“Acadian” in the Saint John Valley, Maine: Mother tongue or marketing?

Carly Bahler

ccCC BY 4.0

Cite as: Bahler, C. (2018, December).“Acadian” in the Saint John Valley, Maine: Mother tongue or marketing? Paper presented at the Fourth Intergenerational Transmission of Minority Languages Symposium: Language and Identity. doi: 10.6084/m9.figshare.7409300

Francophones of the Saint John Valley (SJV) occupy an international region between Maine and New Brunswick (NB), Canada and the French they speak is largely the product of contact among the Acadian French of NB (brayon), French of nearby Quebec, and English. In the SJV, Maine, a history of repression and lack of institutional support means that this minority language is dying, with older speakers not (fully) transmitting it to younger generations. Though French is in decline in the SJV, Maine, there are still various celebrations and proclamations of Acadian identity, an identity which is largely simplistic given the historical Quebecois presence in the region. The state of French in Maine is intimately tied to how its heritage speakers identify themselves, the (non-)valuing of their variety, and how they exploit “Acadian” identity in the name of symbolic ethnicity all while facing the fact that they are losing their French. In a region where ethnolinguistic labels abound (e.g. Valley French, Franglais, Acadian, Brayon, Quebecois, French Canadian, Franco-American, New England French), which label is most appropriate and how does the fluidity with which “Acadian” is used in the SJV compare to “Cajun” in Louisiana, a sister variety also in decline? After briefly providing some linguistic evidence for the Quebecois presence in the SJV, Maine, this talk will focus on how French speakers in the SJV identify themselves, and how this identity compares to other French enclaves in the US.