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Review of  Language in Canada

Reviewer: Joan C. Beal
Book Title: Language in Canada
Book Author: John Edwards
Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Linguistic Field(s): Sociolinguistics
Subject Language(s): English
Issue Number: 12.1742

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John Edwards (ed.), (1998) Language in Canada, Cambridge
University Press, Cambridge, UK. 504 pages, GBP60. 00

Joan C. Beal, University of Sheffield

'Language in Canada' was produced in the aftermath of what proved
to be a very close referendum on the issue of sovereignty for
Quebec. As such, it provides a timely overview of language use and
language-related issues in this country. This is the fourth in a
series which began with 'Language in the USA' (eds. Ferguson &
Brice-Heath, 1981), with 'Language in the British Isles' (ed. Trudgill,
1984) and 'Language in Australia' (ed. Romaine, 1991) following on.
'Language in Canada' is arranged in two major sections:
the first 15 chapters are aranged thematically, whilst the following
11 provide regional surveys of each of the 10 provinces and, in the
final chapter, what were, at the time of publication, the Northern
Territories (now the Northern Territories and Nunavut) and Yukon.
Chapter 1, by William Mackay, provides an interesting
historical overview of language use and language Contact in
Canada. WE learn that contacts between the French and the
aboriginal peoples of Canada go back to the early 16th century,
when Thomas Hubert of Dieppe brought aboriginal youths to
France, hoping to teach them French. Mackay goes on to explain
the importance of Huron as a lingua franca down the waterways
leading to Canada's interior, and that this accounts for both the
presence of early glossaries of this language, and the eventual
adoption of the Huron word for 'settlement' ('gana':da', transcribed
into French as 'canada' ) as the name of the whole country. (p. 15)
Mackay informs us of the early French policy of assimilation,
aiming to create 'un mesme peuple et un mesme sang' (one people
and one blood), which was eventually abandoned in favour of
importing potential brides rom France. He goes on to relate the
story of the westward expansion of FRench by explorers, traders
and settlers, the fall of 'New France' to Britain and the subsequent
expulsion of the Acadians. There follows an informative account of
British settlement and the expansion of English, followed by the
arrival of what have been known in Canada as the 'heritage'
languages (now 'international' languages), i.e. all languages other
than English, French and aboriginal ones. Mackay then gives a
brief account of the genesis of Canadian varieties of French and
English, concluding with a section on the history of conflict
between francophone and anglophone interests in Canada. This
chapter provides an essential historical backdrop to the rest of the
volume as well as a self-contained introduction to the linguistic
history of Canada: as Edwards states in his Introduction 'were the
reader to progress no farther than the opening contribution, he or
she would still obtain a good general summary'. (p.6)
Chapter 2, by Charles Castonguay, performs a similar
function in providing an interpretative introduction to the census
data on the use and distribution of languages in Canada. Since
statistical information looms large in later chapters, Castonguay's
judicious account is particularly useful for those unfamiliar with the
problems and pitfalls of census data. Castonguay demonstrates
that, whilst ethnic origin data from 1871 to 1991 show a decline in
the percentage of British and French origin matched by a rise from
8.4% to 37.2% in the 'other' category, only half of this 37.2%
claimed ability to speak a language other than English or French.
Statistics both for mother tongue and current home language
indicate that 'notwithstanding the growing diversity of its ethnic
origins, Canadian society still remains essentially dual from the
tandpoint of language' (p. 38). This chapter provides an object-
lesson in the interpretation of census data, demonstrating that
figures for ethnic origin, mother tongue and home language each
have a different interpretation and that the concept of 'mother
tongue' itself changes from one census to another. Castonguay
points out that the change in the census question in 1991 to read
'What is the language that this person FIRST LEARNED at home
longer understands the first language learned, indicate the second
language learned'...'precludes observation of language loss:
francophones who have become so deeply anglicized that they no
longer understand French are actually considered for census
purposes to be of English mother tongue.' (p. 40) (On the other
hand, this begs the question of how one can be a 'francophone' if
one does not speak or understand French, a question which turns
out to be rather naive in a Canadian context.) What emerges from
this chapter is a picture of increasing territorialization of French and
English in Canada, with English in Quebec and French outside
