The Sociolinguistic Situation of Cajun French

The Effects of Language Shift and Language Loss
  • Carl Blyth
Part of the Topics in Language and Linguistics book series (TLLI)


Language shift presents a “protean challenge” for the sociolinguist because the pieces of the puzzle are numerous and constantly changing (Dressler, 1981). For example, virtually all the important categories relevant to the study of language shift in French Louisiana as elsewhere are nondiscrete and dynamic; among such categories are language attitudes, linguistic proficiency, group membership, and dialectal variation. Therefore, any analysis of speech communities currently undergoing shift from Cajun French to English is best regarded with circumspection. This caveat is especially pertinent given the dearth of published research on language shift in French Louisiana.1 The few published studies of Cajun French have largely focused on the linguistic system of older fluent speakers (Brown, 1988; Conwell & Juilland, 1963; Oukada, 1977; Phillips, 1936). Earlier linguists did not think to use partially fluent speakers as informants, since their speech deviated from the object of study, the fluent norm. But as a leading researcher in the field of intergenerational language shift recently observed: “The very deviance which was off-putting at one time is what we look to now for clues to organizational principles in language and cognition generally” (Dorian, 1989). In fact, endangered languages are increasingly becoming the object of much-deserved attention as the urgency of the situation becomes clear: It is widely estimated that 50% of the world’s languages will become extinct during the next century.2


Speech Community Language Shift Code Switching Language Attitude Fluent Norm 
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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 1997

Authors and Affiliations

  • Carl Blyth
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of French and ItalianUniversity of Texas at AustinAustinUSA

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