Dictionary of Louisiana French

Dictionary of Louisiana French: As spoken in Cajun, Creole, and American Indian communities. Ed. by Albert Valdman, Kevin J. Rottet, Barry Jean Ancelet, Richard Guidry, Thomas A. Klingler, Amanda LaFleur, Tamara Lindner, Michael D. Picone, and Dominique Ryon. Jackson, MS: University Press of Mississippi, 2010. Pp. xl, 892. ISBN  9781604734034. $38 (Hb).

Reviewed by Peter Freeouf, Chiang Mai University

French has long been spoken in the southern parts of the American state of Louisiana. Just as French Louisiana is known for its distinctive culture, music, and cuisine (a mixture of European, African, and Native American styles incorporating local ingredients), so these communities developed and maintained until recent years flourishing divergent dialects of the French language, commonly referred to as Cajun and Creole French, whose speakers now are dwindling in number. This massive dictionary seeks to encompass the rich lexical resources of Louisiana French (LF).

‘A user’s guide to the dictionary’, (xv–xvii) explains with the help of a series of diagrams (xv–xvii) how to read and make optimal use of the entries. A subsection, ‘Detailed discussion of the content and structure of entries’ (xix–xxv) provides further explanation and examples of entries in the Louisiana French-English portion of the dictionary. A detailed ‘References list’ (xxvii–xxix) gives a list of published sources, including radio stations and two periodicals published in Louisiana French. A ‘List of parish codes’ (xxxiii) is a list of the parishes in southern Louisiana where French has traditionally been spoken.

In the ‘Pronunciation guide’ (xxxvii–xl) the distinctive sounds of LF are listed in International Phonetic Alphabet (IPA) symbols, with one sample word for each phoneme given in IPA transcription, followed by the traditional French spelling and an English gloss. The list of phonemes and sample words is followed by a discussion of LF developments of specific French vowels and consonants in LF that distinguish it from standard French.

The bulk of the dictionary is the ‘Dictionary of Louisiana French’ proper (3–665). The entries in the LF-English section consist of a headword in traditional French spelling and its pronunciation (often including variants) in IPA transcription in brackets, followed by an indication of its word class and English equivalents. The majority of entries provide one or more example sentences for the headword in traditional French spelling (without transcription), followed by an English translation. Each full entry ends with the geographical source (parish) and other source information. Written variants are listed in the LF-English section and are cross-referenced to a form corresponding more closely to standard French spelling, which is of course helpful for those who will use French as a reference or starting point. An extensive and detailed ‘English-Louisiana French index’ (669–891) is helpful for finding the LF equivalents of English words and phrases.

This dictionary is a magnificent publication, destined to be the definitive lexicographical record of LF, an endangered language with a long and complex ethno-linguistic history of interest to linguists, ethnographers, and historians alike. Those responsible for producing this splendid work are to be commended for their hard work, obvious dedication, and a purchase price affordable to a very wide range of interested readers and users.

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