Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Linguistics (Interdepartmental Program)

First Advisor

Lyle Campbell


The goals of this dissertation are: (1) to describe the Brule dialect, (2) to investigate aspects of language death, and (3) to provide important information to the area of Hispanic dialectology. The vestigial Spanish dialect spoken by the Brule dwellers of Ascension Parish, Louisiana is at the brink of linguistic extinction. The "Brule dwellers" have remained isolated from other Spanish-speaking groups since they arrived in Louisiana from the Canary Islands in the late 1700's. The specific phonological, morphological and syntactic characteristics of this unique variety of Spanish are documented here. Although the close relationship of Brule Spanish to the dialects of St. Bernard Parish, Louisiana and the Canary Islands is evident, this dissertation points out various features of Brule that distinguish it from these and all other varieties of Spanish. This documentation provides information that is relevant to critical outstanding issues in Hispanic dialectology, and several of these questions have been addressed here. Because this dialect is in the final stages of what is commonly known as "language death", and its speakers have remained relatively isolated from speakers of other varieties of Spanish for two hundred years, the case of Brule Spanish offers an unusual opportunity to investigate commonly held assumptions regarding the nature of structural changes normally associated with vestigial languages. Like its sister dialect in St. Bernard Parish, Brule Spanish exhibits many examples of extreme reduction in the areas of phonology, morphology, syntax, and stylistic options. Nevertheless, a comparison of the two dialects reveals that in each case there is variation in the nature and the relative extent of change in each. Negative attitudes on the part of Acadian and Anglo residents of Ascension Parish towards the Brule dwellers have had a strong negative impact on the survival of this dialect. These attitudes, which prevail even today, help to explain the social stigma attached to speaking Spanish or claiming any connection with the Brules. In addition to community attitudes, various other social factors such as education, military service, and economic opportunity that have contributed to the demise of the Brule dialect are investigated here.