|Native to||Quebec (mainly), Ontario, Western Canada, New England|
|Native speakers||6.2 million in Quebec; 700,000 speakers elsewhere in Canada (2006)|
|Official language in||Quebec|
|Recognised minority language in|| Ontario
|Regulated by||Office québécois de la langue française|
|Linguasphere||51-AAA-hq & 51-AAA-icd & 51-AAA-ii|
Quebec French (French: français québécois) or Québécois French is the predominant variety of the French language in Canada, in its formal and informal registers. Quebec French is used in everyday communication, as well as in education, the media, and government.
Canadian French is a frequently used umbrella term for the varieties of French used in Canada including Quebec French. Formerly it was used to refer solely to Quebec French and the closely related varieties of Ontario and Western Canada, but is no longer usually felt to exclude Acadian French, which is also spoken in some areas of eastern Quebec.
- 1 History
- 2 Social perception and language policy
- 3 Regional varieties and their classification
- 4 Overview of the relation to European French
- 5 Linguistic structure
- 6 See also
- 7 Notes
- 8 References
- 9 External links
Quebec French is not derived, as is sometimes misstated, from Old French – a much earlier ancestor that spanned the 10th to 14th centuries and more closely resembled Latin than modern French does. The origins of Quebec French actually lie in the 17th- and 18th-century regional varieties (dialects) of early modern French, also known as Classical French, and of other Oïl languages (Saintongeais, Norman, Picard, etc.) that French colonists brought to New France. Quebec French either evolved from this language base and was shaped by the following influences (arranged according to historical period) or was imported as a koine from Paris and other urban centres of France.
Unlike the language of France in the 17th and 18th centuries, French in New France was fairly unified though unification might have occurred either before or after immigration (see the Barbaud-Wittmann controversy on this issue). It also began to borrow words, especially place names such as "Québec", "Canada" and "Hochelaga", and words to describe the flora and fauna such as "atoca" and "achigan" from native Indian languages due to contacts with First Nations peoples.
The importance of the rivers and ocean as the main routes of transportation also left its imprint on Quebec French. Whereas standard French uses the verbs "monter" and "descendre" to get in and out of an automobile, Québécois tend to use "embarquer" and "débarquer", relics from their navigational heritage.
With the onset of British rule in 1760, Quebec French became isolated from European French. This led to a retention of older pronunciations, such as "moé" for "moi" ( audio comparison (help·info)) and expressions that later died out in France. In 1774, the Quebec Act guaranteed French settlers as British subjects rights to French law, the Roman Catholic faith, and the French language, to appease them at a moment when the English-speaking colonies to the south were on the verge of revolting in the American Revolutionary War. Such early yet difficult success was followed by a sociocultural retreat, if not repression, that would later help ensure the survival of French in Canada.
Late 19th century
After Canadian Confederation, Quebec started to become industrialized and thus experienced increased contact between French and English speakers. Quebec business, especially with the rest of Canada and with the United States, was conducted in English. Also, communications to and within the Canadian federal government were conducted almost exclusively in English. This period included a sharp rise in the number of English-speaking immigrants from Ireland and the United Kingdom. This was particularly noticeable in Montreal, which resembled a majority anglophone city in terms of its commercial life, but was predominantly francophone. As a result, Quebec French began to borrow from both Canadian and American English to fill lexical gaps in the fields of government, law, manufacturing, business and trade. A great number of French Canadians went to the US to seek employment. When they returned, they brought with them new words taken from their experiences in the New England textile mills and the northern lumber camps.
20th century to 1959
During World War I, a majority of Quebec's population lived in urban areas for the first time. From the time of the war to the death of Maurice Duplessis in 1959, the province experienced massive modernization. It is during this period that French-language radio and television broadcasting, albeit with a façade of European pronunciation, began in Canada. While Quebec French borrowed many English-language brand names during this time, Quebec's first modern terminological efforts bore a French lexicon for (ice) hockey, one of the national sports of Canada. Following World War II, Quebec began to receive large waves of allophone immigrants who would acquire French or English, but most commonly the latter. These immigrants would enrich the French language with their cuisine by contributing words such as "bagel" and "pizza".
1959 to 1982
From the Quiet Revolution to the passing of Bill 101, French in Quebec saw a period of validation in its varieties associated with the working class while the percentage of literate and university educated francophones grew. Laws concerning the status of French were passed both on the federal and provincial levels. The Office québécois de la langue française was established to play an essential role of support in language planning. In Ontario, the first French-language public secondary schools were built in the 1960s, but not without confrontations. Sturgeon Falls, Penetanguishene and Windsor each had its own school crisis.
Social perception and language policy
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Although Quebec French constitutes a coherent and standard system, it has no objective norm since the very organization mandated to establish it, the Office québécois de la langue française, believes that objectively standardizing Quebec French would lead to reduced mutual intelligibility with other French communities around the world, linguistically isolating Quebecers and possibly causing the extinction of the French language in the Americas.
This governmental institution has nonetheless published many dictionaries and terminological guidelines since the 1960s, effectively allowing many canadianismes or more often québécismes (French words local to Canada or Quebec) that describe specifically North American realities. It also creates new, morphologically well-formed words to describe technological evolutions to which the Académie française, the equivalent body governing French language in France, is extremely slow to react. An example is the word courriel (a contraction of courrier électronique), the Quebec French term for e-mail, which was initially being favoured by the French Ministry of Culture and is now widely used among the Quebec public, but largely ignored in France. Today, French as Foreign Language books published in France prefer the term mél (a contraction of message électronique).
The resulting effect, other historical factors helping, is a negative perception of Quebec French traits by some of the Quebecers themselves, coupled with a desire to improve their language by conforming it to the Metropolitan French norm. This explains why most of the differences between Quebec French and Metropolitan French documented in this article are marked as "informal" or "colloquial". Those differences that are unmarked are most likely so just because they go unnoticed by most speakers.
