The French language is spoken as a minority language in the United States. Roughly 2.07 million Americans over the age of five reported speaking the language at home in a federal 2010 estimate,making French the fourth most-spoken language in the nation behind English, Spanish, and Chinese (when Cajun, Haitian Creole and all other forms of French are included, and when Cantonese, Mandarin and other varieties of Chinese are similarly combined).
French is a Romance language of the Indo-European family. It descended from the Vulgar Latin of the Roman Empire, as did all Romance languages. French evolved from Gallo-Romance, the spoken Latin in Gaul, and more specifically in Northern Gaul. Its closest relatives are the other langues d'oïl—languages historically spoken in northern France and in southern Belgium, which French (Francien) has largely supplanted. French was also influenced by native Celtic languages of Northern Roman Gaul like Gallia Belgica and by the (Germanic) Frankish language of the post-Roman Frankish invaders. Today, owing to France's past overseas expansion, there are numerous French-based creole languages, most notably Haitian Creole. A French-speaking person or nation may be referred to as Francophone in both English and French.
A minority language is a language spoken by a minority of the population of a territory. Such people are termed linguistic minorities or language minorities. With a total number of 196 sovereign states recognized internationally and an estimated number of roughly 5,000 to 7,000 languages spoken worldwide, it follows that the vast majority of languages are minority languages in every country in which they are spoken. Some minority languages are simultaneously also official languages, including the Irish language in Ireland. Likewise, some national languages are often considered minority languages, insofar as they are the national language of a stateless nation.
The United States of America (USA), commonly known as the United States or America, is a country comprising 50 states, a federal district, five major self-governing territories, and various possessions. At 3.8 million square miles, the United States is the world's third or fourth largest country by total area and is slightly smaller than the entire continent of Europe. With a population of over 327 million people, the U.S. is the third most populous country. The capital is Washington, D.C., and the most populous city is New York City. Most of the country is located contiguously in North America between Canada and Mexico.
Several varieties of French evolved in what is now the United States:
Louisiana French refers to the complex of dialects and varieties of the French language spoken traditionally in colonial Lower Louisiana. As of today Louisiana French is primarily used in the U.S. state of Louisiana, specifically in the southern parishes, though substantial minorities exist in southeast Texas as well. Over the centuries, the language has incorporated some words of African, Spanish, Native American and English origin, sometimes giving it linguistic features found only in Louisiana, Louisiana French differs to varying extents from French dialects spoken in other regions, but Louisiana French is mutually intelligible with all other dialects and particularly with those of Missouri, New England, Canada and northwestern France. Many famous books, such as Les Cenelles, a poetry anthology compiled by a group of gens de couleur libres, and Pouponne et Balthazar, a novel written by French Creole Sidonie de la Houssaye, are in standard French. It is a misconception that no one in Louisiana spoke or wrote Standard French. Figures from the United States Census record that roughly 3.5% of Louisianans over the age of 5 report speaking French or a French-based creole at home. Distribution of these speakers is uneven, however, with the majority residing in the south-central region known as Acadiana. Some of the Acadiana parishes register francophone populations of 10% or more of the total, with a select few exceeding 15%.
The term French Louisiana refers to two distinct regions:
New England French is a variety of Canadian French spoken in the New England region of the United States.
More recently, French has also been carried to various parts of the nation via immigration from Francophone regions. Today, French is the second most spoken language (after English) in the states of Maine and Vermont, and the third most spoken (after English and Spanish) in the states of Louisiana, Connecticut, Rhode Island, and New Hampshire.
Maine is the northernmost state in the New England region of the northeastern United States. Maine is the 12th smallest by area, the 9th least populous, and the 38th most densely populated of the 50 U.S. states. It is bordered by New Hampshire to the west, the Atlantic Ocean to the southeast, and the Canadian provinces of New Brunswick and Québec to the northeast and northwest, respectively. Maine is the only state to border just one other state, is the easternmost among the contiguous United States, and is the northernmost state east of the Great Lakes.
