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Auteur: Michael PICONE

The Use and Abuse of Multilingual Literary Dialect for the Purpose of Sociolinguistic Reconstruction

Abstract/Résumé: The literary movement of American "local colorists" became prominent in large part due to Northern interest in Southern lifeways in the aftermath of the Civil War. The use of literary dialect to portray local speechways was an important feature of this emerging literature. With the partial exception of the work of William Evans on the writings of George Washington Cable, virtually all analysis of Southern literary dialect is Anglocentric in its focus. However, the works of local-color authors of Louisiana figured among the most popular (and innovative) of the nineteenth century, and, to a very large degree, French-English codemixing and the French-accented English dialect found in these works were crucial elements in the rise to popularity of the entire genre. Taking into consideration the caution expressed by Sumner Ives and Dennis Preston regarding the limitations of literary dialect, it is nevertheless instructive to examine the works of authors such as George Washington Cable, Kate Chopin, and Grace King for possible clues regarding the proper reconstruction of French, Creole, and English dialects in Louisiana in the nineteenth century (examples drawn from phonology, syntax and the lexicon will be given), as well as the nature and extent of codemixing. A lesser known tradition of local-color Louisiana literature exists in the French language, and in fact predates the English thread. Comparing the literary dialect of English-dominant authors with that of Alfred Mercier and other Francophone authors allows for cross-checking of some of the same linguistic traits against the background of a different orthographic and stylistic tradition.