Cajun English

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Acadiana, the traditional Cajun homeland and the stronghold of both the Cajun French and English dialects.

Cajun English is the dialect of English spoken by Cajuns living in southern Louisiana and, to some extent, in eastern Texas. Cajun English is significantly influenced by Cajun French, the historical language of the Cajun people, a direct descendant of Acadian French, which differs extensively from Metropolitan or Parisian French in terms of pronunciation and vocabulary, particularly because of the long isolation of Acadians, and even more so Cajuns, from the Francophone world. English is now spoken by the vast majority of the Cajun population, but French influence remains strong in terms of inflection and vocabulary, and the accent is quite distinct from the General American.[1]

Part of the Cajun identity[edit]

While Cajun French is considered by many to be an endangered language, mostly used by elderly generations, Cajun English is spoken by even the youngest Cajuns, and is considered to be part of the identity of the ethnic group.

Features of Cajun English[edit]

Cajun English distinguishes itself with some of the following features:

  • Many vowels which are separate in General American English are pronounced the same way, for example, the words hill and heel are homophones, both being pronounced /hɪɹl/[citation needed].
  • Stress is generally placed on the second or last syllable of a word, a feature directly inherited from French.
  • The voiceless and voiced alveolar stops /t/ and /d/ often replace dental fricatives, a feature used by both Cajun English speakers and speakers of Louisiana Creole French (Standard French speakers generally render dental fricatives as alveolar). Examples include "bath" being pronounced as "bat" and "they" as "day."
  • Cajun English speakers generally do not aspirate the consonants /p/, /t/, or /k/. As a result, the words "par" and "bar" can sound very similar[by whom?].
  • The inclusion of many loanwords, calques, and phrases from French, such as "nonc" (uncle, from the French oncle), "cher" (dear, pronounced /ʃæ/, from the French cher), and "making groceries" (to shop for groceries, a calque of the Cajun French faire des groceries (épicerie))

These are a few other examples.

English Cajun English (pronounced)
Ask Aks
They Dey
Them Dem
Those Dose
Something Sometin
Think Fink or Tink
Enough Nuff
Respect Respek
Except Sept
Three Tree

Cajun English vowels[edit]



Kit: [ɪ]
Dress: [ɛ] or [æ]
Trap: [æ]
Lot: [ɑ]
Strut: [ʌ]
Foot: [ʊ]
Fleece: [i:]
Face: [e:]
Palm: [ɑ]
Thought: [a]
Goat: [o:]
Near: [i:]
Square: [ɛ] or [æ]
Start: [ɑ] or [a]
North: [ɔə] or.[ɔɹ]
Force: [ɔə] or [ɔɹ]
Cure: [uə] or [ʊə]
Bath: [æ]
Cloth: [a]
Nurse: [ʌə] or [ʌɹ]
Goose: [uː]
Price/Prize: [ɑɪ] or [a:]
Choice: [ɔɪ]
Mouth:[aʊ] or [a:]
happY: [ɪ] or [i]
lettEr: [əɹ]
horsEs: [ɪ]
commA: [ə]
Hand: [æ]
Pin/Pen: [ɪ]
Think/Length: [i]
Mirror/Nearer: [i] or [ɪ]
Orange: [ɑ] or [ɔ]

Other examples of Cajun vocabulary[edit]

  • Allon! : Let's go!
  • Alors pas : Of course not
  • Fais do-do : To go to sleep, refers to a dance party.
  • Dis-moi la vérité ! : Tell me the truth!
  • Quoi faire ? : Why?
  • Un magasin : A store
  • Être en colère : To be angry
  • Mo chagren : I’m sorry
  • Une sucette : A pacifier
  • Une piastre : A dollar
  • Un caleçon : Boxers
  • Sha/cher (a is pronounced like a in apple, from) : Dear or darling - also used as "buddy" or "pal"
  • Mais non, cher ! : Of course not, dear!

Most confusing phrases[edit]

There are several phrases used by Cajuns that are completely unknown to non-Cajun speakers. When outside of Acadiana, Cajuns tend to be made fun of for using these phrases. Young Cajuns are often jokingly discouraged from marrying non-Cajuns for this simple fact. Some common phrases are listed below:

Save the dishes[edit]

To "save the dishes" means to "put away the dishes into cupboards where they belong after being washed". While dishes are the most common subject, it is not uncommon to save other things. For example: Save up the clothes, saving the tools, save your toys.

Get down at the store[edit]

"Getting down at the store" involves stepping out of a car to enter the store. Most commonly, the driver will ask the passenger, "Do you want to get down with me?" One can get down at any place, not just the store. This phrase may come from the act of "getting down from a horse" as many areas of Acadiana were only accessible by horse (or boat) well into the 20th century. It also may originate from the French language descendre meaning to get down, much as some English-Spanish bilingual speakers say "get down," from the Spanish bajar.

Makin' (the) groceries[edit]

"Makin' groceries" refers to the act of going grocery shopping, though it conjures images of manufacturing bottles of Zataran's liquid crab boil. Probably a mis-translation of the American French phrase "faire l'épicerie" because "faire" is used in many French idioms and can be both "to do" as well as "to make". In fact, typing in "to do the grocery shopping" or "make groceries" into Google Translate and translating to French will output "faire l'épicerie" for each phrase.

In popular culture[edit]

Films[edit]

  • In the Walt Disney film The Princess and the Frog, the character of the firefly Raymond (or Ray) presented himself to be born and raised in the Bayou and therefore a true-blooded Cajun.
  • In the movie The Green Mile based on a book by Stephen King and starring Tom Hanks, a character named Eduard Delacroix is a Cajun prisoner who keeps a pet mouse. In the movie he often resorts to speaking his native Cajun French dialect, which is discouraged by the prison guards.

Television[edit]

  • In the television series True Blood, the character René Lernier was introduced with a terrible Cajun accent. However, later in the series, it was learned that he was faking the accent through the help of some instructional materials.
  • In Supernatural, the character Benny Lafitte is a Cajun vampire that befriends Dean Winchester in the eighth season.
  • In X-Men : The Animated Series, the character Gambit was introduced as from Louisiana and is known to speak in a thick Cajun accent.
  • In the television series Luck, the character Leon Micheaux is a Cajun jockey.
  • In the television miniseries Band of Brothers the company's medic Eugene Roe is half-Cajun and speaks with a distinct accent.
    • Likewise, Merriell "Snafu" Shelton from a companion miniseries The Pacific.

Video games[edit]

Several characters of Gabriel Knight: Sins of the Fathers, particularly the narrator, have Cajun accents. Some characters even use Cajun French phrases.

Resources[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Do You Speak American . Sea to Shining Sea . American Varieties . Cajun | PBS

See also[edit]