Vermont is a state in the New England region of the northeastern United States. It borders the U.S. states of Massachusetts to the south, New Hampshire to the east, New York to the west, and the Canadian province of Quebec to the north. Vermont is the second-smallest by population and the sixth-smallest by area of the 50 U.S. states. The state capital is Montpelier, the least populous state capital in the United States. The most populous city, Burlington, is the least populous city to be the most populous city in a state. As of 2019, Vermont was the leading producer of maple syrup in the United States. In crime statistics, it was ranked since 2016 as the safest state in the country.
Connecticut is the southernmost state in the New England region of the northeastern United States. As of the 2010 Census, it has the highest per-capita income, Human Development Index (0.962), and median household income in the United States. It is bordered by Rhode Island to the east, Massachusetts to the north, New York to the west, and Long Island Sound to the south. Its capital is Hartford and its most populous city is Bridgeport. It is part of New England, although portions of it are often grouped with New York and New Jersey as the tri-state area. The state is named for the Connecticut River which approximately bisects the state. The word "Connecticut" is derived from various anglicized spellings of an Algonquian word for "long tidal river".
As a second language, French is the second most widely taught foreign language (after Spanish) in American schools, colleges and universities.While the overwhelming majority of Americans of French ancestry grew up speaking only English, some enroll their children in French heritage language classes.
A person's second language, or L2, is a language that is not the native language of the speaker, but is learned later. For example, there are two official languages of Canada and some people use both.
A foreign language is a language originally from another country than the speaker. However, there must be a defined distinction between foreign and second language. It is also a language not spoken in the native country of the person referred to, i.e., an English speaker living in Spain can say that Spanish is a foreign language to him or her. These two characterisations do not exhaust the possible definitions, however, and the label is occasionally applied in ways that are variously misleading or factually inaccurate.
Spanish or Castilian, is a Romance language that originated in the Iberian Peninsula and today has over 450 million native speakers in Spain and in the Americas. It is a global language and the world's second-most spoken native language, after Mandarin Chinese.
There are three major groups of French dialects that emerged in what is now the United States: Louisiana French, Missouri French, and New England French (essentially a variant of Canadian French).
Missouri French or Illinois Country French also known as français vincennois, Cahok and nicknamed "Paw-Paw French" often by individuals mainly outside the community but not exclusively, is a variety of the French language formerly spoken in the upper Mississippi River Valley in the Midwestern United States, particularly in eastern Missouri. The language is one of the major varieties of French that developed in the United States and at one point was widely spoken in areas of Bonne Terre, Valles Mines, Desloge, De Soto, Ste. Genevieve, Old Mines, Saint Louis, Richwoods, Prairie du Rocher, Cahokia, Kaskaskia, and Vincennes as well as several other locations. Speakers of Missouri French may call themselves "créoles" as they are descendants of the early French settlers of Illinois Country.
Canadian French is a variety of the French language spoken in Canada. It includes the varieties of French used in Canada such as Quebec French. Formerly Canadian French referred solely to Quebec French and the closely related varieties of Ontario (Franco-Ontarian) and Western Canada—in contrast with Acadian French, which is spoken in some areas of eastern Quebec, New Brunswick, and some areas of Nova Scotia. PEI and Newfoundland & Labrador have Newfoundland French.
Louisiana French is traditionally divided into three dialects, Colonial French, Louisiana Creole French, and Cajun French.Colonial French is traditionally said to have been the form of French spoken in the early days of settlement in the lower Mississippi River valley, and was once the language of the educated land-owning classes. Cajun French, derived from Acadian French, is said to have been introduced with the arrival of Acadian exiles in the 18th century. The Acadians, the francophone inhabitants of Acadia (modern Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island, and northern Maine), were expelled from their homeland between 1755 and 1763 by the British. Many Acadians settled in lower Louisiana, where they became known as Cajuns (a corruption of "Acadians"). Their dialect was regarded as the typical language of white lower classes, while Louisiana Creole French developed as the language of the black community. Today, most linguists regard Colonial French to have largely merged with Cajun, while Louisiana Creole remains a distinct variety.
