French language in Canada
French is the mother tongue of about seven million Canadians (22.3% of the Canadian population, second to English at 58.4%). Most native French speakers in Canada live in Quebec, where French is the majority and sole official language. About 80% of Quebec's population are native francophones, and 95% of the population speak French as their first or second language. Additionally, about one million native francophones live in other provinces, forming a sizable minority in New Brunswick, which is officially a bilingual province, where about one third of the population are francophone. There are also fairly large French-speaking communities in Manitoba and Ontario, where francophones make up about five percent of the population, as well as significantly smaller communities in Alberta, Nova Scotia and Saskatchewan. Many, but not all of these communities are supported by French-language institutions.
By the Official Languages Act in 1969, Canada recognized English and French as having equal status in the government of Canada. While French, with no specification as to dialect or variety, has the status of one of Canada's two official languages at the federal government level, English is the native language of the majority of Canadians. The federal government provides services and operates in both languages. French is the sole official language in Quebec at the provincial level and is co-official with English in New Brunswick. The provincial governments of Ontario, New Brunswick, and Manitoba are required to provide services in French where justified by the number of francophones (those whose mother tongue is French). However, the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms requires all provinces to provide primary and secondary education to their official-language minorities at public expense.
- 1 The evolution of the French language in Canada
- 2 French dialects in Canada
- 3 The language across Canada
- 3.1 Quebec
- 3.2 Atlantic Canada
- 3.3 Ontario
- 3.4 Newfoundland
- 3.5 Western Canada
- 3.6 Northern Canada
- 4 French-speaking communities in Canada outside of Quebec
- 5 See also
- 6 Notes
- 7 External links
The evolution of the French language in Canada
In 1000 CE the first recorded European exploration of the New World was made by the Icelandic born and Greenland resident Leif Ericson, his expedition established several seasonal camps along the East cost of Canada centuries prior to the 1492 voyage of Christopher Columbus, an Italian navigator employed by the Spanish, followed in 1497 by John Cabot, a Venetian navigator employed by the English. Their explorations kindled a desire among the European maritime powers to establish permanent colonies in the Americas.
The 16th century
In 1524, the Florentine navigator Giovanni da Verrazzano, working for Italian bankers in France, explored the American coast from Florida to Cape Breton. In 1529, Verrazzano mapped a part of the coastal region of the North American continent under the name Nova Gallia (New France). In 1534, Francis I, king of France, sent Jacques Cartier to discover new lands. He discovered the Gulf of Saint Lawrence, sealed an alliance with the local people and obtained passage to go further. During his second expedition (1535–1536), Cartier discovered the Saint Lawrence River, a path into the heart of the continent. However, Cartier failed to establish a permanent colony in the area, and war in Europe kept France from further colonization through the end of the 16th century.
The 17th century
At the beginning of the 17th century, French settlements and private companies were established in the area which is now eastern Canada. In 1605 Samuel de Champlain founded Port Royal (Acadia) and in 1608 he founded Quebec City. In 1642 the foundation of Ville Marie, the settlement which would eventually become Montreal, completed the occupation of the territory.
In 1634, Quebec contained two hundred settlers, who were principally involved in the fur trade. The trade was profit-making and the city was on the point of becoming more than a mere temporary trading post.
In 1635, Jesuits founded the secondary school of Quebec for the education of the children. Ten years later, in 1645, the Company of the Inhabitants was created, uniting the political and economic leaders of the colony. French was the language of all the non-native people.
In 1685, the revocation of the Edict of Nantes by Louis XIV (1654–1715), which had legalized freedom of religion of the Reformed Church, caused the emigration out of France of three hundred thousand Huguenots (French Calvinists), to other countries of Europe and to North America.
The 18th century
With the Treaty of Utrecht in 1713, the British began their domination of eastern North America, some territories formerly controlled by the French. The British took mainland Nova Scotia in 1713. Present-day Maine fell to the British during Father Rale's War, while present-day New Brunswick fell after Father Le Loutre's War. In 1755 the majority of the French-speaking inhabitants of Atlantic Canada were deported to the Thirteen Colonies. After 1758, they were deported to England and France. The Treaty of Paris (1763) completed the British takeover, removing France from Canadian territory, except for Saint-Pierre and Miquelon at the entrance of the Gulf of Saint Lawrence.
