Title: Regional phonological variants in Louisiana speech
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Permanent Link: http://ufdc.ufl.edu/UF00097687/00001
 Material Information
Title: Regional phonological variants in Louisiana speech
Physical Description: xvii, 251 leaves : illus. ; 28 cm.
Language: English
Creator: Rubrecht, August Weston, 1941-
Publication Date: 1971
Copyright Date: 1971
Subject: English language -- Dialects -- Louisiana   ( lcsh )
English thesis Ph. D
Dissertations, Academic -- English -- UF
Genre: bibliography   ( marcgt )
non-fiction   ( marcgt )
Thesis: Thesis - University of Florida.
Bibliography: Bibliography: leaves 244-250.
Additional Physical Form: Also available on World Wide Web
General Note: Manuscript copy.
General Note: Vita.
 Record Information
Bibliographic ID: UF00097687
Volume ID: VID00001
Source Institution: University of Florida
Holding Location: University of Florida
Rights Management: All rights reserved by the source institution and holding location.
Resource Identifier: alephbibnum - 000565689
oclc - 13573710
notis - ACZ2108


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August Weston Rubrecht

A Dissertation Presented to the Graduate Council of the
University of Florida in Partial Fulfillment of the
Requirements for the Degree of Doctor of Philosophy



I would like to thank Dr. F. G. Cassidy, Jr., director of

the Dictionary of American Regional English, for permission to use

the tape recordings on which this study is based, and I want to

thank him and the Dictionary staff for doing what they could from

such a distance to make the field work as pleasant as possible.

I especially recall Mrs. Laura Ducker's cheering notes and letters,

and Dr. James Hartman's consideration in assigning additional

communities once those in Louisiana had been finished. The names

of all those in Louisiana who helped make the field work easier

and the field worker more comfortable would comprise a list too

long to give here. It would include all my informants, not just

those who made tapes, and all those who helped direct me to prospec-

tive informants,together with many others whose hospitality I

enjoyed. I am especially grateful to the William R. Van Ripers

at LSU in Baton Rouge and to Miller Williams, Thomas Preston,

and John Mosier and their families at Loyola in New Orleans for

their hospitality and assistance.

In the writing of the dissertation, I gratefully acknowledge

the advice and suggestions of my chairman, Dr. John Algeo, who has

helped me avoid or correct a great many errors, omissions, and

infelicitous turns of phrase. Committee members Dr. Richard Dwyer

and Dr. J. Wayne Conner also offered helpful suggestions which have

been incorporated into the dissertation. The many flaws which

remain are my own.

Mrs. Carolyn A. Lyons of the Professional Typing Service

deserves praise for her careful supervision of the typing and

collating necessary to bring the dissertation to its final form.

The drafting of tables and figures was done by Gary Sanders. No

one has been of more help than my wife,Lois, whose clerical

assistance and moral support have been indispensable in putting the

dissertation together and keeping me from falling apart.

I am sure that all those people just mentioned, however

learned or however skilled or however dear they may be, realize

that my fundamental debt of gratitude is owed to my informants.

Only the necessity of preserving their privacy prevents me from

thanking them each by name.



ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS ............................................. ii

LIST OF TABLES ................................................. v

LIST OF FIGURES ................ .............................. vii

KEY TO SYMBOLS ................................................ x

ABSTRACT ........................ ............................. xv


I. THE BACKGROUNDS ....................................... 1

II. COMMUNITIES AND INFORMANTS ........................... 48

Northern Louisiana ............................... 57
Florida Parishes .................................. 78
French Louisiana .................................. 86
New Orleans ....................................... 98
Summary ......................................... 104

III. INDIVIDUAL SPEECH PATTERNS ........................ 109

IV. PHONOLOGICAL VARIANTS ................................ 147

Prosody .......................................... 147
Consonants ........................................ 149
Free Vowels ....................................... 165
Checked Vowels .................................... 193
Vowels Before the Retracted Consonant ............. 217
Unstressed Vowels ................................. 229
Summary and Conclusion ............................ 235

BIBLIOGRAPHY ................................................. 244

BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH .......................................... 251


Table Page

1. Informants by Type and Age ............................ 105

2. The Vowel Quadrangle .................................. 111

3. LA 8, Lake Providence ................................. 119

4. LA 12, Vienna ......................................... 120

5. LA 17, Mansfield ...................................... 121

6. LA 2, Columbia ........................................ 122

7. LA 1, Columbia ........................................ 123

8. LA 10, Jonesville ..................................... 124

9. LA 11, Jonesville ..................................... 125

10. LA 14, Natchitoches ................................... 126

11. LA 15, LeCompte ....................................... 127

12. LA 16, LeCompte ....................................... 128

13. LA 29, DeQuincy ....................................... 129

14. LA 28, DeQuincy ....................................... 130

15. LA 3, St. Francisville ................................ 131

16. LA 5, St. Francisville ................................ 132

17. LA 7, Clinton ......................................... 133

18. LA 6, Clinton ......................................... 134

19. LA 40, Hammond ........................................ 135

20. LA 33, St. Martinville ................................ 136

21. LA 34, St. Martinville ................................ 137


Table Page

22. LA 25, Franklin ...................................... 138

23. LA 20, Donaldsonville ............................... 139

24. LA 31, Cameron ....................................... 140

25. LA 37, Grand Isle .................................... 141

26. LA 36, Grand Isle .................................... 142

27. LA 23, New Orleans .................................... 143

28. LA 22, New Orleans ................................... 144

29. LA 42, The Irish Channel ............................. 145

30. LA 46, The Irish Channel ............................ 146


Figure Page

1. Louisiana, showing topographical divisions and
some major towns, cities, and rivers ............... 5

2. Ratio of Catholics to Protestants ..................... 27

3. Previous dialect studies in Louisiana ................. 44

4. Communities studied ................................... 58

5. The initial consonant of such words as
the, those, and there .............................. 153

6. The initial consonant of such words as
thing, through, and three and the
final consonant of fourth .......................... 154

7. The initial consonant or consonant cluster
of such words as where, when, and whip ............. 156

8. The retracted consonant of such words as
here, marsh, and forty ............................. 161

9. The vowel of such words as me, street,
read, and people ................................... 166

10. The vowel of such words as way, make,
grade, and maybe .................................. 169

11. The vowel of such words as stir, church,
word, squirrel, and thirty ......................... 172

12. The syllabic nucleus of such words as
bar, start, and market ............................. 175

13. The vowel of such words as right,
wife, and nice ..................................... 177

14. The vowel of such words as I, fry,
time, and ride .................................... 178

LIST OF FIGURES---ontinued

Figure Page

15. The vowel of such words as boy,
choice, poison, and oysters ........................ 180

16. Mid central to low central beginning point
for the vowel of such words as point,
join, boil, and oil ............................... 181

17. The vowel of such words as plow,
loud, down, south, and powder ...................... 185

18. The vowel of such words as law,
dog, all, salt, and daughter ................... ..... 187

19. The vowel of such words as hoe,
road, both, and over .............................. 189

20. The vowel of such words as through,
boot, food, and school ............................. 192

21. The vowel of such words as bit, sick,
mill, in, and pickle ............................... 194

22. The vowel of such words as leg, head,
yes, tell, and better .............................. 196

23. The vowel of such words as bad, back,
pan, lag, and ladder .............................. 199

24. The vowel of such words as half,
grass, and chance .................................. 200

25. The vowel of such words as think,
thing, and finger .................................. 203

26. The vowel of such words as men,
ten, and center .................................... 204

27. The vowel of such words as lock,
pot, pond, and bother ............................. 208

28. The vowel of such words as up,
run, hush, jug, and hung ........................... 212



Figure Page

29. The vowel of such words as put,
bull, book, and sugar .............................. 216

30. The vowel nucleus of such words
as deer, here, and near ............................ 219

31. The vowel nucleus of such words
as chair, bear, and care ........................... 221

32. The vowel nucleus of such words
as horse and order ................................. 223

33. The vowel nucleus of such words
as door and coarse ................................. 224

34. The vowel in the final syllable
of such words as never and finger .................. 233


Phonetic Symbols

Vowel Symbols


















Key Word (or Explanation)


(centralized [i])


(centralized [I])

French bli



bird (in "r-less" speech)

(rounded [3])


(between [le] and [a])


(between [a] and [3])


(between [A] and [a])

(between [A] and [V])


French chaud


(centralized [V])


(centralized [U])



Vowel diacritics

[U] after symbol

[<] after symbol

[A] after symbol

[v] after symbol

[:] after symbol

['] above symbol

[f] above symbol

[(] below symbol

Consonant Symbols




Modification indicated






primary stress

secondary stress

lightly articulated

Key Word (or Explanation)





American English



glottall stop)

Spanish cabo









German ach












Consonant diacritics

[:] after symbol

['] after symbol

[-] after symbol

Modification indicated




[.] below symbol

[^] below symbol

[ ] below symbol

dental articulation

slight voicing added

syllabic consonant

Phonemic Symbols

Vowel Symbols










/ /


Key Word







park (in "r-less" speech)










Consonant Symbols
The same symbols are used for consonant phonemes as for consonant phones,
except that they are enclosed in virgules // rather than brackets [] and
the symbols [ -, ?, ', 3, X] are omitted.


Other Symbols


Between items


etymological /r/

varies to

Abstract of Dissertation Presented to the Graduate Council of the
University of Florida in Partial Fulfillment of the Requirements
for the Degree of Doctor of Philosophy



August Weston Rubrecht

August, 1971

Chairman: Dr. John Algeo
Major Department: English

The study is based on tape-recorded conversations of twenty-

eight informants in eighteen Louisiana communities made for the

Dictionary of American Regional English. On the basis of settlement

history and previous dialect studies, dealing with vocabulary,

Louisiana is divided into four regions: northern Louisiana, the

Florida Parishes, French Louisiana, and New Orleans. The settlement

history of each community is briefly traced, and the family back-

ground, occupation, and approximate social standing of each informant

is given, together with some mention of outstanding speech charac-

teristics. All informants were native English speakers; they

ranged in age from eleven to eighty-eight years and in educational

level from grammar school to graduate school. Numerically, the

distribution of informants was weighted toward those sixty or older

and those with relatively little formal schooling. Tables are

provided illustrating the range of vowel articulations found on

the recording of each informant.

Discussion is largely limited to those segmental phonemes

which show significant variation; the aim is to describe phonetic

features characteristic of each region. Maps are included for all

stressed vowel phonemes and for a few consonants. In the absence

of phonological distinctions, northern Louisiana and the Florida

Parishes are classed together as Anglo Louisiana. The consonants

showing the greatest degree of variation are /0 / and / '/, the

initial consonant or consonant cluster in words like where and whip,

and postvocalic /r /, the treatment of which varies in most commu-

nities and many idiolects. Among the free vowels, the phonetic

realizations of / e, , o, K / are generally upglided diphthongs

in Anglo Louisiana and monophthongs in French Louisiana; New Orleans

speech shows characteristics of both regions. The vowel nuclei

/al, 0, aLu/ show varying degrees of regional variation.

Variation in /Q/ and /3 / is related to that in the treatment of

postvocalic /r/. Checked vowels show fewer differences between

speech regions than free vowels do. In Anglo Louisiana /A / is

relatively high and back; contrasts between front checked vowels

are reduced before nasals; and /ae / may have a rising and fronting

offglide in certain environments. The development of words which

in Middle English had short /3 / is inconsistent in a band across

south central Louisiana. To facilitate discussion, vowels in words

which etymologically have a vowel followed by /r/ are considered

to be in a separate subsystem. Vowel contrasts are reduced in that

environment, and usual articulatory placement is not the same as

before other consonants. The low back vowels present especially

difficult problems here. Most unstressed vowels fall naturally

into one of three groups: /I / or / / or / ,/, the last of which

is limited in its occurrence in the same way as postvocalic / /.

Additionally, a few distinct back vowels were found in unstressed


Patterns characteristic of French Louisiana have not spread

far outside it; on the other hand, the speech of informants in

French Louisiana communities with a history of early settlement by

native English speakers includes many features characteristic of

Anglo Louisiana. In several respects, the English of New Orleans

follows the usage of French Louisiana; in others it is more like

that of Anglo Louisiana. Variation by age and social level is

difficult to abstract from the data; a few trends are tentatively

described, but it would require a larger number of informants to

separate them from regional trends. Overall, phonological patterns

in Louisiana are highly complex and subject to numerous exceptions.



Climate and the lay of the land have no direct effect on the

way people talk except insofar as they use different words for dif-

ferent topographical features or make comments appropriate to their

own kind of weather which may not fit someone else's weather at all.

But the speech of people who live on high ground is no more nor less

nasal, on the average, than that of people who live in swamps, nor

do people in warm climates invariably drawl. We talk the way we do

because we do our best to sound like the people around us-at the very

least enough like them to be understood, and preferably enough like

them not to be laughed at. In our very early years, the years when

basic speech patterns are formed, the people around us are our parents,

brothers, sisters, neighbors, grandparents, and so forth, but chiefly

our parents. Later on we include teachers and classmates among those

around us, though we do not accord them all equal importance; in

general, we would rather sound like our classmates than like our

teachers. Later still we include the people with whom we work,

trade, and attend social and civic functions. All of those people

learned to talk from the people around them, chiefly their parents,

who learned to talk chiefly from their parents before them, and so

forth. If two groups, therefore, whose speech is noticeably different

establish two communities between which there is little or no

- 1 -

- 2 -

communication, the ancestral differences will be preserved, and the

speech of those communities will remain different as long as they

remain isolated from each other and from any normalizing outside


On the other hand, although our imitation of our parents is

nearly always good enough to pass muster, it is never perfect, and

over a period of generations enough drift can take place that the

speech of great-grandchildren is noticeably different from the speech

of great-grandparents in some respects even though the great majority

of speech characteristics are preserved. So if two groups whose

speech is the same establish two communities between which there is

little or no communication, enough ancestral similarities will remain

that it will be possible to recognize a relationship between them

generations later. However, the drift away from perfect imitation of

the original group will not be the same in both communities as long

as they remain isolated, and it is likely that there will be noticeable

differences in their speech after a few generations. The language of

any speech community at any one time, then, is a development of the

speech brought to that community by its linguistic ancestors as it

has been modified by successive generations and as it has been influ-

enced by late arrivals and by contact with other speech communities.

