Colonial French

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Colonial French-Choctaw Patois
Créole Français
Native to United States
Region Louisiana
Native speakers
200,000  (2010 estimate)
Language codes
ISO 639-3
French spread in Louisiana. Parishes marked in yellow are those where 4–10% of the population speak French or Louisiana French at home, orange 10–15%, red 15–20%, brown 20–30%.
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Colonial French (commonly known as Colonial Louisiana French) is a variety of Louisiana French. It is associated with the misnomer the Cajun French dialect and Louisiana Creole French, a related creole language. Spoken widely in what is now the U.S. state of Louisiana, it is now considered to have been relabeled as "Cajun French".[1][2]

Colonial French is conventionally described as the form of French spoken in Lower French Louisiana prior to the late arrival of Acadians after the Great Upheaval of the mid-18th century, which resulted in the birth of the Cajun dialect. The prestige dialect still used by Creoles and Cajuns is often identified as deriving from Colonial French, but some linguists differentiate between the two, referring to the latter as Plantation Society French.[2][3]

Historically spoken by Louisiana Creole population in lower French Louisiana, Colonial French is generally considered to have been adopted by whites, blacks and Cajuns. It is known among the educated that it has been relabeled "Cajun French" among Cajuns and CODOFIL.[2][4] Most linguists consider it to have largely been relabeled Cajun French by Cajuns and whites, which is distinguishable from Louisiana Creole French.[1]

Following the Great Upheaval in the mid-18th century, when many Acadians relocated to French Louisiana, Colonial French was beginning to be assimilated by the Acadians or "Cajuns". Some scholars suggested that it survived as the prestige dialect spoken by Creoles, both white and of color, into the 21st century. There are populations of Creoles and Cajuns among other ethnic groups in the parishes of St. Martin, Avoyelles, Iberia, Pointe-Coupée, St. Charles, St. Landry, St. Mary, St. Tammany, Plaquemines, and other parishes south of Orleans, that still speak this prestige dialect.

However, linguists have pointed out this prestige dialect is distinct from the pre-Upheaval Colonial French, and is largely derived from the standard French of the mid-19th century, Spanish, African languages, and Native Americans languages. As such, in 1998 linguist Michael Picone of the University of Alabama introduced the term "Plantation Society French" for the prestige dialect.[2][3] There is a history of diglossia between Plantation Society French and Louisiana Creole French.[3] Plantation Society French, at any rate, is quite close to the Standard French of the time of its origin, with some possible differences in pronunciation and vocabulary use.[2]

Unremarkably, it is still spoken by the Louisiana Indians, such as the Houmas, Avoyelles, Choctaw and other tribal remnants, all present in pre-Acadian Louisiana and still present in contemporary Louisiana.[5]


Merchant Ensign of New France

The French settled in Louisiana (then La Louisiane or New France), establishing the Creole culture and language there. French immigration was at its peak during the 17th and 18th centuries and then small waves in the 19th century until the start of the American Civil War, bringing large numbers of francophones speaking something more similar to today's Metropolitan French into Louisiana. Over time, through contact between groups, such as the white Creoles, Creoles de couleur, native tribes, Africans, the Spanish etc. there was a high rate of intermarriage, the dialects would mix, to produce the French we today call Louisiana French w/ its Choctaw patois (historically a Créole French, it's a separate language from Louisiana Creole French which was historically known as 'Gombo').

Over time the Louisiana French & Choctaw Patois became the firmly established language of many south Louisiana parishes, mainly the Creole Parishes (among “Cajuns” it is known as Acadiana).

