Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


French Studies

Document Type



More often than not, the linguistic research of Cajun French rests primarily at the morphological and syntactic level or focuses on aspects of culture and identity. It was thus my goal here to examine Cajun French at the phonological level. More specifically, I examined two phonological phenomena in Cajun French: assibilation and affrication. Both of these features may result when the dental consonants /t/ and /d/ precede either of the high vowels /i/ and /y/. Under these constraints, therefore, words such as petit (“small”) and dire (“to say”) are pronounced as [pitsi] and [dzir] when assibilated and [pitʃi] and [dʒir] when affricated. Affrication of dental stops is a well-attested feature of Acadian French in Canada and is a purported feature of Cajun French, while a high rate of assibilation is common in Quebec French. Assibilation, furthermore, is rarely mentioned when discussing Cajun French. I used recorded interviews of 60 individuals from the Cajun French corpus, created by Dubois in 1997, to analyze the presence and variation of these features in four Louisiana parishes. My first goal was to determine where in Louisiana one finds these features. Secondly, I analyzed which linguistic factors affect assibilation and affrication. I found that voicing context plays a role in determining variant production in certain settings, particularly with assibilation. For affrication, I found that syllable position is actually an indicator of lexicalization in Cajun French. Nowhere is this lexicalization more evident than in the categorical affrication of cadien (“Cajun”). Thirdly, I examined the effects of certain social factors on variant usage. Results showed that gender affects variant use, with women generally preferring the occlusive ‘norm’ while men demonstrated greater variation. Location was the most significant factor to the production of both assibilation and affrication. St. Landry and Avoyelles had higher rates of both features than Lafourche and Vermilion, for example, where the features were extremely rare. Finally, variant rates increased among younger speakers despite an overall attrition and leveling of Cajun French occurring in these communities due to language shift and language death.



Document Availability at the Time of Submission

Release the entire work immediately for access worldwide.

Committee Chair

Dubois, Sylvie