Quebec both on the decline, and of an asymmetric relationship
between these two languages, with more francophones competent
in English, and at higher levels of competence, than anglophones
in French. Ovrall, Castonguay concludes that 'in all likelihood,
language duality in Canada will continue to wane, making way for
an etnically more diversified, yet more broadly English-speaking
population' (pp. 58-9)
Chapters 3 (Kenneth McRae) and 4 (John Berry) deal with
official policies on bilingualism and multiculturalism respectively.
McRae's is a clear and informative account of policies beginning
with the 1963 Royal Commission on Bilingualism and
Biculturalism. He points out that, beginning with the terms of
reference of this Royal Commission, which specify 'an equal
partnership between the two founding races' (p. 62) the 'official-
language minorities' (i.e. anglophones in Quebec, francophones
elsewhere) 'have been accorded a privileged status in the
development of Canada's federal language policy' (p. 79). McRae
also notes the difficulty of conducting research on this subject,
particularly with regard to the years following the Offical Languages
Act (1969), given the 'striking lack of informed research and
evaluation by outside researchers' (p. 67).
Berry's chapter benefits from the author's own forfold model
of acculturation. He discuses both the official policy of
'multiculturalism within a bilingual framework' and surveys of public
reactions to this. One interesting point to emerge from these
surveys is that 'those with an "ethnic" identity do not score lower
on the Canadianism scale, indicating that the much-maligned
"hyphenated identity" is no threat to one's attachment to Canada'
(p. 96).The relationship between language and multiculturalism is
also examined, showing, perhaps surprisingly, that cultural
diversity is maintained despite loss of heritage languages beyond
the first generation.
Chapter 5, by Kimberly A, Noels and Richard Clement,
looks at the implications for language education of the policy of
'multiculturalism in a bilingual framework'. After an overview of
language education policies, the authors considr the contexts of
language learning, stressing that 'language learning is not solely a
pedagogical issue, but also a social one' (p. 116). They conclude
by asking whether language educators can or should be expected
to attain societal goals such as maintenance of cultural identity
and reduction of prejudice.
Chapters 6 and 7, by Eung-Do Cook and Lynn Drapeau
respectively, deal with the history, classification and currect status
of Canada's aboriginal languages, each chapter providing a useful
summary of the relevant issues.
Chapers 8 through 11 are devoted to French in Canada.
Robert A. Papen's chapter 8, on Canadian varieties of French,
provides much useful information, especially on phonological
variation. Papen also summarises studies of actual versus
perceived degree of influence from English on Canadian French,
concluding that, whilst such influence is higher in the usage of
younger speakers, the perceived rate of borrowing from English
(50%) is far higher than even the highest actual rate (17%).
Nevertheless 'faut que tu stand pour tes rights de francais!' (p. 174).
Chapters 9 (Phillippe Barbaud), 10 (Real Allard & Rodrigue Landry)
and 11 (Raymond Mougeon) provide accounts of the status of
French in Quebec, New Brunswick and the rest of Canada
respectively, complementing Papen's linguistic overview of
varieties. Particularly intersting here is the presentation of Allard &
Landry's conceptual model of the factors determining additive and
subtractive bilingualism (pp 203-4).
In chapter 12, Jack Chambers outlines the history and
current nature of Canadian varieties of English. We learn here of ,
on the one hand, the remarkable homogeneity of standard
Canadian English over such a vast territory, stretching 'from
Fredericton and Halifax on the Atlantic Coast to Vancouver and
Victoria on the Pacific Coast' (p. 263), and, on the other hand of
the continuing tolerance of diversity within that standard, with
variants such as 'tom[a]to / tom[ei]to', 'chesterfield/ couch'
continuing to survive side by side. Chambers also discusses the
rise and fall of two stereotypical markers of Canadian speech,
'Canadian Raising' of the diphthongs /au/ and /ai/, and the word
'chesterfield' (for 'couch'). He argues that the peak of their salience,
from 1920 to 1970, coincided with 'the years of rabid Canadian
nationalism' (p. 270).
In chapter 13, Gary Caldwell provides an account of the
historical background, current status and future prospects of
anglophones and the English language in Quebec. He describes a
population which is 'bimodal...a small, well-educated professional
upper sector...and a rather socially isolated and less mobile, poorly-
educated and socially-insecure lower one.'(p. 282) Caldell's
account puts flesh on the statistical bones of Castonguay's
account in chapter 2, confirming the decline of English in Quebec,
but emphasising the consequences of this for the remaining