Mutual intelligibility with other varieties of French
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Mutual intelligibility of Quebec French with Metropolitan French is a matter of heated debates among linguists. If a comparison can be made, the differences between both dialects are probably larger than those between standard American and standard British English, but less than the differences between Brazilian Portuguese and that of Portugal. Francophone Canadians abroad may have to modify their accent somewhat in order to be easily understood, but most are able to communicate readily with European francophones nonetheless. European pronunciation is usually not difficult for Canadians to understand; only differences in vocabulary present any problems. Nevertheless, the Quebec French accent is mostly closer to that of Poitou or of Normandy and also some parts of Wallonia.
In general, European French speakers have no problems understanding Quebec newscasts or other moderately formal Québécois speech. However, they may have some difficulty understanding informal speech, such as the dialogue in a sitcom. This is due more to idioms, slang, vocabulary and use of exclusive cultural references than to accent or pronunciation. However, when speaking to a European French speaker, a French speaker from Quebec is capable of shifting to a slightly more formal, "international" type of speech by avoiding idioms or slang.
Quebec's culture has only recently gained exposure in Europe, especially since the Quiet Revolution (Révolution tranquille). The difference in dialects and culture is large enough that Quebec French speakers overwhelmingly prefer their own "home grown" television dramas or sitcoms to shows from Europe. The number of such TV shows from France shown on Quebec television is about the same as the number of British TV shows on American television: they are seldom broadcast except on obscure cable channels.
Quebec French was once stigmatized, among Quebecers themselves as well as among Continental French and foreigners, as a low-class dialect, sometimes due to its use of anglicisms, sometimes simply due to its differences from "standard" European French. Until 1968, it was unheard of for Canadian French vocabulary to be used in plays in the theatre. In that year the huge success of Michel Tremblay's play Les Belles-Sœurs proved to be a turning point. Today, francophones in Quebec have much more freedom to choose a "register" in speaking, and television characters speak "real" everyday language rather than "normative" French.
Regional varieties and their classification
In the informal registers of Quebec French, regional variation lies in pronunciation and lexis (vocabulary). The regions most commonly associated with such variation are Montreal (esp. the Hochelaga-Maisonneuve borough), the Beauce region, the Gaspé Peninsula, Saguenay–Lac-Saint-Jean region, and Quebec City. However, besides such impressionistic data, basilectal Quebec French dialects can be scientifically divided into two main categories and five subcategories as follows.
The "old dialects" are spoken on the territory of what constituted the colony at the time of the British conquest of 1759. The Laurentian colony of New France was then divided into three districts which were, in the order of their establishment, the Gouvernement de Québec, the Gouvernement de Trois-Rivières, and the Gouvernement de Montréal.
Quebec City dialect
Also known as the "capital dialect" (Fr. de la Vieille-Capitale or de la Capitale-Nationale), it used to be considered as the standardized form of Quebec French and was generally spoken in the central Quebec and throughout St. Lawrence valley by the elite, especially the members of the Catholic clergy. By its pronunciation, there are fewer long vowels than in Montreal. The word arrête is pronounced [aʁɛt], the word photo is pronounced [fɔto], the word lacet is pronounced [lasɛ] etc.
Valley speak (Fr. Valois, de la vallée) is the second-most predominant form of Quebec French, after the Quebec City dialect. It is spoken all over the southern part of St. Lawrence valley, including Montreal and Trois-Rivières, as well as the Western area going from Gatineau to as far as Rouyn-Noranda. Basic distinctions include the pronunciation of unstressed "ai", as opposed to stressed "è" of the Metropolitan French. For example, the word "fraise" would be most likely pronounced as [fʁei̯z], instead of [fʁɛːz]. Some extreme speakers would even pronounce [fʁɑːz]. The Western-Central dialects can be further divided into Central and Western. In Montreal, there are more long vowels than in Quebec City (e.g, the word arrête is pronounced [aʁaɪ̯t]).
Relatively archaic forms of Quebec French are spoken on the territory corresponding to the historic Government of Three Rivers (Gouvernement de Trois-Rivières), notably Magoua and Chaouin. The Gouvernement de Trois-Rivières corresponded approximately to what is known today as Mauricie and Centre-du-Québec (known locally under the historical name of Bois-Francs). Mauricie was Attikamekw territory and Bois-Francs Abenaki. The Whites were mostly coureurs des bois who intermarried freely with aboriginal women before the arrival of the first filles du roy in 1663. The first coureurs des bois squatters settled in the area in 1615 and their speech differentiated itself in contact with the aboriginal population: Magoua in contact with Attikamekw, Chaouin in contact with Abenaki (Wittmann 1995).
The Western dialect includes Montreal and surroundings and is sometimes considered an offspring of the Central dialect. The pronunciation of /r/ was traditionally alveolar but has been almost completely replaced by the International uvular /r/ except amongst the older speakers. The territory was probably already "Indian-free" when the first coureurs des bois from Trois-Rivières came there in the years preceding the establishment of the settlement in 1642. This dialect extended originally into the Detroit–Windsor area (Brandon 1898).
Basically, they are dialects of Quebec French with a phonological adstrat from Acadian French, spoken in the St. Lawrence delta and Baie des Chaleurs area. The morphology though is thoroughly Quebec French and not related to Acadian French: Absence of AF 1st person plural clitic je instead of QF on, no AF plural endings in -on on 1st and 3rd person verbs, no simple pasts in -i-, etc. Geddes (1908) is an early example for the description of the morphology of a maritime dialect. These dialects originated from migrations from the St. Lawrence valley into the area, from 1697 onwards well into the early 19th century, with contributions of refugees from Acadia in the 18th century, both before and after the British conquest of 1759.
