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March 26 2015


Dominique Ryon, PhD - French Language Attrition in Cajun Louisiana

For over 20 years, Dominique Ryon, PhD, has researched and studied the communities of French-speaking peoples in North America. Today, she is one of the leading experts in the field of sociolinguistics on the subject of language attrition among French-speaking communities in eastern Canada, upper New England, and Louisiana. Language attrition is a technical term that most often refers to a person’s loss of linguistic proficiency in a first language (L1, the “mother tongue”) after migrating to an area where a second language is more dominant. Likewise, language attrition may also occur when a native (L1) language speaker learns a second language and it interferes with proper or accepted usage of the native language, either lexically, grammatically, or otherwise. A good example of language attrition is the Cajun subculture of Louisiana, comprised of roughly 250,000 speakers at one point, which is growing smaller with each passing generation, resulting in the loss of Cajun French as a language due to the more dominant English-speaking communities that surround the Cajun heartland.

March 12 2015


A Short History of French-Speaking Peoples in North America

Dominique Ryon, PhD, is a sociolinguistic researcher and published academic on linguistic attrition and “minorization” among the French-speaking communities of North America. A coeditor of the Dictionary of Louisiana French (University Press of Mississippi, 2009), Dr. Ryon has over 20 years’ experience in the study of Cajun French and French as a minority language. The history of French-speaking peoples in North America stretches over 400 years, generally starting with the French explorers and colonists in the Maritime region of Canada in 1605, referred to as Acadia (present-day Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, the Magdalen Islands, and Prince Edward Island). In 1710, the colonial British began driving out the French Acadians by force and continued to do so until roughly the mid-1700s, when British rule became dominant in the region. Deported French Acadians typically returned to France or went to French possessions in the Caribbean or to Louisiana, the largest French colony in North America at the time. The relocated French Acadians formed their own community in Louisiana, which developed into the Cajun subculture and language over the subsequent 200 years and still exists at present.
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