The Mississippi River is the second-longest river and chief river of the second-largest drainage system on the North American continent, second only to the Hudson Bay drainage system. Its source is Lake Itasca in northern Minnesota and it flows generally south for 2,320 miles (3,730 km) to the Mississippi River Delta in the Gulf of Mexico. With its many tributaries, the Mississippi's watershed drains all or parts of 32 U.S. states and two Canadian provinces between the Rocky and Appalachian mountains. The main stem is entirely within the United States; the total drainage basin is 1,151,000 sq mi (2,980,000 km2), of which only about one percent is in Canada. The Mississippi ranks as the fourth-longest and fifteenth-largest river by discharge in the world. The river either borders or passes through the states of Minnesota, Wisconsin, Iowa, Illinois, Missouri, Kentucky, Tennessee, Arkansas, Mississippi, and Louisiana.
Acadian French is a variety of Canadian French originally associated with the Acadians of what is now the Maritimes in Canada. It is still spoken by the Francophone population of the Canadian province of New Brunswick, by small minorities on the Gaspé Peninsula and the Magdalen Islands of Quebec as well as in pockets of Francophones in Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island. In the United States, it is spoken in the Saint John Valley of northern Aroostook County, Maine. Besides standard French, New England French is the predominant form of French spoken elsewhere in Maine.
The Acadians are the descendants of French colonists who settled in Acadia during the 17th and 18th centuries, some of whom are also descended from the Indigenous peoples of the region. The colony was located in what is now Eastern Canada's Maritime provinces, as well as part of Quebec, and present-day Maine to the Kennebec River. Acadia was a distinctly separate colony of New France. It was geographically and administratively separate from the French colony of Canada. As a result, the Acadians and Québécois developed two distinct histories and cultures. The settlers whose descendants became Acadians came from many areas in France, but especially regions such as Île-de-France, Normandy, Brittany, Poitou and Aquitaine.
Missouri French was spoken by the descendants of 17th-century French settlers in the Illinois Country, especially in the area of Ste. Genevieve, St. Louis, and in Washington County. In the 1930s there were said to be about 600 French-speaking families in the Old Mines region between De Soto and Potosi.By the late 20th century the dialect was nearly extinct, with only a few elderly speakers able to use it. Similarly, Muskrat French is spoken in southeastern Michigan by descendants of habitants , voyageurs and coureurs des bois who settled in the Pays d'en Haut.
New England French, essentially a local variety of Canadian French, is spoken in parts of the New England states. This area has a legacy of significant immigration from Canada, especially during the 19th and the early 20th centuries. Some Americans of French heritage who have lost the language are currently attempting to revive it.Acadian French is also spoken by Acadians in Maine in the Saint John Valley.
Métis French is spoken by some Métis people in North Dakota.
Ernest F. Haden identifies the French of Frenchville, Pennsylvania as a distinct dialect of North American French."While the French enclave of Frenchville, Pennsylvania first received attention in the late 1960s, the variety of French spoken has not been the subject of systematic linguistic study. Haden reports that the geographical origin of its settlers is central France, as was also the case of New Orleans, but with settlement being more recent (1830–1840). He also reports that in the 1960s French seemed to be on the verge of extinction in the state community."
Brayon French is spoken in the Beauce of Quebec; Edmundston, New Brunswick; and Madawaska, Maine mostly in Aroostook County, Maine. Although superficially a phonological descendant of Acadian French, analysis reveals it is morphosyntactically identical to Quebec French.It is believed to have resulted from a localized levelling of contact dialects between Québécois and Acadian settlers. Some of the Brayons view themselves as neither Acadian nor Québécois, affirming that they are a distinctive culture with a history and heritage linked to farming and forestry in the Madawaska area.
