In South Louisiana, there is a genre of jokes featuring the bumbling Cajun characters Boudreaux and Thibodeaux. These jokes are often told with an exaggerated Cajun English accent, an ideal opportunity to examine and better understand local perceptions of Cajun English linguistic features. Th-stopping, nonaspiration of [p, t, k], and vowel quality were analyzed in recordings of six Lafourche Parish, Louisiana speakers conversing casually as well as performing Boudreaux and Thibodeaux jokes. While all speakers exaggerated one or the other consonantal feature while joketelling, vowel quality was not manipulated in the expected ways. Such patterning may indicate that th-stopping and nonaspiration of [p, t, k] are more salient, or more easily imitable, features of Cajun English than the vowel features examined. Notably, there was some patterning of features exaggerated based on where the speaker lived along the bayou, with “up the bayou” joketellers having a more standard baseline to begin with and thus exaggerating different features, demonstrating the importance of considering culturally specific social categories in analyzing performances of local speech varieties.

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Author notes

katie carmichael recently completed her Ph.D. in linguistics at Ohio State University. Her dissertation examined sociolinguistic variation in post-Katrina Greater New Orleans. Her overall research has centered on sociophonetic examination of varieties of French and English in Louisiana, including Cajun French, Cajun English, and New Orleans English. E-mail: katie.n.carmichael@gmail.com.