Louisiana Dialects, Lesson 1

Leslie Salinero

Leslie Salinero

You ain’t gonna find no dialec like dis nowheres else in na whirl!1

From Cajun to Yat and everything in between, numerous dialects were born and are thriving throughout Southeastern Louisiana. I’ve always been fascinated with such vernacular, especially in the New Orleans area. Here begins an attempt to catalog and explain the idioms, truncated syllables, random dropping and adding of “s,” local terminology, diphthongs2,and other inflections and infractions that make up the grammatical acid trip that is New Orleans dialect.

During my childhood, I began to notice that certain elderly family members and friends from Bywater had unique pronunciations of certain words. But this dialectal distinction was not just a geographic one—pronunciation varied according to gender, too.  For example, consider the word “church” in the following sound clips:

Choyich (male)

Cheurech (female)

Females pronounce the word with more of an “r” sound, while males virtually drop the “r.” I have yet to determine what causes this difference, but if anyone knows, please post a comment to this blog!

Homework: Learn how to speak the dialect! Practice saying the following other words according to the pronunciation in the sound bites above: first, third, world, dirty, purse.

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Standard English translation: You aren’t going to find any dialect like this anywhere else in the world!

2  Diphthong: no, this is not an article of lingerie sold at Victoria’s Secret. It is a gliding monosyllabic speech sound (as the vowel combination at the end of toy) that starts at or near the articulatory position for one vowel and moves to or toward the position of another. Source: www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary.

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