Louisiana Creole

For the ethnic group, see Louisiana Creole people.
Louisiana Creole
Native to Louisiana, (particularly St. Martin Parish, Natchitoches Parish, St. Landry Parish, Jefferson Parish, Lafayette Parish and Pointe Coupee Parish, Louisiana); also in California (chiefly Southern California), Illinois, and a small community in East Texas.
Native speakers
(70,000 cited 1985)[1]
~10,000 cited 2013 [2]
French Creole
  • Louisiana Creole
Language codes
ISO 639-3 lou
Glottolog loui1240[3]
Linguasphere 51-AAC-ca

French spread in Louisiana. Parishes marked in yellow are those where 4–10% of the population speak French or Louisiana French at home, orange 10–15%, red 15–20%, brown 20–30%.

Louisiana Creole (kréyol la lwizyàn; French: créole louisianais) is a French-based creole language spoken by some of the Creole people of the state of Louisiana. The language largely consists of elements of French, Native American, and African languages.


Louisiana Creole French (LCF) is a contact language that arose from interactions between speakers of French and various African languages in the 18th century. For this reason, prior to its establishment, the precursor to LCF was considered a pidgin language. In its historical backdrop, this pidgin was born to facilitate communication between African slaves and francophone land owners. Once the pidgin tongue was transmitted to the next generation (who were then considered the first native speakers of the new grammar), it could effectively be considered a creole language.

Language Shift/Attrition

In the case of Louisiana Creole French (LCF), a diglossia resulted between LCF – a language spoken almost exclusively by African slaves and their descendants – 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, LCF’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 LCF (please refer to diglossia for more information on H and L languages).[4]

As a result of Louisiana becoming one of the United States of America, matters only worsened for the social status of LCF. With the United States being one of the wealthiest countries in the world and English being one of the most globalized languages, the promise of upward mobility prompted many speakers of LCF to abandon their language.[5] Additionally, the geographical position of Louisiana in unison with technological advances has made the entire region accessible to other areas. This not only exposes Louisiana Creole French to more linguistic competition, but also reinforces the divide between H and L languages since most people who enter the region are typically English speakers.

Moreover, efforts to revitalize francophone languages have placed emphasis on the prestigious varieties such as Cajun French. While national data, such as that provided by the census, could be an invaluable source in helping allocate resources to more endangered languages, it is also riddled with misrepresentations and inaccuracies that contribute to the attrition. An example of this is linked to the structure of questions which may be wrongfully interpreted.[6]


Creole-speaking parishes in Louisiana

Speakers of Louisiana Creole are mainly concentrated in south and southwest Louisiana, where the population of Creolophones is distributed across the region. 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) 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.)

Speaker demographics

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.[7]


Definite articles in Louisiana Creole vary between the le, la and les used in standard French (a testament of possible decreolization in some areas) and a and la for the singular, and for the plural. In St. Martin Parish, the masculine definite article, whether le or -a, is often omitted altogether.

In theory, Creole places its definite articles after the noun, unlike French. Given Louisiana Creole's complex linguistic relationship with Colonial French and Cajun French, however, this is often no longer the case. Since there is no system of noun gender, articles only vary on phonetic criteria. The article a is placed after words ending in a vowel, and la is placed after words ending in a consonant.

Another aspect of Louisiana Creole which is unlike French is the lack of verb conjugation. Verbs do not vary based on person or number. Verbs vary based on verbal markers (e.g., (past tense), çé (conditional), ça (future)) which are placed between the personal pronouns and conjugated verbs (e.g. Mo té kourí ô Villaj, "I went to Lafayette"). Frequently in the past tense, the verbal marker is omitted and one is left to figure out the time of the event through context.