The Louisiana French & Choctaw patois, although originally spoken by the French & Métis Creoles of Southern Louisiana, is also spoken by Acadian-Creoles/“Cajuns” but, also by other ethnic groups that lived in the Créole settlement of Lower Louisiana. Creoles, Amerindian ethnic groups such as the Houma, Chitimacha, Pointe-au-Chien,[6] Bayougoula, Tunica-Biloxi, Atakapa, Opelousa, Okelousa, and Avoyel, already spoke this variety of French prior to the late arrival of the Acadian people in Louisiana, as noted by Captain Jean-Bernard Bossu who traveled with and witnessed Bienville himself speaking this "common language" in his work "Travels Through That Part of American Formerly Called Louisiana" 1768; pp. 254-255. This unusual blend of Colonial French and its incorporation of Mobilian-Choctaw was also noticed by Pierre-Clement de Laussat during a lunch visit with the Creole French Canterelle family. Upon arrival of their Houma Indian relatives these French Creoles began conversing in "French and Choctaw" according to the surprised Governor. Additional witnesses to this remarkable Louisiana French (creole) w/ its Choctaw patois, comes from J.F.H. Claiborne, in his "Mississippi the Province, the Territory and the State w/ Biographical' Notices of Eminent Citizens,: Vol. 1, publication date 1880, a cousin of Louisiana's first American Governor, who also noted the "unusual patois of provincial French and Choctaw" spoken by coureur de bois, Louis LeFleur.

"Créole" as a noun is different from créole as an adjective. Despite the myth purposely perpetuated Louisiana French Créole is not polysemous, through court records and documentation it was solely used to represent “native-born” in contrast to "foreign-born". If one was of African or Native ancestry, or white, one would be deemed Créole. Créole (lower case)as an adjective simply meant “of Louisiana” or “native”. Through the interactions between such groups of French, African, and Native American, Spanish, German, and Italian created a lingua franca used among all, now known as Louisiana French (with its Choctaw patois) or because as they were all speakers of this creolized French, they called their language "Créole French".

In today’s society Créoles are able gleam this lingua franca in the Dictionary of Louisiana French As Spoken In Cajun, Creole & Indian Communities (2010) edited by Albert Valdman and other authorities on the pre-Acadian language.

Louisiana French-Choctaw is not only spoken by the French Creoles but also by Metis Creoles such as the Chitimacha, Houma, Biloxi, Tunica, Choctaw, and also by Whites or Cajuns, French, Vietnamese, Cambodian, Laotian, Syrian, Lebanese, Irish and others. Individuals and groups of individuals, through innovation, adaptation and contact, continually enrich the French language spoken in Louisiana, seasoning it with linguistic features sometimes only found in Louisiana

Cajun French Mislabeling[edit]

Ever since the mislabeling of Louisiana French-Choctaw Patois in the 1960s, up and coming researchers have uncovered remarkable evidence leading a true origin of Louisiana French and the mislabeled "Cajun French" which is in fact not of "Acadie" or Acadian French but the pre-Acadian French and their Creole descendants who settled La Louisiane long before. The following are excerpts of such research:

"While there can be no doubt that the arrival of the Acadians in Louisiana certainly helped reinforce our historic francophone longevity-in the lower coastal areas of Louisiana, in the regions of coastal Louisiana where they were actually settled -we must recall that Louisiana was never without her/ our historic language of Colonial Koiné or Creole French, even as this old form of Koine' French can still be found across the remnant colonies of the former French Empire; from Michigan to Wisconsin, Missouri and Illinois to La Réunion, Mauritius, the Séychelles and West Africa to the French Antilles and back to Louisiana; across the French-speaking triangle into areas where Acadians were never settled during the Spanish period and even into the American period of Louisiana's twentieth- and twenty-first centuries."[6]
"Their presence simply reinforced Louisiana's creole character and traditions, but it did not improve upon it, nor did their Acadian patois replace Louisiana's omnipresent 'creole' French forms long present. For college or university professors and writers to say this, represents a bold and intellectually dishonest lie. It is this old Koiné French of France which was to be the DNA or blueprint of all early Canadian French, Belgian and Swiss forms of French, as well as, that of the former French maritime world, until Paris' Academie Francaise eventually adopted its 'standard French' template."[6]
"Paradoxically, it is this 'standard French' template which CODOFIL represents in our public schools, while it continues to represent Lafayette's culturally-biased, and imaginary Acadian-based culture to the world. Indeed, the 'coureurs de bois' from Montréal to Québec would inevitably pass on Louisiana's historic creole-metis linguistic tradition to their children and families, who in turn, perpetuated this colonial tongue across the huge territory of 'la louisiane' or “La Nouvelle France". And, this creole French-Indian patois remains the language known as "Louisiana French" complete with its unusual Mobilian-Choctaw jargon long noted by Dr. William A. Read in his "Louisiana Place Names of Indian Origin". From “Upper Louisiana” in Illinois to Arkansas including Mississippi and Alabama, to say nothing of the much later "territory of Orleans" which we now know as the American State of Louisiana (then“ Lower Louisiana”), with its earliest capitol first at Mobile, and soon after relocated to Bienville's dream city-New Orleans."[6]
"And, it is through this study that we begin to realize that Louisiana’s culture remains solidly based upon this very old and unchanged multi-ethnic Creole and Metis foundation and has never been an "Acadian-based culture.” And, this is where and why I object to the over-generalized label of "Cajun French" when referring to our historic "Louisiana French" which existed long before the arrival of the Americans, Acadians, Spanish and even before that of the first West Africans. The Acadian French patois is not a creole language. Louisiana French and its sister tongue of Louisiana Creole are both forms of creole French; a marriage of the Colonial French of the French maritime world and the unique "Lower Louisiana" Mobilian-Choctaw patois, with sprinklings of African and Spanish-Cuban words."[6]

