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10 The Origin of Louisiana Creole FEHINTOLA MOSADOMI Many linguists and ethnographers have discussed the three varieties of French that coexist in Louisiana: the Louisiana Creole (LC), the Cajun, and the Colonial French. According to William Read, only the first two varieties are considered "Louisiana French." Much controversy exists regarding all three, especially on the origin of Louisiana Creole. The goal of this article is to examine the grammar of this variety, with an eye to shedding some light on its origins. Before doing so, however, it is important to review the arguments and counterarguments on the origin of Louisiana Creole, while at the same time considering the history of the people who speak it.1 What is meant by the terms "Creole" and "Louisiana Creole"? Creole studies is a young field, and moreover there are racial biases regarding the origin of Louisiana Creole and its speakers. Accordingly, there have been quite a few different definitions of Louisiana Creole (LC) and Creole in general. According to Albert Valdman, the word Creole originates from crioulo or criolo, which entered the French language from the Spanish , which in turn probably derives from the past tense crialdo of the verb criar (from the Latin creare), which means "servants raised in the master's house." Valdman farther claims that "Creole" implies the corrupted or rotten European language used by blacks, or by white Creoles in their dealings with blacks. In a restricted sense, the term denotes any child i. William Read, Louisiana French (1931; reprint, Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1963). 223 224 FEHINTOLA MOSADOMI born in the colony to European parents, but to Valdman, "Creole" in a broader sense refers to two groups of people: blacks born in the American colonies, as opposed to those originating from Africa (Black Creoles versus Noir Bossals), and all people of mixed race (hybrids), as opposed to pure whites or pure blacks.2 Other researchers explain that Creole, or "nigger French," or "neg," is a language similar to the Haitian Creole in form and pronunciation. Hesseling defines "Creole" as "those languages which have arisen out of European languages in the mouths of Africans, Asians, Australians, or Americans (i.e., aboriginal Americans) in overseas provinces, and then later are also frequently spoken by Europeans or their descendants." L. Adam, cited by Valdman, suggests the linguistic inferiority of the black race in his definition, since he describes Creole as having been adapted phonetically and grammatically from French, English, and Spanish by a linguistically inferior group of speakers. Elodie Jourdain, also cited by Valdman, in reference to the physiological and psychological differences between whites and blacks, and in terms of what becomes of French, the great language of civilization, when it is expressed through the minds of blacks, affirms, "Nous nous bournerons a monter ce que devient une grande langue de civilisation telle que le frangais en passant par des cerveaux et des gosiers noirs." Beber-Gisler cites Jean Raspail's definition of Creole as a nonstandard French, and in agreement with the inferiority of the language, writes: La langue Creole ne sortira jamais de 1'enfance, qui marque a la fois son charme et ses limites. La simplification de ses mots, sa similigrammaire, en soulignent 1'infantilisme. La simplification, les raccourcis, 1'absence des genres et des nombres, la suppression des prepositions et des conjonctions sont le propre du Creole . . . et sont le propre d'un enfant qui commence a parler. Quelqu'un qui dit "fini pale" pour "j'avais parle," "tigoute" pour "un peu," "un zouezo" et "un zanimo" pour "un oiseau" et "un animal," "gade" pour "regarder," "bitasion" pour "habitation ," etc., Creole ou pas Creole, celui-la est bon pour le pediatre. Raspail, then, deems the Creole of the blacks inferior because of its sim-implification , its indicative grammar, its lack of gender and number, its shortened form, and its suppression of prepositions and conjunctions, all 2. Albert Valdman, Le Creole: Structure, statut et origine (Paris: Editions Klincksieck , 1978). THE ORIGINOF LOUISIANA CREOLE 225 of which are typical of Creole languages as well as the language of a child just beginning to speak. Creole is thus believed to be a language that will never get beyond its childlike stage, because of these limitations.3 Other attempts at capturing the essence of Louisiana Creole include that of French linguist M. Harris, who describes it geographically, as a language spoken mainly by blacks but sometimes by whites in the plantations along the Mississippi between New Orleans and Pointe...


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