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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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