Parishes where Louisiana French is spoken[edit]

Bienvenue en Louisiane
Louisiana Creole State welcome sign

Primarily it is spoken in Pointe Coupee, Lafayette, and Natchitoches, but is also spoken in:

Borrowed words[edit]

Choctaw Village near the Chefuncte, by Francois Bernard, 1869, Peabody Museum - Harvard University. The Choctaw people had a great impact on Louisiana French-Choctaw Patois (historically known as Creole French).

Louisiana's Colonial French-Choctaw Patois,a creole French-Indian patois, remains the language known as "Louisiana French" complete with its unusual Mobilian-Choctaw jargon.[7] Due to the consistent relations between the Native American tribes and the indigenous Louisiana Creole people, their lingua franca became what many today call Colonial French-Choctaw Patois or Colonial French Koine. It is regarded as a "marriage of the Colonial French of the French maritime world and the unique 'Lower Louisiana' Mobilian-Choctaw Jargon".[8] Louisiana French-Choctaw Patois, native speakers being primarily Louisiana's Afro-French and Metis Creoles, has a host of words of Native American origin.

Words of Native American origin[edit]

Words of Native American Origin[9]
Term Gloss Origin
About this sound Bayou Bayou Choctaw bayuk
About this sound Chaoui Raccoon Choctaw or Mobilian shaui
About this sound Choupique Bowfin Choctaw shupik, "mudfish"
About this sound Latanier Palmetto Carib allatani
About this sound Pacane Pecan Algonquian via Mobilian
About this sound Patassa Sunfish Choctaw patàssa "flat"
About this sound Plaquemine Persimmon Illinois piakimin, via Mobilian
About this sound Tchoc (Black)bird Possibly Atakapa t'sak

In contrast to the Acadians, the Louisiana French Canadian and European soldiers of Bienville's Alabama would intermarry largely among the Choctaw Amerindian families (of the Muskogean family of Indians), and among other Amerindian families friendly to the French in both "Lower and Upper Louisiana” –then, including what are now the American States of Louisiana, Mississippi , parts of Texas, Alabama, Illinois, Missouri, Michigan and the Great Lakes regions where French-Canadian and their metis descendants continue to live and speak their dialects of French.[7]


Louisiana's Colonial French-Choctaw Patois often varies by community and ethnic group.

Prairie French[edit]

Prairie French is spoken among Creole, Cajun and Whites residents in southwest Louisiana.

Bayou French[edit]

Bayou French is primarily spoken among white French Creoles, Whites, American Indians in southeast Louisiana. Its has many old lost Acadian phrases and sayings that appear to be crude to most other Louisiana French speakers.

