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Quebec French (French: français québécois [fʁɑ̃sɛ kebekwa]), also known as Québécois French, is the predominant variety of the French language spoken in Canada. It is the dominant language of the province of Quebec, used in everyday communication, in education, the media, and government.
Canadian French is a common umbrella term to describe all varieties of French used in Canada, including Quebec French. Formerly it was used to refer solely to Quebec French and the closely related dialects spoken in Ontario and Western Canada, in contrast with Acadian French, which is spoken in some areas of eastern Quebec (Gaspé Peninsula), New Brunswick, and in other parts of Atlantic Canada, and Métis French, which is found generally across the Prairie provinces.
The term "joual" is commonly used to refer to Quebec working class French (when considered a basilect), characterized by certain features often perceived as phased out, "old world" or "incorrect" in standardized French. Joual, in particular, exhibits strong Norman influences largely owing to Norman immigration during the Ancien Regime (they were perceived as true Catholics and allowed to immigrate to the new world as an example of ideal French settlers). For example the word "placoter" can mean both to splash around or to chatter which comes from the Normand French word "clapoter" which means the same thing. Its equivalent in Acadian French is called Chiac.
The origins of Quebec French lie in the 17th- and 18th-century regional varieties (dialects) of early modern French, also known as Classical French, and of other langues d'oïl (especially Poitevin dialect, Saintongeais dialect and Norman) that French colonists brought to New France. Quebec French either evolved from this language base and was shaped by the following influences (arranged according to historical period) or was imported from Paris and other urban centres of France as a koiné, or common language shared by the people speaking it.
Unlike the language of France in the 17th and 18th centuries, French in New France was fairly well unified. It also began to borrow words and gather importations (see loan word), especially place names such as Québec, Canada and Hochelaga, and words to describe the flora and fauna such as atoca (cranberry) and achigan (largemouth bass), from First Nations languages.
The importance of the rivers and ocean as the main routes of transportation also left its imprint on Quebec French. Whereas European varieties of French use the verbs monter and descendre for “to get in” and “to get out” of a vehicle (lit. "to mount" and "to dismount", as one does with a horse or a carriage), the Québécois variety in its informal register tends to use embarquer and débarquer, a result of Quebec's navigational heritage.
With the onset of British rule in 1760, Quebec French became isolated from European French. This led to a retention of older pronunciations, such as moé for moi (audio comparison ) and expressions that later died out in France. In 1774, the Quebec Act guaranteed French settlers as British subjects rights to French law, the Roman Catholic faith and the French language to appease them at a moment when the English-speaking colonies to the south were on the verge of revolting in the American Revolution.
Late 19th century
After Canadian Confederation in 1867, Quebec started to become industrialized and thus experienced increased contact between French and English speakers. Quebec business, especially with the rest of Canada and with the United States, was conducted in English. Also, communications to and within the Canadian federal government were conducted almost exclusively in English. This period included a sharp rise in the number of immigrants from the United Kingdom who spoke a variety of languages including English, Irish, and Scottish Gaelic. This was particularly noticeable in Montreal, which resembled a majority anglophone city in terms of its commercial life, but was predominantly francophone. As a result, Quebec French began to borrow from both Canadian and American English to fill accidental gaps in the lexical fields of government, law, manufacturing, business and trade. A great number of French Canadians went to the US to seek employment. When they returned, they brought with them new words taken from their experiences in the New England textile mills and the northern lumber camps.
20th century to 1959
During World War I, a majority of Quebec's population lived in urban areas for the first time. From the time of the war to the death of Maurice Duplessis in 1959, the province experienced massive modernization. It is during this period that French-language radio and television broadcasting, albeit with a façade of European pronunciation, began in Canada. While Quebec French borrowed many English-language brand names during this time, Quebec's first modern terminological efforts bore a French lexicon for (ice) hockey, one of the national sports of Canada. Following World War II, Quebec began to receive large waves of non-French- and non-English-speaking immigrants (allophones) who would acquire French or English, but most commonly the latter.
1959 to 1982
From the Quiet Revolution to the passing of the Charter of the French Language, the French language in Quebec saw a period of validation in its varieties associated with the working class while the percentage of literate and university-educated francophones grew. Laws concerning the status of French were passed both on the federal and provincial levels. The Office québécois de la langue française was established to play an essential role of support in language planning. In Ontario, the first French-language public secondary schools were built in the 1960s, but not without confrontations. West Nipissing, Penetanguishene and Windsor each had their own school crisis.
Social perception and language policy
Although Quebec French constitutes a coherent and standard system, it has no objective norm as the very organization mandated to establish it, the Office québécois de la langue française, believes that objectively standardizing Quebec French would lead to reduced mutual intelligibility with other French communities around the world, linguistically isolating Quebeckers and possibly causing the extinction of the French language in the Americas.This governmental institution has nonetheless published many dictionaries and terminological guidelines since the 1960s, effectively allowing many Canadianisms (canadianismes de bon aloi) or more often Quebecisms (French words local to Canada or Quebec) that describe specifically North American realities. It also creates new, morphologically well-formed words to describe technological evolutions to which the Académie française, the equivalent body governing French language in France, is extremely slow to react.
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