The dialect Geddes described may be referred to as Brayon French, spoken by Brayons in the Bonaventure and Beauce-Appalaches regions of Quebec, the Madawaska region of New Brunswick and small pockets in the American state of Maine.
The so-called "new" dialects arose from colonization after 1759 which went on well into the late 19th century.
Primarily spoken in Sherbrooke and Magog, the dialect consists of French strongly distilled by the presence of New England dialects, such as Boston accent and Vermont speak. As a result, besides alveolar "r", the endings of many words which are pronounced in other varieties of French are not pronounced at all or are pronounced differently, for example, saying "connaissant" ([kɔnɛsã]) instead of "connaissance" ([kɔnɛsãːs]). Other variations include strong pronunciation of "-ant" and "-ent" word ending which sound almost as acute as "-in", for example "blanc" sounding like [blæ̃].
The dialect spoken by inhabitants of such regions as Saguenay–Lac-Saint-Jean and Côte-Nord is characterized by long, stretched vowels in the middle of words, usually "e" or "a" in words such as "père" or "case", pronounced as [pei̯ʁ] and [kaːz].
[clarification needed] Other examples include an "eating" of the letter "r" at the end of the words, so instead of saying "cuisinière" ([kɥizinjɛːʁ]), speakers might say instead "cuisiniéille" ([kɥizinjej]), which contrasts with "cuisinier" (pronounced as [kɥizinje]). See Lavoie et al. (1985), in particular.
The consonants /t/ and /d/ are not pronounced [t͡s] and [d͡z] before /i/ and /y/ and the vowel /ɛː/ is not diphthongized in closed syllables (e.g, the word fête is generally pronounced [fɛːt], rarely [faɪ̯t]).
- Brandon, Edgar (1898). "A French colony in Michigan." Modern Language Notes 13.121-24.
- Clermont, Jean & Henrietta Cedergren (1979). "Les ‘R’ de ma mère sont perdus dans l’air." In P. Thibault (Ed.), Le français parlé: études sociolinguistiques. Edmonton, Alta.: Linguistic Research, 13-28.
- Cossette, André (1970). Le R apical montréalais: étude de phonétique expérimentale. Thèse de D.E.S., Université Laval.
- Dulong, Gaston (1973). "Histoire du français en Amérique du Nord." In Thomas A. Sebeok (Ed). Current trends in linguistics. The Hague: Mouton, 10.407-421 (bibliographie, 10.441-463).
- Dulong, Gaston & Gaston Bergeron (1980). Le Parler populaire du Québec et de ses regions voisines: Atlas linguistique de l'Est du Canada. Québec: Éditeur officiel du Gouvernement du Québec. 10 vols.
- Geddes, James (1908). Study of the Acadian-French dialect spoken on the north shore of the Baie-des-Chaleurs. Halle: Niemeyer.
- Haden, Ernest F. (1973). "French dialect geography in North America." In Thomas A. Sebeok (Ed). Current trends in linguistics. The Hague: Mouton, 10.422-439 (bibliographie, 10.441-463).
- Lavoie, Thomas, Bergeron Gaston & Michelle Côté (1985). Les parlers français de Charlevoix, du Saguenay, du Lac Saint-Jean et de la Côte Nord. Québec: Éditeur officiel du Gouvernement du Québec. 5 vols.
- Wittmann, Henri (1995) "Grammaire comparée des variétés coloniales du français populaire de Paris du 17e siècle et origines du français québécois." in Fournier, Robert & Henri Wittmann. Le français des Amériques. Trois-Rivières: Presses universitaires de Trois-Rivières, 281-334.
Overview of the relation to European French
Historically speaking, the closest relative of Canadian French is the 17th century koiné of Paris.
Formal Quebec French uses essentially the same orthography and grammar as Standard French, with few exceptions, and exhibits moderate lexical differences. Differences in grammar and lexicon become more marked as language becomes more informal.
While phonetic differences also decrease with greater formality, Quebec and European accents are readily distinguishable in all registers. Over time, European French has exerted a strong influence on Quebec French. The phonological features traditionally distinguishing informal Quebec French and formal European French have gradually acquired varying sociolinguistic status, so that certain traits of Quebec French are perceived neutrally or positively by Quebecers, while others are perceived negatively.
Sociolinguistic studies conducted in the 1960s and 1970s showed that Quebecers generally rated speakers of European French heard in recordings higher than speakers of Quebec French in many positive traits, including expected intelligence, education, ambition, friendliness and physical strength. The researchers were surprised by the greater friendliness rating for Europeans, since one of the primary reasons usually advanced to explain the retention of low-status language varieties is social solidarity with members of one's linguistic group. François Labelle cites the efforts at that time by the Office de la langue française "to impose as French a standard as possible" as one of the reasons for the negative view Quebecers had of their language variety.
Since the 1970s, the official position on Quebec French has shifted dramatically. An oft-cited turning point was the 1977 declaration of the Association québécoise des professeurs de français defining thus the language to be taught in classrooms: "Standard Quebec French [le français standard d'ici, literally, "the Standard French of here"] is the socially favored variety of French which the majority of Francophone Quebecers tend to use in situations of formal communication." Ostiguy and Tousignant doubt whether Quebecers today would still have the same negative attitudes towards their own variety of French that they did in the 1970s. They argue that negative social attitudes have focused instead on a subset of the characteristics of Quebec French relative to European French, and particularly some traits of informal Quebec French. Some characteristics of European French are even judged negatively when imitated by Quebecers.
For examples, see the section "Sociolinguistic status of selected phonological traits" below.
Quebec French has some typographical differences with European French. In Quebec French, no spaces are inserted before punctuation marks other than the colon. European French requires spaces before the exclamation mark, the question mark, the colon and the semicolon.