Strictly speaking, it is possible and often desirable to study

the speech of a particular area, large or small, without regard for

any factors other than the language itself. But in a study devoted

- 3 -

primarily to regional language differences, it is helpful to relate

those differences to the factors which caused them or allowed them

to develop. Those factors depend on settlement history, and settlement

history depends on politics, climate, and the lay of the land.

Therefore, this study of the English language spoken in

Louisiana begins with a general description of the land within the

state boundaries. The land may have no direct effect on the language,

but it does help to determine where successive groups of newcomers

settle and what routes they take to get there. Rivers serve as

avenues along their length, speeding commerce and promoting communi-

cation between settlements along their banks. On the other hand,

very often they form barriers to travel across them, isolating commu-

nities away from their banks on opposite sides. Rich land easily

reached commonly attracts the first immigrants available. Poor land

difficult of access may be settled only when a later wave of immigration,

perhaps from a different source, creates a new demand for homesites.

To these geographical factors, government adds political ones, encour-

aging settlers from one source, banning those from another, and

assigning a particular area to those from a third. Out of the balance

of these trends and influences comes what might be termed the

character of the population of a given region; language both influences

and is influenced by that character.

The State of Louisiana lies in the south central United States

at the southern end of the great Mississippi Valley. Shaped roughly

-4 -

like a boot with the toe pointed eastward (see Figure 1), it is

bounded on the south by the Gulf of Mexico, on the west by Texas,

on the north by Arkansas, and on the east by Mississippi. The

richest and generally the most thickly populated areas of the state

are the river valleys. The flood plain of the Mississippi extends

from the northeastern corner of the state southwards through New

Orleans to the Gulf of Mexico, and that of the Red River runs from

the northwest corner of the state southeastwards to join the

Mississippi near the midpoint of its course through the state, forming

a broad, slanting Y of rich, silty land that is renewed every time

the rivers flood. Native timber in the river bottoms is cypress,

gum, and oak, but most of the timber has been cleared now to make

room for crops, and levees have been erected to hold back the floods.

In the southern part of the state, where the climate is warm enough,

sugar cane is the principal crop on this kind of land. Further north,

where cotton was once almost the only crop, soybeans now cover as much

acreage as cotton and seem to be gaining in importance. This kind

of land was cultivated most profitably in colonial times by slave

labor, and the plantation style of agriculture became dominant there.

Although machines have now taken over much of the work formerly done

by slaves and mules, large plantations still take up a substantial

percentage of farming land and Negroes still outnumber whites in

most parts, so that the delta land is often called Louisiana's Black



e0 Swamp and River Bottom
M Piney Woods
Q Marshland
Q Prairie

Figure 1. Louisiana, showing topographical
divisions and some major towns, cities, and

-6 -

South and west of New Orleans, the Black Belt is widened

considerably by a number of streams leading away from the Mississippi

on their own branching courses toward the gulf and by independent

bayous whose banks rise far enough above the surrounding swamps to

support agriculture. An odd feature of the landscape, more noticeable

the farther south you go, is that the land slopes away from the river-

bank, so that very often cultivation is possible only within a half

mile or so of the river or bayou on either side. After that the

land becomes too swampy for crops and since the water level in the

swamp is almost as variable as that in the streams, the fields are

protected from flooding by levees on both sides. Outside these

cultivated areas, the swamps of southern Louisiana are as truly

wilderness as any area in the country.

In the northern part of the state, between the limbs of the

Y formed by the flood plains of the Mississippi and Red Rivers, is a

roughly triangular area of fairly high ground. The land is sandy

and rolling, with red clay subsoil. It was originally forested with

pine or a mixture of oak and pine. All the virgin timber has been

cut, but much of the area has been reseeded to longleaf, loblolly,

and slash pines, so that forestry is still important there. Land

not covered by extensive government- or corporation-owned forests

is given over to small farms. Plantations were never profitable

there although a great deal of cotton was grown on homesteads other-

wise devoted to subsistence farming.

A similar stretch of piney woods forms an irregular crescent

along the Texas border from near Shreveport, in the northwest corner,

to just northwest of Lake Charles, near the southwest corner. Pine

forests in this section were logged so thoroughly that the parishes

(corresponding to counties in other states) along the Sabine River

are often called the "cut-over parishes." They have been reseeded,

though, and by 1968 they were mostly piney woods again. Some areas

are still bare enough to be used as pasture for sheep and cattle,

and large farms in this section are called "ranches," not "plantations."

Subsistence farming was the way of life of most of the first settlers.

South and southeast of this stretch of piney woods lies an

extensive prairie which reaches from the Texas line just north of

Cameron Parish eastward to the Mississippi flood plain some forty

miles west of Baton Rouge. This area is laced with cypress swamps

and river bottoms, but stretches of plain grassland are surprisingly

wide. The whole area is suitable for grazing, and has long been one

of the chief rice-producing areas of the country.

South of this, in a wide swath along the coast, are coastal

marshes so nearly level that their gradient must be measured in

inches rather than feet, even for distances of several miles. Around

the edges of the fan-shaped Mississippi Delta south of New Orleans,

extending roughly from the Atchafalaya Bayou eastward and northward

around to Lake Pontchartrain, these marshes are built up from recent

alluvial deposits and stretch farther into the sea every year. Like

- 8 -

land in the swamps further north, the ground slopes away from stream

banks, and may be built up enough along the Mississippi and the

larger bayous to support the cultivation of sugar cane. Otherwise

the inhabitants of the marshlands support themselves by catching and

selling muskrats, nutria, and crawfish in the marsh and by guiding

duckhunters through it. West of the Atchafalaya, the alluvial

deposits are older and have been augmented by the action of waves

on the gulf, which has left long, low ridges in the marsh, called

cheniares because they were originally covered with oaks, called

ch1nes in French. Cultivation of crops is not practical here, but

cattle grazewidely on the marsh grass. All along the gulf coast,

shrimp, oyster, and menhaden fishing are important occupations, and

oil, salt, and gas deposits are contributing to increased industri-


North of New Orleans lies Lake Pontchartrain, and north of

Lake Pontchartrain and east of the Mississippi River lies another

stretch of rolling ground originally forested with a mixture of oak

and pine. In this area plantations and small farms may be found

side by side--neither system seems to dominate, although some of

Louisiana's finest antebellum plantation homes may be found there.

Around the northern shore of Lake Pontchartrain truck farming is

common. The whole area was once a part of the province of West

Florida and is consequently usually called the Florida Parishes.

-9 -

Such a rich and varied land, lying at the mouth of one of the

largest rivers in the world, was sure to attract explorers and adven-

turers eager to claim its wealth for themselves and their countrymen.

The remnants of Hernando de Soto's Spanish expedition were probably

the first white men to enter the region now know as Louisiana, but

it was Pierre de La Salle, a Frenchman, who claimed it for his

country. Since then, men of many other lands have come, either to

establish permanent homes or to get rich and leave, and the governments

which have ruled the land have been almost as varied as the people

who settled it.

It was in 1682 that La Salle, on behalf of France, laid claim

to the land drained by the Ohio, Mississippi, and Missouri Rivers,

together with territory encompassing the present states of Alabama

and Mississippi, the western half of Georgia, and the northwest third

of Florida. The area of this original claim was almost half that of

the present contiguous United States. Actual French settlement of

this vast territory was confined almost entirely to the southeastern

third of the present state of Louisiana, however.

On November 3, 1762, Louisiana was ceded to Spain. At the

same time Great Britain acquired the rights to all of the original

claim lying east of the Mississippi River. Details of the trans-

action were kept secret until 1764 and no Spanish governor was

provided until 1766. When the United States gained independence in

1783, the new nation acquired that part of the original claim then

- 10 -

held by Great Britain except for a strip along the gulf coast south

of latitude 31, which was ceded back to Spain; this area was called

West Florida, and extended from the River of Palms, south of the

present site of Tampa, westward to the Mississippi River. In 1800

Spain retroceded to France all of the colony of Louisiana, except

for West Florida, by the secret Treaty of San Ildefonso. Terms of

this treaty were not made known until just before the famous

Louisiana Purchase of 1803, by which the United States acquired the

colony of Louisiana. After the West Florida Rebellion of 1810 that

part of West Florida between the Mississippi and Perdido Rivers was

added, later to be divided among the states of Alabama, Mississippi,

and Louisiana. Subsequent boundary settlements established the

northern boundary of the state of Louisiana at 330 north latitude and

extended its western border to the Sabine River. Statehood was

granted in 1812.1

IMost of the information in this paragraph and the one
preceding it can be found in concise form in Frank Bond, Historical
Sketch of "Louisiana" and the Louisiana Purchase (Washington, 1912).
See also Binger Hermann, The Louisiana Purchase and Our Title West
of the Rocky Mountains (Washington, 1900). Detailed accounts may be
found by checking under relevant dates in Alcee Fortier, A History of
Louisiana (New York, 1904), and other standard histories. A good
general view is presented in Edwin A. Davis, Louisiana the Pelican
State (Baton Rouge, 1959). For details relating to West Florida,
see especially Frederick William Williamson and George T. Goodman,
Eastern Louisiana: A History of the Watershed of the Ouachita River
and the Florida Parishes, eds. Frederick William Williamson and
George T. Goodman (Louisville, Ky., Historical Record Association, n. d.).

- 11 -

The present borders of the state, then, enclose only a

fraction of LaSalle's original claim, and only a slightly larger

fraction of the American Louisiana Purchase. But the original areas

of heavy French settlement are all within the state, together with

some very old English-speaking settlements and large expanses of

land that were settled in the general westward migration of Americans

from the thirteen original colonies. Furthermore, the metropolis of

New Orleans has always attracted more immigrants from foreign countries

than any other city in the South, and the southern, predominantly

French part of the state generally has been hospitable to European

immigrants. Before tracing the settlement history and cultural

contributions of each immigrant group, it would be well to define

some of the terms that are applied to them.

Louisiana's French-speaking population is from two chief

sources: Colonists direct from France, and Acadian refugees from

British persecution in Nova Scotia. There is some confusion over

these two elements even in Louisiana and to some extent there has

been a fusion of the two. But in general, the colonists from France

came to the colony with the hope of advancing themselves either as

planters or as merchants. Many of the planters were cadet--younger

sons of prominent French families--who established large riverfront

plantations worked by great numbers of slaves. They attempted to

maintain the same elegant mode of life in America as in France, and

to a large extent they succeeded after the lean initial years of the

- 12 -

colony's establishment were passed. Louisiana's merchants were

largely drawn from the merchant class of France; most of them lived

in New Orleans, which became the trade and cultural center of the

colony not long after it was founded in 1718 and has remained so from

that time forward. The merchants sent their sons to school not only

to learn the mercantile skills of writing and ciphering, but to give

them a little polish; most of the merchants hoped to acquire land

and become planters, but, failing that, they hoped at least that

their sons would do so.

Descendants of any of these French immigrants are called

Creoles, a term that is properly applied to the later Spanish colonists

as well. In popular usage Creole also means a person of mixed blood

descended from Latin colonists and Negro slaves, and outside French

Louisiana the word is applied loosely to anything frenchified in the

southern part of the state. In this study, however, the word will

be reserved for white descendants of French and Spanish colonists,

since that is the definition preferred by historians, museum guides,

newspaper editors, and others who pretend to some learning. Where

distinctions are appropriate, the terms French Creole and Spanish

Creole and Creole Negro may be used.

The term Acadian, the colloquial or derisive form of which

is Cajun, will be reserved for those colonists who settled first in

what was then called Acadia but is now called Nova Scotia. They fled

to Louisiana after being driven out of Canada by the British. The

- 13 -

adjective French will apply loosely to both Acadians and French

Creoles when distinctions between the two are unimportant, as in

French Louisiana, which includes all the areas where the French

language and French customs were predominant, whether most of the

settlers came from France, the French West Indies, or Nova Scotia.

The term Anglo as used in this study will apply to English-speaking

groups and the cultural features associated with them, whether they

originated in Ireland, England, the English colonies, or the United

States. Each of these groups has added something to the character

of Louisiana's population; the settlement history of each group,

together with some account of the way of life they followed in the

colony, will be discussed in turn, beginning with the earliest.

Frenchmen began to arrive in Louisiana at the time of the

first settlements at Biloxi and Mobile in 1699. They found the land

already occupied, though somewhat sparsely, by tribes of Indians.

There were about twenty separate tribes, but only six distinct lin-

guistic groups. The boundaries of their respective territories

cannot be traced with precision, but in general the Chitimachas

inhabited the gulf coastal region from fifty miles west of the mouth

of the Mississippi to Vermilion Bay. The Atakapas lived west of

there along the coast into what is now Texas. The Caddos occupied

northwestern Louisiana, eastern Texas, and southeastern Arkansas.

The Tunicas lived on both sides of the Mississippi above the mouth

of the Yazoo River. Most of the Siouian tribes lived to the north,

- 14 -

outside the limits of French settlement, but there were isolated groups

of them at Biloxi and near the Tunicas. The territory of the Musk-

hogeans included land on both sides of the Mississippi from its mouth

up to the junction of the Yazoo River and extended eastward to the


The Indian tribes have left no linguistic descendants and

very few genetic ones. During the settlement of Louisiana by people

of European descent, the tribes were either exterminated or transported

to the Indian Territory. Those individuals who remained intermarried

with people of other races, so that two groups of mixed lineage,

Redbones and Sabines, constitute the lineal descendants of Louisiana's

original inhabitants. Sabines seem to be mostly Negro and Indian

with some trace of Caucasian blood; Redbones are thought to represent

a more nearly even mixture of the three races.2 None of the Indian

languages are spoken any longer in Louisiana, and though they have

contributed hundreds of place names and a few loan words to the state's

vocabulary, they have had no discernible effect on its phonology.

