French language in Canada

French is the mother tongue of about 7.3 million Canadians (22% of the Canadian population, second to English at 58.4%) according to Census Canada 2011.[1] Most native French speakers in Canada live in Quebec, where French is the majority official language. About 80% of Quebec's population are native francophones, and 95% of the population speak French as their first or second language. Additionally, about one million native francophones live in other provinces, forming a sizable minority in New Brunswick, which is officially a bilingual province, where about one-third of the population are francophone. There are also French-speaking communities in Manitoba and Ontario, where francophones make up about 4 percent of the population. [2] as well as significantly smaller communities in Alberta, Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island and Saskatchewan – around 1–2%.[2] Many, but not all of these communities are supported by French-language institutions.

By the Official Languages Act in 1969, Canada recognized English and French as having equal status in the government of Canada.[3] While French, with no specification as to dialect or variety, has the status of one of Canada's two official languages at the federal government level, English is the native language of the majority of Canadians. The federal government provides services and operates in both languages. French is the sole official language[4] in Quebec at the provincial level and is co-official with English in New Brunswick. The provincial governments of Ontario, New Brunswick, and Manitoba are required to provide services in French where justified by the number of francophones (those whose mother tongue is French or who use French on a daily basis). However, the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms requires all provinces to provide primary and secondary education to their official-language minorities at public expense.

The evolution of the French language in Canada

16th century

In 1524, the Florentine navigator Giovanni da Verrazzano, working for Italian bankers in France, explored the American coast from Florida to Cape Breton. In 1529, Verrazzano mapped a part of the coastal region of the North American continent under the name Nova Gallia (New France). In 1534, Francis I, King of France, sent Jacques Cartier to discover new lands. He discovered the Gulf of Saint Lawrence, sealed an alliance with the local people and obtained passage to go farther. During his second expedition (1535–1536), Cartier discovered the Saint Lawrence River, a path into the heart of the continent. However, Cartier failed to establish a permanent colony in the area, and war in Europe kept France from further colonization through the end of the 16th century.[5][6]

17th century

At the beginning of the 17th century, French settlements and private companies were established in the area which is now eastern Canada. In 1605 Samuel de Champlain founded Port Royal (Acadia) and in 1608 he founded Quebec City. In 1642 the foundation of Ville Marie, the settlement which would eventually become Montreal, completed the occupation of the territory.

In 1634, Quebec contained two hundred settlers, who were principally involved in the fur trade. The trade was profit-making and the city was on the point of becoming more than a mere temporary trading post.

In 1635, Jesuits founded the secondary school of Quebec for the education of children. Ten years later, in 1645, the Compagnie des Habitants was created, uniting the political and economic leaders of the colony. French was the language of all the non-native people.

In 1685, the revocation of the Edict of Nantes by Louis XIV (1654–1715), which had legalized freedom of religion of the Reformed Church, caused the emigration from France of 300,000 Huguenots (French Calvinists), to other countries of Europe and to North America.[7]

18th century

With the Treaty of Utrecht in 1713, the British began their domination of eastern North America, some parts of which had been controlled by the French. The British took mainland Nova Scotia in 1713. Present-day Maine fell to the British during Father Rale's War, while present-day New Brunswick fell after Father Le Loutre's War. In 1755 the majority of the French-speaking inhabitants of Nova Scotia were deported to the Thirteen Colonies. After 1758, they were deported to England and France. The Treaty of Paris (1763) completed the British takeover, removing France from Canadian territory, except for Saint Pierre and Miquelon at the entrance of the Gulf of Saint Lawrence.

The French language was relegated to second rank as far as trade and state communications were concerned. Out of necessity, the educated class learned the English language and became progressively bilingual, but the great majority of the French-speaking inhabitants continued to speak only French, and their population increased. Anglicization of the French population failed, and it became obvious that coexistence was required. In 1774, Parliament passed the Quebec Act, restoring French civil laws and abrogating the Test Act, which had been used to suppress Catholicism.[8]

Canada as a federal state

In 1791, Parliament repealed the Quebec Act and gave the king authority to divide the Canadian colony into two new provinces: Upper Canada, which later became Ontario, and Lower Canada, which became Quebec.

In 1867, three colonies of British North America agreed to form a federal state which was named Canada. It was composed of four provinces:

In Quebec, French became again the official language; until then it was the vernacular language but with no legal status.[9][10][11]

French dialects in Canada

As a consequence of geographical seclusion and, due to the British Conquest, the French language in Canada presents three different but related main dialects. They share certain features which distinguish them from European French. The name Canadian French is now usually viewed as an umbrella term for all of these varieties.

