There are few distinctive phonological features and very few restricted lexical features common among English-speaking Quebecers. The English spoken in Quebec generally belongs to West/Central Canadian English whose Sprachraum comprises one of the largest and most homogeneous dialect areas in North America. The dialect is common in Montreal, where the vast majority of anglophones in Quebec live, as well as in large metropolitan areas of Ontario and Western Canada. It is very similar to General American English. English-speaking Montrealers also have established ethnic groups that retain distinct lexical features: Irish, Jewish, Italian, and Greek communities all speak discernible varieties of English. Given that these communities have considerable mobility within Canada, they retain traits common in many Canadian cities.
Important regional variations also occur in rural and remote regions near Quebec's borders and are associated with local cross-border contact. Rural Townshippers and Châteauguay Valley residents in southern Quebec are reported by some[who?] to have a dialect more similar to that of Vermont English. Isolated fishing villages on the Lower North Shore of Quebec speak Newfoundland English, and many Gaspesian anglophones speak Maritime English. Finally, the Kahnawake Mohawks of south shore Montreal and the Cree and Inuit of Northern Quebec speak English with their own distinctive accents, word usage and expressions stemming from their respective Indigenous languages. Over centuries of contact, numerous English and French words have also been incorporated into their languages.
Francophone second-language speakers of English use an interlanguage with varying degrees of Quebec-accented pronunciation. For example, they often pronounce [t]/[d] instead of [θ]/[ð]; some speakers pronounce [ɔ] for the phoneme /ʌ/; some speakers mispronounced some words; and some pronounce [ˈmɛseɪdʒ] for the word message. Since French-speaking Quebecers greatly outnumber English-speakers in most regions of Quebec, it is more common to hear this in public areas. Some English-speakers in overwhelmingly francophone areas exhibit some of these features (such as replacement of [θ] and [ð] by [t] and [d]), but their English is remarkably similar to that of other varieties of English in Canada (Poplack, Walker, & Malcolmson 2006 ).
All of these variations constitute what is commonly perceived as Quebec English.
Note: The following practices are denoted by the symbol N@, as they are not deemed acceptable in English-language writing and broadcasting in Quebec. The same lack of acceptability holds true by standards of English outside Quebec.
First-language English-speaker phenomena in Montreal
1. The use of French-language toponyms and official names of institutions/organizations which have no official English names; this is probably not a uniquely Quebec phenomenon, though, so much as the practice of calling a thing by its name. Though not normally italicized in English written documents, these Quebec words are pronounced as in French, especially in broadcast media. Note that the reverse language status situation holds true when using French in a province such as British Columbia, where many of the province's entities have a designation only in English.
- the Régie du Logement, the Collège de Maisonneuve
- Québec Solidaire, the Parti Québécois
- Hochelaga-Maisonneuve, Trois-Rivières
Particular cases: Pie-IX (as in the boulevard, bridge and subway station) is pronounced /pinœf/ or [ˈpiːˈnɐf], not as "pie nine". On the other hand, sometimes a final written consonant is included or added in pronunciation, where an historic English-language name and pronunciation exists among Anglophone or English-dominant Allophone communities associated with particularly neighbourhoods – such as for "Bernard", which in French is known as rue Bernard. Montreal is always pronounced [ˌmɐntʃɹiːˈɒl], following its historic official English-language name but Quebec is pronounced [kwɪˈbɛk] or [kəˈbɛk]. English-speakers generally pronounce the French Saint- (m.) and Sainte- (f.) in street and place names as the English word "saint"; however, Saint-Laurent (the former city, now a borough of Montreal) can be pronounced as in Quebec French [sẽɪ̯̃lɔʁã], whereas Saint Lawrence Boulevard can be said as Saint-Laurent [sẽlɔʁã] (silent t) or as the original English name, Saint Lawrence. Sainte-Foy is pronounced [seɪntˈfwɑː] not [seɪntˈfɔɪ], which would be used elsewhere in English-speaking North America. Saint-Denis is often pronounced [ˌseɪnt dəˈniː], [ˌsẽɪ̯̃ dəˈni] or [seɪnt ˈdɛnəs]. Verdun, as a place name, has the expected English-language pronunciation, /vəɹˈdʌn/, while English-speakers from Verdun traditionally pronounce the eponymous street name as /ˈvɜɹdən/. Saint-Léonard, a borough of Montreal, is pronounced "Saint-Lee-o-nard" /seɪnt ˌlioʊˈnɑɹd/, which is reputedly neither English nor French.
Used by both Quebec-born and outside English-speakers, acronyms with the letters pronounced in English, not French, rather than the full name for Quebec institutions and some areas on Montreal Island are common, particularly where the English-language names either are or, historically, were official. For instance, SQ → Sûreté du Québec (pre-Bill 101: QPP → Quebec Provincial Police, as it once was); NDG → Notre-Dame-de-Grâce; DDO → Dollard-des-Ormeaux; TMR → Town of Mount Royal, the bilingual town's official English name.
