August 2001-July 2005
Level of Access
With National Science Foundation support, Drs. Cynthia Fox and Jane Smith will conduct three years of linguistic research on a unique variety of French. This language was brought to the northeastern part of the United States by French Canadian immigrants from Quebec and Acadians from the Maritimes over a period from the end of the 18th century into the 20th. These Franco-Americans constitute a significant segment of the populations of the northeastern states. Thanks to an ideology that supported the preservation of their ancestral heritage, they represent the second largest concentration of French speakers in the United States. But in the past 40 years, both the number of these French speakers and the frequency of their use of French have declined dramatically. Two goals of this project are to collect a sample of Franco-American French and to study its current vitality. Interviews with Franco-Americans in Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Connecticut, and Rhode Island will be recorded. These data will address several interrelated questions: (1) How does this variety of French differ from the French spoken in Canada? (2) How did these differences come about? For example, how has English influenced this variety of French? (3) Does this French vary across communities? (4) What factors have led some Franco-Americans to keep using their French and others to stop using it?
Answers to such questions improve scientific understanding of the complex ways that languages and their speakers change over time and geography. This research thus has both historical and linguistic value. The project will also provide training for future researchers by involving students in all phases and in a unique partnership between the State University of New York at Albany and the University of Maine. Of greatest importance, this research project will involve community members in documenting and thus helping to preserve their linguistic heritage.
Smith, Jane S., "Collaborative Research: A Sociolinguistic Investigation of Franco-American French" (2005). University of Maine Office of Research and Sponsored Programs: Grant Reports. 64.