All of these dialects mix to varying degrees elements from regional languages and folk dialects spoken in France at the time of colonization. For instance, the origins of Quebec French lie in 17th- and 18th-century Parisian French influenced by folk dialects of the early modern period and other regional languages (such as Norman, Picard, and Poitevin-Saintongeais) which French colonists brought to New France. The influence of these dialects on Acadian French is acknowledged to be stronger than on Quebec French. The three dialects can also be historically and geographically associated with three of the five former colonies of New France, respectively Canada, Acadia, and Terre-Neuve (Newfoundland).

In addition, there is a mixed language known as Michif which is based on Cree and French. It is spoken by Métis communities in Manitoba and Saskatchewan as well as adjacent areas of the United States.

Finally, more recent immigration (post–World War II) has brought francophone immigrants from around the world, and with them other French dialects.

Francophones across Canada

Number of francophones by province and territory in Canada (2012)

Flag Province/Territory Group Name Principal Regions French-speaking population Percentage
Ontario Franco-Ontarians Eastern Ontario, Northeastern Ontario, Central Ontario, Ottawa 561,160 4.4%
Quebec Québécois Québec, Montréal 8,214,000 93%
Nova Scotia Acadians Digby County, Richmond County, Inverness County, Yarmouth County 34,585 3.8%
New Brunswick Acadians & Brayons Madawaska County, Restigouche County, Gloucester County, Kent County, Westmorland County 234,410 31.6%
Manitoba Franco-Manitobans St. Boniface (Winnipeg), Eastman Region 47,680 3.8%
British Columbia Franco-Columbians Maillardville (Greater Vancouver), Victoria 70,755 1.6%
Prince Edward Island Acadians Evangeline Region (Prince County) 5,685 4.1%
Saskatchewan Fransaskois Regina, Saskatoon, Gravelbourg, Albertville, Zénon Park, St. Isidore-de-Bellevue 18,935 1.9%
Alberta Franco-Albertans Bonnie Doon (Edmonton), Calgary, St. Paul, Bonnyville, Lac la Biche, Peace River 81,085 2.2%
Newfoundland & Labrador Franco-Newfoundlanders Port au Port Peninsula 3,015 0.6%
Northwest Territories Franco-Ténois Yellowknife, Hay River, Inuvik, Fort Smith 1,175 2.9%
Yukon Franco-Yukonnais Whitehorse, Dawson City 1,630 4.8%
Nunavut Franco-Nunavois Iqaluit 450 1.4%


Main article: Quebec French
A Quebec French stop sign.

Quebec is the only province whose sole official language is French. Today, 81.4 percent of Quebecers are first language francophones.[13] About 95 percent of Quebecers speak French as either their first, second or even as their third language. However, many of the services the provincial government provides are available in English for the sizeable anglophone population of the province (notably in Montreal). For native French speakers, Quebec French is noticeably different in pronunciation and vocabulary from the French of France, sometimes called Metropolitan French, but they are easily mutually intelligible in their formal varieties, and after moderate exposure, in most of their informal ones as well. The differences are primarily due to changes that have occurred in Quebec French and Parisian French since the 18th century, when Britain gained possession of Canada. Different regions of Quebec have their own varieties: Gaspé Peninsula, Côte-Nord, Quebec City, Saguenay-Lac-Saint-Jean, Outaouais, and Abitibi-Témiscamingue have differences in pronunciation as well as in vocabulary. For example, depending on one's region, the ordinary word for "kettle" can be bouilloire, bombe, or canard.

In Quebec, the French language is of paramount importance. For example, the stop signs on the roads are written ARRÊT (which has the literal meaning of "stop" in French), even if other French-speaking countries, like France, use STOP. On a similar note, movies originally made in other languages than French (mostly movies originally made in English) are more literally named in Quebec than they are in France (e.g. The movie The Love Guru is called Love Gourou in France, but in Quebec it is called Le Gourou de l'amour). Also, Québécois do not always use the same words as the French. Here are some examples:

English Quebec French Metropolitan French
weekend fin de semaine week-end
parking lot stationnement parking
e-mail courriel mail/courriel
spam pourriel spam
online chat clavardage chat/tchat
beverage breuvage/boisson boisson
lunch dîner déjeuner
dinner souper dîner
washing machine laveuse machine à laver
clothes dryer sécheuse sèche-linge

Use of anglicisms

Quebec French had recourse to many anglicisms, which characterize it in comparison with other varieties of French. The Quebec Office of the French Language’s "Banque de dépannage linguistique" distinguishes different kinds of anglicisms:[14]

The abundance of anglicisms in Quebec French leads some people to speak of "sabirisation" (from sabir, "pidgin"), because of the mixture of both languages. Law 101 could postpone the advance of the phenomenon or even prevent it.

