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Joual (French pronunciation: ​[ʒwal]) is the common name for the linguistic features of basilectal Quebec French that are associated with the French-speaking working class in Montreal which has become a symbol of national identity for a large number of artists from that area. Speakers of Quebec French from outside Montreal usually have other names to identify their speech, such as Magoua in Trois-Rivières, and Chaouin south of Trois-Rivières. Linguists tend to eschew this term, but historically some have reserved the term joual for the variant of Quebec French spoken in Montreal.[1]

Like most regional and class variants of a widely spoken language, joual is stigmatized by some and celebrated by others.[citation needed] While joual is often considered a sociolect of the Québécois working class, that perception is outdated. Both the upward socio-economic mobility among the Québécois, and a cultural renaissance around joual connected to the Quiet Revolution in the Montreal East-End have resulted in joual being spoken by people across the educational and economic spectrum. Today, many Québécois who were raised in Quebec during the last century (command of English notwithstanding) can understand and speak at least some joual.


The language levels of the population are diverse today, particularly following the adoption of Bill 101. However, slang and other basilectal varieties of Quebec French are still very present in Quebec culture. This phenomenon occurs through music, storytelling, television, radio, in movies and in conversations.

Origin of the name joual[edit]

Although coinage of the name joual is often attributed to French-Canadian journalist André Laurendeau, usage of this term throughout French-speaking Canada predates the 1930s.[citation needed]

The actual word joual is the representation of how the word cheval (Standard French: [ʃəval], horse) is pronounced by those who speak joual. The weak schwa vowel [ə] disappeared. Then the voiceless [ʃ] was voiced to [ʒ], thereby creating [ʒval]. Next, the [v] at the beginning of a syllable in some regional dialects of French or even in very rapid speech in general weakens to become the semi-vowel [w] written ⟨ou⟩. The end result is the word [ʒwal] transcribed as joual.[citation needed]

Most notable or stereotypical linguistic features[edit]

Diphthongs are normally present where long vowels would be present in standard French. There is also "sontais, sontè" for "ils étaient, ils ont été."

Although moé and toé are today considered substandard slang pronunciations, these were the pronunciations of Old French and French used in all provinces of Northern France—by the royalty, aristocracy and common people. After the 1789 French Revolution, the standard pronunciation in France changed to that of a previously-stigmatized form in the speech of Paris, but Quebec French continued to evolve from the historically older dialects, having become isolated from France following the 1760 British conquest of New France.[2]

Joual shares many features with modern Oïl languages, such as Norman, Gallo, Picard, Poitevin and Saintongeais though its affinities are greatest with the 17th century koiné of Paris.[3] Speakers of these languages of France predominated among settlers to New France.

Another outstanding characteristic of Joual is the use of profanity called sacre in everyday speech.[4]

English loanwords (Anglicisms)[edit]

There are a number of English loanwords in joual, although they have been stigmatized since the 1960s:[5]

  • Bécosse: From backhouse, used generally in the sense of a bathroom. Unlike most borrowing, this one can sometimes be seen written, usually as shown here.
  • Bicycle or bécik: Bicycle
  • Bike or bécik: Motorbike
  • Braker: pronounced [bʁeke]. Verb meaning "to brake".
  • Breakeur: Circuit breaker (disjoncteur). Still very often used nowadays.
  • Bum: Bum
  • Bumper: Bumper
  • Caller: [kɑle]. Verb meaning to phone someone.
  • Checker or chequé: Verb meaning to check something (out), as in "Check ben ça" ("Check this out.")
  • Coat: Winter jacket (only for the clothing item), never in the sense of "layer".
  • Chum: [tʃɔm]. Most often in the sense of boyfriend, often simply as a male friend of a male.
  • Dash: dashboard
  • Dumper: [dõpe]. To throw in the trash, to deposit something, or to break up with someone. --Usually actually spelled and pronounced "domper". (In hockey, domper la puck: to dump the puck)
  • Enfirouaper: To cheat someone. This comes from "in fur wrap". Centuries ago, fur traders would sell a ballot of fur, actually filled with cardboard in the middle.[6]
  • Flat: A flat tire, called une crevaison in Standard French. Can also mean a belly flop.
  • Frencher: [fʁɛntʃe]. To French-kiss.
  • Hood: Carhood
  • Lift: Previously used only in the sense of giving a lift to someone in one's vehicle, now used to designate any kind of lift.
  • Mossel: Muscle.
  • Peppermint, usually pronounced like paparman or "peperman"
  • Pinotte: Peanuts. Unlike most other borrowings, this one is sometimes seen written, usually spelled like here. (also a street slang for amphetamines)
  • les States: [le stei̯t]. Used when referring to the USA.
  • Tinque : Usually [tẽːk]. Used in the sense of "container": Tinque à gaz [fuel tank].
  • Toaster: [tostɚ]. Toaster.
  • Tough: [tɔf]. Tough.
  • Truck: [tʁɔk]. Truck.
  • Trunk: pronounced tRung. Car trunk
  • Suit: suit.
  • Ski-doo: Snowmobile (based on Bombardier's Ski-Doo brand).
  • Skring : Window screen
  • Windshield: pronounced win-sheer. windshield

Some words were also previously thought to be of English origin, although modern research has shown them to be from regional French dialects:

  • Pitoune (log, cute girl, loose girl): previously thought to come from "happy town" although the word "pitchoune" exists in dialects from southern France (possibly coming from the Occitan word "pichona", "little girl") and means "cute girl".
  • Poutine: was thought to come from "pudding", but some have drawn a parallel with the occitan term "podinga", a stew made of scraps, which was (in Montreal) the previous use of the term.


