Linguistics Colloquium – Douglas Walker (03/04/11)

Please come hear Douglas Walker, from University of Calgary and Simon Fraser University, talk about his work on bilingualism in Alberta.

Douglas Walker

University of Calgary and
Simon Fraser University

Alberta French: From Majority to Minority Language

Friday, March 04, 2011
Mary Gates Hall Room 241


A study of French in the Peace River region of Alberta investigates a variety where French speakers, formerly in the majority, now form a minority of the population, where those interviewed are fluently bilingual, and where the demographic profile of the community is undergoing rapid change. All speakers are native to Alberta and all form part of a cohort linked to early settlers with roots in Quebec.

Based on a protocol developed for the international project Phonologie du français contemporain: usages, variétés et structure ( plus a separate word list specifically adapted to test for the most salient traits of colloquial Canadian French, this study demonstrates that:

1.    Alberta French in the Peace River area is a closely related variant of the vernacular form of “le francais laurentien” widespread throughout Canada.

2.    The impact of English on the speech patterns of community members is profound: assimilated and unassimilated loans, calquing, code switching and imperfect learning (“écarts de la norme”) are frequent.

3.    This impact is not evenly distributed: older speakers show far fewer unassimilated loans and less calquing and code switching, while the “moyens” and “juniors” show progressively higher rates in each of the categories.

4.    The linguistic ecology of the region is evolving rapidly. The composition of the population, the restriction in the contexts where French is used and the dramatic reduction in French as “la langue du foyer” all raise concerns, despite significant governmental, media and social support, for the long term future of the language in a region where it long played a dominant role.

A study of Alberta French provides, as a result, information concerning both the phonological structure of the Canadian vernacular and the typical evolution of the language in a minority situation.
Reception to follow in same room.

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