In conclusion, according to Robert Dubuc's article "Régionalismes et communication" ("Regionalisms and communication"),[15] for the French-speaking community of Quebec, "il n'y a de salut hors de la maîtrise de ses moyens linguistiques dont le français commun constitue l’armature essentielle et efficace" ("there is no salvation beyond the mastery of its [the community's] linguistic means, of which common French constitutes the essential and effective weapon").

Syntactic and semantic characteristics

In general, the same norms as in common French are applied. Only certain words have a different gender. Notable from a semantic point of view are the use of the word "pis" for the conjunction "and", where "et" would be used in Metropolitan French; the word "là" to punctuate the end of a sentence or after a word; and the use of "à" instead of the possessive "de", for instance, "la maison à Jacques" for "Jacques's house".

Use of the tu form

French is a language with a T–V distinction, where different pronouns are used for polite and familiar address. Quebecers use the familiar tu form more than other dialects. This use is often qualified as the imitation of the English-speaking use of you, which is the only pronoun referring to the second person, but only in spoken language.


Finally, the language of Quebec is not universal. Noteworthy differences exist when certain regions of Quebec are compared. These differences are tangible between country and urban regions, but do not prevent comprehension.

Atlantic Canada

Present-day Acadian communities

Historical review

The colonists living in what are now the provinces of New Brunswick and Nova Scotia were principally constituted of Bretons, Normans, Basques, and Portuguese. Conquered by the English, they suffered massive deportations to the United States and France. Others went into exile to Canada or to nearby islands. Those who stayed were persecuted. At the end of the 18th century, more liberal measures granted new lands to those who had stayed, and measures were taken to promote the return of numerous exiled people from Canada and Miquelon. The number of Acadians rose rapidly, to the point of gaining representation in the Legislative Assembly.

French is one of the official languages, with English, of the province of New Brunswick. Apart from Quebec, this is the only other Canadian province that recognizes French as an official language. Approximately one-third of New Brunswickers are francophone,[13] by far the largest Acadian population in Canada.

This feeling of identity is also present in Louisiana due to the historical relationship with Cajun French. The Council for the Development of French in Louisiana (CODFIL) aims is to develop, to use, and to preserve the French language as it exists in Louisiana.[16]

The Acadian community is concentrated in primarily rural areas along the border with Quebec and the eastern coast of the province. Francophones in the Madawaska area may also be identified as Brayon, although sociologists have disputed whether the Brayons represent a distinct francophone community, a subgroup of the Acadians or an extraprovincial community of Québécois. The only major Acadian population centre is Moncton, home to the main campus of the Université de Moncton. Francophones are, however, in the minority in Moncton.

In addition to New Brunswick, Acadian French has speakers in portions of mainland Quebec and in the Atlantic provinces of Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island, and Newfoundland. In these provinces, the percentage of francophones is much smaller than in New Brunswick. In some communities, French is an endangered language.

Origins of the dialect

Linguists do not agree about the origin of Acadian French. Acadian French is influenced by the langues d'oïl. The dialect contains, among other features, the alveolar r and the pronunciation of the final syllable in the plural form of the verb in the third person. But Acadia is the only place outside Jersey (a Channel Island close to mainland Normandy) where Jèrriais speakers can be found.[17]

Some characteristics

The variety of French spoken in Atlantic Canada possesses features that differ from Quebec French.

According to Wiesmath (2006),[18] some characteristics of Acadian are:

These features typically occur in older speech.

Yves Cormier's Dictionnaire du français acadien (ComiersAcad)[19] includes the majority of Acadian regionalisms. From a syntactic point of view, a major feature is the use of je both for the first person singular and for the third plural; the same phenomenon takes place with i for the third persons. Acadian still differentiates the vous form from the tu form.

However, because of contact with francophones from other parts of Canada, the distinctive characteristics of Acadian French have been progressively weakened.[20]

In addition, English has influenced Acadian French through the borrowing of words, many of which used to be French words used in the English language.