Finally, some French place names are very difficult for English-speakers to say without adopting a French accent, such that those proficient in French nonetheless choose an English pronunciation rather than accent-switching. Examples are Vaudreuil, Belœil and Longueuil in which pronunciation of the segment /œj/ (spelled "euil" or "œil") is a challenge. These are most often pronounced as /voʊˈdrɔɪ/, /bɛˈlɔɪ/ and /lɔŋˈɡeɪ/ or less often /lɔŋˈɡeɪl/.
2. N@ (when written) – Older generations of English-speaking Montrealers are more likely to informally use traditional English toponyms that vary from official, French-language toponyms. In a notable generational distinction, this is uncommon among younger English-speaking Quebecers.
- Pine Avenue, Park Avenue, Mountain Street, Dorchester Blvd., St. James Street – often used without St., Blvd., Ave., Rd., etc. (names for the designations "avenue des Pins", "av. du Parc", "rue de la Montagne", "boulevard René-Lévesque", "rue St-Jacques"; the English-language official designations have reputedly been revoked, although evidence for this is difficult to find)
- Guy and Saint Catherine Streets
- Town of Mount Royal, as it was chartered, which charter has not been revoked
- Pointe Claire (English pronunciation [ˈpɔɪnt ˈklɛɹ] and typography, instead of official "Pointe-Claire")
3. The use of limited number of Quebec French terms for everyday places (and occasional items) that have English equivalents; all of these are said using English pronunciation or have undergone an English clipping or abbreviation, such that they are regarded as ordinary English terms by Quebeckers. Some of them tend sometimes to be preceded by the definite article in contexts where they could normally take a/an.
- autoroute [ˌɒɾəˈɹuːt] instead of expressway
- branché instead of trendy (colloquial)
- chez nous instead of "where we live"
- the dep – instead of corner, variety, or convenience store; from dépanneur
- fonctionnaire [ˌfõksjɔˈnɛːʁ] or [ˌfõksjɔˈnaɛ̯ʁ] instead of bureaucrat
- the gallery – instead of balcony
- the guichet – instead of bank machine, even when all ATMs are labelled "ATM";
- marché – market
- the metro instead of the subway; from the French chemin de fer métropolitain
- poutine [puːˈtiːn] – French fries with gravy and cheddar cheese curds
- primary one, two, three, in contrast to Canadian English grade one, two, etc.
- resto – restaurant
- the SAQ – the official name of the government-run monopoly liquor stores (pronounced "ess-ay-cue" or "sack"), the Société des alcools du Québec. This usage is similar to that in other provinces, such as in neighbouring Ontario where LCBO liquor stores are referred to as the "lick-bo" (for Liquor Control Board of Ontario).
- stage – apprenticeship or internship, pronounced somewhat as [staːʒ]
- subvention – government grant or subsidy. The word exists in both French and English, but is rarely heard in Canadian English.
- terrasse – the French pronunciation and spelling of the translation for 'terrace' is common among anglophones in casual speech, and considered acceptable in semi-formal expression such as journalism.
- undertaking – business or enterprise
4. French-language first and last names using mostly French sounds. Such names may be mispronounced by non-French-speakers, for instance a first-syllable stress or silent-d pronunciation in Bouchard --> /buːˈʃɑrd/. French speakers, as are most Quebec English speakers, are on the other hand more likely to vary pronunciation of this type depending on the manner in which they adopt an English phonological framework.
This importation of French-language syllabic stresses and phonemes into an English phonological framework may be regarded as interlanguage or translation.
5. A limited number of lexical and phonological features that are more or less limited to Montreal. For example, in most of Canada, carbonated beverages are commonly referred to as "pop", whereas in Montreal they are known as "soft drinks". Also, Montrealers tend not to tense the vowel [æ] before nasal consonants, unlike most other (urban) Canadians, so that the vowel sound in "man" is more or less the same as the vowel in "mat", rather than being higher and fronter (cf. Boberg 2004).
6. Certain English-language grammatical improprieties:
- "in hospital" rather than "in the hospital"
French-language phenomena in English
High-frequency, second-language phenomena by francophones, allophones, and generally non-native-English speakers occur, predictably, in the most basic structures of English, both in and outside of Quebec. Commonly called "Frenglish" or "franglais", these phenomena are a product of interlanguage, calques or mistranslation and thus may not constitute so-called "Quebec English", to the extent that these can be conceived of separately – particularly since such phenomena are similar among English-subsequent-language French speakers throughout the world, leaving little that is Quebec-specific:
A. N@ – The use of French collocations.
- Close the TV – Turn/shut off the TV.
- Close the door. – Lock the door.
- Open the light. – Turn on the lights.
- Close the light. – Turn off the lights.
- Take a decision. – Make a decision. (NB "Take" is the older British version)
- Put your coat. – Put your coat on.
- Pass someone money. – Lend someone money.
- Pass the vacuum. – Run the vacuum (or do the vacuuming)
B. N@ – The use of French grammar or no grammatical change. Many of these constructions are grammatically correct but only out of context. It is both the calquing and linguistic transfer from French and the betrayed meanings that make these sentences foreign to English.