However, the "Ramat de la Typographie", a rather popular document among Quebec typesetters and graphic designers, recommends following the European French rule and insert fine spaces before semicolons and exclamation marks, among others. One reason for this might be for mutual compatibility.
Spelling and grammar
A notable difference in grammar which received considerable attention in France during the 1990s is the feminine form of many professions, which traditionally did not have a feminine form. In Quebec, one writes nearly universally une chercheuse  "a researcher", whereas in France, un chercheur and, more recently, un chercheur and une chercheuse, are used.
There are other, sporadic spelling differences. For example, the Office québécois de la langue française recommends the spelling tofou for what is in France tofu "tofu". In grammar, the adjective inuit "Inuit" is invariable in France but, according to official recommendations in Quebec, has regular feminine and plural forms.
Grammatical differences between informal spoken Quebec French and the formal language abound. Some of these, such as omission of the negative particle ne, are also present in the informal language of speakers of standard European French, while other features, such as use of the interrogative particle -tu, are either peculiar to Quebec or Canadian French or restricted to nonstandard varieties of European French. For further information, see the sections "Syntax", "Pronouns" and "Verbs" below.
- See Quebec French lexicon for more examples and further explanation.
While the majority of lexical items in Quebec French exist in other dialects of French, many words and expressions are unique to Quebec. The differences can be classified into the following five categories. The influences on Quebec French from English and Native American can be reflected in any of these five:
- lexically specific items (québécismes lexématiques), which do not exist in other varieties of French;
- semantic differences (québécismes sémantiques), in which a word has a different meaning in Quebec French than in other French varieties;
- grammatical differences in lexical items (québécismes grammaticaux), in which a word has different morpho-syntactic behaviour in Quebec French than in other varieties;
- differences in multi-word or fixed expressions (québécismes phraséologiques);
- contextual differences (roughly, québécisme de statut), in which the lexical item has a similar form and meaning in Quebec French as in other varieties, but the context in which the item is used is different.
The following tables give examples of each of the first four categories, along with the Metropolitan French equivalent and an English gloss. Contextual differences, along with individual explanations, are then discussed.
Examples of lexically specific items:
|Quebec French||Metropolitan French||English gloss|
|astheure (à c't'heure)||maintenant||now|
|chum (m)||copain (m)||boyfriend|
|magasiner||faire des courses||to go shopping/do errands|
Examples of semantic differences:
|Lexical item||Quebec French meaning||Metropolitan French meaning|
|blonde (f)||girlfriend||blonde-haired woman|
|dépanneur (m)||convenience store||repairer|
|gosse||gosses (fem pl): balls (testicles)||gosse (masc sg): child/kid|
Examples of grammatical differences:
|Lexical item||Quebec French grammar||Metropolitan French grammar||English gloss|
|autobus (noun)||autobus (f) (Varies within Quebec)||autobus (m)||bus|
|pantalon (noun)||pantalons (pl)||pantalon (sg)||Trousers|
Examples multi-word or fixed expressions unique to Quebec:
|Quebec French expression||Metropolitan French gloss||English gloss|
|avoir le flu||avoir la diarrhée||to have diarrhea|
|avoir le goût dérangé||gouter une saveur étrange||to taste something strange, unexpected|
|en arracher||en baver||to have a rough time|
|faire beau soleil||faire un temps radieux||to have radiant/sunny weather|
|prendre une marche||faire une promenade||to take a walk|
|avoir le bec fin||faire le difficile||to be picky|
|se faire passer un sapin||se faire duper||to be tricked|
|parler à travers son chapeau||parler à tort et à travers||to talk through one's hat|
Some Quebec French lexical items have the same general meaning in Metropolitan French but are used in different contexts. English translations are given in parentheses.
- arrêt (stop): In Quebec French, most stop signs say arrêt although some say stop and older signs use both words, whereas in France, all such signs say stop, which is the standard in Europe.
- condom (condom): In Quebec French, this term has neutral connotations, whereas in Metropolitan French, it is used in more technical contexts. The neutral term in Metropolitan French is préservatif.
- quasiment [kɛzmã] (almost): In Quebec French, this term has neutral connotations, whereas in Metropolitan French, it is more informal. The neutral term in Metropolitan French is, in the majority of cases, presque.
In addition, Quebec French has its own set of swear words, or sacres, distinct from other varieties of French.
Use of Anglicisms
One characteristic of major sociological importance distinguishing Quebec French from European French is the relatively greater number of borrowings from English, especially in the informal spoken language. In contrast, Quebecers show a stronger aversion to the use of anglicisms in formal contexts than do European francophones, largely because of what the influence of English on their language is held to reveal about the historically superior position of anglophones in Canadian society. According to Cajolet-Laganière and Martel, out of 4,216 "criticized borrowings from English" in Quebec French that they were able to identify, some 93% have "extremely low frequency" and 60% are obsolete. Despite this, the prevalence of anglicisms in Quebec French has often been exaggerated. French spoken with a number of anglicisms viewed as excessive may be disparagingly termed franglais ("Frenglish"). According to Chantal Bouchard, "While the language spoken in Quebec did indeed gradually accumulate borrowings from English [between 1850 and 1960], it did not change to such an extent as to justify the extraordinarily negative discourse about it between 1940 and 1960. It is instead in the loss of social position suffered by a large proportion of Francophones since the end of the 19th century that one must seek the principal source of this degrading perception."
Borrowings from Aboriginal languages
The following are areas in which the lexicon of Quebec French is distinct from those of other varieties of French:
- lexical items formerly common to both France and New France and that are today unique only to Quebec French; (This includes expressions and word forms that have the same form elsewhere in La Francophonie, yet have a different denotation or connotation.)
