The Louisiana Early English Corpus includes over 200 unpublished documents consisting of over 400 pages spanning the time of the Louisiana Purchase in 1803 through the end of the 19th century. The documents were written by Louisiana farmers, planters, transporters, sawmill operators, and lawyers; the subject matter ranges from personal and family gossip to long business letters and news from across the Atlantic. Most of the documents were composed in Louisiana, but some came from as far as Ireland and Liberia. Historically, 19th century Louisiana was a frontier state where contacts among races, social classes, and ethnicities were intense; it was a place and time where interactions between English and French-speaking groups yielded a true "living laboratory" of language encounters.
The Louisiana Early English Corpus vividly demonstrates for scholars the richness of the language mix in the region before the Civil War and the on-going negotiations not only between English and French, but also among the varieties of written English. The principle investigator on this project selected documents representing four linguistic groups of writers: (1) Anglophone writers who migrated to Louisiana during the late 18th and early 19th centuries; (2) Irish/Scots native writers who settled in Louisiana from 1810 to 1860; (3) White French native writers born in Louisiana; and (4) Black Creole writers born in Louisiana.
By securing a significant number of documents from each of the linguistic groups, this collection represents all preserved written practices in Louisiana at the time and is as close to a random sample as one can find in historical language studies. This project aimed to provide a balanced corpus both socially and geographically as much as the evidence allows. The collection presents enough material from each of the targeted linguistic groups to conduct a quantitative study of the writing characteristics, and the represented date range allows scholars to conduct diachronic comparisons.
- Sylvie Dubois, Ph.D., Principal Investigator of Louisiana Early English Corpus Project
This project funded in part by a grant from the Louisiana Board of Regents, 2010