LINGUIST List 2.167

Friday, 26 Apr 1991

Disc: Language in Quebec

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  1. Charles, banned etc. responses
  2. Hummel, Re: Banned Languages

Message 1: banned etc. responses

Date: Thu, 25 Apr 1991 13:28:00 -0400
From: Charles <HOEQUISTBNR.CA>
Subject: banned etc. responses
Dear me, banned lgs. seem to get people excited! More fun
than functioalism!

To Hartmut Haberland (and of course, Helge Dyvik).
point 1) Well, what can I say? I'd draw an embarrassed smiley,
if I knew how. My sincere apologies. The best explanation
I can come up with is that gaffes of this sort are an art,
and proficiency requires practicing a great deal. I was just keeping
my hand in.
on point 2): Norwegian as a creolized Danish.
Well, an acquaintance in Christiana (oops, I mean Oslo :-) )
once said something to that effect, meaning that bokmal hadn't
purged enough Danish influence to be a truly
representative Norwegian standard. Maybe that was one of the
drives behind Nynorsk.

Stephen Spackman writes on Quebec's language laws:
> (I have always been interested to know if this would be interpreted as
> applying to ASL, and if so, what the constitutional implications would
> be).

An interesting question, but I can't see where the constitutional
implications would be any different than they are now, i.e. the
legislation is unconstitutional.

> Access to non-french education is available only to those who received
> primary education in a language other than french in the province of
> quebec. Curiously, none of the vocal lobby groups seems concerned with
> the effect this has on immigrants (I started highschool in quebec, for
> instance, but that would not give children of mine access to the
> english language schools). In any case, this is more of a
> "containment" move than an elimination move, as far as english goes.

When I inquired, I was told by person I talked to at the Quebec
education ministry that you also have to be a Canadian citizen, in
addition to the above requirements. And a law allowing movement
in one direction only (english to french) is a pretty extreme
form of containment. The British had less restrictive laws in
effect in the 18th and 19th centuries, and they were intended to
stamp out the French language in the Dominion. More to the point,
english _is_ being eliminated. I don't have Statistics Canada's
breakdown in front of me, but the english-speaking community in Quebec
has shrunk by about a third in the last 20 years, and the current
english-speaking population is significantly older than the rest
of the Quebec or Canadian population, which in its turn suggests
the decline will continue.

> The real tragedy in quebec is that these laws have been applied in the
> many isolated unilingual communities of the province. There are
> communities on the north shore of the river (where there is no road)
> where people have to be "borrowed" from the weekly boat to come and
> read the legal notices at the post office, and where (since nobody
> speaks french) public signs were actually effectively made illegal.

>From listening to Quebecois, I'd have thought it was the point of the

> These isolated unilingual communities have no voice and I've yet to
> meet anyone from outside the province who knows of teir existence,
> though they probably number in the hundreds.

Not at all. From having lived in Ontario, I can assure you there
are plenty of people there who do know, and some in the prarie provinces
as well. Though it's undoubtedly the case that you'll have a hard time
finding anyone who knows about them who hasn't spent some time in
eastern Canada.

> english is still taught as a second language in the french schools
> (though it has been said that the standards to which it is taught have
> been declining as a matter of policy; I wouldn't know if this is
> true).

Any decline could probably be accounted for simply by the flight of
english speakers.
However, this fits with the claim I've heard (more than once) that the
is trying to starve out McGill University through gradual funding
cuts. I hope this isn't true; McGill is, taken as a whole, the best
university in Canada.

Julie Auger writes:

> To Charles Hoequist: it simply isn't true that the goal in Quebec
> is to
> eradicate English. The goal is to protect the French language and the
> Quebec
> culture. This does not mean that we have to and that we want to
> eradicate
> English. And, by the way, I don't understand why you're talking about
> Quebec
> and European French as if they were almost two different languages:
>those are
> simply two geographical varieties of the same language, just as
> American and
> British English are.

All right, eradicating english in Quebec isn't a goal; it's just
an unintended consequence (see my remarks above). I should add here
that I didn't pull this assertion out of my hat. I've heard it from
anglo- and francophones in Canada. This certainly doesn't make the
claim true, but it does suggest that the impression is widespread.
I think it's reasonable to ask why people get the impression.

However, the goal is _not_ to protect the French language, and I'm sure
you meant something like 'the French language in North America'.
But even given that particular goal (an odd one in itself, as no
one seems to be worrying about the fate of other European lgs. in NA),
Quebec french has already survived over 200 years of english-speaking
dominance, including laws intended to eradicate _it_, and it's still
there. Why does it suddenly need such protection? No, I am more
persuaded by the justification that anglophones had power/money in
Quebec out of proportion to their numbers, and the francophones
resented it.
I don't recall talking about Quebec french and (let us say) standard
European french as if they were two different lgs. My comment concerned
the acceptability of non-Quebec french on signs. Since France allows
'stop' on their stop signs and Quebec doesn't, there are clearly areas
where usages current in the french outside of Quebec are not acceptable
inside of Quebec. The question is how far does it go? For example,
a jewelry store in Quebec is a joyerie; would 'bijouterie' (as in Paris)
be equally acceptable? (I suspect it would; observation indicates
that European dialects of french are prestigious in Quebec).

Certainly the two are geographic varieties of one language (which
makes the 'saving French' argument even more peculiar), but they are
_not_ like UK and USA english. Speakers of British English I have
talked with have never had any difficulty understanding me, nor I
them, with two exceptions in rural areas I can recall. Time after
time I have seen European french speakers struggle to understand
Quebec french on the street or radio.

I have gone on here far longer than I planned. I apologize
to those who find the topic dull.
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Message 2: Re: Banned Languages

Date: Thu, 25 Apr 91 13:34:50 HAE
Subject: Re: Banned Languages
To add some precisions to the discussion concerning language legislation
in Quebec: Bill 101 (enacted in 1977) stipulates that all kindergarten,
elementary, and secondary schooling is to be in French. Exempted from this
 ruling are children whose father or mother received his or her elementary scho
oling in Quebec. In the early eighties, the children of Anglophone parents edu
cated in English in other Canadian provinces were included in this exemption.
There is also an exemption for chldren of people coming to Quebec on a
temporary basis (3 years, with a possible 3-yr extension). It should be noted
that there is a substantial number of children eligible for English schooling
who prefer attending French schools, or, at least, English schools offering
French immersion programs.Agood knowledge of French is largely considered today
 as a necessary skill by both the Anglophone and nonanglophone immigrant popula
tions in Quebec. Anglophones today (particularly young Anglophones) are more
likely to be bilingual than are Francophones (a dramatic reversal of the
situation only a decade or two ago in Quebec).
 As for the sign legislation in Quebec, the fairly recent Bill 178
(1988) stipulates that outside public commercial signs and advertising
must be in French only, unless the signs deal with cultural or humanitarian
goods and services. Languages other than French (eg English) are allowed
inside businesses having fewer than 50 employees, provided that French is
also displayed and is given predominance.
 Re the inquiry as to whether spelling mistakes in commercial signs in
French would result in legal sanctions, the "Office de la langue francaise"
reports that only a written notice would be sent, bringing attention to the
 Salut! K. Hummel

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