Questions From Our Readers
I am a Franco American trying very hard to rediscover my French. I am at my wit’s end with questions asked of me: “Do you speak real French or Québecois?!” I know you surely have heard this before. But here is my question: How did it happen… historically, politically… that speaking French in Canada became known as Québécois, implying a language (dialect?) other than French? Did the expression le québecois originate from the people of Québec who themselves wanted to identify their “parler français” as their own, and for what reason? Or did the term come from elsewhere? It seems to me that the French spoken in Québec, Canada and New England is French. People in Mississippi do not say they speak Mississippian because their accent or certain expressions are proper to them. Read more »
Photo : Bernard Gagnon/CC 3.0
There’s nothing recent about Catalonia’s move towards independence. In fact, few may be aware of just how far back in history the roots of Catalonia’s “difference” go.
Catalonia has always been on the outskirts of Spain. Geographically close to France, it actually started out as part of France, 1200 years ago. The French originally founded it as a buffer kingdom to prevent Muslims, who ruled Spain at the time, from moving north and taking over France.
In its early centuries, the Catalan language also travelled a path distinct from the other tongues spoken on the Iberian Peninsula. Catalan started out as one of a myriad of Latin-based Romance dialects spoken in the dozens of duchies and kingdoms that covered the Iberian Peninsula. In the Middle Ages, the Kings of Castile gradually conquered Spain during the Reconquista and drove out most of the other languages spoken on the Peninsula, in favor or Castilian. The Catalonians, along with the Basques and the Portuguese, were among the few groups that managed to keep the Castilians at bay. So their languages survived.
Throughout the Middle Ages, as the Castilians kept spreading their power throughout the Iberian Peninsula, Catalonia continued to elude Castile’s control. At the beginning of the 18th century, one Castilian king tried to change this. Spain’s Felipe V understood how language could help him in spreading his own power. So he outlawed Catalan as an administrative language, forbade its teaching, and stripped Catalonia of its capacity for self-rule. Predictably, the language declined. Read more »
By Julie Barlow
I love this piece Peggy Curran wrote in the Montreal Gazette about the emerging “Frenchified” English dialect of Montrealers: “Montreal English has a true je ne sais quoi”. It’s always fun when a journalist holds a mirror to your own linguistic peculiarities. For those of us who live and work in French, code-switching really is about as natural and unconscious as…breathing.
But one point she made really struck me (and she’s citing an expert): the fact that English is now in the “socially inferior position” in Montreal. Read more »
Comments From Our Readers
Quebec French is a dialect (or rather a sprachbund of closely related dialects), much like Metropolitan French. The fact that the prescriptive norms of written French in Quebec, France, and everywhere else in the French speaking worlds are essentially identical and entirely mutually intelligible does not change the fact that the two places use difference expressions, have different slang, speak with different accents (though there is actually considerable accent diversity, even within Quebec and within France), and even get separate dubbings for some imported television programs. A speaker from Tours, France who has never heard a Quebecois speak French would have little trouble understanding a Radio Canada news broadcast or a speech by Jean Charest, but some Loco-Locass songs would be half-incomprehensible.
Thanks for your comment Josh. About the French from Radio Canada vs Loco-Locass songs, the same could be said of CBC English and songs by the Barenaked Ladies (a Brit would understand the first, but probably be pretty mystified by a lot of the colloquial language of the second).
The problem is perhaps the definition of the word “dialect.” The intent of the original blog post is to deflate a persistent myth that Quebeckers actually speak a different language than the French. They don’t. They speak a variety of French with local inflections, but it’s not a different language, with a different grammar. Read more »
The precursor to the World Wide Web was called Minitel. Launched in France in 1982, these chunky brown machines are now relics in history museums. But at the time, the Minitel was an innovative technological and industrial success story.
Interestingly, it was the French who introduced the concepts serveur, fournisseur de service and autoroute de l’information, which were translated into English as server, service provider and the information superhighway. In Minitel’s last days, an odd Entrer (enter) key was introduced to their keyboards – that simple idea was replicated on every computer in the world.
This shows that objects have a language, too. Read more »
If you’re a Quebecker, you’ll probably recognize the background music playing on our speaking page. It’s Quebec singer-songwriter Martin Léon’s song “C’est ça qui est ça”. (And YES, we paid for the right to use it.)
If you’re not a Quebecker, Martin Léon is big star on the Quebec music scene. He’s still pretty young so he’s bound to become an even bigger star, maybe even what you call a monument in Quebec. Other Quebec musicians are starting to record his music, so that’s a good sign. Read more »