Natchitoches French[edit]

Although known as Natchitoches French, this variety is spoken by not only those Metis Creoles of Natchitoches Parish. This dialect has a heavy Choctaw influence when compared to other dialects. One aspect of note is the use of "Halito", a Choctaw word for "Hello", when greetings one's elders. The numbers of this dialect dwindled greatly, and not many native speakers of this dialect exist.

Point Coupee French[edit]

Many speakers of this dialect are bilingual in both Louisiana Creole and Louisiana French-Choctaw Patois. Hence, there is a heavy presence of code-switching and lexical borrowing among Louisiana Creole, Louisiana French-Choctaw Patois, and English [10]

Code-switching and Lexicon borrowing[edit]

Code-switching occurs frequently southwestern Louisiana, especially Point Coupee. In Southwestern Louisiana it is common to hear individuals use Colonial French-Choctaw Patois and Louisiana Creole French. This is typical for many language contact situations.[11] Code-switching was once viewed as a sign of poor language skills, but it is now understood to be an indication of proficiency in the two different languages which a speaker employs. Fluent French speakers frequently alternate from French to American English or Creole, while less proficient speakers will usually not.[12]

Examples of code-switching in Louisiana French spoken by a 64 year-old woman in Pierre Part[edit]

1. Il y avait une fois il drivait, il travaillait huit jours on et six jours off. Et il drivait, tu sais, six jours off. Ca le prendrait vingt-quatre heures straight through. Et là il restait quatre jours ici et il retournait. So quand la seconde fois ç’a venu, well, il dit, “Moi, si tu viens pas,” il dit, “je vas pas.” Ca fait que là j’ai été. Boy! Sa pauvre mère. “Vas pas!”

One time he was driving, he was working eight days on and six days off. And he was driving, y’know, six days off. It would take him twenty-four hours straight through. And he would stay here four days and then go back. So when the second time came, well, he said, “If you don’t come,” he said, “I’m not going.” So I went. Boy! His poor mother. “Don’t go!” she said. “Don’t go!”[11]

2. Le samedi après-midi on allait puis…wringer le cou de la volaille. Et le dimanche, well, dimanche ça c’était notre meilleure journée qu’on avait plus de bon manger. Ma mère freezait de la volaille et on avait de la poutine aux craquettes.

Saturday afternoon we would go…wring the chicken’s neck. And on Sunday, well, Sunday, that was our best day for eating well. My mother would freeze some chicken and we would have some poutine aux craquettes.[12]

Notable Speakers[edit]

See also[edit]



  1. ^ a b "What is Cajun French?". Department of French Studies, Louisiana State University. Retrieved September 3, 2010. 
  2. ^ a b c d e Cane River Valley French – Languages and Labels – Tulane University
  3. ^ a b c Picone, Michael. "The Rise and Fall of Plantation Society French" (abstract), presented at the Creole Studies Conference: Creole Legacies, New Orleans, October 23–25, 2003.
  4. ^ Squint, Kirstin. "A Linguistic and Cultural Comparison of Haitian Creole and Louisiana Creole" Postcolonial Text, Vol 1, No 2 (2005).
  5. ^ II, John LaFleur (2014-07-02). Louisiana's Creole French People: Our Language, Food & Culture: 500 Years Of Culture (Kindle Locations 429-430). . Kindle Edition.
  6. ^ a b c d II, John LaFleur (2014-07-02). Louisiana's Creole French People: Our Language, Food & Culture: 500 Years Of Culture (Kindle Locations 275-277). . Kindle Edition.
  7. ^ a b II, John LaFleur (2014-07-02). Louisiana's Creole French People: Our Language, Food & Culture: 500 Years Of Culture (Kindle Locations 359-363). . Kindle Edition.
  8. ^ II, John LaFleur (2014-07-02). Louisiana's Creole French People: Our Language, Food & Culture: 500 Years Of Culture (Kindle Location 276). . Kindle Edition.
  9. ^ Read, William A. 1931. Louisiana-French. Revised edition. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press.
  10. ^ Klinger, Thomas A. (2003). If I Could Turn My Tongue Like That: The Creole Language of Point Coupee Parish, Louisiana
  11. ^ a b Blyth, Carl (1997). French and Creole in Louisiana. New York, N.Y.: Plenum Press. p. 40. ISBN 0-306-45464-5. 
  12. ^ a b Blyth, Carl (1997). French and Creole in Louisiana. New York, N.Y.: Plenum Press. p. 41. ISBN 0-306-45464-5. 
  13. ^