- borrowings from Amerindian languages, esp. place names;
- les sacres - Quebec French profanity;
- many loanwords, calques and other borrowings from English in the 19th and 20th centuries, whether such borrowings are considered standard French or not;
- starting in the latter half of the 20th century, an enormous store of French neologisms (coinages) and re-introduced words via terminological work by professionals, translators, and the OLF; some of this terminology is "exported" to the rest of la Francophonie;
- feminized job titles and gender-inclusive language;
- morphological processes that have been more productive:
- suffixes: -eux/euse, -age, -able, and -oune
- reduplication (as in the international French word guéguerre): cacanne, gogauche, etc.
- reduplication plus -oune: chouchoune, gougounes, moumoune, nounoune, poupoune, toutoune, foufoune,...
- new words ending in -oune without duplication: zoune, bizoune, coune, ti-coune,...
Recent lexical innovations
Some recent Quebec French lexical innovations have spread, at least partially, to other varieties of French:
- clavardage, meaning chat, a contraction of "clavier" (keyboard) and "bavardage" (chat). Verb: clavarder;
- courriel, meaning e-mail, a contraction of "courrier électronique" (electronic mail);
- pourriel, meaning spam e-mail, is a contraction of "courriel" (email) and "poubelle" (garbage). but also, it contains the word "pourri" (rotten).
- baladodiffusion (may be abbreviated to balado), meaning podcasting, a contraction of "baladeur" (walkman) and "radiodiffusion".
Systematic, i.e. in all formal speech:
- /ɑ/, /ɛː/, /œ̃/ and /ə/ as phonemes distinct from /a/, /ɛ/, /ɛ̃/ and /ø/ respectively
- [ɪ], [ʏ], [ʊ] are lax allophones of /i/, /y/, /u/ in closed syllables
- Variants for /ɛ̃/ is closed to [ẽ], /ɑ̃/ is fronted into [ã] and /œ̃/ is generally pronounced [œ̃˞]
- Under certain conditions, long vowels in final (stressed) syllables
- Drop of schwa /ə/
Systematic, i.e. in all informal speech:
- Diphthongs as variants to long vowels (tête /tɛːt/ → [taɪ̯t])
- In colloquial speech, /wa/ (spelled "oi") is pronounced [wɛ], [we] or [wɔ]
- Standard French /a/ is pronounced [ɔ] in final open syllable (avocat /avɔka/ → [avɔkɔ])
- /t/ and /d/ affricated to [t͡s] and [d͡z] before /i/, /y/, /j/, ɥ/, and their allophones [ɪ], [ʏ] (e.g. except in Gaspésie–Îles-de-la-Madeleine and Côte-Nord)
- Drop of liquids /l/ and /ʁ/ (written as "l" and "r") in unstressed position with schwa or unstressed intervocalic position
- Trilled "r" - [r]
Sociolinguistic status of selected phonological traits
The examples below are not intended to be exhaustive, but rather to illustrate the complex influence European French has had on Quebec French pronunciation, and the range of sociolinguistic statuses that individual phonetic variables can possess. For the specific technical description of the features in question, see the phonology sections above or the article Quebec French phonology.
- The most entrenched features of Quebec pronunciation are such that their absence, even in the most formal registers, is considered an indication of foreign origin of the speaker. This is the case, for example, for the affrication of /t/ and /d/ before /i/ and /y/. (This particular feature of Quebec French is, however, sometimes avoided when singing, though not always, because some Québécois sing with a French accent.)
- The use of the lax Quebec allophones of /i/, /y/, /u/ (in the appropriate phonetic contexts) is compulsory in all but highly formal styles, and even there their use predominates. Use of the tense allophones where the lax ones would be expected can be perceived as "pedantic".
- The Quebec variant of nasal vowels [ã], [ẽ], [õ] and [œ̃˞] corresponding to the European [ɒ̃] (traditionally pronounced [ɑ̃]), [æ̃] (traditionally pronounced [ɛ̃]), [õ] (traditionally pronounced [ɔ̃]) and [œ̃] are not subject to a significant negative sociolinguistic evaluation, and are used by a majority of speakers and of educated speakers in all circumstances. However, the European variants also appear occasionally in formal speech among a minority of speakers, especially in Radio-Canada. (The preceding discussion applies to stressed syllables. For reasons unrelated to their social standing, some allophones close to the European variants appear frequently in unstressed syllables.)
- The Quebec variant [ɔː] of [ɑː] in such words as pâte clearly predominates in informal speech, and, according to Ostiguy and Tousignant, is likely not perceived negatively in informal situations. However, sociolinguistic research has shown that this is not the case in formal speech, where the traditional European standard [ɑː] is more common. Despite this, many speakers use [ɔː] systematically in all situations, and Ostiguy and Tousignant hypothesize that these speakers tend to be less educated. It must be mentioned that a third vowel [a], though infrequent, also occurs. This is the vowel which has emerged with /a/ as a new European standard in the last several decades for words in this category. According to Ostiguy and Tousignant, this pronunciation is seen as "affected", and Dumas writes that speakers using this pronunciation "run the risk of being accused of snobbery". Entirely analogous considerations apply to the two pronunciations of such words as chat, which can be pronounced [ʃɑ] or [ʃɔ].
- The diphthonged variants of such words as fête (e.g. [faɪ̯t] instead of [fɛːt]) are rarely used in formal speech. They have been explicitly and extensively stigmatized, and were, according to the official Quebec educational curricula of 1959 and 1969, among those pronunciation habits to be "corrected" in pupils. In informal speech, most speakers use generally these forms to some extent. However, they are viewed negatively, and their frequency is higher among uneducated speakers, although Quebec teachers use generally the diphtongization.
