Louisiana Creole

Louisiana Creole
kréyòl, kouri-vini, gombo, fransé, fransé kasé
Native toLouisiana, (particularly St. Martin Parish, Natchitoches Parish, St. Landry Parish, Jefferson Parish, Lafayette Parish, Pointe Coupee Parish, Louisiana and New Orleans); also in California (chiefly Southern California), Illinois, and in Texas (chiefly East Texas).
Native speakers
< 10,000 (2010)[1]
Language codes
ISO 639-3lou
Map of Creole-Speaking Parishes in Louisiana.JPG
Creole-speaking parishes in Louisiana

Louisiana Creole (kréyol la lwizyàn; French: créole louisianais), also called Louisiana French Creole, is a French-based creole language spoken by far fewer than 10,000 people, mostly in the state of Louisiana.[1] It is not to be confused with the Louisiana Creole people, despite the similarities of the name, as Louisiana Creole people may speak a variety of languages (e.g. French, Spanish, English) without necessarily speaking creole. Due to the rapidly shrinking number of speakers, Louisiana Creole is considered an endangered language.[3]

Origins & historical development[edit]

Louisiana was colonized by ethnic French immigrants from Canada (Nouvelle France) and France. It was established on slightly higher land, above the wetlands and bayous, by the Iberville brothers at the headwater of the Mississippi delta in 1699 at the Gulf of Mexico, above the estuary of the river.[4] The French colonists were small-scale homesteaders and cattle ranchers who had little success in enslaving the indigenous peoples who inhabited the area; the French needed laborers as they found the climate very harsh. They began to import African slaves, as they had for workers on their Caribbean island colonies.[4] It is estimated that, beginning about 1719, a total of 5,500 persons were transported from the Senegambia region of West Africa. These people originally spoke a Mande language related to Malinke. They were in contact with slaves speaking other languages such as Ewe, Yoruba and Kikongo. The importation of slaves by the French regime continued until 1743.[4]

Louisiana Creole is a contact language that developed in the 18th century from interactions among speakers of the lexifier language of Standard French and several substrate or adstrate languages from Africa.[5][4] Prior to its establishment as a Creole, the precursor was considered a pidgin language.[6] The social situation that gave rise to the Louisiana Creole language was unique, in that the lexifier language was the language found at the contact site. More often the lexifier is the language that arrives at the contact site belonging to the substrate/adstrate languages. Neither the French, the French-Canadians, nor the African slaves were native to the area; this fact categorizes Louisiana Creole as a contact language that arose between exogenous ethnicities.[7] Once the pidgin tongue was transmitted to the next generation as a lingua franca (who were considered the first native speakers of the new grammar), it could effectively be classified as a creole language.[5][4]

The boundaries of historical Louisiana were shared by the Spaniards and the Anglo-Americans. By the time of the Louisiana Purchase by the U.S in 1803, the boundaries came to include most of the Central U.S, ranging from present-day Montana; parts of North Dakota, Wyoming, Colorado; all of South Dakota, Nebraska, and Kansas; part of Southeast Texas; all of Oklahoma; most of Missouri and Arkansas; as well as Louisiana.[8]

The first document found to acknowledge the existence of the Louisiana Creole was a transcript from a murder trial in 1978.[4][8] The documentation does not include any examples of orthography or structure.[4][8]

In a document that is dated 1807, a grammatical description of the language is included in the experiences of an enslaved woman named Robin. This was prior to arrival in Louisiana of French-speaking colonists and African slaves from Saint-Domingue; the whites and free people of color (also French speaking), were refugees from the Haitian Revolution, that had established the second republic in the western hemisphere. The statements collected from Robin showed linguistic features that are now known to be typical of Louisiana Creole.[4]

The term “Criollo” appeared in a legal court document dated 1972; the Spanish reference to the language stated that the language was used among slaves and whites.[8]

Slavery of Africans intensified after France ceded the colony to Spain in 1763, following France's defeat by Great Britain in the Seven Years' War in Europe.[9] Some Spaniards immigrated to the colony, but it was dominated by French language and culture. Like South Carolina, Louisiana had a "minority" population of Africans that greatly outnumbered the European settlers, including those white Creoles born in the colony.[4]

Language shift, endangerment and revitalization[edit]

In the case of Louisiana Creole, a diglossia resulted between Louisiana Creole and Plantation Society French (PSF) also known as Colonial French. The latter was frequently associated with plantation owners, plantation overseers, small landowners, military officers/soldiers and bilingual, free people of color. Over the centuries, Louisiana Creole's negative associations with slavery have stigmatized the language to the point where many speakers are reluctant to use it for fear of ridicule. In this way, the assignment of "high" variety (or H language) was allotted to PSF and that of "low" variety (or L language) was given to Louisiana Creole (please refer to diglossia for more information on H and L languages).[10]