Joual French English
toé toi (from classic French pronunciation of toi) you (singular, oblique)
moé moi (from classic French pronunciation of moi) me
pis et puis and (then)
m'a, j'vas [ʒvɔ] (moi) je vais I will (am going)
j'fas je fais I am doing
té, t'es tu es you are
tsé (tsé là), t'sais tu sais you know
j'ré, j'rai, chèille je serai I will be
j'cres, j'cré je crois I believe
pantoute pas du tout (de pas en tout) not at all
y il he
a elle (elle a) she (she has)
ouais or ouin oui yeah, yep
y'a [jɔ] il y a there is
tout l' tout le all of the
icitte ici here
ben bien well / very / many (context)
bengadon bien regarde-donc well look at that
s'a [saː] sur la on the [something] (feminine)
su'l sur le on the [something] (masculine)
anyway, en tout cas [ã tu̥ kɔ], entécas en tout cas in any case, anyway (from English "anyway")
enweille (donc), àweille (donc) envoye (donc), allez come on, let's go
faite saoul drunk
nuitte nuit night
'tite, p'tite petite small
déhors or dewors dehors outside, get out!
boutte bout end, tip
litte lit bed
astheure, asteur
(from "à cette heure(-ci)")
maintenant now, right now
han ? hein ? eh? huh? or what?
heille hey
frette froid cold
fa fait make/do
fak, fat que donc (ça fait que) so, therefore
mék, maique lorsque (from old French « mais que ») as soon as
dins dans les in the (plural)
c'pas [spɔ] ce n'est pas it's not
end'ssour, end'ssou en dessous under
s'assir, s'assoère s'asseoir to sit down
ak, ac, a'ec avec with
boète [bwaɪ̯t] boîte box
à soère ce soir (à soir) tonight
àmandonné, aman'né à un moment donné at some point, at any given time
bouette boue mud
c't'un c'est un it's a
ch't, j't, chus je suis (un) I am
garah, gararh garage garage
char, rhar automobile car
c't'un c'est is
tarla stupide dumb
kétaine, quétaine mauvais gout (Mode) tasteless, cheesy (fashion)
fif éfféminé feminine (can also mean queer)
tapette (une) pédé (un) queer (derogative)
grand slack grand et mince tall and skinny (from English "slack")
smatte (tu es) gentil kind (you are) (from English "smart")
plotte chatte cunt
bâtare bâtard bastard
eulle l' le the
étchoeuré écoeuré tired (annoyed)
t'sul mettre sur put on
vert (tu es) inexpérimenté unexperienced (being new, "green", to something)
trou d'cul enfoiré ass hole
panel (un) camionnette, fourgon van (panel van, cargo van)
jarret, hârret mollet calf
lulu mèche (deux) twintails
Drette là Ici même (droit là) Right there
Aweille ! Bouge ! Move!
Ç'a d'l'air à ça Ça resemble à ça It looks that way
J'te dis Je te dis I tell you
J'toute fourré Je suis confus I'm so confused
J'cogne des clous Je suis épuisé I'm so tired
Checke-moé le don Regarde (donc) ce gars là Look at that guy
Stacose, C't-à-cause Parce que (c'est à cause de) Because (it is because of)
Stacé C'est assez That's enough
Viarge Putain ! Damn !
Grouille (toé) Dépêche-toi Hurry up
Y pue d'la yeul Il pue de la gueule He has bad breath
Chus dan marde Je suis dans le pétrin (Je suis dans la merde) I'm in trouble (I'm in shit)

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Gilles Lefebvre, «Faut-il miser sur le joual?» Le Devoir 1965, 30 octobre; «L'étude de la culture: la linguistique.» Recherche sociographiques 3:1-2.233-249, 1962; Henri Wittmann, 1973. «Le joual, c'est-tu un créole?» La Linguistique 1973, 9:2.83-93.[1]
  2. ^ Marc Picard, "La diphtongue /wa/ et ses équivalents en français du Canada." Cahiers de linguistique de l'Université du Québec 1974, 4.147-164.
  3. ^ Henri Wittmann, "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). [2]
  4. ^ Gilles Charest, Le livre des sacres et blasphèmes québécois. Montréal: L"Aurore, 1974; Jean-Pierre Pichette, Le guide raisonné des jurons. Montréal: Les Quinze, 1980; Diane Vincent, Pressions et impressions sur les sacres au Québec. Québec: Office de la langue française, 1982.
  5. ^ The standard reference to this subject is Gilles Colpron, Les anglicismes au Québec: Répertoire classifié. Montréal: Beauchemin.
  6. ^ Gaston Dulong, Dictionnaire des canadianismes. Québec: Larousse Canada, 1989, p. 180.

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