- Traditional pronunciations such as [pwɛl] for poil (also [pwal], as in France; words in this category include avoine, (ils) reçoivent, noirci, etc. ) and [mwe] for moi (now usually [mwa], as in France; this category consists of moi, toi, and verb forms such as (je) bois, (on) reçoit, but excludes québécois, toit, etc. which have only ever had the pronunciation [wa]) are no longer used by many speakers, and are virtually absent from formal speech. They have long been the object of condemnation. Dumas writes that the [we] pronunciations of words in the moi category have "even become the symbol and the scapegoat of bad taste, lack of education, vulgarity, etc., no doubt because they differ quite a bit from the accepted pronunciation, which ends in [wa], [...]" On the other hand, writing in 1987, he considers [wɛ] in words in the poil group "the most common pronunciation".
- No doubt one of the most striking changes having affected Quebec French in recent decades is the displacement of the alveolar trill r [r] by the uvular trill r [ʀ], originally from northern France, and similar acoustically to the Parisian uvular r [ʁ]. Historically, the trilled r predominated in western Quebec, including Montreal, and the uvular r in eastern Quebec, including Quebec City, with an isogloss near Trois-Rivières. (More precisely, the isogloss runs through Yamachiche and then between Sherbrooke and La Patrie, near the American border. With only a few exceptions, the apical variant predominates in Canada outside Quebec.) Elocution teachers and the clergy traditionally favoured the trilled r, which was nearly universal in Montreal until the 1950s and was perceived positively. But massive immigration from eastern Quebec beginning in the 1930s with the Great Depression, participation of soldiers in the Second World War, travel to Europe after the war, and especially use of the uvular r in radio and then television broadcasts, quickly reversed perceptions and favoured the spread of the uvular r. Trilled r is today in rapid decline. According to Ostiguy and Tousignant, this change has occurred within a single generation. The Parisian uvular r is also present in Quebec, and its use is positively correlated with socio-economic status.
There are increasing differences between the syntax used in spoken Quebec French from the syntax of other regional dialects of French. However, the characteristic differences of Quebec French syntax are not considered standard despite their high-frequency in everyday, relaxed speech.
One far-reaching difference is the weakening of the syntactic role of the specifiers (both verbal and nominal), which results in many syntactic changes:
- Relative clauses (1) using "que" as an all-purpose relative pronoun, or (2) embedding interrogative pronouns instead of relative pronouns:
- J'ai trouvé le document que j'ai de besoin. (J'ai trouvé le document dont j'ai besoin.) I found / I've found the document I need.
- Je comprends qu'est-ce que tu veux dire. (Je comprends ce que tu veux dire.) I understand what you mean.
- Omission of the prepositions that collocate with certain verbs:
- J'ai un enfant à m'occuper. (Standard French: s'occuper de; J'ai un enfant dont je dois m'occuper.) I have a child (I need) to take care of.
- Plural conditioned by semantics:
- La plupart du monde sont tannés des taxes. (La plupart du monde est tanné des taxes.) Most people are fed up with taxes.
- A phenomenon throughout the Francophonie, dropping the "ne" of the double negative is accompanied, in Quebec French, by a change in word order (1), and (2) postcliticisation of direct pronouns (3) along with euphonic insertion of [z] liaisons to avoid vowel hiatus. This word order is also found in non-standard European French.
- Donne-moi-le pas. (Ne me le donne pas.) Don't give it to me.
- Dis-moi pas de m'en aller! (Ne me dis pas de m'en aller) Don't tell me to go away!
- Donne-moi-z-en pas ! (Ne m'en donne pas!) Don't give me any!
Other notable syntactic changes in Quebec French include the following:
- Use of non-standard verbal periphrasis, (many of them archaisms):
- J'étais pour te le dire. (J'allais te le dire. / J'étais sur le point de te le dire.) I was going to/about to tell you about it.
- Avoir su, j'aurais... (Si j'avais su, j'aurais...) Had I known, I would have...
- Mais que l'hiver finisse, je vais partir. (Dès que l'hiver finira, je partirai.) As soon as winter ends, I will leave.
- Particle -tu used (1) to form tag questions, (2) sometimes to express exclamative sentences and (3) on other times it's used with excess, for instance:
- C'est-tu prêt? (Est-ce prêt? / C'est prêt? / Est-ce que c'est prêt?) Is it ready?
- Vous voulez-tu manger? (Vous voulez manger?) Do you want to eat?
- On a-tu bien mangé! (Qu'est-ce qu'on a bien mangé!) We ate well, didn't we?
- T'as-tu pris tes pilules? (Est-ce que tu as pris tes médicaments?) Have you taken your medications?
- This particle is -ti (from Standard French "-t-il", often rendered as [t͡si]) in most varieties of North American French outside Quebec as well as in European varieties of français populaire as already noted by Gaston Paris. It is also found in the non-creole speech on the island of Saint-Barthelemy in the Caribbean.
- Extensive use of litotes:
- C'est pas chaud! (C'est frais!) It's not all too warm out!
- C'est pas laid pantoute! (Ce n'est pas laid du tout!) Isn't this nice! (literally: This is not ugly at all.)
- Comment vas-tu? - Pas pire, pas pire. How are you? - Not bad. Not bad at all
However, these features are common to all the basilectal varieties of français populaire descended from the 17th century koiné of Paris.
- Use of diminutives:
- Tu prendrais-tu un p'tit café? Une p'tite bière? Would you like to have a coffee? A beer?
- je/ tu/ y [i], a/ on/ vous/ y [i] (instead of je/ tu/ il, elle/ nous/ vous/ il(s), elle(s))
- with [a] → [ɛ] when used with the verb and copula être
- In common with the rest of the Francophonie, there is a shift from nous to on in all registers. In post-Quiet Revolution Quebec, the use of informal tu has become widespread in many situations that normally call for semantically singular vous. While some schools are trying to re-introduce this use of vous, which is absent from most youths' speech, the shift from nous to on goes relatively unnoticed.