The French language was relegated to second rank as far as trade and state communications were concerned. Out of necessity, the educated class learned the English language and became progressively bilingual, but the great majority of the French-speaking inhabitants continued to speak only French, and their population increased. Anglicization of the French population failed, and it became obvious that coexistence was required. In 1774, Parliament passed the Quebec Act, restoring French civil laws and abrogating the Test Act, which had been used to suppress Catholicism.
The birth of Canada as a federal State
In 1791, Parliament repealed the Quebec Act and gave the king authority to divide the Canadian colony into two new provinces: Upper Canada, which later became Ontario, and Lower Canada, which became Quebec.
In 1867, three colonies of British North America agreed to form a federal state which was named Canada. It was composed of four provinces:
- Ontario, formerly Upper Canada
- Quebec, formerly Lower Canada
- Nova Scotia
- New Brunswick, former Acadian territory
French dialects in Canada
As a consequence of geographical seclusion and, due to the British Conquest, the French language in Canada presents three different but related dialects. They share certain features which distinguish them from European French. The name Canadian French is now usually viewed as an umbrella term for all of these varieties.
- Quebec French is spoken in Quebec. Closely related varieties descended from it are spoken by francophone communities in Ontario, Western Canada, Labrador and even in the New England region of the United States, and differ primarily by their greater conservatism. The term Laurentian French has limited currency as an umbrella term for these varieties, and Quebec French, somewhat confusingly, is also used. The term Canadian French was formerly used to refer to this dialect specifically, (presumably because Canada and Acadia were distinct parts of New France, and even British North America until 1867), but is now not usually felt to exclude Acadian French.
- Acadian French is spoken by the Acadians in the Canadian Maritimes and some parts of Quebec and Newfoundland. It is the ancestor of Cajun French. Acadian French shares many characteristics with Quebec French, however, differs in pronunciation.
- Chiac is a dialect originating primarily out of the Moncton/Shediac area of New Brunswick. It incorporates many English words, sayings, pronunciations and linguistic rules. Disputes have arisen surrounding the legitimacy of Chiac as a French dialect. Chiac has slowly advanced into other areas of Acadia among youth.
- Brayon French is spoken primarily in northwestern New Brunswick, parts of northern Maine, and the Bonaventure and Beauce-Appalaches regions of Quebec. It closely resembles traditional Quebec French in pronunciation but with a unique sound and incorporates a few Acadian words.
- Métis French or Métis, along with Michif, is one of the traditional languages of the Métis people, and is spoken in the prairies.
- Newfoundland French is spoken by a limited population in Newfoundland. It is an endangered dialect.
- Joual is spoken primarily by the working class of Montreal. It resembles but is not related to Brayon French.
- Magoua is spoken in the Trois-Rivières/Maskinonge region of Quebec. It is classified as a dialect of basilectal Quebec French. The name is thought to be derived from Algonquin origins.
- Chaouin is spoken just outside of the Trois-Rivières region of Quebec.
All of these dialects mix to varying degrees elements from regional languages and folk dialects spoken in France at the time of colonization. For instance, the origins of Quebec French lie in 17th- and 18th-century Parisian French influenced with folk dialects of the early modern period and other regional languages (such as Norman, Picard, and Poitevin-Saintongeais) which French colonists brought to New France. The influence of these dialects on Acadian French is acknowledged to be stronger than on Quebec French. The three dialects can also be historically and geographically associated with three of the five former colonies of New France, respectively Canada, Acadia, and Terre-Neuve (Newfoundland).
In addition, there is a mixed language known as Michif which is based on Cree and French. It is spoken by Métis communities in Manitoba and Saskatchewan as well as adjacent areas of the United States.
Finally, more recent immigration (post-World War II) has brought francophone immigrants from around the world, and with them other French dialects.
The language across Canada
Quebec is the only province whose sole official language is French. Today, 81.4 percent of Quebecers are first language francophones. About 95.0 percent of Quebecers speak French as either their first, second or even as their third language. However, many of the services the provincial government provides are available in English for the sizeable anglophone population of the province (notably in Montreal). For native French speakers, Quebec French is noticeably different in pronunciation and vocabulary from the French of France, sometimes called Metropolitan French, but they are easily mutually intelligible in their formal varieties, and after moderate exposure, in most of their informal ones as well. The differences are primarily due to changes that have occurred in Quebec French and Parisian French since the 18th century, when Britain gained possession of Canada. Different regions of Quebec have their own varieties: Gaspé Peninsula, Côte-Nord, Quebec City, Saguenay-Lac-Saint-Jean, Outaouais, and Abitibi-Témiscamingue have differences in pronunciation as well as in vocabulary. For example, depending on one's region, the ordinary word for "kettle" can be bouilloire, bombe, or canard.
