While speaking of the French language in Louisiana, it is necessary to say a few words about that very peculiar dialect, if it may be called so, spoken by the negroes in lower Louisiana. It is quite interesting to note how the ignorant and simple Africans have formed an idiom entirely by the sound, and we can understand, by studying the transformation of the French into the Creole dialect, the process by which Latin, spoken by the uncivilized Gauls, became our own French. However ridiculous the Creole dialect may appear, it is of importance to the student of philology; for its structure serves to strengthen the great laws of language, and its history tends to prove how dialects have sprung from one original language and spread all over the world.
To the negroes of Louisiana may be attributed the same characteristics that Prof. James A. Harrison recognizes in the American blacks of the South, that is to say, humor and a naivete bordering on childishness, together with a great facility for imitating the sounds of nature and a wonderful aptitude for music. Their language partakes necessarily of their character, and is sometimes quaint, and always simple. Their plantation songs are quite poetical, and I may say, charming in their oddity.
Of course there is no established orthography for the Creole patois, and this obscure dialect of a Romance tongue is written, like the Spanish, without regard to etymology and simply by the sound, though the letters, in passing from the language into the dialect, have not kept their original value. It is this misconception in hearing that has given rise in the patois to the word-decay so important in the formation of dialects, but we may also observe in the language of the negroes a great many examples of abbreviations due entirely to the want of energy of the person speaking, a principle well established by linguists, and of great value. The negro does not wish to say embarrassé, embéter, appeler, entendre, vouloir, aujour-d' hui, écorcher, là-dedans, capable, but will say: 'bété, pélé, 'tendé, 'oulé, 'jordi, 'corché, ladan, capab', cutting off as many letters and even syllables as possible, as we have done with the Latin for our French.
The process of agglutination is very frequent in the Creole patois, and we see such expressions as in nomme (un homme) and dé nomme in dézef (un oeuf), dé lacloche (deux cloches), troi dézo (trois os), in lari (une rue), which may appear very strange, but are not more so than our deux lierres and le lendemain.
The genitive of the Old French exists purely in the Creole patois, and if the student of la langue d' Gïl finds it strange to see such expressions as "en son père verger," he will be quite astonished to hear the Louisiana negro say: choal File mouri, which might indicate that Jules was a horse, if we did not know that he was the owner of the animal.
My friend, Dr. Alfred Mercier, even says that there is a dative in the patois, imported by the blacks from San Domingo, such as zié à moin, my eyes, tchor à li, his heart. I believe, however, that this mode of expression is very rare, and that the possessive adjectives are much more used: mo zié so tchor.
With regard to the phonetics of the Creole dialect, we may say that the letters have not changed as much as in Negro-English.
a is pronounced :
1. a in French: asteur, anon (allons).
2. o in French: moman, popa.
1. e mute in French: nomme, fame.
2. é mute in French: 'pélé, kéke (quelque), téte.
3. i mute in French: piti, chimin, li (le).
4. in mute in French: donnin (donné).
as i in French: 'rivé (arrivé).
1. o in French, côte.
2. o in French word cotte: rose.
3. i in French: michié (monsieur).
1. i in French: lari, pini, vini, jige.
2. ou n French: la nouitte, tou souite.
3. oua n French: mo oua ça (jai vu cela).
1. (yeux) in French: bayou. as vowel.
1. é in French: frét (froid) drét (droit).
2. oi in French: dézoi (des oies).
3. oin in French: moin (moi).
4. o in French: zozo (oiseau).
1. ai in French: lair (l'air).
2. in in French: connin (connais).
1. ai in French: bonair (bonheur), lonair (l'honneur).
2. é in French: vié (vieux).
o in French: 'jordi (aujourd'hui).
au in French: au bor dolo (au bord de l'eau),
é in French: ser (sœur).
o in French: tchor (cœur).
Of the nasal sounds, an and in are as in French; on is pronounced:
1. on in French: bonjou (bonjour), moune (monde).
2. o in French: mo, to, so (mon, ton son).
un is in in French, pronounced inne, when it represents the numeral adjective un.
is as in French.
1. tch: tchor (cœur).
2. k in French: connin (connu)
3. c in French: cila (celui-là).
1. d in French: donnin (donné).
2. dj in French: Djé (Diéu).
f is as in French.
g and J
offen like z: manzé (mangé), zonglé (jonglé).
is always mute, and consequently disappears in writing: so lonair (son honneur).
k, m, n, p
are as in French.
1.y: yé (les).
2. n : anon (allons) cf. Old French aner, whence aler and aller.
generally disappears, as pou for pour, nég' for négre, vende for vendre, or comes before the vowel, as dromi for dormi.
1. s. in French: so.
2. ch in French: chongé (songé).
1. t in French: tombé.
2. in French: to kenne (le tien).
3. tch in French: tchombo (tenu), and is always pronounced at the end of words.
q and x
are not necessary, as k takes the place of q, and the Creole patois being written phonetically does not need x, which represents cs or gs.
I, V in French: vini.
3. w in English: li oua (il a vu).
z in French (zié) (see vowels above),
is pronounced as in French, but is used to mark the plural, the sound of the plural s being represented by z: dé dézo
z in French: zié. as consonant.
ez disappears, as that sound is represented by é.
By ALCEE FORTIER, Professor of the French Language and Literature
Tulane University of Louisiana
Published by F. F. Hansell & Bro., New Orleans, 1894
As Written: Webmaster is not fluent in French, it has been a while since that French Course in College. :o)