LINGUIST List 2.197

Sunday, 5 May 1991

Disc: Lang in Quebec: What rights do Language Communities have?

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  1. "Wayles Browne, Cornell Univ.", rights of language communities
  2. "ELISE EMERSON MORSE-GAGNE", Quebec language policy debate
  3. Charles, one last quebec

Message 1: rights of language communities

Date: Sat, 04 May 91 19:41:00 EDT
From: "Wayles Browne, Cornell Univ." <>
Subject: rights of language communities
The recent discussion about legislation promoting French in Quebec and
about the English-only movement in the United States suggests some broader
questions. Can we say anything more general about the rights which should
belong to any and all language communities? Some communities are in the ma-
jority in the places where they live, like Finnish-speakers in Finland; others
are not, like Sindhis in India. Some communities are _in_situ_, like
Hungarians in modern-day Hungary; others are recent arrivals, like Turks
in Berlin, but yet form communities (i.e. communicate with each other and
keep a culture going, unlike individuals who may have some mother tongue
different from German but have most of their contacts with the German-
speakers). Are rights to schooling, access to media, unhampered use of the
language in public places, etc. inalienable?
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Message 2: Quebec language policy debate

Date: 4 May 91 20:50:00 EST
Subject: Quebec language policy debate
I differ from Sheldon Harrison in finding this debate to be an interesting
one; I think that language policies AND the attitudes towards them are valid
subjects for discussion on this network. Of course, we run into a situation
where instead of studying the responses of others to a situation which closely
concerns them but not us, WE are among those who have strong feelings on the
matter. It then behoves us to acknowledge those feelings, which are relevant
--as Julie Auger remarked--to the policies and their future, while maintaining
such constant moral values as courtesy and respect for others. Many of the
contributors to this exchange, such as Auger, have done an admirable job of
this. My thanks to all of them for their thoughtful and interesting input;
I have learned a lot (and I daresay will learn more!).
Elise Morse-Gagne
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Message 3: one last quebec

Date: Thu, 2 May 1991 11:23:00 -0400
From: Charles <HOEQUISTBNR.CA>
Subject: one last quebec
This will much shorter than my last posting. Honest. To keep things
short, I will not bring up new issues, but address those from previous
postings. I will by and large address only those remarks which were
addressed to me, with an exception or two where a factual error
is evident.

Julie Auger writes:

> ... it
> seems to me that the purpose of the Linguist network is primarily
> to share information and not misinformation.

I shall take this as my starting point.

> Quebec is protecting its own culture is that, by encouraging the
> official use of French, ...

Quebec does not *encourage* the official use of French. It *requires*
it. Otherwise it would never have come up in the present context.

Now, my turn: Definition of 'joyerie': what happens when my fingers
become temporarily decoupled from my brain. I meant to type
'joaillerie'. Don't know what went wrong: trying to spell the
pronunciation perhaps, or interference from Spanish, or something
else equally lame.

Back to Ms. Auger:

> Lay Quebecois have increasingly taken
> control of the destiny of their province, and they are proving to
> be quite successful at it.

I would hope they're succesful; they don't have any competition.

> This results in more openness to the
> rest of the world, and the immediate rest of the world is Eng-
> lish-speaking, so there is now much more contact with English.

I'm honestly puzzled as to how eliminating the number of English
speakers one can have contact with, and eliminating all possibility of
seeing written English on public display, can be construed either as
'openness' or as 'more contact'. The only interpretation that makes
sense to me is that you are referring to the francophone business
community. I have read that they are very outward-looking. I don't think
this justifies your statement, though; I'm not sure it's what you mean,

> The fact that a few lexical items
> differ does not suffice to take the two varieties of French so
> far apart as to make them no longer the same language...

Sigh. First: all evidence I've heard suggests that phonetics is the
highest hurdle, lexicon moderate and syntax no problem. But what
irks me is that you keep *reversing* what I've written. My first
posting says the language laws

> ...require public transactions
> (e.g. signs in stores) to be French (though I assume they'll allow
> European varieties as well as Quebec French).

The sense of "European varieties as well as Quebec French" is not
ambiguous. They're all varieties of one language. In my second posting
I wrote

> 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...

> Certainly the two are geographic varieties of one language ...

That's two statements and one correction. Let's try it one more time:
*They are not separate languages or 'almost' separate languages.
They are dialects.*
*I never said they were separate languages.*

> With respect to Paris dictating to the whole world what French
> should be:

Something else neither I nor anyone else has suggested.

> If Quebecois feel
> that "stop" is an English word and that it is therefore prefera-
> ble for them to use "arret", why not?

It is not *preferable*, it is *required*. Once again, that is the
whole point. This also addresses my original question: what varieties
of French are allowed on signs? To the degree that recognized loanwords
are forbidden, the answer is: no variety. Since everyday Quebec French,
like any other language community, uses loans, the mandated subset of
French for public use does not reflect Quebec French either.

> The fact that
> certain English-speakers who once lived in Quebec later left

When the number of departing anglophones hits six figures, as it did
some time ago, the word 'certain' in this context rather badly
understates the case. Try 'many'.

Enough of this. I leave the Quebec floor open to anyone with the
stamina to take it.


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