The social status of Louisiana Creole further declined as a result of the Louisiana Purchase. Americans and their government made it illegal for Louisiana Creoles to speak their language. Public institutions like schools refused to teach children in their native tongue and children and adults were often punished by corporal punishment, fines, and social degradation. By the 21st century, other methods were enforced. The promise of upward socioeconomic mobility and public shaming did the rest of the work, prompting many speakers of Louisiana Creole to abandon their stigmatised language in favor of English.[11] Additionally, the development of industry, technology and infrastructure in Louisiana reduced the isolation of Louisiana Creolophone communities and resulted in the arrival of more English-speakers, resulting in further exposure to English. Because of this, Louisiana Creole exhibits extensive influence from English, including loanwords, code-switching and syntactic calquing.[12][13][14]

Today, Louisiana Creole is spoken by fewer than 10,000 people.[1] Though national census data includes figures on language usage, these are often unreliable in Louisiana due to respondents' tendencies to identify their language in line with their ethnic identity. For example, speakers of Louisiana Creole who identify as Cajuns often label their language 'Cajun French', though on linguistic grounds their language would be considered Louisiana Creole.[15]

Efforts to revitalize French in Louisiana have placed emphasis on Cajun French, to the exclusion of Creole.[16] A small number of community organisations focus on promoting Louisiana Creole, for example CREOLE, Inc. and the 'Creole Table' founded by Velma Johnson.[17] In addition, there is an active online community of language-learners and activists engaged in language revitalization, led by language activist Christophe Landry.[18] These efforts have resulted in the creation of a semi-standardized orthography[19] and a digitalized version of Valdman et al.'s Louisiana Creole Dictionary.[20] A first language primer was released in 2017.[21][22]

Geographic distribution[edit]

Speakers of Louisiana Creole are mainly concentrated in south and southwest Louisiana, where the population of Creolophones is distributed across the region. St. Martin Parish forms the heart of the Creole-speaking region. Other sizeable communities exist along Bayou Têche in St. Landry, Avoyelles, Iberia, and St. Mary Parishes. There are smaller communities on False River in Pointe-Coupée Parish, in Terrebone Parish, and along the lower Mississippi River in Ascension, St. Charles Parish, and St. James and St. John the Baptist parishes.[23]

There are also numbers of Creolophones in Natchitoches Parish on Cane River and sizable communities of Louisiana Creole-speakers in adjacent Southeast Texas (Beaumont, Houston, Port Arthur, Galveston)[8] and the Chicago area. Louisiana Creole speakers in California reside in Los Angeles, San Diego and San Bernardino counties and in Northern California (San Francisco Bay Area, Sacramento County, Plumas County, Tehama County, Mono County, and Yuba County.).[13] Historically, there were Creole-speaking communities in Mississippi and Alabama (on Mon Louis Island), however it is likely that no speakers remain in these areas.[24]

The Creole experience in Louisiana is a close cousin to Creole cultures world-wide. The nearest examples are found in the Caribbean: Cuba, Haiti, Guadeloupe and Martinique. The Indian Ocean holds: Réunion, Mauritius, Seychelles and Goa. In South America, the Guianas and Brazil are recognized as Creole countries.[25]


Louisiana Creole exhibits subject-verb-object (SVO) word order.[13] Definite articles in Louisiana Creole vary between the le, la and les, placed before the noun as in Louisiana French, and post-positional definite determiners -la for the singular, and -ye for the plural. This variation is but one example of extensive influence of Louisiana French on Louisiana Creole, especially in the variety spoken along the Bayou Têche which has been characterized as heavily decreolized.[14][13][26] This decreolization has resulted in the introduction of grammatical number and gender agreement in the Bayou Têche variety, as evidenced by the set of possessive pronouns.

Personal pronouns[26][edit]

Subject Objective Possessive
1st person mo mò/mwin mo, mon

(ma, me)

2nd person to twa to (ta, te)
3rd person li li so (sa, se)
1st plural nou, no, nouzòt nouzòt nou, no, nouzòt
2nd plural vouzòt, ouzòt, zòt zo vouzòt, ouzòt, zòt vouzòt
3rd plural ye ye ye


The vocabulary of Louisiana Creole is of primarily of French origin, as French is the language's lexifier. Some local vocabulary, such as topography, animals, plants are of Amerindian origin. The language has a small number of vocabulary items from west and central African languages (namely Bambara, Wolof, Fon) in folklore and in the religion of Voodoo.[27] Much of this non-French vocabulary is shared with other French-based creole languages of North America, and Louisiana Creole shares all but a handful of vocabulary with Louisiana French.[28]

Spelling Louisiana Creole has historically showed some variation, but most commonly uses an orthography similar to Haitian Creole, with allowances for sounds that do not exist in the Haitian.