Canadian French spoken by French Canadian immigrants is also spoken by Canadian Americans and French Canadian Americans in United States across Little Canadas and in many cities of New England. French Canadians living in Canada express their cultural identity using a number of terms. The Ethnic Diversity Survey of the 2006 Canadian censusfound that French-speaking Canadians identified their ethnicity most often as French, French Canadians, Québécois, and Acadian. The latter three were grouped together by Jantzen (2006) as "French New World" ancestries because they originate in Canada. All these ancestries are represented among French Canadian Americans. Franco-Newfoundlanders speaking Newfoundland French, Franco-Ontarians, Franco-Manitobans, Fransaskois, Franco-Albertans, Franco-Columbians, Franco-Ténois, Franco-Yukonnais, Franco-Nunavois are part of the French Canadian Americans population and speaks their own form of French.
Various dialects of French spoken in France is also spoken in United States by recent immigrants from France both of French ancestry and descendants of immigrants from France .
A total of 10,804,304 people claimed French ancestry in the 2010 censusalthough other sources have recorded as many as 13 million people claiming this ancestry. Most French-speaking Americans are of this heritage, but there are also significant populations not of French descent who speak it as well, including those from Belgium, Switzerland, Haiti and numerous Francophone African countries.
In Florida, the city of Miami is home to a large Francophone community, consisting of French expatriates, Haitians (who may also speak Haitian Creole, a separate language which is derived partially from French), and French Canadians; there is also a growing community of Francophone Africans in and around Orlando and Tampa. A small but sustaining French community that originated in San Francisco during the Gold Rush and was supplemented by French wine-making immigrants to the Bay Area is centered culturally around that city's French Quarter.
In Maine, there is a recent increase of French speakers due to immigration from Francophone countries in Africa.
Many retired individuals from Quebec have moved to Florida, or at least spend the winter there. Also, the many Canadians who travel to the Southeastern states in the winter and spring include a number of Francophones, mostly from Quebec but also from New Brunswick and Ontario. Quebecers and Acadians also tend to visit Louisiana, as Quebec and New Brunswick share a number of cultural ties with Louisiana.
Florida, California, New York, Texas, Louisiana, Arizona, Hawaii, and a few other popular resort regions (most notably Old Orchard Beach, Maine, Kennebunk and Kennebunkport, Maine and Cape May, New Jersey) are visited in large numbers by Québécois, during winter and summer vacations.
French has traditionally been the foreign language of choice for English-speakers across the globe. However, after 1968,French has ranked as the second-most-studied foreign language in the United States, behind Spanish. Some 1.2 million students from the elementary grades through high school were enrolled in French language courses in 2007-2008, or 14% of all students enrolled in foreign languages.
Many American universities offer French-language courses, and degree programs in the language are common.In the fall of 2016, 175,667 American university students were enrolled in French courses, or 12.4% of all foreign-language students and the second-highest total of any language (behind Spanish, with 712,240 students, or 50.2%).
French teaching is more important in private schools, but it is difficult to obtain accurate data because the optional status of languages. Indeed, the study of a foreign language is not required in all states for American students. Some states, however, including New York, Virginia and Georgia, require a minimum of two years of study of a foreign language.
|Town||State||Total population||% Francophone||Francophone population|
|Town||State||Total population||% Francophone||Francophone population|
|Saint John Plantation||ME||282||60%||169|
Note: speakers of French-based creole languages are not included in percentages.
|Parish/county||State||Total population||% Francophone||No. Francophones|
|St. Martin Parish||LA||48,583||27.4%||13,312|
|St. Landry Parish||LA||87,700||16.7%||14,646|
|Jefferson Davis Parish||LA||31,435||16.2%||5,092|
The Cajuns, also known as Acadians, are an ethnic group mainly living in the U.S. state of Louisiana, and in the Canadian maritimes provinces as well as Québec consisting in part of the descendants of the original Acadian exiles—French-speakers from Acadia (L'Acadie) in what are now the Maritimes of Eastern Canada. In Louisiana, Acadian and Cajun are often used as broad cultural terms without reference to actual descent from the deported Acadians. Historically, Louisianians of Acadian descent were also considered to be Louisiana Creoles, although Cajun and Creole are often portrayed as separate identities today. The Cajuns make up a significant portion of south Louisiana's population and have had an enormous impact on the state's culture.