anglophone population, namely 'the erosion of English civil society'
and what Legault (1992) terms 'the "whining" posture of English-
Quebec self-representation' (p.290)
Chapters 14 (Jim Cummins) and 15 (Fred Genesee) deal
with educational policies regarding the teaching of international
languages and French respectively. Each of these chapters
proviides not only information on the pedagogical programmes
concerned, but also attitudes of learners and the wider community.
Cummins' summary of research on the teaching of international
languages contrasts the educational merit and proven benefits of
these programmes, with the 'considerable opposition among
educators, policy-makers and the general public to the use of
"taxpayers' money" ' for these same programmes (p. 302).
Genesee's chapter provides a thorough account of the history of
French immersion programmes and of the different types of
programme, followed by a discussion of the educational and social
impact of immersion. He concludes that, whilst extensive and
robust research data demonstrates that even learners of limited
academic ability benefit from immrsion, the desired social
outcomes of such programmes, of reconciling the 'two solitudes' of
francophone and anglophone Canada, are not so easily attained
and 'an interpretation of the social impact of French immersion
must take into account the broader sociocultural context of which it
is a part' (p. 322).
The remaining 11 chapters (16 through 26) each deal with
the linguistic situation in one of Canada's provinces, with the final
chapter (Betty Harnum) devoted to the Northwest Territories and
Yukon. Although each of these chapters provides a broad overview,
the authors each bring their own academic interests and
specialism s to bear. In some cases, these are reflected in the
content of the chapters.
Robert M. Leavitt's chapter on New Brunswick draws on
his expertise in Maliseet and Micmac to provide a full account of
the viability of these languages, along with a heartfelt (albeit
Whorfian) call for the preservation of languages which 'embody a
"way of knowing" markedly different from that of English or French'
(p. 381). Ruth King's chapter on Ontario likewise draws on her
sociolinguistic expertise to provide evidence of variation in Ontario
English as a counterbalance to Chambers' account of the
homogeneity of Standard Canadian English. On the other hand,
some of the authors seem to side-step their own specialisms in
favour of the broad-brush approach. It is surprising that neither
Sandra Clarke (Newfoundland) nor T. K. Pratt (Prince Edward
Island) has anything to say about dialectal or sociolinguistic
variation in the English of these provinces. Pratt explicitly states
'English is so dominant on Prince Edward Island that its state of
health is not very interesting' (p. 342), though he does direct the
reader via a footnote to his own Dictionary of Prince Edward Island
English (1988).
Some of these regional chapters are quite short, with
those on Manitoba (Leo Driedger) and British Columbia (Gunter
Schaarschmidt) stretching to only 8 pages each, but every one
provides a valuable introduction, with fairly comprehensive
referencing pointing the reader to more specialised research.
With 26 chapters stretching over 504 pages, Language in
Canada is encyclopaedic in scope, as broad and varied as the vast
country which is its subject. This book provides a very useful
reference for anybody interested either in Canada, or in the
sociolinguistic and sociology-of-language issues for which this
country provides such intriguing case-studies. Each chapter is self-
contained, and Edwards' introduction provides a clear summary of
each chapter, so that the reader seeking specialised information
can access this easily. On the other hand, reading the book from
cover to cover reveals a lack of cross-referencing and repetition of
factual material. For the non-Canadian reader it would have been
useful to have certain terms, such as 'allophone' glossed,
particularly since terms and definitions are subject to change in
this context, yesterday's 'heritage languages' becoming today's
'international languages'. These minor caveats aside, Language in
Canada is a very welcome addition to this important series.

Ferguson, C. & Brice Heath, S. (eds.) (1981) 'Language in the
USA' Cambridge University Press, Cambridge.
Trudgill, P. (ed. ) (1984) 'Language in the British Isles' Cambridge
University Press, Cambridge.
Romaine, S. (ed. ) (1991) 'Language in Australia' Cambridge
University Press, Cambridge.
Pratt, T. K. (1988) 'Dictionary of Prince Edward Island English'
University of Toronto Press, Toronto.

Joan C. Beal is Director of the National Centre for English Cultural
Tradition at the University of Sheffield. She is the author of 'English
Pronunciation in the Eighteenth Century: Thomas Spence's "Grand
Repository of the English Language" (1775)', Oxford, Clarendon
Press, 1999. Her research interests are in the dialects and
history of English within and outside the British Isles.


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