|New England French|
|français de Nouvelle-Angleterre|
|Native to||United States |
(New England) (primarily Maine, New Hampshire, and Vermont)
|120,000 (2001), 170,000 (2015)[a]|
Percent of population speaking French at home, including other dialects (2015)
New England French is one of the major forms of the French language that developed in what is now the United States, the others being Louisiana French and the nearly extinct Missouri French, Muskrat French and Métis French.
The dialect is the predominant form of French spoken in New England (apart from standard French), except in the Saint John Valley of northern Aroostook County, Maine, where Acadian French predominates.
The dialect is endangered. During the 1960s and 1970s some public schools would discipline students for speaking French in the classroom; however, in recent years it has seen renewed interest and is supported by bilingual education programs in place since 1987. A continuing trend of reduced bilingual and foreign-language education has impacted the language's prevalence in younger generations since 2010. However, cultural programs in recent years have led to renewed interest between older generations speaking the dialect and newly arrived refugee populations from Francophone Africa in cities such as Lewiston.
|State||Number of speakers||Proportion of state's population|
|Community||State||Percent French-speaking||Total population of community (2010 census)|
|Saint John Plantation||Maine||44.2%||267|
|Wentworth's Location||New Hampshire||12.1%||33|
Although many variations of French are spoken by populations within New England, including Quebec, Acadian, and European French, a 1961 speaking study conducted by the United States Department of Health, Education, and Welfare found a number of features of the New England dialect that were prevalent in the mid-20th century. Some colloquialisms found in New England French are similar to rural Quebec French with the use of words like char (roughly, "chariot"), compared with the standard French word for car, voiture ("vehicle", "automobile"), and represent words regarded as archaic in standardized French or words used in other dialects but of similar, yet distinct, usages. When respondents were presented with more advanced Standard French prompts, however, they generally demonstrated comprehension and code switching. Some examples of responses provided in the study include:
|English||Standard French||New England French|
|potato||pomme de terre||petate|
Given the ubiquity of English in the region as well as the close proximity of French and English speaking groups, oftentimes code switching is used extensively by Franco-American families even when French isn't spoken by all members of the household. Many of these words are used as terms of endearment between grandparents referring to their grandchildren, or by their parents, and often picked up by the children themselves, in households of Franco-American families whose youngest generations primarily speak English.
Examples include substitutions as simple as calling grandparents mémère (shortened mémé) or pépère (pépé), while a 1969 study found other more opaque examples, a small sample of which includes:
During the late 19th through mid-20th centuries, the dialect was supported with more than 250 French newspapers extant in New England, many being published weekly and only seeing publication for a few years, while some would endure from the late 1800s and early 1900s into the interwar period, with 21 newspapers and 4 monthlies in existence in 1937, and a handful publishing through the 1960s, such as Le Messager in Lewiston, Maine, L'Indépendent in Fall River, Massachusetts, and La Justice in Holyoke, Massachusetts. However, competition with the daily English press, a lack of public support from non-speakers, and the availability of larger Quebec publications like La Presse in Montreal led to a gradual decline of the New England French newspaper trade. In one 1936 editorial in the Woonsocket L'Union, the editorship described an apathy that had set in with the French community in response to an increase in advertising for financial support-[b]
"Our press is barely able to maintain itself ... One of our weeklies has just expired; others live almost exclusively on ads; many get only blame and denigration in return for the free publicity they give to Franco-American works ... It's all the hostility, the apathy, the indifference of Franco-Americans that prevent our newspapers from achieving perfection ... Their defects come from their relative helplessness rather than from their incompetence."
Furthermore, many of these ads would increasingly appear in English, and changing mediums like radio, as well as a frustration with the helpless financial situation leading to more ads only aggravated the decline. With the exception of Francophone group publications such as the newsletter of Boston Accueil, no regular French periodicals are extant in New England today. In other mediums the language is rarely found, with the exception of Canadian French AM repeaters of Radio-Canada from Quebec.