This project is an extensive sociolinguistic investigation of Cajun French. The study will use a scientific methodology based on a large and diverse enough sample of speakers to enable researchers to access the range of variability of the Cajun speech community. The results will provide the basis for answers about the real usage of, the linguistic attitudes toward, and the structure of this variety, and, consequently, its degree of assimilation. The goal is to determine what Cajun French is in Louisiana today, who uses it, when, with whom and to what end. Two major objectives will be achieved by this project. The first is the delimitation and definition of four Cajun communities (Thibodaux, Abbeville, Eunice and Marksville), as well as the linguistic attitudes of the inhabitants. To achieve this, a stratified sample of 1200 individuals representing these four communities will be constructed which will allow access to socio- economic and geographic diversity, and a sociological questionnaire will be distributed to specific categories of respondents. This will allow researchers to examine linguistic attitudes about identity and belonging. By assessing four sociolinguistic indices (linguistic competence in Cajun, Cajun ancestry, network of Cajun use, and use of standard French), they will also evaluate the sociolinguistic stability of Cajun French. The second objective is the analysis of the Cajun language spoken by native or near-native members of the four communities. To highlight its specific nature, several linguistic forms which are strongly stigmatized or otherwise marked will be studied. The tokens will be drawn from a spoken Cajun French database designed to allow statistically valid results representative of the four linguistic communities. By accounting for the social and cultural aspects of the sociolinguistic situation of Cajun French the results will help investigators understand the evolution and maintenance of this non-standard variety, which is confronted with both the school-taught standard French held up as a linguistic model and with cultural and linguistic encroachments by the majority Anglophone society. The proposed study will have a significant impact by providing both documentation and interpretation of an extensive linguistic corpus and of statements by Louisiana French speakers concerning their cultural/linguistic experience. Finally, the results of this comprehensive analysis will contribute to debates on norms, on language planning and on the standardization of non-standard varieties.

National Science Foundation (NSF)
Division of Behavioral and Cognitive Sciences (BCS)
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Catherine N. Ball
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Louisiana State University & Agricultural and Mechanical College
Baton Rouge
United States
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