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Cajun English, or Cajun Vernacular 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.
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.
Cajun English distinguishes itself with some of the following phonological features:
- The deletion of any word's final consonant (or consonant cluster) is common. Therefore, hand becomes [hæ̃], food becomes [fuː], rent becomes [ɹɪ̃], New York becomes [nuˈjɔə], and so on.
- The typical American gliding vowels [oʊ] (as in boat), [eɪ] (as in bait), [ʊu] (as in boot), [aʊ~æʊ] (as in bout), [äɪ] (as in bite), and [ɔɪ] (as in boy) have reduced glides or none at all: respectively, [oː], [eː], [uː], [aː~æː], [äː], and [ɔː]. 
- Many vowels which are distinct in General American English are pronounced the same way due to a merger; for example, the words hill and heel are homophones, both being pronounced /hɪɹl/.
- 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 to speakers of other English varieties.
- 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)|
|Think||Fink or Tink|
Cajun English vowels
Dress: [ɛ] or [æ]
Square: [ɛ] or [æ]
Start: [ɑ] or [a]
North: [ɔə] or.[ɔɹ]
Force: [ɔə] or [ɔɹ]
Cure: [uə] or [ʊə]
Nurse: [ʌə] or [ʌɹ]
Price/Prize: [ɑɪ] or [a:]
Mouth:[aʊ] or [a:]
happY: [ɪ] or [i]
Mirror/Nearer: [i] or [ɪ]
Orange: [ɑ] or [ɔ]
French-influenced Cajun vocabulary
- 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
|This section does not cite any references (sources). (June 2015)|
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:
"Come see" is the equivalent of saying "come here" regardless of whether or not there is something to "see." This phrasing may have its roots in "ici" (pronounced ee-see), the French word for here.
Save the dishes
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/Run down at the store
"Getting/Running 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 run/get down with me?" One can get down at any place, not just the store. The phrase "get down" 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
"Makin' groceries" refers to the act of buying groceries, rather than that of manufacturing them. The confusion originates from the direct translation of the American French phrase "faire l'épicerie" which is understood by speakers to mean "to do the grocery shopping." "Faire" as used in the French language can mean either "to do" or "to make." 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
- 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.
- In the television series Treme, Cajun English is often used by most of the characters.
- In the television series True Blood, the character René Lernier was introduced with a 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.
- In the television series Combat! (1962–1967), the character Pfc. Paul "Caje" Lemay is a French-speaking Cajun soldier.
- Swamp people on History Channel Troy Landry speaks with a strong accent[clarification needed]
- Spoken by chef and humorist Justin Wilson on his cooking shows for PBS and his comedy albums.
- In the Heat of the Night: Season 2, Episode 12; "A.K.A. Kelly Kay"; Jude Thibodeaux ( Kevin Conway ) comes to Sparta in search of a former prostitute he controlled in New Orleans. Cajun accent is prominent.
Several characters of Gabriel Knight: Sins of the Fathers, particularly the narrator, have Cajun accents. Some characters even use Cajun French phrases.
- Do You Speak American . Sea to Shining Sea . American Varieties . Cajun | PBS
- Dubois, Sylvia and Barbara Horvath (2004). "Cajun Vernacular English: phonology." In Bernd Kortmann and Edgar W. Schneider (Ed). A Handbook of Varieties of English: A Multimedia Reference Tool. New York: Mouton de Gruyter. p. 409-10.
- Acadia, former home of the Cajuns, located in what is now eastern Canada
- Acadiana, A 22-parish region in southern Louisiana
- Acadian French, the dialect of French from which Cajun French derives
- American English
- Cajun French
- Dialects of the English Language
- Franglais, a term sometimes used to describe a mixed vernacular of French and English
- Louisiana Creole French, a French-based creole which has had some influence on Cajun French and English
- Yat, another Louisiana dialect of English