Like many, I am appalled by the statistics that herald the silent decline of the French language in Quebec. Among the solutions proposed to improve our language, to reaffirm its status as the only official language, one of them seems to me to have been forgotten: the preservation and interpretation of the varieties of Quebec French.
In his excellent book Where does the Quebec accent come from? And the Parisians?Linguist Jean-Denis Gendron reports that the French spoken in Quebec once inspired the admiration of visitors.
However, especially with the French Revolution of 1789, standards changed and varieties of French diverged, so that from 1830 onwards, European travellers, including the philosopher Alexis de Tocqueville, described the French of Quebecers – and later French Canadians – as derogatory.
In the 1960s, the quiet revolution and the influence of linguistic variation currents in the university environment certainly brought about a change of speech, which made it possible for Quebec French to restore aristocratic letters, but almost 250 years later, Quebec French is still considered unsightly, which greatly undermines its appeal. Some would prefer to learn a devalued variety of the language, considered a bastard version of French. No wonder immigrants are turning to English in droves!
It is time for experts of the French language, like those who teach it, to rid themselves once and for all of their reflexes that betray centuries of linguistic insecurity. Don’t get me wrong, what I mean is respecting the standard varieties of Quebec French, among other things, leaving innocent snowbanks with little European skis left alone or threadable. Without overcorrecting his shoes in silence, he replaced the word with shoes.
Souliers has nothing mean or mean. Can we also consult a dictionary that does not have an equivalent dialect record for “Quebecism” (again, this term is widely disputed in linguistics)? Again, I am not even going into the morpho-syntactic structures specific to the varieties of our language…
To defend Quebec French is not a question of naively overcomparing the influences of English and other French languages by justifying the natural evolution of the languages. This “evolution” is far from escaping the power structures inherent in societies. It is perfectly reasonable to want to fight evolution that betrays hidden socio-cultural dominance. These are key social issues in Quebec.
Kim Samson, Lecturer in French Studies at Laval University, Quebec