The French and Acadians, on the other hand, established their

language as the official one for the territory, maintained its use

even after the colony was taken over first by Spain and then by the

1Paul A. Kunkel, "The Indians of Louisiana, About 1700-
Their Customs and Manner of Living," The Louisiana Historical
Quarterly, 34 (1951), 176.

2Thomas Lynn Smith and Homer L. Hitt, The People of Louisiana
(Baton Rouge, 1952), p. 45.

- 15 -

United States, and have influenced the English of Southern Louisiana

to such an extent that it is considered a separate dialect. Their

history is long and complex.

For the first dozen years or so, colonization of the new

territory was carried out under the direct supervision of the French

Government. Then, in 1712, Antoine Crozat was granted a commercial

franchise over the entire colony, with the responsibility for its

development and the right to its wealth. At that time, the population,

including 100 French and 75 Canadian soldiers, 28 families of colonists,

20 Negroes, and sundry officials and clerics, was about 400.1 The

difficulty of recruiting more colonists of suitable temperament and

training was one of the factors which caused Crozat to fail to turn

a profit. The very early immigrations included a high percentage of

soldiers and adventurers, an insufficient number of farmers, and a

very low percentage of women. In order to bring about a more favorable

balance between the sexes, the French Government sent a number of

recruits from the brothels of Paris, together with ladies guilty of

petty thefts and other misdemeanors. In fact, one historian declares

that "of the 1,215 women who had come to Louisiana from October, 1717,

to May, 1721, most of them were nothing, alas! but 'fallen women' or

little better. . ,"2

1Charles Gayarrd, Histoire de la Louisiane (New Orleans,
1846), I, 96.

2Translated from Emile Lauvriere, Histoire de la Louisiane
Frangaise, 1673-1939 (Baton Rouge, 1940), p. 210.

- 16 -

The practice of recruiting miscreants was seen to be

unhealthful for the colony, however, and disappointing to the male

colonists, who in many cases preferred to go on consorting with the

Indians. A happier, if partial, solution to the problem was the

importation of a group of orphan girls, each provided with a small

casket containing clothes and personal items, who were entrusted to

the care of the Ursuline Nuns in New Orleans until such time as they

were married. These ninety-eight files de la cassette were

commonly accounted to be of unimpeachable virtue, and must have been

fabulously prolific, for descendants of these girls have spread all

over southern Louisiana, whereas it is practically impossible to find

anyone who traces his ancestry back to one of the much more numerous

files perdues.

The heart of early French settlement is New Orleans, but the

French spread, mostly along rivers and bayous, over a considerable

portion of that part of the original colony which has become the

state of Louisiana. They established plantations along both sides

of the Mississippi from the first solid land upstream from Manchac,

on the east bank west of Lake Pontchartrain. From there the river

was largely unsettled until the vicinity of Pointe Coup4e, on the west

side of the river above Baton Rouge. Many traveled up the Red River

past Natchitoches as far as what is now the southern part of DeSoto

Parish. They spread, somewhat thinly, up the Black and Ouachita

Rivers toward the present Arkansas line. In much greater concentrations,

- 17 -

they spread south from New Orleans along the bayous running away from

the Mississippi on their independent routes to the gulf; the two main

routes were the Atchafalaya and the LaFourche. And spreading westward

from there, some crossed the Atchafalaya basin to the upper reaches of

the Teche, around St. Martinville. Immigrants from France outnumbered

all others during the French dominationr-that is, until 1766-and they

continued to come in during the Spanish period. The Spanish were

liberal in their immigration quotas, and admitted large numbers of

Acadians and English-speaking immigrants as well as Spanish settlers,

along with colonists from France and the French Caribbean colonies.

After the United States took possession in 1803, immigrants from

France came in fewer numbers than from other colonies.

In the northern parts of their area of settlement, the Creole

culture which the French established has been overwhelmed by the

Anglo; in the western parts it has blended with the Acadian; and even

south and east of New Orleans, where it was once dominant, the

tradition of French literacy and culture once so proudly maintained

has died out. Some idea of what the Creole culture was like in its

prime may be gained from a description made by the Spanish official

Don Francisco Bouligny to his government in 1776:

After the first ten leagues from the mouth of the river, the
lands on both sides are cultivated, and the concessions are
generally from 500 to 600 yards front, by 2400 yards in depth.
The planters generally cultivate their land only 600 or 800
yards from the river, leaving the rest for pasture, and
contenting themselves with cutting the wood that abounds in
the rear.'

'Fortier, II, 27.

- 18 -

And later in the report, after speaking of the robustness, skill in

agriculture, and extreme courtliness of Creoles in general, Don

Francisco goes on to say:

The greater number of the planters who live in the vicinity
of New Orleans are the most refined people in this country.
Many of them were officers during the French domination,
and some are decorated with the cross of St. Louis; the
others are merchants also, who, having earned a certain
wealth, have invested it in Negroes and a patch of ground.
.Generally, the people prefer to live in the country .

New Orleans schools taught in almost nothing but French in

1788, and in the country parishes-that is, everywhere except New

Orleans and its suburbs-absolutely nothing but French was spoken

except in isolated communities inhabited by cohesive groups of

immigrants from other European countries, notably Germany and Spain.

Even so, most of them learned French in order to trade with their

Creole and Acadian neighbors.

The second group of French-speaking immigrants, the Acadians,

began to arrive in appreciable numbers about 1764. Originally, most

of them seem to have come from Normandy and Brittany. They left there

in the early days of the French colonization of Canada, beginning

with the colony of New France in 1603, and settled in what is now

Nova Scotia, which the French colonists called Acadie. After the

British took possession of Canada they found the presence there of

French-speaking Catholics objectionable. British officials called

1Fortier, II, 34.

- 19 -

meetings of Acadian heads of families at Grand Prd and at Ft. Edward

on September 2, 1755, confiscated their arms, and arrested them.

Then they began a policy of expulsion.1 It seemed to make little

difference to the British where the exiles went, and they seem to have

made positive efforts to disrupt communal and personal ties among

them. Not only were lovers separated, as in Longfellow's "Evangeline,"

but families too were split apart, some never to be rejoined. Some

of them went to the New England colonies and further south, where

they fared a little better than in Canada and eventually were absorbed

into the population of what was to become the eastern United States.

Some returned to France, others went to the Caribbean. But a sizable

number made their way to Louisiana, where their own language was

spoken and their own religion practiced. Although by the time they

began to arrive in peak numbers, Louisiana was a Spanish colony, they

were welcomed and given land; they settled on it, flourished, and

became one of the strongest cultural influences in the French part

of the state.

Since most of the land near New Orleans was already taken,

the Acadian grants were mostly north and westward from the settled

Orleans district. In February, 1765, a boatload of 193 who arrived

in New Orleans from temporary refuge in Santo Domingo were sent to

the Opelousas district. In May of the same year 80 were sent to the

1Corinne L. Saucier, "A Historical Sketch of the Acadians,"
Louisiana Historical Quarterly, 34 (1951), 72-73.

- 20 -

Attakapas district, which had St. Martinville, on the upper Teche,

as its defense outpost. In the same month, 48 families were given

lands in both districts. More than a year later, 216 Acadians who

had been residing in Halifax were granted land on both sides of the

Mississippi as far north as Baton Rouge and Pointe Coupde.1 According

to a 1787 census, the population of Acadians had reached 1,587 in

a little less than 25 years.2 These first settlements set the pattern

for allocation of land to the Acadians; the Attakapas and Opelousas

districts were the centers where they settled first and the regions

from which they and their descendants migrated when the land became

crowded. Often, too, planters and speculators persuaded them to

sell their river- and bayou-front homesteads, which then became parts

of large-scale cane and cotton holdings. Thus shunted to less

desirable swamp and marshland, the "Cajuns" learned to extract what

they needed from the wilderness, and became trappers and fishermen.

They were the ones who exalted the lowly crawfish, or "mudbug," as

it is often called, from its early status as emergency protein

to a favored delicacy. They were the inventors of gumbo, a soup

that may be made from almost anything and usually includes almost

everything. They were

thrifty, hardy, fun-loving people who were devoutly religious,
worked, played and made love with equal enthusiasm. They
named their offspring with complete abandon, using pseudo-
Grecian names and sometimes giving children in one family

1Fortier, I, 153.

2Fortier, II, 115-116.

- 21 -

names all beginning with the same letter. Love of the race and
the family were deep-rooted in the Acadians, as evidenced by
their great respect for relatives and long periods of mourning
for the dead. With few exceptions, they belonged to the Roman
Catholic religion; yet had faith in crop signs, weather signs,
and folk remedies. Their use of English was amusing and pic-
turesque, a mixture of English and French, a disregard for the
correct use of gender of words, and a dialect which was repetitive
of certain words for emphasis.1

A third French linguistic group was important in the early

history of Louisiana. It came from three sources: the slaves of the

Creoles, which included Negroes imported directly from Africa, who

learned French from their masters in Louisiana; other Negroes imported

from Santo Domingo, who already spoke creolized Caribbean French when

they came to Louisiana; and descendants of these groups, themselves

born in Louisiana. In general, their language was a modified form of

French, simpler grammatically and phonologically than the standard

language. At present called Nigger French, it can still be heard in

St. Martin Parish and no doubt in other locations in French Louisiana

as well. A great many folk beliefs characteristic of French Louisiana

can be traced to this group of immigrants. The practice of voodoo

especially, which reached its highest development in the West Indies,

owes its existence in Louisiana today to the Santo Domingan slaves

who brought it there.2

African languages have contributed some loan words to the

Louisiana vocabulary, most of them, like gwnbo and voodoo, related to

1St. Martin Parish Resources and Facilities, by the St.
Martin Parish Development Board (Baton Rouge, 1950), pp. 8-9.

2Davis, p. 112.

- 22 -

African cultural contributions. African influence on Louisiana

English phonology is hard to assess, but is certainly less than in

the Gullah dialect of the Georgia and South Carolina coast and may

be no greater than that of Indian languages.

Eventually, quite a number of slaves bought their freedom; a

few amassed wealth and acquired plantations of their own. They called

themselves Creoles of Color or Colored Creoles and established their

own social circle in New Orleans. Some sent their children to France

and Spain to be educated. So linguistically and culturally, though

never socially, the Negro population of French Louisiana merged with

the white toward the upper ends of their respective social scales.

With the combined weight of Creole and Acadian settlements,

the French language was so firmly entrenched that the Spanish, when

they took over the government, never succeeded in introducing their

language except in courts of justice, and, even so, French was still

used in municipal courts. Finally, after more than a century and a

half of American statehood, English has taken root in all parts of

Louisiana, but for many years English-speaking and French-speaking

groups remained aloof from each other. The Creoles were prompted by

aristocratic bias and a firm Gallic conviction that nothing which is

not French is quite civilized, the Acadians simply by the fact that

they outnumbered everybody else in most areas where they settled and

had no need until recent years to learn any other language. In fact,

Irish and German settlers after a couple of generations in the

- 23 -

Attakapas and Opelousas districts often gallicized their names, forgot

their native tongues, and even claimed Acadian descent.

But perhaps it is unfair to accuse the Creoles of disdaining

the company of new arrivals purely from aristocratic bias. There

is some evidence that they were no more snobbish than their American

counterparts. John F. Watson, who arrived in New Orleans on May 26,

1804, writes in his diary: "Ladies in this country never visit

strangers first. All expect to be visited by the ladies newly arrived.

Our ladies will not yield to this seemingly awkward position, and

therefore they pass without native society."1 Further on, he notes:

"The French, Spanish, and Americans here keep very separate society.

The Americans congregate much together, and the French, except in

business, keep much aloof; but I enter into society freely among them,

and find them very friendly and agreeable."2

The twentieth-century Louisiana French are still very friendly

and agreeable, and much less aloof than those of the nineteenth century.

Even so, the fusion of English and French elements of the population

has been slow. The Creole French were socially a distinct group until

after 1900, and the assimilation of the Acadians has been even slower.

In 1933, when transportation by road and automobile was just beginning

to supersede transportation by bayou and boat in southern Louisiana,

the Acadian inhabitants of the state could be divided into three groups.

IFortier, III, 27.

2Fortier, III, 31.

- 24 -

Those who lived in small towns came into frequent contact with English-

speaking Americans. Consequently most of them could speak some English,

and an educated minority were fairly well Americanized. A second group

engaged in tenant farming on large plantations. Most of them neces-

sarily spoke some English, but were generally less well acculturated

to prevailing American language and customs then their fellows in

town. The third group lived along bayous and in swamps and made their

living from little garden plots and from trapping, hunting, and fishing.

They commonly spoke little or no English and were isolated from English-

speakers most of the time.1 Their language was both a cause and a

result of their social isolation. It is incomprehensible to English-

speakers and different enough from Creole French to make communication

difficult. There was little pressure to overcome the language barrier

because the backwoods Acadians, often called "levee-dwellers," were

self-sufficient for meat and vegetables and traded their fish and furs

to French-speaking local merchants.2

In the thirty-five years between 1933 and 1968, a number of

important changes have helped to break down the barriers which kept

Acadians isolated. The process had in fact begun earlier; H. W.

Gilmore noted that improved road systems and public schools were

breaking down language barriers, and that the military draft of World

1H. W. Gilmore, "Social Isolation of the French Speaking
People of Rural Louisiana," Social Forces, 12 (October, 1933), 81.

2Gilmore, p. 81.

