The Cajun French Debate in Louisiana

  • Gerald L. Gold
Part of the Topics in Language and Linguistics book series (TLLI)


Ethnic nationalism is often accompanied by movements to restore all or some of the former importance of what has become a secondary language. When a minority language has evolved into a number of regional vernaculars, all of which are stigmatized and shorn of their public and literary importance in the wider society (and this was the outcome for the French language in post-Bellum Louisiana), attempts to reinstate standardized speech can by themselves become the symbolic objectives of ethnic revival. This discussion is centered on the revival of the French language in Louisiana and the resulting debate between those who would place their priorities in teaching an international or standard French, and those who prefer to perpetuate the vernacular that is still used in many regions of South Louisiana. The Cajun French debate, as it is referred to on occasion, is here presented not as a consideration of viable alternatives for minority language maintenance, but as a debate between social groups in South Louisiana for whom the French language and a ‘Cajun’ ethnic identity do not necessarily have the same meaning.1


Baton Rouge Minority Language Speech Community French Language Bilingual Program 
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  1. 1.
    Research in South Louisiana began in 1975 with the aid of Université Laval and the Wenner-Gren Foundation for Anthropological Research. Most subsequent fieldwork was supported by the Social Science and Humanities Research Council of Canada, and by the Ford Foundation. My sincere thanks to Eric Waddell, Louis-Jacques Dorais, Dean Louder, Barry Ancelet and Regna Darnell for listening to some of the ideas that are incorporated into this paper.Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    By ethnic division of labor I am referring to the unequal representation of ethnolinguistic groups in the labor force. The term was probably first used by Michael Hechter (1975), though its application can be found in earlier studies by Everett C. Hughes (1943) and his students.Google Scholar
  3. 3.
    Broussard did his work on Creole dialect in St. Martin Parish and Phillips, a native of Ville Platte, did his research on the dialect of his home parish of Evangeline. Many of the theses on variants of Louisiana French were prepared for William A. Read of LSU who wrote numerous articles and a book on the subject. There are, of course, many non-Louisianans who have written on the subject of Louisiana French, but these works would not be germane to this discussion.Google Scholar
  4. 4.
    Iry Lejeune was an accordionist and musical poet from the Church Point area of Southwestern Louisiana. Though he has been dead almost thirty years, his records are still regularly purchased and played on the Cajun radio shows. Much of the repertoire of other groups is based on Iry Lejeune’s renditions of traditional music. He is probably the best-known individual in the French-speaking regions of the Southwest.Google Scholar
  5. 5.
    For example, Ancelet (1980), Marcantel (1979), Reed (1976).Google Scholar
  6. 6.
    This notion of ‘neutralization’ of the vernacular was suggested to me by Albert Verdoodt.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Plenum Press, New York 1982

Authors and Affiliations

  • Gerald L. Gold

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