North American French pronunciation habits help explain Jargon “R-dropping”


Non-R-dropping areas of England (pink) in the late 20th century (image credit: Wikipedia

Chinook Jargon doesn’t “drop its R’s” nearly as often as the “R-less” English dialects do…

…For an example different from the above graphic, most Australians don’t pronounce an R-like (rhotic) sound at the end of any syllable or word. (I.e. directly following a vowel.) “Barbie” is “bahbie”, and “tucker” is “tuckah”.

In the same positions CJ, by contrast, says lárp for a smoking mixture / tobacco substitute, lapárfor ‘beard, and nipərsi for the Nez Perce tribe. This is the Grand Ronde dialect we’re talking about at the moment, by the way.

Besides, the Jargon can say its “R” sound at the beginning of a syllable, i.e. directly preceding a vowel. I’ve written up a whole article about that, to point out why it’s weird that the word for ‘French’ is pʰasáyuks instead of rasáyuks / pʰlasáyuks. There are lots of CJ example words such as lariyét ‘lariat’, ráwn ‘around in a circle’, drét ‘right’, liprét ‘priest’, and likʰrém ‘a horse color’.

But there is one highly specific environment where Chinuk Wawa has gotten rid of “R” sounds that used to be there, in the languages that donated those words. That’s when the “R” (or “L”) fell right after a “stop” consonant (P, B, T, D, K, G, and such), at the end of the word.

For a demonstration of that, we can look at the one phonetically well-documented variety of French in North America, at least in my personal research library 🙂 That’s the French-Cree mixed language Michif, which shares some historical roots with Chinook Jargon…


le prêtre                                  li pret                liprét

la table                                  la taeb                latám / latáb

le diable                                li Jiyawb             lidjób

l’Ordre                                      …………              lód

les apotres                               …………..              lisapot


le sucre                                 li seuk                ləsúkʰər (but this is thought to have been influenced by English ‘sugar’!)

I have no real doubt that “R’s” get dropped in this same position in much of Canadian and North American French, too. It’s just that the reference materials I’ve got hold of don’t tell you so much the pronunciation as a standardized spelling of each word 😦

The point remains, that Chinuk Wawa’s French words tend to show (in many ways including today’s minor R-dropping note) a consistent historical link with Canadian / Métis French above all other types of French.

What do you think?