The vocabulary of Louisiana Creole is of primarily of French origin, with some influences from African and Native American languages. Most local vocabulary, such as topography, animals, plants are of regional Amerindian origin - mostly substrata of the Choctaw or Mobilian Language group. The language possesses vestiges of west and central African languages (namely Bambara, Wolof, Fon) in folklore and in the religion of Voodoo. The grammar, however, remains distinct from that of French and is similar but is not quite the same as Haitian Creole. There are also different dialects of Louisiana Creole; some are mixed with Spanish and sound almost like Portuguese.[8]


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

Personal pronouns[9]

English Louisiana Creole French
I mo je
me mwin moi
you (informal) to tu
you (formal) vou vous
he li, sa il
she li, sa elle
we nou, nou-zòt (nous-autres) nous
you (plural) vou, zòt, vou-zòt (vous-autres) vous
they (masculine) ils
they (feminine) elles


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

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 tèujr
Donné-nou jordi dipin tou yé jou,
é pardon nouzòt péshé paréy nou pardon
lê moun ki fé nouzòt sikombé tentasyon-la,
Mé délivré nou depi mal.

Common verbs Used

Galopé: to run upon
Parlé: to speak
Manjé: to eat, (n) food
Vini: to come
Sayé: to try
Bliyé: to forget
Pélé: to call
laimé: to love, to like
Hayi: to hate, to dislike
vwyajé: to travel
Ri: to laugh
Arêté: to stop
Fé(r): to do, to make
Dormi: to sleep
Shanté: to sing
Dansé: to dance
Jonglé: to ponder
Pensé: to think
Maré: to attach
Kouri: to run, to go
Ganyé, gain: to have
Di: to say, to tell
Souveni: to remember
Tandé: to hear, to listen
Ekri: to write
Ekouté: to listen
Mèt: to put
Mouri: to die
Pran: to take
Konté: to count
Kwa: to believe
Wa(r): to see
Gardé: to watch
Trouvé: to find
Kaçhé: to hide
Héré: to be happy
Tristé: to be sad
Kontan: to be content, satisfied
Asi: to sit
Rekont: to meet
Voyé: to send
Konné: to know
Swèt: to hope, wish, believe
Twé: to kill
Frappé: to hit
Mélanjé: to blend
Boukané: to smoke (food)
Okipé/Busy: to be occupied,
Advancé: to advance
Endromî: fall asleep
Las: to be exhausted
Ouvrajé: to labor, to work
Sijesté: to suggest
Yê: to be, ex. Konmen to yê: how are you, "how you be." literally
Navigé: to navigate
Pliyé: to fold
Édé: to help
Ini: to unite
Separé: to separate
Divorcé: to separate, divorce
Bwa/Bwé/Bwéson: to drink
Swaf: to have thirst, to be thirsty.
Kontinué: to continue
Pran: to take
Aprann/pran: to learn
Kombaté/Baté: to fight
Engajé: to engage
Oulé/Olé/Vlé: to want
Gélé: to freeze
Friyé: to fry
Fumé: smoke cigarettes
Sharé/Kozé/Paré: to chat, gossip

See also


  1. Louisiana Creole at Ethnologue (18th ed., 2015)
  2. Neumann-Holzschuh & Klingler (2013). Louisiana Creole. Oxford University Press. pp. 228–240.
  3. Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin; Bank, Sebastian, eds. (2016). "Louisiana Creole". Glottolog 2.7. Jena: Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History.
  4. Carlisle, Aimee Jeanne. "Language Attrition in Louisiana Creole French" (PDF). linguistics.ucdavis.edu. University of California, Davis. Retrieved March 27, 2016.
  5. Brown, Becky (March 1993). The Social Consequences of Writing Louisiana French. Cambridge University Press. pp. 68–92.
  6. Sturgis, Sue. "CENSUS WATCH: In Louisiana, the Census gets a dose of Cajun pride". Institute for Southern Studies. Retrieved March 29, 2016.
  7. Kirstin Squint, A Linguistic and Cultural Comparison of Haitian Creole and Louisiana Creole, postcolonial.org, Accessed March 11, 2014
  8. Albert Valdman, Dictionary of Louisiana Creole, Indiana University Press, 1998, pp. 3-4.

Further reading

External links

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