- The traditional use of on, in turn, is usually replaced by different use of pronouns or paraphrases, like in the rest of the Francophonie. The second person (tu, t') is usually used by speakers when referring to experiences that can happen in one's life:
- Quand t'es ben tranquille chez vous, à te mêler de tes affaires ...
- Other paraphrases using le monde, les gens are more employed when referring to overgeneralisations:
- Le monde aime pas voyager dans un autobus plein.
- As in the rest of la Francophonie, the sound [l] is disappearing in il, ils among informal registers and rapid speech. More particular to Quebec is the transformation of elle to [a] and less often [ɛ] written a and è or 'est in eye dialect. See more in Quebec French pronunciation.
- Absence of elles - For a majority of Quebec French speakers, elles is not used for the 3rd person plural pronoun, at least in the nominative case; it is replaced with the subject pronoun ils [i] or the stress/tonic pronoun eux(-autres). However, elles is still used in other cases (ce sont elles qui vont payer le prix).
- -autres In informal registers, the stress/tonic pronouns for the plural subject pronouns have the suffix –autres, pronounced [ou̯t] and written –aut’ in eye dialect. Nous-autres, vous-autres, and eux-autres are comparable to the Spanish forms nosotros/as and vosotros/as, yet the usage and meanings are different. One reason could be the Occitan language, which is geographically closer to French and was once spoken in Poitou and commonly uses nosautres/as and vosautres/as. Nous-autres, vous-autres, and eux-autres are by the way used in Meridional French, especially in Southwest France, because of influence of the Occitan language. Note that elles-autres does not exist.
In their syntax and morphology, Quebec French verbs differ very little from the verbs of other regional dialects of French, both formal and informal. The distinctive characteristics of Quebec French verbs are restricted mainly to:
- In the present indicative, the forms of aller (to go) are regularized as [vɔ] in all singular persons: je vas, tu vas, il/elle va. Note that in 17th century French, what is today's international standard /vɛ/ in je vais was considered substandard while je vas was the prestige form.
- In the present subjunctive of aller, the root is regularized as all- /al/ for all persons. Examples: que j'alle, que tu alles, qu'ils allent, etc. The majority of French verbs, regardless of dialect or standardization, display the same regularization. They therefore use the same root for both the imperfect and the present subjunctive: que je finisse vs. je finissais.
- Colloquially, in haïr (to hate), in the present indicative singular forms, the hiatus is found between two different vowels instead of at the onset of the verb's first syllable. This results in the forms: j'haïs, tu haïs, il/elle haït, written with a diaeresis (tréma) and all pronounced with two syllables: /a.i/. The "h" in these forms is silent and does not indicate a hiatus; as a result, je elides with haïs forming j'haïs. All the other forms, tenses, and moods of haïr contain the same hiatus regardless of register. However, in Metropolitan French and in more formal Quebec French, especially in the media, the present indicative singular forms are pronounced as one syllable /ɛ/ and written without a diaeresis: je hais, tu hais, il/elle hait.
- In the present indicative of both formal and informal Quebec French, (s')asseoir (to sit/seat) only uses the vowel /wa/ in stressed roots and /e/ in unstressed roots: je m'assois, tu t'assois, il s'assoit, ils s'assoient but nous nous asseyons, vous vous asseyez. In Metropolitan French, stressed /wa/ and /je/ are in free variation as are unstressed /wa/ and /e/. Note that in informal Quebec French, (s')asseoir is often said as (s')assire.
- Quebec French has retained the /ɛ/ ending for je/tu/il-elle/ils in the imperfect (the ending is written as -ais, -ait, -aient). In most other dialects, the ending is pronounced, instead, as a neutralized sound between /e/ and /ɛ/.
- Informal ils jousent (they play) is often heard for ils jouent and is most likely due to an old analogy with ils cousent (they sew). This is not commonly heard, because it was heavily criticised. Most people now say Ils jouent, which is less stigmatized.
- Acadian French
- Association québécoise de linguistique
- Canadian French
- French language in Canada
- French language
- French phonology
- French-speaking Quebecer
- Gender-neutral language in French
- History of French
- Quebec English
- Quebec French lexicon
- Quebec French phonology
- Quebec French profanity
- Standard French
- Source: 2006 Census of Canada. Includes multiple responses. The simplifying assumption has been made that there are no native speakers of Quebec French in Atlantic Canada (see Acadian French) but that all native speakers of French in the rest of Canada are speakers of Quebec French.
- See the article on Canadian French for further details and references.
- Joual - Definition and More from the Free Merriam-Webster Dictionary
- Entry for joual in Dictionnaire du français Plus. "Variété de français québécois qui est caractérisée par un ensemble de traits (surtout phonétiques et lexicaux) considérés comme incorrects ou mauvais et qui est identifiée au parler des classes populaires."
- See the main article on the History of Quebec French and notably the controversy that opposes Barbaud (1984) to Fournier & Wittmann (1995) and Wittmann (1997) on the subject of dialect clash (choc des patoir) in the phylogenesis of Quebec French.
- See Quebec French phonology and Quebec French lexicon for examples and further information.
- Henri Wittmannn, "Le français de Paris dans le français des Amériques." Proceedings of the International Congress of Linguists 16.0416 (Paris, 20-25 juillet 1997). Oxford: Pergamon (CD edition). 
- Martel, p. 99
- Ostiguy, p.27
- L'attitude linguistique
- Martel, p. 77. Original text: "Le français standard d'ici est la variété de français socialement valorisée que la majorité des Québécois francophones tendent à utiliser dans les situations de communication formelle."
- Ostiguy, p. 27.
- See for example Ostiguy, p. 68, on the perception as "pedantic" of the use of the tense allophones [i], [y], [u], where [ɪ], [ʏ], [ʊ] would be expected in Quebec French. "En effet, l'utilisation des voyelles tendues peut avoir allure de pédanterie à l'oreille d'une majorité de Québécois."
