Louisiana regional French? probably around 150k
Why does it matter if French is no longer spoken in LA? Because it matters to the people of LA.
What were the differences between Louisiana Creole and Louisiana Regional French mentioned by Dr. Dajko?
She mentioned a few that weren’t totally clearcut:
- The high front rounded vowel (/y/) is usually unrounded in Louisiana Creole, less so in Louisiana Regional French (/y/ → /i/) so tu ‘you (sg)’ /ty/ becomes /ti/ (although, it also seems to have become /to/, which is nice and confusing)
- post-vocalic r (/ʁ/) is more often dropped in creole (like Boston or London r-lessness, where ‘car’ is pronounced ‘cah’): bonjour becomes bonjou
She mentioned more that were better diagnostics:
- There’s no gender marking in Louisiana Creole; gender maintained in Louisiana Regional French
- The pronominal systems are different. Louisiana Regional French has a system much closer to standard French. For example, moi became mo in Louisiana Creole, and it is used in subject position (moi, je + verb became mo + verb).
Mo té kourí ô Villaj.
I past travel to village
“I went to Lafayette.”
- In French, there is a process called liaison, where a consonant is only pronounced when the following word is vowel-initial. For example, les tables [letabl] (~lay tahbl) (no /z/) ‘the tables’ vs. les ouiseaux [lezwazo] (~lay zwahzoh) (/z/ shows up) ‘the birds’. In many creoles (and Michif), the /z/ gets reanalyzed as part of the noun. So ouiseau ‘bird’ often becomes zwazo. For example, in Michif, the word for ‘egg’ oeuf got borrowed as zaf (where the /z/ comes from the liaison from the article les). Same with ‘tree’ arbre, which becomes zarb. In Mauritian Creole (another French creole), ‘almond’ is zamann (the /z/ comes from liaison originally. In Louisiana Creole, the word for ‘bird’ is zozo. Louisiana Regional French maintains a more regularized liaison process.
- The article follows the noun in Louisiana Creole: maison la instead of la maison. This is also common in French creoles (and likely isn’t a reversal, but comes from a different morpheme).
- In possession, Louisiana Creole uses gagner ‘to win’ for ‘to have’ (as do some other varieties of French). Louisiana Regional French uses avoir ‘to have’. She provided us with a test sentence to distinguish between the two varieties:
I have 5 dollars = mo gen senk pyas (Louisiana Creole) vs. j’ai cinq pias (Louisiana Regional French)
(senk pyas sounds exactly the same as cinq pias, so the only differences are the pronouns mo vs. j’ and gen (from gagner) vs. ai (from avoir).)