In Quebec, the French language is of paramount importance. For example, the stop signs on the roads are written ARRÊT (which has the literal meaning of STOP in French), even if other French-speaking countries, like France, use STOP. On a similar note, movies originally made in other languages than French (mostly movies originally made in English) are more literally named in Quebec than they are in France (e.g. The movie The Love Guru is called Love Gourou in France, but in Quebec it is called Le Gourou de l'amour). Also, Québécois do not always use the same words as the French. Here are some examples:
|English||Quebec French||Metropolitan French|
|weekend||fin de semaine||week-end|
|parking lot||parc à stationnement||parking|
|washing machine||laveuse||machine à laver|
The use of anglicisms
The Quebec French has recourse to many anglicisms, which characterize it in comparison with other varieties of French. The Quebec Office of the French Language’s "Banque de dépannage linguistique" distinguishes different kinds of anglicisms:
- The entire anglicisms are words or groups of loan words from the English Language. The form is often exactly the same as in English, e.g. : "glamour", "short" and "sweet", but sometimes there is a slight adjustment to the French language, e.g.: "drabe", which comes from the English word "drab".
- The hybrid anglicisms, which are new words, a combination of an English word to which a French element is added. This element (a suffix, for instance) sometimes replaces a similar element of the English word. "Booster" is an example of hybrid anglicism: it is made up of the English verb "to boost", to which the French suffix –er is added.
- Plenty of anglicisms are semantic anglicisms: they are French words used in a sense which exists in English, but not in French. Ajourner in the sense of "to have a break", pathétique in the sense of "miserable" (pitiful), plancher in the sense of "floor" (level of a building) and préjudice in the sense of "(unfavorable) opinion".
- The syntactic anglicisms concern the word order of a sentence and the use of prepositions and conjunctions. The expression "un bon dix minutes", for instance, comes from the English language; in French, they rather say "dix bonnes minutes". The use of the preposition "pour" after the verbs "demander" and "chercher" is also a syntactic anglicism.
- The morphological anglicisms are literal translations of the English forms. With this kind of loan words, every element comes from the French language, but what results from it as a whole reproduces, completely or partly, the image transmitted in English. Technicalité, for instance, is formed under the English influence and doesn’t exist in French. À l'année longue, appel conférence and prix de liste are other morphological examples of anglicisms.
- Finally, the sentencial anglicisms are loan set phrases or images peculiar to the English language. The expressions ajouter l'insulte à l'injure and sonner une cloche are sentencial anglicisms.
The abundance of the anglicisms in Quebec French leads some people to speak of "sabirisation", because of the mixture of both languages. Law 101 could postpone the advance of the phenomenon or even prevent it.
In conclusion, according to the Robert Dubuc's article "Régionalismes et communication", for the French-speaking community of Quebec, « il n’y a de salut hors de la maîtrise de ses moyens linguistiques dont le français commun constitue l’armature essentielle et efficace. »
Syntactic and semantic characteristics
In general, the same norms as in common French are applied. Only certain words have a different gender. From the semantic point of view, we note the use of the word "pis" for "et", the word "là" to punctuate the end of a sentence or after a word, and finally the use of "à" instead of the possessive "de", for instance, « la maison à Jacques ».
The use of the 'tu' form
Quebecers frequently use the "tu" form. This use is often qualified as the imitation of the English-speaking use of "you", which is the only pronoun referring to the second person, but only in spoken language. There is, however, a movement which is trying to reintroduce the respectful "vous".
Finally, the language of Quebec is not universal. Noteworthy differences exist when certain regions of Quebec are compared. These differences are tangible between country and urban regions, but do not prevent comprehension.
The colonists initially living in the present-day provinces of New Brunswick and Nova Scotia were principally constituted of Bretons, Normans, Basques, and Portuguese. Conquered by the English, they suffered massive deportations to the United States and France. Others went into exile to Canada or to nearby islands. Those who stayed were persecuted. At the end of the 18th century, more liberal measures granted new lands to those who had stayed, and measures were taken to promote the return of numerous exiled people from Canada and Miquelon. The number of Acadians rose rapidly, to the point of gaining representation in the Legislative Assembly. Progressively and with little conflict, the Acadians succeeded in recovering a place in their fatherland. This feeling of identity is also present in Louisiana due to the creation of the Council for the Development of French in Louisiana (CODFIL). The aim of this agency is to develop, to use, and to preserve the French language as it exists in Louisiana.