- 25 -

War I had broken down barriers to social change by intruding upon the

Acadians' traditional provincialism.1 All these influences--highways,

schools, and the military-have continued to operate with even greater

force since 1933. In addition, the discovery and development of oil,

gas, salt, and sulfur reserves has brought increasing numbers of

English-speaking newcomers to southern Louisiana. A number of the

men who came to work the mineral deposits have been fortunate enough

to marry Acadian girls and make Louisiana their permanent home. The

combination of increased travel, schooling, and social mixture has

tended to make the Acadians more Anglo in culture, outlook, and

language. Except for the very most backwoodsy levee-dwellers, almost

all of them speak at least some English, although in some areas

English is a second language for nearly all adults. English is

gaining rapidly, though, and French is losing ground so fast that it

is not uncommon to find grandparents who do not speak English whose

grandchildren do not speak French. The English spoken by native

French-speakers is often as picturesque as it is commonly reputed to

be; their children usually have less of a French accent, but share

with their parents certain features of phonology, syntax, and into-

nation which mark the English of French Louisiana as distinctive.

The area of modern-day French Louisiana is based on cultural

rather than genealogical criteria, for as noted above, many people

who consider themselves French are really descendants of immigrants

1Gilmore, p. 84.

- 26 -

from other countries, and many people of French descent have been

absorbed into the Protestant culture of northern Louisiana.

Figure 2, which gives the ratios of Catholics to Protestants

in the population, by parishes, gives a graphic picture of the area

covered by the term French Louisiana. Since nearly all the French

were Catholics, and since nearly all Anglos (except the Irish, who

settled by and large in New Orleans) were Protestant, this map can be

considered a map of French Louisiana.

Although the linguistic contribution of the Spanish was

comparatively meager, they nonetheless figure importantly in the

early history of Louisiana. By the time they took over the government

of the colony in 1766, the French were firmly established. Yet

Spanish architects became quite popular in New Orleans. Most of the

old buildings in the French Quarter-the original city of New Orleans-

show the stamp of Spanish influence. The spiciness of Creole cookery

is usually attributed to the Spanish, who generally preferred their

food more highly seasoned than the French did. While keeping the

basic framework of French government, the Spanish made many modifi-

cations in the legal system, most tending to liberalize French

policies. Some of these modifications found their way into the

present legal system of the state, which incorporates a good many

holdovers from colonial days. As noted before, however, the Spanish

never were able to establish their language in general use. Loui-

sianians came to tolerate and even admire the Spanish government, but

- 27 -

Over z/3 Catholic
4 4' to '/3 Catholic
z 't to Z/j Protestant
Over ls/ Protestant

Figure 2. Ratio of Catholics to Protestants.
(Adapted from Smith and Hitt, p. 136.)

- 28 -

they would not speak the language. French became the home language

in households with one French and one Spanish parent, so that children

seldom learned Spanish.1 It maintained a tenuous existence only in

the courts and among pockets of Spanish settlers in various parts of

the colony.

The difficulty of establishing their language was not eased

by Spanish immigration quotas-or lack of quotas, really. Anxious

to bring the land under cultivation and make it produce, they cared

little where settlers were born as long as they worked the land,

obeyed the laws, and paid their taxes. It was during the period of

Spanish government that most of the Acadian French came to Louisiana,

and most of the old Spanish land grants in the northern part of the

state were given to people with English names, probably mostly west-

ward migrants from the United States. Yet where substantial Spanish

settlements were made, the immigrants were not absorbed into the

dominant culture as readily as some other European groups-the Germans,

for example. In 1778 and 1779, a number of immigrants were brought

to the colony at the king's expense, notably from the Canary Islands,

but including people from Malaga and elsewhere. The earliest group

settled at Terre-aux-Boeufs, at Galveztown on the River Amite, and at

Valenzuela, on Bayou LaFourche.2 Some of those who came in 1779 went

to the Bayou TEche below St. Martinville and formed a settlement at

1Davis, p. 120.

2Fortier, II, 60.

- 29 -

New Iberia. Others swelled the numbers of Galveztown, which has since

passed out of existence. These settlers were called Isleios or

Islengues, and most were poor and ignorant, a tradition carried on

among their descendants. By the beginning of the twentieth century,

when Fortier's history was written, they spoke both Spanish and the

Creole patois, and some of the children had begun to learn English.

Early in 1968 there were still a few descendants of Spanish settlers

who could speak Spanish, but it will not be many years before they

are gone, and with them will go Louisiana Spanish. Since it has

apparently never been a prestige dialect, even during the Spanish

domination, it has contributed few loan words to modern Louisiana

English, and has had no appreciable effect on phonology except among

members of the Spanish-language enclaves.

The most important linguistic group in Louisiana now, the

English-speakers, arrived comparatively late. During the time the

French ruled Louisiana, England and France were at odds, and part of

the time at war, so of course not many Englishmen settled where the

French were in power. Besides, at that time there was plenty of

land in the English colonies. That is not to say that Englishmen

never went under French rule, or that they had any objections to

squatting on territory owned but not patrolled by the French. There

were a few British merchants in New Orleans while the French still

ruled it, and other British subjects occupied land north of New

Orleans, where the French never really succeeded in establishing their

authority. An English settlement was made at Manchac, on the east

- 30 -

bank of the Mississippi between Baton Rouge and New Orleans; and

Baton Rouge itself, though the name is a French translation of an

Indian word, was essentially an English town before France ceded

Louisiana to Spain. After the cession, but before Spain took control,

Englishmen on their way upriver to one of these posts would often

stop just past New Orleans to carry on a surreptitious trade with

the citizens, which was tolerated because it was good for the economy.1

The Spanish, when they took control, were more favorable

toward British immigrants. English-speaking merchants began to

increase in numbers in New Orleans, so that by 1775 there were enough

merchants from New York, Philadelphia, and Boston who sympathized

with the eastern colonists' struggle for independence to figure fairly

importantly as suppliers of arms and ammunition to the revolutionaries.2

The Spanish Governor Don Estevan Miro was liberal in his

treatment of the English; when West Florida, including the present

Florida Parishes, was returned to Spain from British rule in 1783, he

allowed them extra time to move away, beyond the eighteen months

specified by treaty, and in 1786 he allowed them to remain if they

took an oath of fidelity.3 It was at this time too that large land

grants were given in what is now northern Louisiana, and, as mentioned

earlier, most of these grants went to people with English names.

iGayarr6, II, 127.

2Fortier, II, 18.

3Fortier, II, 112.

- 31 -

Even so, English-speakers made up a small minority of

Louisiana's residents before the United States came into possession

in 1803. In 1801, a representative of France reported to Bonaparte

that almost all of the Louisianians were either born in France or were

of French origin.1 Even after 1803 the increase was fairly slow, and

American immigrants did not really begin to arrive in earnest until

after statehood was granted and the War of 1812 had been won. Census

records taken at the time the United States took possession show most

of the population remaining in what is now the French portion of the

state. The Washita or Ouachita district contained only 361 persons,

Rapides had 753, Baton Rouge had 1,513, and Natchitoches had 1,631.

The latter two were about average for the country parishes; yet these

four were the only areas listed for the region within the present

boundaries of the state that were outside present French Louisiana.

They total 4,058 inhabitants compared to 37,955 for the southern

wedge of marsh and swamp parishes.2 And no doubt a large number of

those living even in these fringe areas, especially the districts of

Rapides and Natchitoches, were French. Those in the Baton Rouge

district, known also as New Feliciana, were mainly descendants of

British colonists to that area, or else were direct immigrants from

Great Britain or the States.

1Fortier, II, 208.

2Figures from Fortier, II, 301.

- 32 -

The relatively uninhabited districts in the northern part of

the state filled up rapidly after the War of 1812, the tide of

migration reaching its high point some twenty years before the onset

of the Civil War. According to Fortier, the population north of

Red River and west of the Ouachita increased from 2,000 in 1830 to

14,000 in 1845.1 Almost all of these people were from Louisiana's

sister states; it would be impossible to trace all the routes they

took or establish all the early family connections between Louisiana

and other parts of the country, but certain important trends can be

established. For the past 120 years, settlement patterns have been

chronicled in detail mainly in scattered regional and parish histories

of varying thoroughness and accuracy. It will be best to reserve

such of these as are available for background information on the

18 communities included in this study. An adequate overall view-

in some ways superior to detailed tracing of individual settlements-

has been presented in The People of Louisiana, a population study

by Thomas Lynn Smith and Homer L. Hitt, referred to on page 12.

Using the 1880 census, when state-of-birth data was provided

for residents of each parish, Smith and Hitt give a picture of the

flow of migrants from different parts of the country into different

parts of Louisiana. 1880 may be somewhat late for application to the

initial wave of migration following the War of 1812, but a good many

1Fortier, III, 177.

- 33 -

people who came between 1830 and the Civil War would have still been

alive in 1880 and would show up in the figures. At any rate the

figures should serve as fairly accurate indicators of general migration

trends. Except for Orleans Parish, which attracted more non-Louisi-

anians than any other, the northern parishes received more immigrants

in the years prior to 1880 than did the southern, primarily because

more land was available there, but perhaps also because overland

access from farther east was easier.

The general trend in the settlement of the American West was

for pioneers to move westward in parallel corridors, keeping more

or less on an even latitude. Another trend, less commonly recognized,

was for migrants to seek out the same type of soil, water, and

vegetation in their new homes that they had left behind in their

old. Reasons for this were partly sentimental, but partly practical

as well, for the farmer who found familiar surroundings could be

fairly certain that the crops and farming practices he was accustomed

to would produce when he had cleared his new farm and begun to

cultivate it.1 It is to be expected, then, on the basis of latitude,

that most of Louisiana's early settlers should have come from

Mississippi, Alabama, and Georgia, and on the basis of topography

that immigrants from those states should choose areas of Louisiana

similar to their home counties. No data is available to confirm

1Frank Lawrence Owsley, Plain Folk of the Old South (Baton
Rouge, 1949), pp. 53-54.

- 34 -

the second element of the general trend, but the first part is amply

illustrated by the 1880 census data and by the general trend of

census studies from 1870 through 1890. Over the entire state, a

little less than one fifth of its American-born residents in 1880

were born outside Louisiana. The most important states, in order of

number of emigrants to Louisiana, were Mississippi, Alabama, Virginia,

Georgia, South Carolina, Texas, Kentucky, North Carolina, and


The prominence of Virginia and Kentucky on the list is

attributed to their status as producers of slaves. Most natives of

those states probably went as slaves to the delta-land Black Belt,

where the plantation style of agriculture was practiced. Both states"

are well represented all along the Mississippi from the Arkansas line

to the gulf, and in the cane-growing region south and west of New

Orleans. Natives of those two states were also found in the plan-

tation sections of the Florida Parishes. Native Virginians, but not

Kentuckians, show up prominently along the Red River Valley. Texas

figures so high as a source of newcomers to Louisiana because of its

proximity to the western parishes, which contained the bulk of native

Texans residing in Louisiana. Most of these migrants moved only a

few miles, representing no more than a diffusion within the general

westward-moving trend.

ISmith and Hitt, pp. 207-208.

- 35 -

The other states which contributed a major share of

Louisiana's nonnative population in 1880 exhibit this westward trend.

Mississippi, directly east of Louisiana and bordering the Florida

Parishes on two sides, gave up settlers to its sister state in the

same way Texas did to parishes along its state line. However, Missis-

sippians moved west more often than Texans moved east, so that their

importance is greater both numerically and proportionately in the

eastern parishes than is that of Texas in the west. They make up,

on the average, more than half the American immigrants all down the

Mississippi Valley to Baton Rouge and in the Florida Parishes. Their

numerical contribution is greater than that of citizens from any

other state in the southwestern and central portions of Louisiana,

including the prairies, the southern half of the western piney woods,

the middle Red River Valley, and the southern part of the north-

central piney woods. In other portions of the state they are still

well represented, but somewhat less so by comparison.

Natives of Alabama settled mostly in the northern parts of

Louisiana. They concentrated especially in the northern portion of

both stretches of piney woods, but they settled in the river deltas

as well. Some drifted into southwestern Louisiana along the western

crescent of sandhills and pines. Georgians and South Carolinians

concentrated in the northwestern corner of the state. North Caro-

linians migrated mostly to the south central parishes in a broad

band stretching westward from New Orleans and curving northwards,

- 36 -

reaching as far as Rapides Parish, which lies along the middle stretch

of the Red River Valley. Tennesseans were not among the five most

important groups of immigrants to any one parish, although they were

among the top nine in the state as a whole.

All parts of Louisiana, then, received new settlers during

the American period of development from a variety of other states,

but the mixture varied from region to region. The Black Belt was

favored by planters from the coastal South, who brought in so many

slaves from Virginia, Kentucky, and elsewhere that in most parts of

the Mississippi and Red River Valleys Negroes still outnumber whites.

Piney woods areas were settled by former residents of the inland

South and of the coastal South in varying proportions. The marsh

and prairie lands of southern Louisiana were already inhabited by

French-speaking people when America purchased the colony; therefore

immigration was lighter after 1803 in those areas than in other parts

of the state. For some unknown reason, settlers from North Carolina

were relatively more numerous in French Louisiana than in northern


English, the language spoken by these migrants from other

American states, has become the standard legal and commercial

language all over Louisiana. In much of northern Louisiana, no other

language ever competed with it, so that inhabitants of those areas,

except, of course, the departed Indians, have always been native

English-speakers. Along the borders of original French settlement,

- 37 -

in Natchitoches and Rapides Parishes, for example, the use of French

was abandoned so long ago by all except a handful of families that

English has been practically the only language used for more than

a century. The relative position of French and English in French

Louisiana has already been discussed.

In addition to Americans who moved to Louisiana after

statehood, foreign immigrants entering the port of New Orleans have

settled in many parts of Louisiana, most frequently in New Orleans

itself. Besides the Germans who settled the German Coast above

New Orleans while it still belonged to France, many of their country-

men have come since it became American to find homes and establish

well-kept farms or practice trades. Most of them have not retained

their national language past the first generation in America. The

same can be said for the Italians, who settled by and large in New

Orleans and other coastal cities. A number of Scandinavians pioneered

along the Ouachita River during the Spanish period, and later groups

moved in to parishes along the gulf coast. Irish immigrants flocked

to America in the mid-nineteenth century, and New Orleans received

its share; from 1850 to 1860 they outnumbered all other European

groups entering the port of New Orleans.1

The chief effect of these diverse groups of European

immigrants has been to give to present-day southern Louisiana an

1Gumbo Ya-Ya, by The Writers' Project, Louisiana (Cambridge,
Mass., 1945), pp. 51-52.