Although French is the native language of just over half a million Canadians in Ontario, francophone Ontarians represent only 4.4 percent of the province's population. They are concentrated primarily in the Eastern Ontario and Northeastern Ontario regions, near the border with Quebec, although they are also present in smaller numbers throughout the province. Forty percent of Franco-Ontarians no longer speak the language at home. However, Ottawa is the city which counts the biggest number of Franco-Ontarians. The Franco-Ontarians are originally from a first wave of immigration from France, from a second wave from Quebec. The third wave comes from Quebec, but also from Haiti, Europe, Africa, Vietnam, etc.

The province has no official language defined in law, although it is a largely English-speaking province. Ontario law requires that the provincial Legislative Assembly operate in both English and French (individuals can speak in the Assembly in the official language of their choice), and requires that all provincial statutes and bills be made available in both English and French. Furthermore, under the French Language Services Act, individuals are entitled to communicate with the head or central office of any provincial government department or agency in French, as well as to receive all government services in French in 25 designated areas in the province, selected according to minority population criteria. The provincial government of Ontario's website is bilingual. Residents of Ottawa, Toronto, Windsor, Sudbury and Timmins can receive services from their municipal government in the official language of their choice.

Also, there are several French speaking communities on Military bases in Ontario, such as the French-speaking community at CFB Trenton. These communities are founded by French Canadians in the Canadian Forces who are stationed in Military residences together.[21][22]


The term Franco-Ontarian accepts two interpretations. According to the first one, it includes all French speakers of Ontario, wherever they come from. According to second one, it includes all French Canadians born in Ontario, whatever their level of French is.[23]

The modern Franco-Ontarian language is close to Quebec French with some rare exceptions of expressions and pronunciations. Once again, the influence of English can be noted, with a big recourse to tonic stresses, but nevertheless a French vocabulary is still used. According to Michel Laurier (1989),[24] the semantic and stylistic value of the use of the subjunctive is progressively disappearing. In the article «Le français canadien parlé hors Québec : aperçu sociolinguistique » (1989),[25] Edward Berniak and Raymond Mougeon underline some characteristics:

The use of French among Franco-Ontarians is in decline due to the omnipresence of the English language in a lot of fields.


Historical review

The island is discovered by Jean Cabot in 1497. Newfoundland is annexed by England in 1583. It is the first British possession in North America. In 1610, the Frenchmen become established in the peninsula of Avalon and go to war against the Englishmen. In 1713, the Treaty of Utrecht acknowledges the sovereignty of the Englishmen. The origin of Franco-Newfoundlanders is double: the first ones to arrive are especially of Breton origin, attracted by the fishing possibilities. Then, from the 19th century, the Acadians who came from the Cape Breton Island and from the Magdalen Islands, an archipelago of nine small islands belonging to Quebec, become established. Up to the middle of the 20th century, Breton fishers, who had Breton as their mother tongue, but who had been educated in French came to settle. This Breton presence can explain differences between the Newfoundland French and the Acadian French. In the 1970s, the French language appears in the school of Cape St-George in the form of a bilingual education. In the 1980s, classes of French for native French speakers are organized there.[5][26]

Characteristics of French of Newfoundland

According to Patrice Brasseur’s articles « Les Représentations linguistiques des francophones de la péninsule de Port-au-Port » (2007)[27] and « Quelques aspects de la situation linguistique dans la communauté franco-terreneuvienne » (1995)[28] as well as according to the French Academy, some characteristics of French in Newfoundland can be kept in mind:

Western Canada

Manitoba also has a significant Franco-Manitoban community, centred especially in the St. Boniface area of Winnipeg, but also in numerous surrounding towns. The provincial government of Manitoba boasts the only bilingual website of the Prairies; the Canadian constitution makes French an official language in Manitoba for the legislature and courts. Saskatchewan also has a Fransaskois community, as does Alberta with its Franco-Albertans, and British Columbia hosts the Franco-Columbians.

Michif, a dialect of French originating in Western Canada, is a unique mixed language derived from Cree and French. It is spoken by a small number of Métis living mostly in Manitoba and in North Dakota.

Northern Canada

French is an official language in each of the three northern territories: the Yukon, the Northwest Territories, and Nunavut. Francophones in the Yukon are called Franco-Yukonnais, those from the Northwest Territories, Franco-Ténois (from the French acronym for the Northwest Territories, T.N.-O.), and those in Nunavut, Franco-Nunavois.

