Louisiana Creole language


Louisiana has a fascinating history where more than 10 languages and regional variations of those languages are spoken.

Louisiana Creole is one of those languages. Take note: it is not French.

In order to understand Louisiana Creole genesis, a language indigenous to Louisiana, perhaps the only language indigenous to what is now Louisiana, it is essential to understand the interplay and intersecting of populations of different speech expressions (e.g. French, Wolof, etc) that, in an experience traumatic for all involved, involved the blossoming of a brand new language – Louisiana Creole.

No one really knows when the first Francophone arrived in Louisiana, but we do feel fairly certain that large groups of Francophones began taking permanent residence towards the latter half of the 17th century. From that moment on, La Louisiane, as it was called by the French crown, a new variety of French language began brewing. This variety of French is properly known as Louisiana French, spoken throughout current-day Louisiana and even in states like Missouri (formally part of the Louisiana colony).

If pushed to broadly class varieties of French spoken within Louisiana, I would call them simply Formal and Vernacular. If you wished for a more thorough look at Louisiana French, you must consider Louisiana topography and the sub-regional cultures or lifestyles that developed as a result of the topography. In this more probative study, I class variants of Louisiana French as Urban Louisiana French, Fluvial Louisiana French and Provincial Louisiana French.

I briefly spoke about Louisiana French above, because it was the coming of French in Louisiana, with the interactions of additional speech communities, that together, triggered the development of Louisiana Creole.

What is Louisiana Creole?

Louisiana Creole is first and foremost neither a dialect nor a patois. Linguists from around the world  define a Creole as a well-defined and stable language originating from a non-trivial combination of two or more languages, typically with many distinctive features that are not inherited from either parent.

French colonial judiciary records indicate, through transcriptions of testimonies in court, that as early as the 1740s, Louisiana Creole was spoken. That is only roughly 20 years after the first permanent settlement and cargo of slaves from Senegambia arrived. Formally, linguistics suggested that Creole language was brought to Louisiana from Saint-Domingue (now, Haiti), though these court documents some 60 years before the Saint-Domingue revolution completely disprove these theories.

Lexical, syntactical and phonemic influences in Louisiana Creole language include a heavy dose of vocabulary from present-day France, distinctive provincial Louisiana intonation, and significant Caddo, Ishák (Atákapa) and Louisiana Choctaw lexicon, specifically for Louisiana topography and native Louisiana fauna and flora. There is an equal amount of loan words from Louisiana Spanish, Wolof, Mandinga, Igbo and Ewe the latter four most visible in Louisiana folklore.

As is the case for all languages, Louisiana Creole has dialects or varieties spoken throughout the state. The uprisings and revolution of Saint-Domingue (today, Haïti), led thousands of Saint-Domingue-descended Cubans and Saint-Dominguans towards Louisiana seeking refuge at the turn of the 19th century. In fact, the population of the Vieux Carré (where all the Latins lived) doubled, and its Free People of Color population tripled. The Saint-Domingue Creole varieties had long been the lingua franca of most Saint-Domingue Creoles. Haitian and Cuban presence in Louisiana, therefore, served to amplify and solidify the Creole-speaking population of Louisiana. Click here for more information on the Saint-Domingue-Louisiana connection.

What’s neat is that Louisiana Creole is spoken across “racial” lines in Louisiana and in Louisiana diasporic communities, and is–and has been–the mother tongue of people who identify ethno-racially as Cajuns, African-Americans, Black, Native American, Amerindian, First Nations People and so on.

Given that Louisiana Creole, until fairly recently, was considered the same as Louisiana French, or simply a dialect thereof, Louisiana Creole as you will discover on this website, never appears as an official language in published material or public hearings … because for most non-speakers passing laws, it’s just French! But it’s gaining thrust and recognition, now appearing on websites, material culture projects and more.

While a large amount of vocabulary in Louisiana Creole derives from French, speakers of Louisiana Creole usually can understand Louisiana French (not necessarily French dialects spoken elsewhere in the world). Conversely, Louisiana Creole is not always understood by (Louisiana and other) Francophones, no more so than Danes can understand English, and Italians can understand Brazilians.

It’s a fun, melodic, folkloric language packed with love and affection.

We look forward to sharing it with you!

 

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10 thoughts on “Louisiana Creole language

  1. I think its a wonderful thing to continue teaching about the frenchcreoles and the language should be passed down from generation to generation,my mother spoke it fluidly.But as the video stated as children growing up in Il. we didn’t want to speak it,because no one else was,Ipray before I die I will speak it .

    • I think that this omits is the native American language that is a part of the Creole verbage. Before the forced displacement of native americans who had walked the rail of tears that returned to Louisiana and added language

      • Sorry, but I think it does include the indigenous native of Louisiana…”Lexical, syntactical and phonemic influences in Louisiana Creole language include a heavy dose of vocabulary from present-day France, distinctive provincial Louisiana intonation, and significant Caddo, Ishák (Atákapa) and Louisiana Choctaw lexicon, specifically for Louisiana topography and native Louisiana fauna and flora. There is an equal amount of loan words from Louisiana Spanish, Wolof, Mandinga, Igbo and Ewe the latter four most visible in Louisiana folklore.”

  2. This is great. Keep up the good work. I will let Creoles from back home (Mauritius) know about this and the diaspora (Australia, Europe and South Africa).

    @ Lilly Guidry – Good luck. Keep the Creole flame alive.

  3. i love creole language i am creole on my dads side. i want to learn it some day and i think this is the web site to do it .just like every body els said keep doing it. i dont know if you know of marie quoin quoin yaeh but i am realted to her and there is a book called ilse of the canes that you can look up you can look up marie and ilse of the canes so yeah thank you again

  4. I am researching my husband’s family with a his cousin. For what ever resason, due to the times and hardships, when they moved north to Chicago, they chose to start “fresh” and leave a legacy of their family behind – including being Creole and the language. It was something that was spoken between them – and no one else, if you ever were to hear it.

  5. I have got one suggestion for your weblog. It looks like there are a number of cascading stylesheet troubles while launching a number of webpages in google chrome and internet explorer. It is functioning okay in internet explorer. Perhaps you can double check this.

  6. It’s so refreshing to read the incorporation of actual facts pertaining Louisiana’s true lingustic and cultural ” gumbo” as opposed to ethnocentric fabrications from the Jim Crow era of Cajunization which quite contemptuos of historical linguistics presumptuosly labelled all white francophones as uniquely “Cajun” and all black francophones as uniquely “creole”!
    The newl label of “Louisiana French” is certainly more of an attempt to fairly represent the multi-cultural and linguistic reality of Louisiana’s foundation culture into which the Acadians were assimilated, transformed and ultimately, creolized, along w every other group who entered the unique world of Colonial
    Louisiana.
    Thankyou for telling the truth!

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