Origins of the dialect
Linguists do not agree about the origin of the dialect. Acadian French is influenced by the langues d'oïl. The dialect contains, among other features, the alveolar r and the pronunciation of the final syllable in the plural form of the verb in the third person. But Acadia is the only place outside Jersey (a Channel Island close to mainland Normandy) where Jèrriais speakers can be found.
Commonly known as Acadian French, the variety of French spoken in Atlantic Canada possesses features which are different from those of Quebec French. It is historically related to Cajun French. French is one of the official languages, with English, of the province of New Brunswick. Apart from Quebec, this is the only other Canadian province that recognizes French as an official language. Approximately one-third of New Brunswickers are francophone, by far the largest Acadian population in Canada. According to Albert Valdman in French and Creole in Louisiana (1997), the characteristics of Acadian are being progressively weakened by the massive contact with Quebecers. According to Pascal Poirier (1884: 63), the Acadian pronunciation "gets closer to the pronunciation in the vicinity of Tours and of the France Centre". According to Raphaële Wiesmath’s work Le français acadien: analyse syntaxique d'un corpus oral recueilli au Nouveau-Brunswick, Canada (2006), some characteristics of Acadian are "la désinence verbale –ont à la troisième personne du pluriel, la palatalisation de –k et de –g (quinze se prononcerait alors avec [ʧ] et gueule avec [ʤ] ) et « l’ouisme » (bonne : [bun] )." It would principally concern old persons’ oral language. Yves Cormier’s Dictionnaire du français acadien (ComiersAcad) includes the majority of Acadian regionalisms. From a syntactic point of view, the main point is the use of je both for the first person singular and for the third plural; the same phenomenon takes place with i for the third persons. Acadian still differentiates the vous form from the tu form. Finally as all other varieties of French in Canada, English influenced the dialect and several words which are similar to the English language can be found. Those words are formerly French words used in the English language.
The Acadian community is concentrated in primarily rural areas along the border with Quebec and the eastern coast of the province. Francophones in the Madawaska area may also be identified as Brayon, although sociologists have disputed whether the Brayons represent a distinct francophone community, a subgroup of the Acadians or an extraprovincial community of Québécois.
In addition to New Brunswick, Acadian French has speakers in portions of mainland Quebec and in the Atlantic provinces of Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island, and Newfoundland. In these provinces, the percentage of francophones is much smaller than in New Brunswick. In some communities, French is an endangered language.
Although French is the native language of just over half a million Canadians in Ontario, francophone Ontarians represent only 4.4 percent of the province's population. They are concentrated primarily in the Eastern Ontario and Northeastern Ontario regions, near the border with Quebec, although they are also present in smaller numbers throughout the province. Forty percent of Franco-Ontarians no longer speak the language at home. However, Ottawa is the city which counts the biggest number of Franco-Ontarians. The Franco-Ontarians are originally from a first wave of immigration from France, from a second wave from Quebec. The third wave comes from Quebec, but also from Haiti, from Europe, from Africa, from Vietnam, etc. The province has no official language defined in law, although it is a largely English-speaking province. Ontario law requires that the provincial Legislative Assembly operate in both English and French (individuals can speak in the Assembly in the official language of their choice), and requires that all provincial statutes and bills be made available in both English and French. Furthermore, under the French Language Services Act, individuals are entitled to communicate with the head or central office of any provincial government department or agency in French, as well as to receive all government services in French in 25 designated areas in the province, selected according to minority population criteria. The provincial government of Ontario's website is bilingual. Residents of Ottawa, Toronto, Windsor, Sudbury and Timmins can receive services from their municipal government in the official language of their choice. Also, there are several French speaking communities on Military bases in Ontario, such as the French-speaking community at CFB Trenton. These communities are founded by French Canadians in the Canadian Forces who are stationed in Military residences together.
The term Franco-Ontarian accepts two interpretations. According to the first one, it includes all French speakers of Ontario, wherever they come from. According to second one, it includes all French Canadians born in Ontario, whatever their level of French is.