- He speak/talk to me yesterday. – He spoke/talked to me yesterday. (verb tense)
- Me, I work in Laval. – I work in Laval. (vocal stress on "I")
- It/He have many books. – There are many books. (from French il y a meaning "there is/are")
- I like the beef and the red wine. – I like beef and red wine. (overuse of definite article to mean "in general")
- You speak French? – Do you speak French? (absence of auxiliary verb; otherwise it means surprise, disbelief or disappointment when out of context)
- We were/are four. – There were/are four of us. (from French "nous sommes" and "nous étions")
- We're Tuesday – It's Tuesday. (from French "nous sommes")
- I don’t find my keys. – I can’t find my keys. (lack of English modal auxiliary verb)
- At this moment I wash the dishes. – I’m washing the dishes right now. (verbal aspect)
- I can't join you at this moment because I eat. – I can't join you right now because I'm eating. (verbal aspect)
- My computer, he don’t work. – My computer won’t work. (human pronoun, subject repetition, uninflected auxiliary verb)
- I would like a brownies. – Could I have a brownie? (plural –s thought to be part of the singular word in relexification process; other examples: "a Q-tips", "a pins", "a buns", "a Smarties", "a Doritos", etc.)
- I would like shrimps with broccolis. – Could I have some shrimp and broccoli? (use of regular plural instead of English unmarked plural or non-count noun; this is not a case of hypercorrection but of language transfer).
- Do you want to wash the dishes? – Will/would you wash the dishes? (lack of English modal verb; modal vouloir from French instead – Voulez-vous faire la vaisselle?)
- We have to go in by downstairs – We have to go in downstairs (via the non-standard French 'entrer par')
- You're going to broke it! – You're going to break it! (mixing of homonymic French tenses; "cassé", past, versus "casser", infinitive)
C. N@ – Pronunciation of phoneme /ŋ/ as /n/ + /ɡ/ (among some Italian Montrealers) or /n/ + /k/ (among some Jewish Montrealers, especially those who grew up in Yiddish-speaking environments), for instance due to high degrees of ethnic connectivity within, for instance, municipalities, boroughs or neighbourhoods on the Island of Montreal such as Saint-Léonard and Outremont/Côte-des-Neiges/Côte Saint-Luc. These phenomena occur as well in other diaspora areas such as New York City.
D. N@ – The use of false cognates (faux-amis); this practice is quite common, so much so that those who use them abundantly insist that the false cognate is the English term even outside of Quebec. Note that these French words are all pronounced using English sounds and harbour French meanings. While the possibilities are truly endless, this list provides only the most insidious false cognates found in Quebec.
- a stage – an internship (pronounced as in French)
- Cégep (cégep; collégial, cégepien) – the acronym of the public college network preceding university in Quebec.
- Chinese pâté – shepherd's pie (pâté chinois; Quebeckers' pâté chinois is similar to shepherd's-pie dishes associated with other cultures)
- a cold plate – some cold-cuts (reversed gallicism – assiette de viandes froides)
- coordinates – for address, phone number, e-mail, etc.
- (a) salad – (a head of) lettuce
- a subvention – a (government) grant
- a parking – a parking lot/space
- a location – a rental
- a good placement – a good location
- It’s ok. – It’s fine. (from Ça va.)
- That’s it. – That is correct. (from C'est ça.)
- all-dressed pizza – a deluxe pizza with pepperoni, mushrooms and green peppers (from pizza toute garnie.)
- soup, two times – two soups, or two orders of soup (from "deux fois.")
Few anglophone Quebeckers use many such false cognates, but most understand such high-frequency words and expressions. Some of these cognates are used by many francophones, and others by many allophones and anglophone accultured in allophone environments, of varying English proficiencies, from the bare-minimum level to native-speaker level.
- Ingrid Peritz, "Quebec English elevated to dialect," Montreal Gazette, 20 August 1997
- Scott, Marian (February 12, 2010). "Our way with words". The Gazette. Retrieved 15 March 2011.
- Shana Poplack, James Walker & Rebecca Malcolmson (2006) An English “like no other”?: Language contact and change in Quebec. Canadian Journal of Linguistics. 185–213.
- "Régie du logement – Welcome". Gouvernement du Québec. 24 November 2006. Archived from the original on 11 December 2006. Retrieved 25 June 2009.
- Scott, Marian. "One of Montreal’s linguistic divides is generational". Montreal Gazette. Retrieved July 20, 2012.
- "Equality Party". Web.archive.org.
- "Frequently Asked Questions". metrodemontreal.com.
- Chez Alexandre owner takes down terrasse to comply with city bylaw http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/montreal/chez-alexandre-owner-takes-down-terrasse-to-comply-with-city-bylaw-1.3060453
- Scott, Marian (February 15, 2010). "That 'aboat' sums it up". The Gazette. Retrieved 15 March 2011.
- Bill 199 Charter of the French and English Languages