Quebec English: Wikis

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Quebec English is the common term for the set of various linguistic and social phenomena affecting the use of English in the predominantly French-speaking Canadian Province of Quebec.[1]

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 Chateaguay Valley residents in southern Quebec are reported by some to have a dialect more similar to that of Vermont English. Isolated fishing villages on the Lower North Shore of Quebec speak a Newfoundland English, and many Gaspesian anglophones speak Maritime English. Finally, the Cree and Inuit of Northern Quebec speak a sort of interlanguage based on their respective aboriginal languages.

Francophone second-language speakers of English use an interlanguage with varying degrees of French-accented pronunciation. 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 [2]).

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.

Contents

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,[3] the Collège de Maisonneuve
Québec Solidaire, the Parti Québécois
Hochelaga-Maisonneuve, Trois-Rivières

Particular cases: Pie-IX (as in the boulevard, bridge and métro station) is pronounced /pinœf/ or /pinʌf/ ("pea nuf"), 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 as an English word, following its historic official English-language name. English-speakers generally pronounce the French Saint- (m.) and Sainte- (f.) in street and place names as the English "saint"; however, Saint-Laurent (the city) can be pronounced as in French /sɛ̃lɔrɑ̃/, whereas Saint Lawrence Boulevard can be pronounced as "/sɛ̃lɔrɑ̃/" (silent t) or as the original English name, Saint Lawrence. Sainte-Foy is pronounced "saint-fwa" /seɪnʔ.fwa/ not "saint-foy" /seɪnʔ.fɔɪ/, which would be used elsewhere in English-speaking North America. Saint-Denis is often pronounced on the Saint model with a silent s in Denis, or as "Saint Dennis". Verdun, as a place name, has the expected English-language pronunciation, /vəɹˈdʌn/, while English-speakers from Verdun traditionally pronounce the eponymous street name as "Verd'n", /ˈvɜɹdn/. Saint-Léonard, a borough of Montreal, is pronounced "Saint-Lee-o-nard" /seɪnt li.oˈnɑɹd/, 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 "voh-droy" /vo.drɔɪ/, "bel-oy" /bɛl.ɔɪ/ and "long-gay" /loŋ.ɡeɪ/ or less often "long-gale" /loŋ.ɡeɪl/.

2. N@ (when written) - The practice of using English versions of place names that may now be officially in French, especially where such place names had official English-language designations. Far from being restricted to monolingual, older English speakers of British Isles ancestry, this practice is particularly common among immigrant communities associated with central Montreal districts and who, as was allowed, were schooled in and acculturated via English-language institutions. Particularly among more recent Anglophone newcomers to Montreal, the practice of regarding only French-language place names as legitimate has grown, giving rise to the surprising phenomenon of recent arrivals correcting long-established Montrealers as to the pronunciation of street names on which entire generations grew up; this is generally considered overzealous, officious or pretentious within the community.

Pine Avenue, Park Avenue, Mountain Street, Dorchester Blvd. - often used without St., Blvd., Ave., Rd., etc. (names for the designations "avenue des Pins", "ave. du Parc", "rue de la Montagne", "boulevard René-Lévesque"; 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 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(n)".

chez nous instead of "where we live"
the dep - instead of corner, variety, or convenience store; from dépanneur
the guichet - instead of bank machine, even when all ATMs are labelled "ATM";
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 liquor stores are referred to as the LCBO (for Liquor Control Board of Ontario).
marché - market
the metro - like the SAQ, this practice consists of calling a thing by its proper name, making it particularly unremarkable; the Paris metro is pronounced similarly, as is the Washington D.C. metro and so on.
poutine - french fries with gravy and cheddar cheese curds
primary one, two, three, in contrast to Canadian English grade one, two, etc.
resto - restaurant
stage - apprenticeship or internship, pronounced as in Standard English
terrasse - the French pronunciation of 'terrace' is common among anglophones in casual speech yet considered incorrect in formal speech. Spelling remains as in English.
undertaking - business or enterprise
subvention - government grant or subsidy. The word exists in both French and English, but is rarely heard in Canadian English.
circulaire - an advertising flyer delivered to households (pronounced "circular")

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 --> /buʃard/. 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.

Mario Lemieux
Marie-Claire Blais
Jean Charest
Jean Chrétien
Robert Charlebois
Céline Dion

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).

French-language phenomena in English (not restricted to Quebec)

High-frequency, second-language phenomena by francophones, allophones, and generally non-native-English speakers occur, predictably, in the most basic structures of English. 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.
Take a decision. - Make a decision. (NB "Take" is the older British version)
Put your coat. - Put your coat on.

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 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)
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)
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 laver la vaisselle?)

C. N@ - Pronunciation of phoneme /ŋ/ as /n/ + /g/ (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)
college – Cégep (collège, cégep; collégial, cégepien), the acronym which is the official name of the institution which dispenses college-level technical education and precedes university in Quebec.
Chinese pâtéshepherd's pie (pâté chinois; many French-Canadian Quebeckers do not know that 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.)

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.

A francophone with excellent English will often pronounce consonants less harshly and will make less use of the glottal stop, making their speech more fluid.

See also

References

  1. ^ Ingrid Peritz, "Quebec English elevated to dialect," Montreal Gazette, 20 August 1997
  2. ^ Shana Poplack, James Walker & Rebecca Malcolmson (2006) An English “like no other”?: Language contact and change in Quebec. Canadian Journal of Linguistics. 185-213.
  3. ^ (in eng) Régie du logement - Welcome, Gouvernement du Québec, 24 November 2006, archived from the original on 11 December 2006, http://web.archive.org/web/20061211152529/http://www.rdl.gouv.qc.ca/en/1_0/index.asp, retrieved 25 June 2009  

External links

  • Bill 199 Charter of the French and English Languages
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