Volume 19, Issue 2
  • ISSN 0172-8865
  • E-ISSN: 1569-9730
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The English of bilingual Cajuns living in southern Louisiana has been described as an accented variety of English, the result of interference from French. In order to investigate this proposition, we present a variationist study of four features of Cajun English: 1) the interdental fricatives /th, ð7 realized by the dental stops [t, d]; 2) the failure to aspirate the stops /p, t, k/; 3) the monophthongization of /ai/ and 4) vowel nasalization. The data for this study are taken from the Cajun French/ English Sociolinguistic Survey; the survey has confirmed that English has become dominant in these communities over the last two generations. A sub-sample of 28 speakers, divided by gender into three age groups, is taken from St Landry Parish. If interference from French is the source of these features of Cajun English, we would expect a steady decrease in frequency over apparent time so that these vernacular features will be used more frequently by the older and less frequently by the middle-aged and least of all by the younger generation. The results of GoldVarb analysis of the variables show a complex interrelationship of age, gender and social network. All of the variables studied followed the expected pattern; the old generation use more of the vernacular variants than all others; the middle-aged dramatically decrease their use of the vernacular but the young generation exhibit a number of complex patterns in their use of the vernacular features. Interestingly the young follow the decreasing pattern for (p, t, k) but they show a level of usage for the other variables closer to the old generation so that there is a v-shaped age pattern rather than a pattern showing a steady decrease of the so-called accented features of Cajun English. We argue that although the vernacular forms produced by the older group can be considered part of an ethnic accent, they play a very different role in the younger generation which can be attributed both to French language attrition and to the on-going blossoming of a Cajun cultural renaissance. Being Cajun is now socially and economically advantageous; the younger generation, unlike the middle-aged, take pride in their Cajun identity. The functions of French for people under 40 years old have been significantly reduced so that it is now generally limited to the family domain and even more restricted in that it is used primarily in speaking with older members of the extended family. Given this situation, the only linguistic way to signal "Cajunness" is left to English.


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  • Article Type: Research Article
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