- La typographie: Espacement avant et après les signes de ponctuation on the Banque de dépannage linguistique of the Office québécois de la langue française. (French)
- The Académie française has taken strong positions opposing the officialization of feminine forms in these cases. See Martel, p.109. Lionel Jospin's female cabinet ministers were the first to be referred to as "Madame la ministre" instead of "Madame le ministre", whereas this had been common practice in Canada for decades.
- Grand dictionnaire terminologique, "chercheuse", http://www.granddictionnaire.com/btml/fra/r_motclef/index800_1.asp
- Martel, pp. 97,99
- Poirier, p. 32
- Poirier pp. 32 - 36
- Martel, p. 110.
- Martel, p.110.
- "Le français au Québec : un standard à décrire et des usages à hierarchiser", p. 386, in Plourde
- This very low frequency was confirmed in a two-million word spoken French corpus from the Ottawa-Hull region by Poplack et al. (1988)
- "Anglicisation et autodépréciation", pp.204,205, in Plourde. Original text: "En effet, si la langue parlée au Québec s'est peu à peu chargée d'emprunts à l'anglais au cours de cette période, elle ne s'est pas transformée au point de justifier le discours extraordinairement négatif qu'on tient à son sujet de 1940 à 1960. C'est bien plutôt dans le déclassement subi par une forte proportion des francophones depuis la fin du XIXe siècle qu'il faut chercher la source de cette perception dépréciative."
- chat / clavardage
- e-mail / courriel
- spam / pourriel on the Office québécois de la langue française's website.
- podcasting / baladodiffusion on the Office québécois de la langue française's website.
- Dumas, p. 8
- Dumas, p. 9
- Ostiguy, p. 68
- Ostiguy, pp. 112-114.
- Ostiguy, pp. 75-80
- For example, while The New Cassell's French dictionary (1962) records pâte as [pɑːt] and Le Nouveau Petit Robert (1993) gives the pronunciation [pat].
- Ostiguy, p. 80
- Dumas, p. 149.
- Ostiguy, pp. 71-75
- Ostiguy, pp. 93-95
- Ostiguy, p. 102
- Dumas, p. 24
- [www.tlfq.ulaval.ca/pub/pdf/C-71.pdf Les causes de la variation géolinguistique du français en Amérique du Nord], Claude Poirier
- Ostiguy, pp. 162, 163
- Ostiguy, p. 164
- as found in P.Barbaud, 1998, Dissidence du français québécois et évolution dialectale, in Revue québécoise de linguistique, vol. 26, n 2, pp.107-128.
- Gaston Paris, «Ti, signe de l'interrogation.» Romania 1887, 6.438-442.
- Denis Dumas (1987). Nos façons de parler (in French). Sainte-Foy: Presses de l'Université du Québec. ISBN 2-7605-0445-X.
- Pierre Martel, Hélène Cajolet-Laganière (1996). Le français québécois : Usages, standard et aménagement (in French). Quebec: Presses de l'Université Laval. ISBN 978-2-89224-261-4.
- [Poirier] (1995). "Les variantes topolectales du lexique français: Propositions de classement à partir d'exemples québécois". In Michel Francard & Danièle Latin. Le Régionalisme Lexical (in French). Louvain-la-Neuve, Belgium: De Boeck UniversitéDuculot. pp. 13–56. ISBN 2-8011-1091-4.
- Shana Poplack, David Sankoff and Chris Miller (1988) The social correlates and linguistic processes of lexical borrowing and assimilation. Linguistics 26 (1): 47-104.
- Michel Plourde, ed. (2000). Le français au Québec : 400 ans d'histoire et de vie (in French). Montreal: Éditions Fides/Publications du Québec. ISBN 2-7621-2281-3.
- Robert Fournier & Henri Wittmann, ed. (1995). Le français des Amériques (in French). Trois-Rivières: Presses Universitaires de Trois-Rivières. ISBN 2-9802307-2-3.
- Philippe Barbaud (1984). Le Choc des patois en Nouvelle-France: Essai sur l'histoire de la francisation au Canada (in French). Montreal: Presses de l'Université du Québec. ISBN 2-7605-0330-5. Research on the early development of French in New France.
- Henri Wittmannn. "Le français de Paris dans le français des Amériques." Proceedings of the International Congress of Linguists 16.0416 (Paris, 20-25 juillet 1997). Oxford: Pergamon (CD edition).http://homepage.mac.com/noula/ling/1998a-fpparis.pdf
- Lionel Meney (1999). Dictionnaire Québécois Français (in French). Montreal: Guérin. ISBN 2-7601-5482-3. A comprehensive reference dictionary defining Québécois French usage for speakers of European French
- Jean-Marcel Léard (1995). Grammaire québécoise d'aujourd'hui: Comprendre les québécismes (in French). Montreal: Guérin Universitaire. ISBN 2-7601-3930-1. A detailed analysis of some grammatical differences between France and Quebec French.
- Raymond Mougeon, Édouard Beniak (1994). Les Origines du français québécois (in French). Québec, Les Presses de l'Université Laval. ISBN 2-7637-7354-0.
- Luc Ostiguy, Claude Tousignant (1993). Le français québécois: normes et usages (in French). Montreal: Guérin Universitaire. ISBN 2-7601-3330-3. Analysis of some particularities of pronunciations in regard to the Quebec and European norms and language registers.
- Léandre Bergeron (1982). The Québécois Dictionary. Toronto: James Lorimer & Co.
- Collective (2011). Canadian French for Better Travel. Montreal: Ulysses Travel Guides. ISBN 978-2-89464-965-7.
- History of the French Language in Quebec
- (French) History of French in Quebec
- (French) Trésor de la langue française au Québec
- (French) Grand dictionnaire terminologique (Office québécois de la langue française)
- The Alternative Québécois Dictionary