- 38 -

overall cosmopolitan character, with typically American and typically

foreign cultural features existing side by side with those unique to

the state itself. In most areas their direct effect on English

speech has not been great, compared to that of French, but it would

be a mistake to assume that they have had no effect at all. In

certain parts of New Orleans, especially, the melding of foreign

accents seems to have produced a dialect distinct from that of the

predominantly French or predominantly Anglo parts of the state.

A brief review of the sources of Louisiana's population

suggests certain predictions concerning the English spoken there.

None of the American states from which people moved into Louisiana

in greatest numbers lies any farther north than Virginia and Kentucky;

over all this region, the English spoken is classified as either

Southern or Midland. People in the eastern sections of Virginia and

the Carolinas speak the variety called Southern. People in Kentucky,

Tennessee, northern Georgia, northern Alabama, and the western parts

of Virginia and the Carolinas speak the kind of English called

Midland. Most of these areas use the subvariety usually thought of

as characteristic of the Southern hill country, called South Midland.1

Speech patterns in Mississippi and the rest of Georgia and Alabama

are somewhat more complex. Apparently, the prevailing regional

variety there was originally Southern. Later on, speakers of South

1Hans Kurath, A Word Geography of the Eastern United States
(Ann Arbor, 1949), pp. 11-49.

- 39 -

Midland moved southwards along watercourses and other avenues of

travel, introducing their speech forms wherever they made up a

substantial part of the population. As a result, Southern and South

Midland speech forms occur side by side in varying relative fre-

quencies in corridors across central Georgia and along the Tombigbee

River in Alabama and Mississippi.1 The date of these secondary

migrations is not precisely known; they probably occurred over a

period of time before and during the peak of American migration into

Louisiana in the 1830s and 40s. We can reasonably expect, then,

that the English speech of Louisiana should include a mixture of

forms and features characteristic of Southern and South Midland

regional varieties, with very little influence from Northern or

North Midland American English. We should expect, furthermore,

that South Midland characteristics should be better represented in

the piney woods than in the river-bottom plantation regions and,

conversely, that Southern features should be proportionately more

frequent in plantation areas. It is also reasonable to expect that

the English spoken in the predominantly French Parishes in the southern

part of the state should have been considerably modified by its

intimate contact with French. As has been shown by previous research

discussed in the remainder of this chapter, most, but not all, of

these predictions turn out to be true in regard to the word stock.

1Gordon R. Wood, "Dialect Contours in the Southern States,"
American Speech, 38 (1963), 243-256.

- 40 -

It is the aim of this study to find out whether or not they hold

true in regard to the phonology.

Gordon R. Wood found that dialect patterns west of the

Mississippi are fundamentally different from those in the Southeast.1

Isoglosses west of the river reveal, instead of corridors, irregular

patches with varying mixtures of Southern and South Midland terms.

No evidence was found that a once uniform speech region has been

penetrated by newcomers bringing a new word stock; rather, it appears

that alternate terms for the same things existed side by side from

the days of earliest settlement and that usage has not yet become

stabilized. Wood's study deals only peripherally with Louisiana,

but the tendencies he outlines are confirmed for the northern part

of the state by two related word studies.

First, the area investigated by E. Bagby Atwood's The Regional

Vocabulary of Texas2 included much of Louisiana. Summarizing iso-

glosses are provided for approximately the western two thirds of the

state.3 Aside from a fairly heavy bundle of isoglosses dividing

'In addition to the American Speech article cited above,
findings from his study have been published in "An Atlas Survey of
the Interior South," Orbis: Bulletin international de Documentation
linguistique, 9 (1960), 7-12, and in "Word Distribution in the
Interior South," Publication of the American Dialect Society,
No. 35 (April, 1961), pp. 1-16.

2Austin, 1962.

3See especially the map on p. 97 of Atwood's book; maps 119-
125, pp. 249-255, delimiting the extent of individual words, are
also relevant.

- 41 -

French from Anglo Louisiana, which will be discussed separately,

isoglosses for the area investigated demonstrate an irregular pattern

of distribution. Some lines tend to separate Texas from Louisiana,

except for Beauregard and Vernon Parishes. Others tend to separate

Texas and southern Arkansas from Louisiana; both tendencies are

fairly weak. Within the northern part of Louisiana itself, dividing

lines are weaker still. A few irregular patches occur where one or

another combination of regional words prevails, but except for a

bundle representing 6 or 7 lines between Lincoln and Natchitoches

Parishes, the prediction that dialect differences should appear

between piney woods and river bottom areas is not confirmed. No

correspondence between dialect and topography comparable to the

corridor of Midland admixture along the Tombigbee River was discovered.

In a more intensive study of 26 parishes in northern Louisiana,

Mary Lucile Pierce Folk,1 using substantially the same questionnaire

that Atwood used for Texas, could not find evidence for even such

hazy isoglosses as the Texas study was able to demonstrate. She

found that age, education, and community size were more important

than geography in determining the form which occurs in the speech of

a particular informant. The best way to describe the speech of the

region she investigated is simply to say that some Southern and

some Midland words are in general use, but that in many or most cases

1"A Word Atlas of North Louisiana," Dissertation, Louisiana
State University, Baton Rouge, 1961.

- 42 -

usage is divided, without any strong regional differences in frequency.

Southern words that predominate are mosquito hawk, clabber, light

bread, chittlins, see-saw, rail fence, and the calls to horses to

make them stop or go.1 South Midland words in general use are

armload, sook cow, so cow, whinny, cling peach, side meat, coal

bucket, scuttle, faucet, kindling, till (in expression of time),

dove preteritt of dive), and clumb.2 The entire list of words of

divided usage is too long to reproduce here; some examples, with

the South Midland word given first, are: tow sack-croker sack,

freestone-clear seed, skunk--pole cat, and Merry Christmas-

Christmas gift.3 Though matters of pronunciation were secondary to

the lexicon in her study, Folk did report that pronunciation in

northern Louisiana generally exhibits more South Midland features

than Southern.4 Phonological differences between hill and lowland

sections were only slightly more evident than lexical ones, but a

slight preponderance of the Southern loss of postvocalic /- / in the

plantation parishes along the Mississippi was demonstrated.5 One

important limitation of Folk's study should be pointed out; no

1Folk, p. 276.

2Folk, p. 276.
Folk, p. 277.
Folk, p. 278.
Folk, p. 54.

- 43 -

Negro informants were included. If Negroes had served as informants

in proportion to their percentage of the population, it is likely

that a somewhat greater number of Southern features would have been

found in the Black Belt. Even if such a distinction could be demon-

strated, the differences would be small compared to the differences

between the northern and southern parts of Louisiana.

Differences between north and south Louisiana were not

shown in Folk's study; her investigation reached no further south

than the 31st parallel, which forms the northern boundary of the

Florida Parishes. (See Figure 3.) As noted before, however,

Atwood's study of Texas dialects lapped over into western Louisiana.

Furthermore, an investigation conducted by Mima Babington, one of

his students, provides information for six parishes in the Bayou

Lafourche area, originally settled and still largely populated by

Acadians. Orleans Parish was included as well in order to provide

a control sample from an area originally peopled by Creole French.

In the article based on that study,1 it is shown that

southern Louisiana is essentially a separate dialect area from the

rest of the South. Compared to Texas, Arkansas, and northern

Louisiana, regional terms from other parts of the country are

infrequent. In southern Louisiana the bookish harmonica, corn on

'Mima Babington and E. Bagby Atwood, "Lexical Usage in
Southern Louisiana," Publication of the American Dialect Society,
No. 36 (November 1961), pp. 1-24.

- 44 -

Figure 3. Previous dialect studies in Louisiana. A. Area investigated
by Mary Lucile Pierce Folk. B. Area investigated by Mima Babington and
E. Bagby Atwood. C. Isogloss bundle after E. Bagby Atwood, The Regional
Vocabulary of Texas, p. 97.

- 45 -

the cob, parents, and toad are used three times as often as in Texas,

where the usual words are French harp, roasting ears, folks, and

toad-frog (p. 10). More to the point, a number of terms distinctive

to the area were found, along with some others that have spread into

surrounding regions from there. Some of the words that are fairly

well limited to French Louisiana are kiyoodle / kaij d 1 / (worthless

dog), get down (get out or off a bus or car), boudin / bh d B / (a

kind of sausage), and gris-gris /grigrqi / (hoodoo charm). Southern

Louisiana words found in bands of varying widths around the wedge of

French parishes are pirogue / p rI pi rO/ (small boat),

banquette /b' e kit / (sidewalk), armoire /arfnwar -~ qm /

(large article of furniture also called a wardrobe), and bayou,

/ b a Ij .-b/ bai a / (small, sluggish stream). At least one

Louisiana word, gwmbo (soup containing okra), has gained national


The evidence demonstrates convincingly enough that southern

Louisiana constitutes a separate speech region, but the area covered

in the study is not large enough to indicate its boundaries. A

heavy S-shaped line drawn by Atwood from southwestern to central

Louisiana (see Figure 3) can reasonably be considered the western

part of the boundary. It represents a bundle of eight or more

isoglosses revealed by Atwood's Texas questionnaire. Babington's

1Examples selected from Babington and Atwood, pp. 11-12.

- 46 -

questionnaire, designed to elicit a number of additional items

distinctive to the region, would no doubt thicken the bundles, though

it might diffuse them as well. The location of the boundary as it

extends eastwards from Rapides Parish can only be conjectured. Since,

however, the part that is known corresponds closely to the boundary

between Protestant, or Anglo, and Catholic, or French Louisiana, the

best conjecture is that it continues to correspond, extending south-

eastwards through New Orleans to the Gulf of Mexico (cf. Figure 21).

Consideration of settlement patterns leads to the supposition

that the speech of the Florida Parishes is probably more like that of

neighboring Mississippi, which is chiefly Southern,1 than that of

northern Louisiana. Actually, lexical field work done in connection

with the recordings for the present study indicates a strong admixture

of Midland forms there, too, especially around Hammond, in Tangipahoa


The single most important fact about Louisiana's English speech

can be expressed by Gordon R. Wood's observation concerning the interior

South in general: dialectal patterns have not become stabilized. In

southern Louisiana, French is clearly receding; as it does, it modifies

the English that replaces it. Bilingual parents pass on some of their

English errors to their monolingual children. Then in communities

where those errors become general they cease to be errors, changing

instead into dialectal characteristics. In those parts of the state

1Wood, "Dialect Contours," pp. 251-252.

- 47 -

where English has been the only language in common use since pioneer

times, forms from two varieties of American English still exist side

by side not just in the speech of communities but of families and

individuals. It was not uncommon during field work for this study to

find second or third generation neighbors who differed markedly in

the treatment of postvocalic /r/, for example, or in the allophones of

/a_/ before bilabial fricatives and nasals plus consonants. Sometimes

such differences were found in families in which husband and wife

used different patterns, as in Catahoula and Rapides Parishes. In-

formants often gave multiple responses demonstrating at least a recog-

nition knowledge of words characteristic of both Southern and South

Midland vocabularies, and not infrequently they used the terms inter-

changeably with little or no differentiation of meaning. The fact

that such examples of divided usage are more common in Louisiana than

in the coastal states where American dialect study began must be kept

in mind throughout the remainder of this study.



The communities and informants for this study were selected

to provide representative samples of local and regional native English

usage for the Dictionary of American Regional English, abbreviated

DARE. Eighteen communities were chosen to represent Louisiana out of

one thousand allotted to cover the entire United States. Ideally,

it would have been desirable to use only one informant in each com-

munity, since only one questionnaire was done in each, but very often

two or three or more had to be located in order to obtain all the

data sought in a reasonable length of time. To assure the validity of

the data certain criteria for the choice of communities and informants

were set up. These criteria will be explained before communities and

informants are discussed individually.

The number of communities chosen in each state was

proportionate to an adjusted population figure for the state. An

example was given in the orientation and instructional material given

to fieldworkers:

For example, in Florida, using 1910 population figures, we would
allot only 8 informants; using 1964 figures we would have to allot
27, since the population has been almost septupled during this
period. Actually we will compromise on 19 informants. In
Mississippi, on the other hand, where population has decreased

- 48 -

- 49 -

relatively during this period, on 1910 figures we would have had
to allot 19 informants, by 1964 figures only 12; actually we will
compromise on 15. By this device we seek to take account of the
conservative part of the population as being relatively less
mixed, more stable, hence in speech expectably more traditional.1

The number of communities to represent Louisiana is based on the fact

that its population of 3,257,022 is near the average for the nation;

no adjustment was required, since the rate of population growth for

the state has been close to that for the nation as a whole. The

communities were chosen by Dr. F. G. Cassidy, Jr., director of the

project, and Mrs. C. A. Mohr, historian on the DARE staff, who also

furnished fieldworkers with a few paragraphs of background material

on each community. In general, the aim was to pick old, stable

communities that would be representative, socially, economically, and

linguistically, of the general area of the state in which they were

situated. Old communities are usually along early migration routes,

or are themselves centers which immigrants have come to and gradually

moved away from, spreading their influence, linguistic and otherwise,

to areas surrounding them. An old, stable community, without a

history of rapid turnover of population, is likely to contain at least

some descendants of its first settlers and provide the best hunting

ground for informants who fitted DARE requirements.

The ratio of urban and rural communities for the study is

based on the ratio of urban and rural inhabitants, according to the

1"On the Choice of Communities and Informants for D.A.R.E."
(mimeographed sheet, n.d.).