The modern Franco-Ontarian language is close to Quebec French with some rare exceptions of expressions and pronunciations. Once again, the influence of English can be noted, with a big recourse to tonic stresses, but nevertheless a French vocabulary is still used. According to Michel Laurier (1989), the semantic and stylistic value of the use of the subjunctive is progressively disappearing. In the article «Le français canadien parlé hors Québec : aperçu sociolinguistique » (1989), Edward Berniak and Raymond Mougeon underline some characteristics:
- the use of the possessive à
- the transfer of rules from English to French, e.g., « J’ai vu un film sur/à la télévision » which comes from « I saw a film on television », or « Je vais à la maison/chez moi» coming from "I'm going home".
- the loaning of English conjunctions, for instance, "so" for ça fait que or alors.
The use of French among Franco-Ontarians is in decline due to the omnipresence of the English language in a lot of fields.
The island is discovered by Jean Cabot in 1497. Newfoundland is annexed by England in 1583. It is the first British possession in North America. In 1610, the Frenchmen become established in the peninsula of Avalon and go to war against the Englishmen. In 1713, the Treaty of Utrecht acknowledges the sovereignty of the Englishmen. The origin of Franco-Newfoundlanders is double: the first ones to arrive are especially of Breton origin, attracted by the fishing possibilities. Then, from the 19th century, the Acadians who came from the Cape Breton Island and from the Magdalen Islands, an archipelago of nine small islands belonging to Quebec, become established. Up to the middle of the 20th century, Breton fishers, who had Breton as their mother tongue, but who had been educated in French came to settle. This Breton presence can explain differences between the Newfoundland French and the Acadian French. In the 1970s, the French language appears in the school of Cape St-George in the form of a bilingual education. In the 1980s, classes of French for native French speakers are organized there.
Characteristics of French of Newfoundland
According to Patrice Brasseur’s articles « Les Représentations linguistiques des francophones de la péninsule de Port-au-Port » (2007) and «Quelques aspects de la situation linguistique dans la communauté franco-terreneuvienne» (1995) as well as according to the French Academy, some characteristics of French in Newfoundland can be kept in mind:
- the affrication of [k], noted tch or, most often, ch (with the frequent examples of coeur and quinze and cuiller and cuisine),
- the widespread use of English terms,
- the progressive extinction of the subjunctive form
- the use of septante, octante, and nonante
Manitoba also has a significant Franco-Manitoban community, centred especially in the St. Boniface area of Winnipeg, but also in numerous surrounding towns. The provincial government of Manitoba boasts the only bilingual website of the Prairies; the Canadian constitution makes French an official language in Manitoba for the legislature and courts. Saskatchewan also has a Fransaskois community, as does Alberta with its Franco-Albertans, and British Columbia hosts the Franco-Columbians.
Michif, a dialect of French originating in Western Canada, is a unique mixed language derived from Cree and French. It is spoken by a small number of Métis living mostly in Manitoba and in North Dakota.
French is an official language in each of the three northern territories: the Yukon, the Northwest Territories, and Nunavut. Francophones in the Yukon are called Franco-Yukonnais, those from the Northwest Territories, Franco-Ténois (from the French acronym for the Northwest Territories, T.N.-O.), and those in Nunavut, Franco-Nunavois.
French-speaking communities in Canada outside of Quebec
- Franco-Ontarians (or Ontarois)
- Acadians (in New Brunswick, Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island; also present in portions of Quebec and Newfoundland)
- Fransaskois (in Saskatchewan)
- Franco-Ténois (in the Northwest Territories)
- Franco-Yukon(n)ais (in the Yukon)
- Franco-Nunavois (in Nunavut)
- Official bilingualism in Canada
- French language in the United States
- French language
- French phonology
- Languages of Canada
- Quebec French lexicon
- Canadian French
- French Canadian
- Population by mother tongue and age groups, 2006 counts, for Canada, provinces and territories - 20% sample data, Statistics Canada. Includes multiple responses.
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Le français du Québec a rayonné en Ontario et dans l'ouest du Canada, de même qu'en Nouvelle-Angleterre. [...] Le français québécois et le français acadien peuvent être regroupés sous l'appellation plus large de français canadien2, laquelle englobe aussi le français ontarien et le français de l'Ouest canadien. Ces deux derniers possèdent des traits caractéristiques qui leur sont propres aujourd'hui dans l'ensemble canadien et qui s'expliquent surtout par un phénomène de conservatisme, mais il s'agit de variétés qui sont historiquement des prolongements du français québécois."
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