Included are the French numbers for comparison.

Number Louisiana Creole French
1 un un
2 deux
3 trò/trwa trois
4 kat quatre
5 cink cinq
6 sis six
7 sèt sept
8 wit huit
9 nèf neuf
10 dis dix


English Louisiana Creole French
Hello Bonjou Bonjour
How are things? Konmen lé-zafè? Comment vont les affaires ?
How are you doing? Konmen to yê? Konmen ç'ap(é) kouri? Comment allez-vous ? Comment vas-tu?
I'm good, thanks. Çé bon, mèsi. Mo bien, mèsi. Ça va bien, merci.
See you later. Wa (twa) pli tar. Je te vois (vois-toi) plus tard. (À plus tard.)
I love you. Mo laimé twa. Je t'aime.
Take care. Swinn-twa. Soigne-toi. (Prends soin de toi.)
Good Morning. Bonjou. Bonjour.
Good Evening. Bonswa. Bonsoir.
Good Night. Bonswa. / Bonnwí. Bonne nuit.

The Lord's Prayer[edit]

Nouzòt Popá, ki dan syèl-la
Tokin nom, li sinkifyè,
N'ap spéré pou to
rwayomm arivé, é n'a fé ça
t'olé dan syèl; paréy si la tèr
Donné-nou jordi dipin tou-lé-jou,
é pardon nouzòt péshé paréy nou pardon
lê moun ki fé nouzòt sikombé tentasyon-la,
Mé délivré nou depi mal.



Consonants of Louisiana Creole[26][13][14]
Labial Dental/




Nasal m n ɲ ŋ
Plosive p b t d     k ɡ
Fricative f v s z ʃ ʒ    
Tap   ɾ    
Approximant w   j  
Lateral   l  


Oral and nasal vowels of Louisiana Creole [26][13][14]
  Front Central Back
unrounded rounded
Close oral i y u
Close-mid e ø o
Open-mid ɛ œ ɔ
nasal ɛ̃ œ̃ ɔ̃
Open ɑ̃
oral a

