LINGUIST List 2.168

Friday, 26 Apr 1991

Disc: Language in Quebec (part 2)

Editor for this issue: <>


  1. Ellen Prince, Re: Banned Languages
  2. Pat Riva, Banned Languages: Quebec
  3. Lionel Moser, Re: banned languages
  4. Margaret Fleck, Quebec French

Message 1: Re: Banned Languages

Date: Thu, 25 Apr 91 11:33:42 -0400
From: Ellen Prince <>
Subject: Re: Banned Languages
julie auger writes:

> In my view, the most important part of Quebec's law 101 (the law that makes
>French the only official language in the province of Quebec) is that it forces
>non-Canadian immigrants to send their children to a French-speaking school (the
>Canada clause). That means that all children whose parents were educated in
>English in Canada can go to an English-speaking school in Quebec. 


> 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

first, the goal of protecting the french language seems about as well-founded
as the english-only movement's goal of protecting the english language. more
disturbing, i am at a loss to see how forcing greeks, italians, chinese,
jamaicans etc to get a french-only education can serve to protect the quebec
culture. quite the contrary, i should think. then, of course, there is the
outrageous inequity of denying a choice to those whose parents were not clever
enough to grow up in canada... finally, the ultimate stupidity of the whole
thing is very amusingly captured in the sign displayed by at least one jewish
deli in montreal: charcuterie hebraique. given the foods that charcuteries (of
the traditional 'chretienne' persuasion) offer vs. the dietary constraints
observed by jewish delis, this new term amounts to an oxymoron. 

but the real puzzle for me in the canadian situation is the position of
linguists. in every other case i know of, linguists have taken a stand,
officially or unoffically, against linguistic fascism. in this situation,
however, they either remain silent or support it. curieux, n'est-ce pas?
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Message 2: Banned Languages: Quebec

Date: Wed, 24 Apr 91 20:05:13 EST
Subject: Banned Languages: Quebec
Since the Quebec situation has come up:

- French is the "Official Language" of Quebec- means that the Prov.
government communicates in French only. The Federal Gov. is officially
bilingual, and so are its agencies (Post Office, etc).
Trials, however, are held in English or French at the choice of the
defendant (there is a challenge on about this currently).

- Media: The CBC is federal, and has English TV and radio in Quebec;
recent cut backs affected the CBC nation-wide.
Newspapers can be in either language: The Gazette is a large Montreal
daily. Community papers are often English.

- Sign laws: Exterior signs are supposed to be French only (perfect
spelling not required). Interior signs may be bilingual. (Interior
signs *visible* from the exterior are a grey area.)
(I doubt many fines are actually given for exterior signs in non-Roman

- Contracts can be drawn up in English, with the note that both parties
have agreed to this.

- Schooling: the restrictions apply only to elementary and High Schools,
CEGEP (2-year pre-University; 3-year diplomas) and Universities are at
the student's choice. (McGill, Concordia and Bishops are all English
language universities, after all)
Entrance to English lower schools requires 1 parent with English
schooling, (not sure whether that still must have been in Quebec,
although that was the law at one point). Graduates of English High
Schools recieve a Certificate of Eligibility so that their eventual
children can attend English schools. When the Law first came in (1978)
children whose siblings had been in English school the previous
year were allowed in.
Also, temporary residents (up to 3 years), and diplomats' families
are exempted.

So English has definitely lost status in Quebec, from an official
language to just another minority, but I wouldn't say really *banned*.

Pat Riva
Montreal, Quebec
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Message 3: Re: banned languages

Date: Thu, 25 Apr 91 01:54:53 +0100
From: Lionel Moser <>
Subject: Re: banned languages
 I'd rather not turn this in to a political debate on Canadian
politics (though I'm not sure one can debate `banning' divorced from
it), but bad press of my home forces me to try to get the last word
in. English is `banned' in Quebec in various ways, but the access to
(public) education is permitted when one parent (not both) was educated
in English anywhere in Canada (not just Quebec). You can't equate
failure to provide public services in some minority language as
banning of it. The purpose of denying access to public English education
to children of immigrants (which is the purpose of the restriction)
is to prevent immigrants, whose native tongues are neither English
nor French, from assimilating into the minority culture. (French native
speakers comprise 85% of the population.) It is argued that the minority
linguistic community *also* requires immigrant assimilation to maintain
itself - an option available to an English minority in North America,
since English offers mobility within that continent, making English
rather desirable.
 Note that public post-secondary education (junior college and university)
is provided in both languages without restriction; publicly funded social
services are provided in English; publicly funded medicine is provided
in English; income tax forms are provided in English (never a problem);
and virtually every government service is provided in English; English
television and radio stations broadcast, but no *new* licenses have
been issued for a long time.
 It is difficult to take linguistic issues such as banning out of
historical context and not arrive at simplistic generalizations
(e.g., "the intent is to eradicate English in the province").
But there is a qualitative difference between banning specific
uses of a language (e.g., on legal contracts, commercial signs, etc.)
from discontinuing to provide services in that language which have
historically been provided. 
 The language tests of five year olds John Goldsmith alluded to were
to test whether they spoke English as a native language, and these
tests were replaced by inherited rights (the grandfather clause).

 Lionel Moser
 Cognitive Science
 University of Sussex
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Message 4: Quebec French

Date: Fri, 26 Apr 91 12:32:14 BST
From: Margaret Fleck <>
Subject: Quebec French
Julie Auger says to Charles Hoequist:
>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.

The newscaster standard versions of British and American are quite
close, but some of the other dialects are not mutually intelligible,
at least not without considerable exposure. When my husband (South
African) first encountered a native of Newark NJ, he couldn't even
recognize the dialect as a form of English. Nor can he understand
many (not even thick) Southern US accents. He speaks a fairly central
dialect. Presumably a speaker of thick Glaswegian would have even
more trouble. At some point, surely, we must entertain the
possibility that some pairs of English dialects are distinct languages?

Margaret Fleck

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