1964 United States Statistical Abstracts. There, the definition of

urban is very broad, including communities of 2,500 and more. Since

63.3% of the residents of Louisiana were urban by this definition,

ten urban and eight rural communities were chosen. In choosing

informants to represent those communities, it was not considered

necessary to confine the search to persons actually residing within

the political boundaries of the named village or town. As Professor

Cassidy explained:

Community, in our sense, does not, of course, correspond to
corporate limit of a town or other governmental unit. If a man
lives higher up the road but still trades at the village and goes
to the village church, he belongs to that community linguistically
(assuming he is a native). One cannot even be sticky about this
unless one knows that there are two communities living near-by
which consider themselves distinct from each other. For example;
Cajuns and non-Cajuns.1

Actually, for various reasons, it was sometimes necessary to

find informants in other communities than the ones designated and

described. For example, there was no one available in the community

of Vienna who was suitable as an informant. An informant was chosen

from one of Vienna's earliest families even though she considered

near-by Dubach her home town, and was residing at the time of her

interview in a rest home in Ruston. But both Ruston and Dubach were

settled largely from the focal center of Vienna, and traditional

mobility among the three communities tended to level any differences

which might otherwise have arisen. All three remained effectively in

one speech community. In another instance, a couple who had lived all

1From a letter to the author, November 14, 1967.

- 51 -

their lives in one community had recently retired and moved to another.

They had not moved far, and in any case had not lived away from their

original home long enough to affect their speech significantly. Since

they had ample time and were willing to serve as informants, they were

chosen as representative of their home community. In such cases, the

community originally chosen rather than the one in which the informant

resided is the one described in the background material.

In one case, however, a community was eliminated and another

substituted. Since there are several speech patterns within the city

of New Orleans, Professor Cassidy suggested that it might well be

advantageous to eliminate one other urban community and use the

questionnaire thus saved as a second New Orleans questionnaire. On

the advice of Professors Claude Shaver, of the Department of Speech

at Louisiana State University, and W. R. Van Riper, of the Department

of English, Buras, on the Mississippi downstream from New Orleans,

was dropped, and the Irish Channel, a section of New Orleans, was


Just as an attempt was made to choose communities which would

be truly representative of different regions within the state, an

attempt was made to find informants truly representative of their

communities. That meant at the very least someone born in the

community who had not lived anywhere else except for brief periods.

Residents whose parents and grandparents were born in the same place

were preferred, but in some recently settled areas families had

- 52 -

simply not been there long enough for such people to be available. In

Louisiana this was particularly true in the north central hill

parishes and in the western piney woods. In addition to the primary

matter of family background, other factors were considered in choosing


Informants are chosen according to generation, educational and
social status, and occupation. The generations are: young adult,
to 39 years; middle-aged, 40-59; old, 60 up. We plan to have 50%
or more of the old, 40% or less of the middle, and no more than
10% of the young generation. Broadly following Linguistic Atlas
practice, our informants will be of three types: I-those of no
more than primary school education; II-those of no more than high
school education, though sometimes with more travel, reading, or
the like than those of group I; and III-those with some higher
education and usually an upper position in the community.1

Therefore, out of Louisiana's 18 questionnaires, 10 were to be

answered by old, 7 by middle-aged, and 1 by young informants. In

actual practice, the final and unalterable governing factor in the

choice of informants was the availability of suitable candidates. In

all too many instances it was not possible to pick and choose in any

one community among a group of authentic local residents at various

age levels and social strata who were willing to devote enough of their

time to complete a questionnaire. The DARE questionnaire, designed

to elicit as many vocabulary items as possible, was 325 pages long and

required about a week to complete, on the average, assuming that the

informant or informants had a fair amount of free time. It is not at

all surprising that quite a number of prospective informants declined

to commence such an undertaking. The surprising thing is that so many

1"On the Choice of Communities and Informants for D.A.R.E."

- 53 -

were willing not only to commence, but to continue to the end. If

there did happen to be more than one to choose from, it was often

thought more important to choose the one who appeared to be able to

furnish the greatest amount of information without regard to his age

or educational level. In general, however, when it was necessary to

use more than one informant on a single questionnaire, an attempt was

made to have them all at the same age and social level unless a par-

ticular advantage could be gained by seeking someone of a different

type. Also, since lexical items were the chief object of the search,

certain minor speech irregularities, such as indistinct formation of

dental and alveolar consonants caused by the lack of teeth, were

tolerated although they were undesirable.

Once a suitable willing informant had been found, the major

part of the interview was carried out with the questionnaire, with

the field worker reading the questions and recording on it the

informant's answers either by circling a word or expression already

on the page or writing it in. For many words, a phonetic transcription

was also written in. Toward the last questionnaire session with each

major informant, commonly on the last day of the interview, a tape

recording was made, consisting of about twenty or thirty minutes of

free conversation followed by a reading of "Arthur the Rat," a brief

story designed to bring out certain features of pronunciation

important to American dialectology. The main purpose of the tapes was

to obtain recordings of natural, connected speech from which phono-

logical and syntactic data could be obtained. The first requirement

- 54 -

was to get the informant to talk naturally and easily, with as little

self-consciousness as possible concerning his manner of speech. Before

recording began, therefore, the informant's attention was usually

directed to a topic he was familiar with and liked to talk about. The

historical and cultural value of the recording was emphasized. Phono-

logical and lexical usefulness was not hidden from the informant, but

was described as being secondary to that of the questionnaire. The

tapes were often mentioned as a means by which the home office could

check on the field worker's accuracy.

Mike fright is hard to avoid, however, when a person is

unaccustomed to speaking in front of a microphone. Commonly, the

speech recorded on tape is of a somewhat more formal variety than

casual conversation. At times the field worker's contribution is

excessive as he tries to support a faltering conversation. At other

times the recording is simply shorter than desirable. Yet the

practical goal of getting a large enough sample from each informant

to assure a reasonably complete inventory of phonemes, function words,

and basic structural patterns is reached more often than not. And the

tapes are important historical and cultural documents as well.

The descriptions of communities and of informants and their

general speech patterns given in this chapter are intended to provide

a context for the phonological tables in Chapter III. In the kind of

dialectal research known as a "saturation study," such particularized

descriptions would not be necessary because individual differences

could be put into perspective statistically. There is much to be said

- 55 -

for that approach: isoglosses can be precisely drawn with some faith

in their validity, population subgroups can be taken into account, and

the probability of error can be calculated with mathematical accuracy

so that the conclusions reached rest less on the interpretative judge-

ment of the researcher than on the voluminous mass of the evidence.

Yet, considering the number of separate dialect items sought in each

community and the amount of time and money allotted for field work,

it was not possible or even desirable in the DARE project to achieve

the kind of numerical tour de force that makes purely statistical

studies possible. With suitable care in choosing subjects for study

coupled with adequate background information, especially in respect

to individual peculiarities of a community or an informant, relatively

few samples can be counted on with some degree of assurance to present

an accurate picture of the speech habits of a large region.

The descriptions of communities which follow present in brief

form a history of settlement and growth of each community together

with the area surrounding it. A few words are included concerning

its general character at the time the field work was done. Population

figures, including the percentage of Negroes in the parish in which the

community is situated, are from the United States Statistical Abstracts,

based on the 1960 census.1 The figure for percentage of Negroes is

1U. S. Bureau of the Census, County and City Data Book, 1967
(A Statistical Abstract Supplement) (Washington, D. C., 1967).

- 56 -

given not because it is important in itself, but because it is a

convenient index to the community's cultural type. Pronunciations

listed for community, parish, and state are those used by informants.

If two informants use variant pronunciations, the pronunciations are

identified with the informants' code numbers. If one informant uses

variant pronunciations, the pronunciations are identified by relative


Descriptions of informants include general remarks on family

history, age, education, occupation, and travel experience. All

such material was supplied by the informants themselves. Since one

purpose of the descriptions was to aid the DARE editorial staff in

interpreting the questionnaires, some brief notations concerning the

informants' speech characteristics were made at the time of the

interviews. The nature of this study renders the greater part of

those descriptions superfluous. Often, however, informants showed

idiosyncratic speech features, or features characteristic of only

part of their fellow citizens; in such cases the significant features

are mentioned. Most places in Louisiana exhibit some kind of divided

usage, so that opportunities to omit all mention of speech features

in these descriptions were rare.

To protect the privacy of informants, neither their names nor

their initials are given; the code numbers used to identify them are

the ones employed by the Dictionary for filing questionnaires, tapes,

and other documents relevant to the field work. In the descriptive

- 57 -

paragraphs that follow, the single word informant will be used to

avoid overuse of the code numbers as name-substitutes.

Figure 4 shows the location of each community and indicates

whether it is urban or rural.

Northern Louisiana

Community: Lake Providence [I@ k p r vad ans ]
Population: 5,781
Percent Negro: 61.0
Parish: East Carroll [ S k e a I
State: Louisiana [IhZ ~I-e ]

East Carroll Parish is in the extreme northeast corner of the

state, and all of it is rich, flat, delta land. Lake Providence is

on the Mississippi River about halfway between the north and south

parish boundaries. Traditionally, mention of Lake Providence as a

haven from river pirates goes back to the Spanish period, but settle-

ment of the area did not really begin until the United States took

possession. The early settlers were planters who established large

cotton holdings, bringing with them Negro slaves to work the land,

and importing more as their wealth grew.

Once permanent settlement began there was a rather quick transition
to a mellow and spacious way of living for an oligarchy of leading
families and a modestly comfortable one for others. Plantations
of several thousand acres soon appeared.1

After nearby Mississippi, the states have contributed the largest

numbers of migrants to the population of East Carroll Parish are

'East Carroll Parish Resources and Facilities, by the East
Carroll Parish Development Board (Baton Rouge, 1951), p. 15.

- 58 -

Lake Providence




New Orleans


Figure 4. Communities studied. Circles indicate urban communities;
squares indicate rural communities.

- 59 -

Alabama, Kentucky,and Virginia. Cotton and soybeans are now the most

important crops. Most of the land is apportioned among a number of

large plantations, and almost all of it lying outside the levees which

is not too swampy has been cleared for growing crops. Some plantations

have extensive pecan orchards as well.

Informant: LA 8, Negro man, aged 54

Informant was born in East Carroll Parish, as were his mother

and her parents. His father was born in East Carroll Parish, but his

paternal grandparents came from Georgia. He has a tenth grade edu-

cation and has done little traveling; the traveling he has done has

been mostly on trips to pick up machinery or parts for his employer.

He has always worked for the same man in all phases of the cotton

industry from planting through ginning to baling. He is active in

church work and is generally looked up to by other members of the

black segment of the population of Lake Providence.

When he repeated the fieldworker's questions, as occasionally

happened when he was not sure that he understood, he would transpose

them into his own dialect grammatically as well as phonetically. He

does not seem to be using a more formal variety of speech on tape

than he uses in ordinary conversation.

- 60 -

Community: Vienna [ V A1 n ) ]
Population: 500
Percent Negro: 41.8
Parish: Lincoln [ I k R n ]
State: Louisiana [\ i ~z e tl];
occasionally [I( I Z.i ]

Lincoln Parish is in north central Louisiana, in the heart of

the original oak and pine forest country of the sandhills. The tiny

settlement of Vienna has been eclipsed by Ruston, less than five miles

to the south. Early settlers came from lowland parts of Louisiana,

which were thought to be unhealthful, and from states east of the

Mississippi. For the most part the newcomers were English-speaking

Protestants. Georgia and Alabama contributed more early migrants to

Lincoln Parish than any other states, but people came in fair numbers

from South Carolina and Mississippi as well. Vienna, founded by

Daniel Colvin, was a stopping point on the stage line established in

1825 from Monroe, Louisiana, to El Paso, Texas. There are many Colvins

in the area around Vienna now, but they seem to be descendants of a

later group. During the period 1853-1863, eleven Colvin brothers

emigrated to Vienna from the Chester district of South Carolina. This

group is probably related to the founder, but evidence for the rela-

tionship is hard to find. Many of the early settlers seem to have

brought slaves with them, but plantation agriculture never caught on

here, and most of the area, fairly heavily cultivated, remained

divided up into small farms.1

1Lincoln Parish Resources and Facilities, by the Lincoln
Parish Planning Board (Baton Rouge, 1943), pp. 9-10.

- 61 -

Unquestionably in the Bible belt, Lincoln Parish is one of the

few in the state where alcoholic beverages are not sold; Sunday hunting

is disapproved of; and the Baptist church is clearly the dominant

religious influence. The small farms of the area, which held their

own until after World War II, are now giving way to pasture and

managed forest.

Informant: LA 12, Caucasian woman, aged 88

Informant was born at Unionville, Lincoln Parish, the daughter

of one of the Colvin brothers of South Carolina. She has a high

school education, completed in Ruston. She has lived all her life in

the Ruston-Unionville area, which includes Vienna, and has traveled

to Texas, Oklahoma, Florida, Missouri, and Arkansas. Social contacts

are mostly within the Colvin family, which includes a broad cross

section of the population of Lincoln Parish.

She uses bilabial fricatives for /f / and /v/; this feature

is purely idiosyncratic, caused by the absence of teeth, and has been

ignored in the tabulations as not representative of the area. Formal

and informal varieties of speech include separate expressions

(brought up, raised) and different verb forms preteritt did or done).

There is little change in phonology between functional varieties, but

pronunciations of certain words vary; note her conscious and unconscious

pronunciations of Louisiana. During most of the recording, she was

not aware that her speech was being recorded, and it is in a completely

natural conversational style.

- 62 -

Community: Mansfield [mnvi ntZf i id]
Population: 5,839
Percent Negro: 57.5
Parish: DeSoto [dis 5d a ]
State: Louisiana [ I U 'ae e]

Mansfield is near the center of DeSoto Parish, which lies near

the northern end of the western crescent of sandhills and piney woods,

next to the Texas line. The first white men to settle there were

French and Spanish Creoles who remained mainly in the eastern part of

the parish where the hunting and fishing were good. Later they were

greatly outnumbered by English-speaking settlers from the eastern

United States, principally Georgia, Mississippi, South Carolina, and

Alabama. Many of these were wealthy slaveholders, who kept mostly to

the northern part of the parish. Newcomers of less means established

small farms in hillier areas.