Creole people are ethnic groups which originated during the colonial-era from racial mixing between Europeans, Africans and sometime South Asian and Native American peoples, known as creolisation. Creole peoples vary widely in ethnic background and mixture, and many have since developed distinct ethnic identities. The development of creole languages is sometimes mistakenly attributed to the emergence of creole ethnic identities; however, they are independent developments.
French Canadians are an ethnic group who trace their ancestry to French colonists who settled in Canada from the 17th century onward. Today, people of French heritage make up the majority of native speakers of French in Canada, who in turn account for about 22 per cent of the country's total population. The majority of French Canadians reside in Quebec, where they constitute the majority of the province's population, although French-Canadian and francophone minority communities exist in all other Canadian provinces and territories as well. Besides the Québécois, distinct French speaking ethnic groups in Canada include the Acadians of the Maritime Provinces, the Brayons of New Brunswick, and the Métis of the Prairie Provinces, among other smaller groups.
Acadiana is the official name given to the French Louisiana region that was historically home to the state's Francophone population, the Acadians and Cajuns. Many are of Acadian descent and are now identified as Cajun. Of the 64 parishes that make up the U.S. state of Louisiana, 22 named parishes and other parishes of similar cultural environment make up this intrastate region.
The Council for the Development of French in Louisiana is Louisiana's Office of Francophone Affairs. It is a state agency whose multiple legislative mandates include developing opportunities to use the French language in tourism, economic development, culture, education and international relations. CODOFIL is governed by a board of 23 members and administratively placed within the Louisiana Office of Cultural Development's Department of Culture, Recreation and Tourism, overseen by the Lieutenant Governor. CODOFIL is the only state agency in the United States whose purpose is to serve a linguistic population.
The Festival International de Louisiane is an annual music and arts festival held in Lafayette, Louisiana celebrating the French heritage of the region and its connection to the Francophone world. The festival was first held in 1987 and has become very popular, attracting musicians, artists, and craftsmen from around the world. The festival is held outdoors, in Downtown Lafayette, the last full weekend in April, and is free to the public. Estimates for attendance include 400,000 in 2016. The festival was voted the "Best World Music Festival" by About.com readers in their 2012 and 2013 Readers' Choice Awards.
French America, sometimes called Franco-America, in contrast to Anglo-America, is the French-speaking community of people and their diaspora, notably those tracing back origins to New France, the early French colonization of the Americas. The Canadian province of Quebec is the centre of the community and is the point of origin of most of French America. It also includes communities in all provinces of Canada, Saint Pierre and Miquelon, Haiti, Saint Martin, Saint Barthélemy, Saint Lucia, Martinique, and Guadeloupe in the Caribbean; French Guiana in South America. Also there are minorities of French speakers in part of the United States, Dominica, Grenada and Trinidad and Tobago.
Newfoundland French or Newfoundland Peninsular French, refers to the French spoken on the Port au Port Peninsula of Newfoundland. The francophones of the region can trace their origins to Continental French fishermen who settled in the late 1800s and early 1900s, rather than the Québécois. Some Acadians of the Maritimes also settled in the area. For this reason, Newfoundland French is most closely related to the Norman and Breton French of nearby St-Pierre-et-Miquelon. Today, heavy contact with Acadian French—and especially widespread bilingualism with Newfoundland English—have taken their toll, and the community is in decline.
