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Canadian French Innovative & Archaistic Notes

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Olivia Alter

HT8 Dr Temple

'Le français du Canada est à la fois plus innovateur et plus archaïsant que le français du Vieux Continent.' Discuss. Before one even arrives at the idea of a language being both innovative and archaistic, the very phrase 'le français du Canada' in the statement in question poses a problem. The history of the colonisation of Canada, and subsequent language development, is fairly well known, and may not necessarily leave the impression of a single Canadian French. As in all languages, there are varieties which depend on sociolinguistic factors such as geographical location, but which are still comprehended under a uniform title, though they may be distinguished as dialects. The range of immigrants who settled in Canada lead to the development of two key varieties which, whilst sharing some attributes, actually differ quite significantly, and so cannot be named dialects. Therefore, in examining these varieties for their respective innovative or archaistic traits which distinguish them from French spoken in France, one must also question whether they have traits in common, and so can be treated together under the singular heading 'Canadian French'. In the seventeenth century, colonists from France occupied two main areas, Acadia and New France. Whilst most of the settlers came from Western France, the immigrant dialects in the two colonies varied, with the majority in Acadia coming from south of the Loire, and half of those in New France deriving from north of the Loire.1 Thus, although there was a general convergence of dialects (especially after England took possession of Canada and the influence from France diminished), and having both developed from French in France, the two varieties, Acadian and what I shall call Québécois, had differences to begin with, which may be seen in their individual evolutions. Québécois is the variety upon which most studies concentrate, since the daily contact with English has had a definite influence on its development and evolution (potentially away from French in France), and it is granted a large amount of independence despite its derivations. The term Québécois covers both rural and urban regions, with a number of different dialects such as in Montréal or Ottawa, which means 1

Blanc (1993)

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