French-speaking communities in Canada outside of Quebec

See also


  1. Population by mother tongue and age groups, 2006 counts, for Canada, provinces and territories - 20% sample data], Statistics Canada. Includes multiple responses.
  2. 1 2 Population by language spoken most often at home and age groups, 2006 counts, for Canada, provinces and territories - 20% sample data
  3. "Official Languages Act - 1985, c. 31 (4th Supp.)". Act current to July 11th, 2010. Department of Justice. Retrieved 15 August 2010.
  4. OLF
  5. 1 2 Atlas Universalis (1996), Tome 2, p. 57
  6. Atlas Universalis (1996), Tome 5, p. 23
  7. Atlas Universalis (1996) Tome 4, pp. 837-838
  8. Atlas Universalis (1996) Tome 4, pp. 838-839
  9. Atlas Universalis (1996) Tome 4, pp. 840-842
  10. Atlas Universalis (1996) Tome 19, pp. 397-404
  11. BOURHIS Richard Y. et LEPICQ Dominique (1993), Québécois French and language issues in Québec, dans "Trends in Romance Linguistics and Philology : Bilingualism and Linguistic Conflict in Romance", ed. par Rebecca Posner, John N. Green, Mouton De this is a joke Gruyter, Berlin; New-York.. Retrieved 5 May 2011.
  12. Francard and Latin, in Le régionalisme lexical, write:
    Le français du Québec a rayonné en Ontario et dans l'ouest du Canada, de même qu'en Nouvelle-Angleterre. [...] Le français québécois et le français acadien peuvent être regroupés sous l'appellation plus large de français canadien2, laquelle englobe aussi le français ontarien et le français de l'Ouest canadien. Ces deux derniers possèdent des traits caractéristiques qui leur sont propres aujourd'hui dans l'ensemble canadien et qui s'expliquent surtout par un phénomène de conservatisme, mais il s'agit de variétés qui sont historiquement des prolongements du français québécois."
    The footnote reads: "Il faut noter ici que le terme de français canadien avait autrefois un sens plus restreint, désignant le français du Québec et les variétés qui s'y rattachent directement, d'où l'emploi à cette époque de canadianisme pour parler d'un trait caractéristique du français du Québec."
  13. 1 2 Profile of languages in Canada: Provinces and territories. Retrieved 3 May 2011.
  14. Office québécois de la langue française. "Anglicismes". Retrieved 5 May 2011.
  15. Boisvert, Lionel (1986). La lexicographie québécoise: bilan et perspectives. Les presses de l'Université Laval. il n’y a de salut hors de la maîtrise de ses moyens linguistiques dont le français commun constitue l’armature essentielle et efficace.. Retrieved 5 May 2011.
  16. Landry, Nicolas (2001). Histoire de l'Acadie. Québec: Septentrion.. Retrieved 5 May 2011.
  17. Atlas Universalis (1996), Thésaurus A-C, p. 24
  18. Wiesmath, Raphaële (2006). Le français acadien: analyse syntaxique d'un corpus oral recueilli au Nouveau-Brunswick, Canada. l'Hamalthan.. Accessed 05 May 2011.
  19. [, Yves (2009). Dictionnaire du français acadien. Fides, Editions.]. Retrieved 5 May 2011.
  20. [, Albert (1997). French and Creole in Louisiana. New-York: Premium Press.]. Retrieved 5 May 2011.
  21. Statistiques Canada. "Population dont le français est la langue parlée le plus souvent à la maison, Canada, Provinces, territoires et Canada moins le Québec, 1996 à 2006". Retrieved 4 November 2013.
  22. David Block; Heller Monica (2002). Globalization and language teaching. Taylor and Francis Group.
  23. Atlas Universalis (1996), Thésaurus K-M, p. 2638
  24. Laurier, Michel (1989). Le subjonctif dans le parler franco-ontarien : un mode en voie de disparition ?. Université Carleton.. Retrieved 5 May 2011.
  25. Thomas, Alain (1989). La variabilité en français ontarien. Canada: Les presses de l'Université de Laval.
  26. Atlas Universalis (1996), Tome 4, pp. 840-842
  27. Brasseur, Patrice. "Les Représentations linguistiques des francophones de la péninsule de Port-au-Port". Glottopol, Revue de sociolinguistique en ligne. 9: 66–79.. Retrieved 5 May 2011.
  28. Brasseur, Patrice (1995). "Quelques aspects de la situation linguistique dans la communauté franco-terreneuvienne". Etudes canadiennes/ Canadian Studies. 39: 103–117.. Retrieved 5 May 2011.
This article is issued from Wikipedia - version of the 12/2/2016. The text is available under the Creative Commons Attribution/Share Alike but additional terms may apply for the media files.