  • Brasseaux, Carl A (2005). French, Cajun, Creole, Houma: A Primer on Francophone Louisiana. Bâton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press.
  • LaFleur, John II, (2014). Louisiana's Creole French People: Our Language, Food & Culture: 500 Years Of Culture (Kindle Locations 429-430. Kindle Edition.
  • LaFleur, John II, (2012). Louisiana's French Creole Culinary & Linguistic Traditions: Facts vs. Fiction Before and Since Cajunization, 2012.
  • Klinger, Thomas A. (2003). If I Could Turn My Tongue Like That: The Creole Language of Point Coupee Parish, Louisiana ISBN 0807127795
  • Read, William A. (2008). Louisiana Place Names of Indian Origin A Collection of Words, edited and with an Introduction by George M. Riser University of Alabama Press
  • Ekberg, Carl J. (2007). Stealing Indian Women Native Slavery In The Illinois Country, University of Illinois Press
  • Bossu, Jean-Bernard, Travels To That Part of America Formerly Called Louisiana, 1768; p.197; 254-255.
  • Laussat, Pierre-Clement de, (1803) "Memoirs of My Life..." p. 55, Book Two, December 1803- July 1804. Translated by Sister Agnes-Josephine Pastwa, O.S.F., 1978.
  • Claiborne, J.F.H., Mississippi the Province, the Territory and the State with Biographical Notices of Eminent Citizens, Vol.1 publication date 1880. Caption: Louis LeFleur, father of Greenwood LeFleur

General References[edit]

  • Dictionary of Louisiana French as Spoken in Cajun, Creole, and American Indian Communities, senior editor Albert Valdman. ISBN 978-1-60473-403-4 Jackson: University Press of Mississippi, 2010.
  • Language Shift in the Coastal Marshes of Louisiana by Kevin J. Rottet ISBN 0-8204-4980-6. Peter Lang Publishing, Inc.
  • Tonnerre mes chiens! A glossary of Louisiana French figures of speech by Amanda LaFleur ISBN 0-9670838-9-3. Renouveau Publishing.
  • French, Cajun, Creole, Houma: A Primer of Francophone Louisiana by Carl A. Brasseaux ISBN 978-0807130360. Louisiana State University Press (March 1, 2005).
  • Isle of Canesby Elizabeth Shown Mills. ISBN 978-1593313067 (September 1, 2006).
  • Creole: The History and Legacy of Louisiana's Free People of Colorby Sybil Kein (Kindle Edition). ISBN 0807126012
  • Landry, Rodrigue, Réal Allard, and Jacques Henry. "French in South Louisiana: towards language loss." Journal of Multilingual and Multicultural Development (1996) 17#6 pp: 442-468.
  • Malveaux, Vivian (2009). Living Creole and Speaking It Fluently. AuthorHouse. 
  • Kein, Sybil (2009). Creole: the history and legacy of Louisiana's free people of color. Louisiana State University Press. 
  • Jolivette, Andrew (2007). Louisiana Creoles: Cultural Recovery and Mixed-Race Native American Identity. Lexington Books. 
  • Gehman, Mary (2009). The Free People of Color of New Orleans: An Introduction. Margaret Media, Inc. 
  • Clark, Emily (2013). The Strange History of the American Quadroon: Free Women of Color in the Revolutionary Atlantic World. The University of North Carolina Press. 
  • Dominguez, Virginia (1986). White by Definition: Social Classification in Creole Louisiana. Rutgers University Press. 
  • Hirsch, Arnold R. (1992). Creole New Orleans: Race and Americanization. Louisiana State University Press.