Even though the French language spoken in our Acadian communities is not exactly the same as that spoken by our ancestors of the 17th & 18th centuries, you will still hear phrases and shades of meaning which come from Aunis, Saint-Onge, Poitou and other French countrysides. Father Charles AuCoin, in an article which appeared in Volume 5, #2 of the Genealogical and Historical Bulletin, speaks of certain characteristics of our language, for example, our tendency to pronounce the “c” like the English “ch”, which sounds like “tch”. This is, however, not always the case. Father AuCoin explains that rules of grammar are very rigid and one must learn when to pronounce what. When we speak about a cat we pronounce “chat”, but when we refer (in Acadian language) to a mess or to a wad of chewing tobacco, we pronounce “tchat”.
Here are a few examples of the way we pronounce certain words:
“Coeur or choeur” is pronounced “tchoeur”
“Tien” is pronounced “Tchin”
“Cuillère” is pronounced “tchuére”
“Culottes” is pronounced “tchulottes”
“Cultiver” is an exception
“Quai” is pronounced “tchais”
“Queue” is pronounced “tcheue”
“Quoi” is an exception.
“Quelques” becomes “tcheuc”
“Lequel” becomes ” letcheul”
Our conjugations also have their distinctive features. In the Indicative present, we conjugate as follows: J’chante, Tu chantes, I’chante, J’chantons, Vous chantez, I’chantont. The same rule applies to the auxiliary verbs: ex: J’aurions …j’étions
In front of certain doubled consonants, the o becomes ou such as in “J’mangions des bounes poumes”
Due to the fact that Chéticamp is primarily a fishing village, certain terms relating to the sea have been adopted and are being used quite freely. We will say “On embarque” in a car as well as on a boat, and we “amarre” our shoes instead of “lacing” them ( French = lacer).
Certain words such as “boucane” (smoke) and “mashkoui” (birch bark) were probably borrowed from the Mi’kmaqs.
During your visit, you will no doubt hear many English words or English derivatives, but you will also realize that we have managed to inherit and conserve a vocabulary and a way of expressing ourselves that come from the old country of France.