Letter-writing in French Louisiana
Interpreting variable spelling conventions, 1685–1840
This article reports a sociolinguistic analysis of the French spelling system in newly discovered, authentic personal letters written by literate settlers living in Louisiana during the 18th and 19th centuries. After showing that French and non-French vernaculars were very much alive among the Louisiana founding population, the paper examines the use of old and new French norms in Louisiana for three socio-economic classes over time: the elite, planter, and military/merchant populations. Socio-demographic pressures are described that could have led to the maintenance of old French features or the expansion of some French varieties. It is shown that the history of French spelling in France, the origins of diverse migrant populations that settled in colonial Louisiana, and the powerful socio-economic events that shape the expansion of a socially well-delineated population not only explain the linguistic behavior of both French settlers and Louisiana-born writers, but also provide many hints to determining the sociolinguistic attributes of the illiterate French vernacular-speaking population.
Published online: 03 December 2002
Cited by 3 other publications
Dubois, Sylvie & Barbara M. Horvath
Martineau, France & Sandrine Tailleur
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