Canadian French Language

General Overview


Area of Distribution and Number of Speakers

French is mother tongue for more than 6,000,000 in Canada (24 percent of the total population according to 1986 census). The French-speaking population is concentrated mainly in the province of Quebec (up to 80% of the inhabitants are Franco-Canadians). Outside it the greatest French-speaking group (more than 400,000 people) live in the province of Ontario, especially in the area of the national capital Ottawa. Franco-Canadians make up one third of the population of New Brunswick.

Origin and History

Outside France, apart from the creoles, the French of Canada, originally probably of northwestern dialect type, has developed the most individual features. Although in the 18th century Canadian French was regarded as exceptionally "pure" by metropolitan commentators, it began to diverge from Parisian French after 1760 as English influence grew stronger.

Linguistic Features

Canadian French is less clearly articulated, with less lip movement and with a more monotonous intonation than standard French. Some change in consonantal sounds occurs:

Vocabulary and syntax had suffered strong English influence, but since the 1950s and especially 1960s there were applied great efforts to restore the authentic character of the language. If industrialization and the scientific revolution brought about the establishment of some English terms (like bumper, exhaust etc.), Canadian French was able, on the other hand, to invent original words for many everyday phenomena of the new economy (for instance magasinage shopping, stationnement parking etc.) and that is the first thing noticed by francophones from abroad..

Present Situation

Although intellectuals turn toward France for cultural inspiration (some university-educated French Canadians may not even know English), the pronunciation and usage of standard French is sometimes derided by French Canadians; this may be because their English compatriots are taught Parisian at school. The French-speaking population of Canada is growing relatively fast, and at present four-fifths of the population of Quebec province use French as their normal language. Even today, however, French is not as socially prestigious as English; the activities of the separatist movement are evidence of the feeling of grievance that many French Canadians still have.

English and French are both official languages of Canada.

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© Zdravko Batzarov