Identifier

etd-04062009-195507

Degree

Master of Arts (MA)

Department

French Studies

Document Type

Thesis

Abstract

Languages are the verbal and non-verbal codes of a culture. A culture houses a language(s) and is comprised of the gaze and distance/use of personal sphere. Linguists and anthropologists have long since argued over which takes priority: culture or language. French and Louisiana are synonymous: it is unimaginable to picture Louisiana without French because French constitutes the culture in Louisiana. Since linguists have debated the priority of language or culture, looking at Louisiana within the confines of this debate proves informative.

The language shift forced upon the residents of South Louisiana by the 1921 State Legislature made English the sole language of the state. This study will examine the possibility of a culture shift brought about by the language shift. If the previous culture was assimilated into the new language, researchers could infer that culture precedes language.

The purpose of this pragmatic study was to analyze the gaze behavior patterns in turn-taking among speakers of Cajun English in Avoyelles Parish, Louisiana. By analyzing these behaviors, precedence of culture over language can be inferred. The study consisted of ten participants: seven were from Avoyelles, and the other three constituted a control group.

According to the data, the Cajun English participants exhibited the gaze behavior patterns demonstrated by French speakers as described by Nash. The Cajun English participants did not show the same patterns as speakers of Standard American English and/or Southern Alabama English, strengthening the argument that culture constitutes language and is more primitive. The results show that culture precedes language in the pragmatic realm of language.

Date

2009

Document Availability at the Time of Submission

Release the entire work immediately for access worldwide.

Committee Chair

Caroline Nash

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