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c "APiCS Online -". apics-online.info. Retrieved 2017-08-15.
  2. ^ Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin, eds. (2017). "Louisiana Creole French". Glottolog 3.0. Jena, Germany: Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History.
  3. ^ "Louisiana Creole". Ethnologue. Retrieved 2017-08-15.
  4. ^ a b c d e f g h i Klinger, Thomas A.; Neumann-Holzschuh, Ingrid (2013). Michaelis, Susanne Maria; Maurer, Phillippe; Haspelmath, Martin; Huber, Magnus (eds.). ""Louisiana Creole."". The Survey of Pidgin and Creole Languages Volume II: Portuguese-based, Spanish-based, and French-based Languages. UK: Oxford University Press: 229–40 – via UBC Okanagan Library.
  5. ^ a b Klinger, Thomas A. (2003). If I Could Turn My Tongue Like That: The Creole Language of Pointe Coupee parish, Louisiana. Louisiana: Louisiana State University. pp. 3–92.
  6. ^ Dubois, Sylvie; Melançon, Megan (2000). ""Creole is, Creole Ain't: Diachronic and Synchronic Attitudes Toward Creole Identity in Southern Louisiana."". Language in Society. 29: 237–58 – via UBC Okanagan Library.
  7. ^ Velupillai, Viveka (2015). Pidgins, Creoles, & Mixed Languages. Amsterdam: John Benjamins Publishing Company. pp. 48–50.
  8. ^ a b c d e Wendte, N.A (2018). ""Language and Identity Among Louisiana Creoles in Southeast Texas: Initial Observations."". Southern Journal of Linguistics. 42: 1–16 – via UBC Okanagan Library.
  9. ^ "Seven Years War." The Columbia Encyclopedia, Paul Lagasse, and Columbia University, Columbia University Press, 8th edition, 2018. Credo Reference,
  10. ^ Carlisle, Aimee Jeanne. "Language Attrition in Louisiana Creole French" (PDF). linguistics.ucdavis.edu. University of California, Davis. Retrieved March 27, 2016.
  11. ^ Brown, Becky (March 1993). The Social Consequences of Writing Louisiana French. Cambridge University Press. pp. 68–92.
  12. ^ Valdman, ed. by Albert (1997). French and Creole in Louisiana. New York [u.a.]: Plenum Press. p. 111. ISBN 0-306-45464-5.CS1 maint: extra text: authors list (link)
  13. ^ a b c d e f A., Klingler, Thomas (2003). If I could turn my tongue like that : the Creole language of Pointe Coupee Parish, Louisiana. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press. ISBN 0807127795. OCLC 846496076.
  14. ^ a b c d Neumann, Ingrid (1985). Le créole de Breaux Bridge, Louisiane: étude morphosyntaxique, textes, vocabulaire. Hamburg: Helmut Buske Verlag. ISBN 9783871186974.
  15. ^ Klingler, Thomas A. (2003). "Language labels and language use among Cajuns and Creoles in Louisiana". University of Pennsylvania Working Papers in Linguistics. 9 (2).
  16. ^ Squint, Kirstin L. (2005-05-04). "A Linguistic Comparison of Haitian Creole and Louisiana Creole". Postcolonial Text. 1 (2).
  17. ^ "About Us". www.louisianacreoleinc.org. Retrieved 2017-11-05.
  18. ^ Mayeux, Oliver. 2015. “New Speaker Language: The Morphosyntax of New Speakers of Endangered Languages.” MPhil dissertation, Cambridge, United Kingdom: University of Cambridge.
  19. ^ Landry, Christophe; St. Laurent, Cliford; Gisclair, Michael; Gaither, Eric; Mayeux, Oliver (2016). A Guide to Louisiana Creole Orthography. Louisiana Historic and Cultural Vistas.
  20. ^ "Louisiana Creole Dictionary". www.louisianacreoledictionary.com. St. James Consulting. Retrieved 2018-01-11.
  21. ^ Wendte, N. A.; Mayeux, Oliver; Wiltz, Herbert (2017). Ti Liv Kréyòl: A Louisiana Creole Primer. Public Domain.
  22. ^ "Ti Liv Kréyòl: A Louisiana Creole Primer - Louisiana Historic and Cultural Vistas". Louisiana Historic and Cultural Vistas. 2017-08-14. Retrieved 2017-11-05.
  23. ^ Kirstin Squint, A Linguistic and Cultural Comparison of Haitian Creole and Louisiana Creole, postcolonial.org, Accessed March 11, 2014
  24. ^ Marshall, Margaret (1991). "The Creole of Mon Louis Island, Alabama, and the Louisiana Connection". Journal of Pidgin and Creole Languages. 6: 73–87. doi:10.1075/jpcl.6.1.05mar.
  25. ^ Laura Plantation, Louisiana's Creole Heritage Site, https://www.lauraplantation.com/creole-history/what-is-creole
  26. ^ a b c d Klingler, Thomas A.; Neumann-Holzschuh, Ingrid (2013). "Louisiana Creole". In Susanne Maria Michaelis; Philippe Maurer; Martin Haspelmath; Magnus Huber (eds.). The survey of pidgin and creole languages. Volume 2: Portuguese-based, Spanish-based, and French-based languages. Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0-19-967770-2.
  27. ^ Albert Valdman, Dictionary of Louisiana Creole, Indiana University Press, 1998, pp. 3-4.
  28. ^ Neumann-Holzschuh, Ingrid (2016). "Entre la Caraïbe et l'Amérique du Nord: le créole louisianais et son lexique à la lumière de ses contacts linguistiques et culturels". In Ette, Ottmar; Müller, Gesine (eds.). New Orleans and the global South : Caribbean, Creolization, carnival. Hildesheim: Georg-Olms-Verlag AG. ISBN 3487155044. OCLC 973171332.

Further reading[edit]

  • Fortier, Alcée (1895). "Louisiana Folk-Tales in French Dialect and English Translation". Memoirs of the American Folk-Lore Society. II. Retrieved 11 April 2015.
  • Kein, Sybil (2005). Learn to Speak Louisiana French Creole: An Introduction. Gumbo People Products.
  • Kein, Sybil (2006). Maw-Maw's Creole ABC Book. Gumbo People Products.
  • Valdman, Albert; et al. (1998). Dictionary of Louisiana Creole. Indiana University Press.
  • Klinger, Thomas A. (2003). If I could turn my tongue like that: The Creole Language of Pointe-Coupée Parish, Louisiana. Louisiana State University Press.
  • laFleur II, John; Costello, Brian (2013). Speaking In Tongues, Louisiana's Colonial French, Creole & Cajun Languages Tell Their Story. BookRix GmbH & Co. KG.
  • Brasseaux, Carl (2005). French, Cajun, Creole, Houma: A Primer on Francophone Louisiana. Louisiana State University Press.
  • Hail, G.M. (1992). Africans in Colonial Louisiana: The Development of Afro-Creole Culture in the Eighteenth Century. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press.
  • Brown, B. "The Social Consequences of Writing Louisiana French". JSTOR 4168410. Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  • Dubois & Horvath. "Creoles and Cajuns: A Portrait in Black and White". American Speech.
  • Valdman, A. (1997). French and Creole in Louisiana. Plenum Press.
  • Wendte, N. A.; Mayeux, Oliver; Wiltz, Herbert (2017). Ti Liv Kréyòl: A Louisiana Creole Primer. Public Domain.

External links[edit]