French is the mother tongue of about 7.2 million Canadians according to Census Canada 2016. Most native speakers of the French language in Canada live in Quebec, where French is the official and majority language. 77 per cent of Quebec's population are native francophones, and 95 per cent of the population speak French as their first or second language. Additionally, about one million native francophones live in other provinces, forming a sizable minority in New Brunswick, which is officially a bilingual province, where about one-third of the population are francophone. There are also French-speaking communities in Manitoba and Ontario, where francophones make up about 4 per cent of the population, as well as significantly smaller communities in Alberta, Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island and Saskatchewan – around 1–2 per cent. Many of these communities are supported by French-language institutions.
Dialects of the French language are spoken in France and around the world. The francophones of France generally use Metropolitan French although some also use regional dialects or varieties such as Meridional French. In Europe outside France there are Belgian French, Swiss French, and in Italy Aostan French. In Canada, French is an official language along with English; the two main dialects of French in Canada are Quebec French and Acadian French, but also another dialect commonly grouped as Canadian French, used by Anglophones speaking French as a second language or by Francophones in Canada using a different dialect. In Lebanon, French was an official language until 1941 and the main dialect spoken there is Lebanese French or Levantine French. Note that the discussion here refers to varieties of the French language, not to the Romance sister languages of French spoken in France. See also French-based creole languages, which are also considered separate languages.
French Americans or Franco-Americans are citizens or nationals of the United States who identify themselves with having full or partial French or French Canadian heritage, ethnicity, and/or ancestral ties. Members of this group are also those who have declared allegiance either informally or formally to France or French Canada and the United States of America. People with dual citizenship of both France and the United States are commonly referred to as French-Americans.
A French creole, or French-based creole language, is a creole language for which French is the lexifier. Most often this lexifier is not modern French but rather a 17th-century koiné of French from Paris, the French Atlantic harbors, and the nascent French colonies. French-based creole languages are spoken natively by millions of people worldwide, primarily in the Americas and on archipelagos throughout the Indian Ocean. This article also contains information on French pidgin languages, contact languages that lack native speakers.
Louisiana Creole people, are persons descended from the inhabitants of colonial Louisiana during the period of both French and Spanish rule. Louisiana Creoles share cultural ties such as the traditional use of the French and Louisiana Creole languages and predominant practice of Catholicism.
Barry Jean Ancelet is a Cajun folklorist and expert in Cajun music and Cajun French. He has written several books, and under the pseudonym Jean Arceneaux he has written Cajun French poetry and lyrics to Cajun French songs.
Cajun English, or Cajun Vernacular English, is the dialect of English spoken by Cajuns living in southern Louisiana. Cajun English is significantly influenced by Louisiana French, the historical language of the Cajun people, a subset of Louisiana Creoles—although many today prefer not to identify as such—who descend largely from the Acadians expelled from Canada during Le Grand Dérangement. It is derived from Louisiana French and is on the list of dialects of the English language for North America. Louisiana French differs, sometimes markedly, from Metropolitan French in terms of pronunciation and vocabulary, partially due to unique features in the original settlers' dialects and partially because of the long isolation of Louisiana Creoles from the greater francophone world.
The United States Census Bureau estimates that the population of Louisiana was 4,670,724 on July 1, 2015, a 3.03% increase since the 2010 United States Census.
The Franco-Americans are a group of people of French, French-Canadian, and Acadian descent living in the United States. Today there are 11.8 million Franco-Americans in the US and 1.6 million Franco-Americans who speak French at home. There are also an additional 450,000 Americans who speak a French-based creole language, for example, Haitian Creole. Even though Franco-Americans are a substantial portion of the US population, they are generally less visible than other sizable ethnic groups. This is partly because of geographical dispersal, and partly because a large proportion of Franco-Americans have acculturated or assimilated.
The survey, based on interviews, asked the following questions: "1) I would now like to ask you about your ethnic ancestry, heritage or background. What were the ethnic or cultural origins of your ancestors? 2) In addition to "Canadian", what were the other ethnic or cultural origins of your ancestors on first coming to North America?
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