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In Quebec, an allophone is a resident, usually an immigrant, whose mother tongue or home language is neither English nor French[1][2]. The term is also sometimes used in other parts of Canada. The term parallels Anglophone and Francophone, which designate people whose mother tongues are English and French, respectively. Note that native speakers of aboriginal languages are generally not treated as allophones.

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Origin of term

The word "allophone" is formed from the Greek roots allos, meaning other, and phone, meaning sound or voice. The term became popularized during the Quiet Revolution as French Canadian society in Quebec sought to integrate immigrants, most of whom had traditionally integrated into the English-speaking community. As integrating immigrants was deemed essential to assure the survival of French-speaking Quebec in light of plummeting birth rates, demographers devised this category to monitor the integration of immigrants into French- and English-speaking communities. Because allophones often adopt English, French or both languages at home or learn one language before another, they can be grouped into English or French communities based on home language or first official language learned.

Demographics

Quebec allophone population by mother tongue 2001 [3]
Language Single Multiple
Total
1. Italian 124,695 6,065
2. Arabic 76,285 10,245
3. Spanish 70,100 4,825
4. Greek 41,980 1,755
5. Creole 34,885 5,710
5. Chinese 33,490 705
6. Portuguese 33,360 1,455
7. Vietnamese 21,635 1,125
8. German 17,690 995
9. Polish 17,160 685
10. Armenian 13,935 405
11. Russian 12,420 355
12. Tamil 11,095 860
13. Persian 10,495 395
Governor General of Canada Michaƫlle Jean from Montreal speaks Haitian Creole as well as English and French.

Allophones constitute an increasing share of the Quebec population and are the main source of population increase in the province, reflecting both increased levels of immigration, declining birthrates among established anglophone and francophone populations, and a shift in immigration from English-speaking countries to Asia and the Americas[4]. In 1971, allophones accounted for 6.6% of the population; by 2001, the numbers had increased to 10.0%. Language groups with Arabic, Spanish and Creole as mother tongues show the greatest growth from 1996 to 2001[5].

Increasing numbers of allophones choose to speak French at home: about 20.4% of allophones in the province reported that they spoke French most often at home in 2001, compared with 16.6% in 1996 and 15.4% in 1991[5]. Most allophones live in Montreal, Quebec's largest Metropolitan area, drawn by economic opportunities. They tend to migrate out of the province: between 1996 and 2001, over 19,170 migrated to other provinces, a value closely mirroring the 18,810 who migrated to Ontario[6].

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