DeSoto Parish was formed in 1843 from portions of Caddo and

Natchitoches Parishes; Mansfield was founded and designated parish

seat in the same year as a compromise between Screamerville, preferred

by the English slaveholders, and Old Augusta, a steamboat landing on

Bayou Pierre favored by the Creoles.1

The old plantation families are still well represented in

Mansfield and the surrounding communities, and some descendants of

early Creole settlements remain as well, though no one speaks French

or Spanish as a native language. Most of the Negroes still live in

1DeSoto Parish Resources and Facilities, by the DeSoto Parish
Development Board (Baton Rouge, 1949), pp. 7-8.

- 63 -

rural parts of the parish as they did in antebellum times. Early

white farmers and workmen seem to have been less settled in their

habits; a great many members of the lower middle class have come here

from elsewhere. Most members of the old Mansfield families have at

least some college education; nearly everyone else has no more than

high school. Farming has declined in recent years, with row crops

being replaced by planted pines, but dairying has increased in im-

portance. The area is dotted with oil and gas fields, which are

probably at least partly responsible for attracting newcomers from

other parts of the country.

Informant: LA 17, Caucasian woman, aged 30

Informant's mother was born in Epps, Louisiana; her stepfather

and his parents were born in Mansfield. Informant herself was born

in Mansfield, but lived in Shreveport, in neighboring Bossier Parish,

during her first nine school years. She has a B. A. from Sweet Briar

College, Virginia. She has visited most of the southern and middle

Atlantic states, New England, Eastern Canada, and Bermuda. A working

wife, she does advertising layouts for a newspaper and occasionally

does substitute teaching. Social contacts are mainly with the better

Mansfield families, descendants of plantation owners.

Because of her schoolgirl years in Shreveport and her mother's

birthplace in the northeastern part of the state, she might be ex-

pected to speak a more general variety of English than can be

- 64 -

localized strictly to Mansfield. But she does pronounce mayonnaise

as [mTRInyez], which does not seem to be general over northern

Louisiana, though it is the prevailing form in Mansfield. She usually

has postvocalic /r/, but the unstressed retroflex mid-vowel varies to

schwa in some words. Intrusive /T/ occurs sporadically. Her treat-

ment of / r/ reflects divided usage around Mansfield. In general,

absence of postvocalic /T/ in the southern pattern is upper class and


Community: Columbia [ka\m 6bia
Population: 1,021
Percent Negro: 27.8
Parish: Caldwell [ kIwv ac+]
State: Louisiana [ \ zi ri1Ra

Caldwell Parish is situated near the middle of Louisiana's

northern section of piney wooded hills. Columbia is on the west bank

of the Ouachita River, which has spread a long stretch of alluvial

soil through predominantly rolling sandy land. The earliest settlers

to the area were Frenchmen, who migrated in small numbers up the river

from French settlements along the Red and Mississippi Rivers. After

1806 they were joined by a few Danes, but there was no settlement of

substantial size until the United States took possession of the

Louisiana Territory. There is little specific information concerning

the origin of the first Americans to settle there, but some of them,

- 65 -

at least, must have come from Kentucky, since the first name of the

settlement occupying the present site of Columbia was New Kentucky.1

According to Smith and Hitt's figures based on the 1880 population,

Mississippi, Alabama, Virginia, and South Carolina were the most

important sources of migrants to Caldwell Parish at that time. Co-

lumbia's most prosperous period was the time when steamboats were the

major transportation in Louisiana. Farmers in the wooded land to the

west, where slaves were rare and there were no big landholders, bought

their produce here for shipment to outside markets. The most important

exports were cotton and timber. Columbia's importance as a shipping

center declined when railroads superseded river traffic. There is

still some farming along the Ouachita River and even on the much

smaller farms in the hilly parts of the parish, but most of the land

is now given over to managed forest owned by large timber companies.

Informant: LA 2, Caucasian man, aged 72

Informant's mother and her parents were born here; her

grandfather was one of the original French settlers in the area.

Informant's father was born in Caldwell Parish; his paternal grand-

parents came from Mississippi. Informant himself has lived in the

hilly western part of Caldwell Parish all his life, where he has

engaged in patch farming and logging. He has a sixth grade education

1Frederick William Williamson and George T. Goodman, Eastern
Louisiana: A History of the Watershed of the Ouachita River and the
Florida Parishes, eds. Frederick William Williamson and George T.
Goodman (Louisville, Kentucky, Historical Record Association, n. d.),
pp. 108-112.

- 66 -

and has not traveled any farther away than Monroe, Louisiana. As his

wife jokingly expressed it, he's "been further up a 'simmon tree than

he's ever been away from home."

He was extremely self-conscious about the tape recorder, so

that he stammered more and paused longer when he was being recorded

than in normal conversation. As a result, there are some passages

that are difficult to decipher phonetically and impossible morphemically.

His use of postvocalic /r/ varies, but in most instances it is con-

siderably weakened. The final syllables of, e. g., winter and Louisiana

are usually phonetically distinct from each other, but the sound in

winter which has been transcribed [5-] in the tables corresponds more

closely in character to [ ] than to [S]. His pronunciation of /3/

is closer to schwa than is usual in Caldwell Parish.

Informant: LA 1, Caucasian man, aged about 40

Informant's father is LA 2 above. His mother was born in

Caldwell Parish; her parents were from Mississippi. He has lived in

the western part of Caldwell Parish all his life, except for military

service near the end of World War II, when he was sent to the South

Pacific. He has an eleventh grade education. He was a logcutter for

several years, and now works for the state highway department in a

district encompassing several parishes.

His recording is fairly brief, consisting mostly of a reading

of "Arthur the Rat," which he consented to do for his father, whose

- 67 -

eyes were too dim to read it. Final consonants are often dropped in

his speech when his voice trails off before the end of a word. This

occurs especially with nasal consonants, in which case nasalization

of the vowel carries the full phonemic load of the final nasal. That

characteristic was not heard from either his mother or his father,

but it is doubtful that is totally idiosyncratic.

Community: Jonesville [ fJO'YZV G ]
Population: 2,347
Percent Negro: 35.2
Parish: Catahoula [ k ~a.j h a]
State: Louisiana [I Zi ae ]

Catahoula Parish lies in the eastern part of the Louisiana

boot-top about forty miles west of Natchez, Mississippi. The north-

west third of the parish includes part of the hilly north central

piney woods; the remainder of the parish is flat delta land in the

area where the Ouachita River bottomland joins the flood plain of the

Mississippi. A number of Spanish grants were made to people with

English names in the upper part of the parish. Most early settlers

to the area were from Mississippi, but Alabama, Georgia, and Virginia

also figure prominently. Ulster Scots, also called Scotch-Irish, must

have made up a large percentage, because the Mo-section in the Jones-

ville-Harrison telephone book is one of the largest. A few of the

early settlers were slaveholding cotton planters, but most people seem

to have made their living in a somewhat more primitive fashion: fishing,

hunting, and allowing their cattle and hogs to roam freely in the

- 68 -

swamps except when almost yearly floods forced them to carry them on

barges to high ground. This kind of stock-raising was characteristic

of a long, roughly oval area in the Tensas and Black River bottoms

of Catahoula, Tensas, Concordia, and Franklin Parishes. The town of

Jonesville was laid off comparatively late-in 1871--by Mrs. Laura

Stewart Jones, who owned the tract of land on the south bank of Little

River where it and the Tensas join the Ouachita to form Black River.

Jonesville eclipsed an older settlement by the name of Trinity which

had been established about 1833 on the north bank of Little River.1

The old free-range swamp-grazing practices have been abandoned

now. The delta land has been cleared, levees hold back the floods,

and soybeans compete with cattle for the farmers' attention. Oil

wells supplement agricultural income on many a farm. Jonesville is

one of Louisiana's most important fresh-water commercial fishing


Informant: LA 10, Caucasian man, aged 70

Informant was born in Monterey, Louisiana, a few miles from

Jonesville on the other side of Black River, where his mother was

also born. Her parents had come from South Carolina after the Civil

War. Informant is uncertain about his father's birthplace or that of

his paternal grandparents, but he knows that his father grew up in

Monterey. Informant has had three years of college in the College of

IMost of the information in this paragraph is found in Catahoula
Parish Resources and Facilities, by the Catahoula Parish Planning Board
(Baton Rouge, 1949), pp. 10-12. See also Williamson and Goodman, p. 81.

- 69 -

Arts and Sciences at Louisiana State University. During World War II

he served as a platoon sergeant training recruits at Camp Taylor,

Kentucky. During the period 1919-1933, he traveled to work in various

oilfields, mostly in Louisiana but also in Arkansas and Texas. Since

1933 he has been living at Jonesville and operating his farm there,

raising cattle, soybeans, and cotton.

He showed little traceof his college training in his speech,

apparently preferring to conform to the most common speech patterns

around Jonesville. His main deviation from the usual speech of the

area is rather heavy nasalization, which seemed more noticeable in

conversation face to face than on tape. Vowel length and tempo are

moderate. Postvocalic /T / is weakened or lost, which is not typical

of the northeastern hilly parts of the parish, but seems to be a

feature typical of the bottom lands. Folk found that the Southern

pattern without postvocalic /r/ predominates in Catahoula Parish.1

Informant: LA 11, Caucasian woman, aged 67

Informant is the wife of LA 10 above. She was born in Monterey,

Louisiana, where her mother and maternal grandparents were born. Her

father and his parents were born in Woodville, Mississippi. She lived

in Harmon, Louisiana, from 1918 till 1922 and in Grand Bayou, Louisiana,

from 1922 till 1933 before coming to Jonesville, where she has lived

ever since. She has a B. A. in education from Northwestern State

IMary Lucile Pierce Folk, "A Word Atlas of North Louisiana,"
Dissertation Louisiana State University, Baton Rouge, 1961, p. 54.

- 70 -

College, but her travels have been limited to visits in the neighboring

states of Texas and Mississippi. Most of her life she has taught

second grade, but for a time taught eight grades in a one-room school.

Though her speech normally includes a few nonstandard verb

forms, it is closer to standard than the average for the area. Artic-

ulation is clear, and her speech is not strongly nasalized, as is her


Community: Natchitoches [ laek ta]
Population: 13,924
Percent Negro: 43.6
Parish: Natchitoches [ h katS]
State: Louisiana [ I V'i ae n ]

As noted in the preceding chapter, Natchitoches was the first

permanent settlement in what is now Louisiana. It was situated at the

highest point of navigation on the Red River, and served during French

ownership of Louisiana as an outpost against Spanish encroachments

eastward. Spanish ownership of Louisiana after 1765 promoted the

growth of Natchitoches, however. In the first French census, taken in

1722, the population was 34. In 1776, roughly ten years after the

Spanish took possession, it was 457; in nine years more it had risen

to 756.1 The King's Highway ran east and west through Natchitoches,

carrying traffic between Natchez, Mobile, and Texas, and the river

gave access to New Orleans and from there to the east coast and Europe.

Steamboat navigation, which began in 1824, promised to make Natchitoches

1Natchitoches Parish Resources and Facilities, by the
Natchitoches Parish Planning Board (Baton Rouge, n. d.), p. 8.

- 71 -

the second most important city in the state, but the Red River changed

its channel, leaving the city five miles away from its new course.

Furthermore, government engineers succeeded in removing the log jam

which had formerly blocked navigation upstream from Natchitoches,

allowing traffic to proceed as far as Shreveport, which soon took over

second place in the state's commerce. But Natchitoches has not given

up its position as cultural center; the Americans who came after 1803

were mostly rich and cultivated planters who blended their own heritage

with that of the Creoles as they assimilated it. Though French is not

spoken in Natchitoches as a native language, there are, just as in

New Orleans, constant reminders of a Latin past. The residents of

Natchitoches tend to look upon other sections of the state, with the

exception of New Orleans and Baton Rouge, as somewhat boorish and


Cotton has always been the chief product of the rich river-

bottom soil of the area, though now soybeans compete for first place

in importance. Cattle, corn, and potatoes are also widely grown.

Tobacco and indigo, important crops in French and Spanish days, are

no longer grown in commercial quantities.

Informant: LA 14, Caucasian man, aged 57

Informant's mother was born on a plantation near Natchitoches;

she represented the seventh generation of her family there. Informant's

father and paternal grandparents were born in Natchitoches; before that,

the family had come from Homer, Louisiana. Informant himself was born

- 72 -

in Natchitoches, and except for the years when he was away at college,

has always lived there. He received a B. A. from Northwestern State

College in Natchitoches, an M. A. from Louisiana State University in

Baton Rouge, and has done further graduate work at the University of

Texas. He is a newspaper editor and publisher. He has traveled to

Europe, the Bahamas, and all parts of the United States except New

England and the Pacific Northwest.

His conversational speech is the language of well-bred ease,

clearly articulated but not overprecise, moderate in tempo, with

grammar that is unfailingly standard Southern. On tape he uses not

quite the manner of casual conversation, but a somewhat more formal

variety, approaching the style of a classroom lecture presentation.

Community: LeCompte [Ilka Tk ]
Population: 1,485
Percent Negro: 30.3
Parish: Rapides [r~p dZ ]
State: Louisiana [ VIZ i ae ]LA 15, [ LZPQ T- ] LA 16

LeCompte is located south of Alexandria in Rapides Parish,

which is near the center of the state not far from the apex of the

triangle formed by French Louisiana. LeCompte itself is near the edge

of the Red River delta where it borders on the western crescent of

piney woods. Settlement in the area traditionally goes back to a

Spanish Franciscan mission established in 1690, said to have been dis-

banded by the French. The first completely documented settlement was

the Post du Rapide on Red River, established in 1723 or 1724, which

- 73 -

was still only a frontier outpost when the Spanish took over the

colony in 1766.

Under the liberal Spanish rule of the latter part of the
eighteenth century many people moved into central Louisiana
from the American colonies. The original French and Spanish
settlers were soon in the minority and as a whole their
identity was lost. The immigrants gradually settled in small
groups-Virginians on the upper end of Bayou Rapides or Bayou
Jean de Jean near Boyce; Marylanders at the rapids and along
the lower section of Bayou Rapides; South Carolinians in the
vicinity of Cheneyville. New England, Pennsylvania, Tennessee
and Kentucky were represented in small settlements along the
river and bayous.1

LeCompte, which was one of the earliest settlements in the parish, was

not incorporated until 1900. Its first settlers were cotton and sugar

cane planters who came shortly after the Louisiana Purchase.2 It

remains chiefly an agricultural center to this day; soybeans now

compete with sugar cane and cotton, and on the hilly lands to the

west there are a number of nurseries. Though on the edge of French

Louisiana, LeCompte is decidedly Anglo in character. Only in the past

twenty years have French families moved in appreciable numbers from

their settlements some twenty or thirty miles to the south.

Informant: LA 15, Caucasian man, aged 75

Informant's mother was born in Rapides Parish of parents from

South Carolina. His paternal grandparents also came from South Carolina,

1Rapides Parish Resources and Facilities, by the Rapides Parish
Planning Board (Baton Rouge, 1947), p. 10.

2Rapides Parish Resources and Facilities, pp. 9-11, 17-18,

- 74 -

but settled in two or three spots in Louisiana before making their

permanent home in the Cheneyville-LeCompte area. Informant's father

was born en route. Informant himself was born in LeCompte and received

a sixth grade education there. He farmed there until the age of 73,

when he went into retirement in Alexandria, the parish seat, some twelve

miles from LeCompte. As a young man, he traveled as far away as Colorado

following the wheat harvest, and since then has vacationed in Florida

and Texas.

His grammar is nonstandard most of the time. Postvocalic /i/

is usually absent or greatly weakened.

Informant: LA 16, Caucasian woman, aged 72

Informant is the wife of LA 15 above. Her mother was born in

Rapides Parish. Her maternal grandfather came from Mississippi, and

her maternal grandmother was born in Rapides Parish. Informant's

father was born somewhere in Louisiana, but his parents came from

Mississippi. Informant herself was born in LeCompte and lived there

until age 70, when she moved to near-by Alexandria. She had a sixth

grade education and has traveled to Florida and Texas on vacation. She

grew up on a farm and has been a farm housewife since her marriage.

She and her husband belong to the Methodist Church, one of the two most

prominent in the Parish-the other is the Baptist.

Her taped speech is somewhat more careful than unguarded

conversation. Even in most casual conversation, though, her articu-

lation is quite clear. Grammar is nonstandard much of the time, even

- 75 -

in fairly formal circumstances. Although there are sporadic

exceptions, she usually has postvocalic /T/ after all vowels. This

difference between her own and her husband's speech points up the

difficulty of drawing hard and fast isoglosses in Louisiana, since

noticeably different speech features may exist side by side.

Community: DeQuincy [diklkwintsl
Population: 3,928
Percent Negro: 20.8
Parish: Calcasieu [ k v ka S ]
State: Louisiana [ I i -e TI e ]

DeQuincy is culturally but not geographically a part of

northern Louisiana; it lies near the southern end of the western

crescent of piney woods. Though it is in Calcasieu Parish, it is eco-

nomically and culturally more closely connected to Beauregard Parish,

which surrounds it on three sides. First settlers in the area were

Frenchmen who came during the Spanish domination, but they were soon

joined by people with such names as Moss, Ryan, and Rigmaiden. Until

1819, when the Sabine River was officially established as the western

boundary of Louisiana, they paid taxes to the Spanish Governor at

Nacogdoches, Texas, but the area was actually part of a neutral strip

of ground, unpatrolled by either Spanish or American soldiers, and it

became a haven for Indians, felons, and runaway slaves. Pioneers

continued to arrive, before and after the boundary question was settled,

and enough came from other states to the east that the first church in

the area was a Primitive Baptist Church founded in the Big Woods

- 76 -

settlement in 1828. Lumbering was the only early industry, and most

of the old settlers practiced subsistence farming, raising everything

they needed except coffee, and usually bartering for that with eggs

or moss. After the Civil War there was a great influx of northern

and middle western migrants into Lake Charles, but in the whole

Calcasieu-Beauregard area, including DeQuincy, settlers from Mississippi,

Alabama, and Georgia were more numerous, along with those who crossed

over the Sabine from Texas.1

DeQuincy seems to be a continuation of the original Big Woods

settlement; many people from the older community moved there for the

economic advantages of being next to the railroad. In DeQuincy's early

days it was a rip-roaring frontier town with a strip of saloons where

gunfights occurred nearly every week. Now it is a quiet, friendly

place where once again many of the residents make their living in the

timber from replanted forests which cover much of the area of the

original virgin stands.

Informant: LA 29, Caucasian man, aged 76

Informant's father was born some twenty miles from the present

site of DeQuincy along the Calcasieu River. His mother probably came

from Mississippi or Alabama. Further family history is not available.

1Calcasieu Parish Resources and Facilities, by the Calcasieu
Parish Planning Board (Baton Rouge, 1945), pp. 10-13. Substantially
the same information is recorded in Beauregard Parish Resources and
Facilities, by the Beauregard Parish Planning Board (Baton Rouge, 1949),
pp. 7 ff. Beauregard Parish was originally only a part of Calcasieu

- 77 -

Informant himself was born in Big Woods, Louisiana, moved to DeQuincy

before the age of twenty, and has lived there ever since. He attended

school to the third grade, and has visited only the neighboring states

of Arkansas, Mississippi, and Texas. He is a meatcutter by trade.

There is little social stratification in DeQuincy, and he mixes socially

with most of the older residents of the area.

His speech is heavily nasalized. Tempo and vowel length are

slower than average. Grammar is usually nonstandard, and while making

the recording he did not seem to be striving for a more formal variety

of speech than he uses in ordinary conversation.

Informant: LA 28, Caucasian woman, aged 68

Informant is unrelated to LA 29 above. Her father was raised

in Big Woods, Louisiana, but she is uncertain about his birthplace or

that of his parents. Her mother was an orphan from Lake Charles, the

Parish Seat of Calcasieu Parish. Her foster parents were probably

born in that area. Informant was born in Big Woods, Louisiana, and

moved to DeQuincy before she was married. For a few years she lived

in Port Allen, just across the river from Baton Rouge. She has a

seventh grade education, and has not traveled outside the state except

just across the Parish line into Texas. She enjoys gardening and

crocheting as well as attending gospel singing in the community.

Her speech is somewhat nasalized, but not so heavily as that

of LA 29. Tempo is fairly fast and becomes faster when she reads.

- 78 -

She was a little self-conscious in front of the recorder and seemed

to try to be a little more formal grammatically than she would have

been in natural conversation. Her phonology was probably very little

affected, if at all.

Florida Parishes

Community: St. Francisville [5 e t frcT S Vas IY +]
[s sA fr e n s a s vi aF]
Population: 1,661
Percent Negro: 66.1
Parish: West Feliciana [WL5 feali a ],LA 3;
State: Louisiana [ i Z i 4tT3 ],LA 5

West Feliciana Parish lies along the east bank of the

Mississippi River in the northwest corner of that part of Louisiana

known as the Florida Parishes. There is some delta land, but most is

low, rolling, sandy land originally covered with pines. St. Fran-

cisville is beside the Mississippi about halfway between the southern

boundary of the parish and the Mississippi state line, which forms

the northern boundary of the parish. This section was never heavily

settled by the French, although the first plantation in what is now

West Feliciana Parish was owned by a Frenchman named LeJune. During

the American Revolution, however, a large number of pioneers, many

of them from North Carolina, settled along the river above Baton

Rouge, forming what came to be called the district of Feliciana. At

that time it was a British possession, and most of these families

came both to escape persecution by their revolutionary neighbors and

- 79 -

to avoid fighting against their native land. By and large, they were

rich slaveowners whose mode of life was ease and elegance. According

to an antebellum account by Captain Richard Butler, from Pittsburgh,

they rivalled the finest that the East had to offer:

I visited with eleven different families in my stay. I was much
astonished to see the style (truly elegant) they lived in. They
are, in fact, all rich. Some of them own as many as two or three
hundred slaves and elegant farm stock innumerable, and so near to
New Orleans, which is a fine market for their produce. It is a
great advantage as they can secure all the luxuries that a seaport

The two principal towns in the area were Bayou Sara and St.

Francisville. St. Francisville was the center for the wealthy land-

owners; they went to church there and traded there. Bayou Sara, on

a batture2 below St. Francisville, was inhabited by tough riverboatmen,

roustabouts, and frontiersmen.3 It has now disappeared as a separate

town, though residents still call the part of St. Francisville nearest

the river by the old name of Bayou Sara. Except for a few fishermen

along the Mississippi and many of the merchants in St. Francisville

itself, nearly everyone in the parish has a heritage dating back within

the community to plantation days. Negro descendants of the original

slaves outnumber white descendants of the original planters.

Pecans, cotton, soybeans, and vegetables, especially sweet

potatoes, are the principal crops of West Feliciana, but the most

1Williamson and Goodman, Eastern Louisiana, p. 481.

2French /baty r/, English /b ea.-/, a Louisiana word meaning
a riverbank formed of relatively recent alluvial deposits.

3Williamson and Goodman, pp. 479-486, 501. Also see Alcee
Fortier, A History of Louisiana (New York, 1904), III, 40.

- 80 -

important reminders of the plantation heritage are the many old

plantation houses that remain there, some of them restored and open

to touring guests, some of them still being used as residences.

Informant: LA 3, Caucasian man, aged 53

His mother's forebears come to West Feliciana Parish from

South Carolina and Georgia about 1800. His great-grandmother was a

pupil of John James Audubon when he was a tutor at the Oakley Plan-

tation near St. Francisville. His father's ancestors came from the

Carolinas about 1800; one of them figured prominently in the West

Florida Rebellion of 1810. He has lived in or near St. Francisville

all of his life except for one year in Florida in 1926 and a term in

the Navy during World War II. He has a high school education and

has traveled extensively within the United States and into Canada.

Informant's grammar is standard. In most respects, pronunciation

corresponds rather closely to standard usage in other parts of Loui-

siana and the South in general. But the phoneme / k/ sometimes

approaches /X/, and /S / sometimes is backed toward / /. Comparison

with other members of the community indicates that these features are

idiosyncratic, and not part of the usual pattern in St. Francisville.

Informant's speech manner on the recording is somewhat more formal

than casual conversation.

Informant: LA 5, Caucasian man, aged 41

Informant's mother was born in the part of St. Francisville

formerly known as Bayou Sara. His father was born at Cat Island,

- 81 -

eighteen miles up the river. Further family history is not available.

Informant has lived in St. Francisville most of his life, but for

twelve years lived in Baton Rouge, where he works in an oil refinery.

Before moving there and subsequently returning to St. Francisville

he was a commercial fisherman. He has an elementary school education,

and has not traveled away from the Mississippi-Louisiana area. Since

the primary purpose of the interview with him was to uncover termi-

nology applicable to fish and fishing in this part of the state, the

recording does not include "Arthur the Rat."

His use of a smooth (not inglided) raised variant of /I /

before nasals in stressed monosyllables is somewhat of a puzzle, since

it was not heard in any of the other communities in Louisiana, nor

from other speakers in this one. The feature may be idiosyncratic,

or it may be characteristic of a certain social level along this part

of the river. Acadian influence is evident from his practice of

redoubling of adjectives as an intensive device-bumpy-bumpy means

very bumpy-as well as by his treatment of interdentals in unstressed

words like the, that, with, and so forth.

Community: Clinton [kliint ]
Population: 1,568
Percent Negro: 54
Parish: East Feliciana [I fa U 2 i ae Tn ]
State: Louisiana [) Z i e 7 a ]

East Feliciana Parish, one of the Florida Parishes, lies

immediately south of the Mississippi state line about sixty miles

northeast of Baton Rouge.

- 82 -

The early history of East Feliciana Parish is much the same

as that of West Feliciana; the two were not divided until 1824, when

the site of Clinton was chosen for the parish seat. Much the same

kind of plantation elegance was the rule in what is now East Feliciana

Parish as in the older areas along the Mississippi. There was, however,

a larger percentage of Northerners in the very early settlements in

the eastern part of the original district of Feliciana. Later

migrations were much the same in the two areas. During the middle of

the nineteenth century, East Feliciana became an important educational

center for women. The Clinton Female Academy was established in 1832,

Silliman Female College in 1852, and Millwood Female Institute in

1866.1 None of these institutions is still in operation, but the

influence they had on their students and on the community as a whole

is still felt. As in West Feliciana, the black population is much

larger than the white, and in general the blacks did not begin to

enjoy the educational benefits the area had to offer until recent


Informant: LA 7, Negro man, aged 76

Informant's mother was born in East Feliciana Parish; her

parents probably came from Mississippi. His father was born in East

Feliciana Parish; paternal grandparents came from Amite County,

Mississippi. Informant himself has always lived in the southeast

1Williamson and Goodman, pp. 516-518.

- 83 -

portion of East Feliciana Parish. After attending school as far as

the fourth grade, he left off schooling to work on a plantation. He

now owns a small farm and a cane mill where he grinds cane and makes

syrup for himself and his neighbors. He is one of the most respected

members of the Baptist Church which he attends, and is respected by

Negroes and whites alike in Clinton.

Final consonants are often lost as his voice drops to an

inaudible level at the end of a word. Final /d / in weak preterits

is especially subject to loss, because of the marked weakening of

final unstressed syllables. His tempo is very slow. Final or pre-

consonantal /1 / and /n/ are often represented solely by nasal

coloring of the vowel, and this tendency seems to be growing stronger

in later generations, since it is much more noticeable among his

grandchildren than in his own speech. None of these characteristics

was observed in the speech of more privileged members of Clinton


Informant: LA 6, Negro woman, aged 72

Informant is the wife of LA 7, above. Her mother was born in

East Feliciana Parish; her maternal grandmother was half white and one

quarter Indian. Informant's father was born in East Feliciana, but

the family history is not known farther back than that. She has

always lived in the southeast part of the Parish, where she went to

the fourth grade in school. She has never worked as a domestic, but

has been a farm housewife since her marriage.

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