Quebec English

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Quebec English encompasses the English dialects (both native and non-native) of the predominantly French-speaking Canadian province of Quebec.[1] There are few distinctive phonological features and very few restricted lexical features common among English-speaking Quebecers.[2] The English spoken in Quebec generally belongs to Standard Canadian English, whose speech region comprises one of the largest and most relatively homogeneous dialect areas in North America, arguably even classifiable under General American. This standard native-English accent is common in Montreal, where the vast majority of native English speakers in Quebec live. English-speaking Montrealers have, however, established ethnic groups that retain certain lexical features: Irish, Jewish, Italian, and Greek communities that all speak discernible varieties of English.[2] Isolated fishing villages on the Lower North Shore of Quebec speak Newfoundland English, and many Gaspesian English speakers use Maritime English. Francophone speakers of Quebec (including Montreal) also have their own second-language English, that incorporates French accent features, vocabulary, etc. Finally, the Kahnawake Mohawks of south shore Montreal and the Cree and Inuit of Northern Quebec speak English with their own distinctive accents, word usage and expressions, stemming from indigenous languages.

Note: In this article, the abbreviation NS for "non-standard" refers to features that are commonly used in casual speech, but are not used for standard English-language writing and broadcasting in Quebec.

Quebec Anglophone English

The following are native-English (anglophone) phenomena unique to Quebec, particularly studied as the subset Montreal English:


The anglophone accent of Montreal falls under Standard Canadian English (including the Canadian Vowel Shift and Canadian raising),[3] but with some additional features:

  • Resistance to the merry–marry merger: Unlike the rest of typical North American English, Montreal English speakers tend to keep the vowels distinct in words like Mary/merry versus marry, perish versus parish, and Erin versus Aaron. These vowels remain, as in traditional East-Coast American English and partially also British English, /ɛ/ and /æ/, respectively.[4]
  • The PRICE vowel is relatively backed.[5]
  • The "short a" or TRAP vowel is not raised before /g/ as elsewhere in Canada, though it is raised somewhat before /n/ among ethnically British and Irish Montrealers. Among other ethnicities, such as Jewish Montrealers, there may be no raising of this vowel in any context.[6]
  • The following vowel sounds are linguistically conservative: the sets of vowels represented by the words GOAT (back and monophthongal), FACE (monophthongal), and MOUTH (back).[7]


In most of Canada, a sweet carbonated beverage is commonly referred to as a "pop", whereas in Montreal it is a "soda" or "soft drink".[8] The phrase "in hospital" rather than "in the hospital" is used; however, even among Quebec's Anglophones, the former refers to the condition.[citation needed][clarification needed]

French toponyms

English speakers commonly use French-language toponyms and official names for local institutions and organizations with no official English names. These names are pronounced as in French, especially in broadcast media. Examples include the Régie du Logement,[9] the Collège de Maisonneuve, Québec Solidaire, the Parti Québécois, Hochelaga-Maisonneuve, and Trois-Rivières. Particular cases: Pie-IX (as in the boulevard, bridge and subway station) is pronounced /pinœf/ or [ˈpiːˈnɐf]. On the other hand, sometimes a final written consonant is included or added in pronunciation, where a historic English-language name and pronunciation exists among Anglophone or English-dominant Allophone communities associated with particularly neighbourhoods – such as for "Bernard", which in French is known as rue Bernard. Montreal is always pronounced [ˌmɐntʃɹiˈɒl], following its historic official English-language name, but Quebec is pronounced either [kwɪˈbɛk] or [kəˈbɛk]. English-speakers generally pronounce the French Saint- (m.) and Sainte- (f.) in street and place names as the English word "saint"; however, Saint-Laurent (the former city, now a borough of Montreal) can be pronounced as in Quebec French [sẽɪ̯̃lɔʁã], whereas Saint Lawrence Boulevard can be said as Saint-Laurent [sẽlɔʁã] (silent t) or else as the original English name, Saint Lawrence. Sainte-Foy is pronounced [seɪntˈfwɑː]. Saint-Denis is often pronounced [ˌseɪnt dəˈniː], [ˌsẽɪ̯̃ dəˈni] or [seɪnt ˈdɛnəs]. Verdun, as a place name, has the expected English-language pronunciation, /vəɹˈdʌn/, while English-speakers from Verdun traditionally pronounce the eponymous street name as /ˈvɜɹdən/. Saint-Léonard, a borough of Montreal, is pronounced "Saint-Lee-o-nard" /seɪnt ˌlioʊˈnɑɹd/, which is neither English nor French. Some French place names are very difficult for English speakers to say without adopting a French accent, such as Vaudreuil, Belœil and Longueuil in which pronunciation of the segment /œj/ (spelled "euil" or "œil") is a challenge and so most often pronounced as /voʊˈdrɔɪ/, /bɛˈlɔɪ/ and /lɔŋˈɡeɪ/ or less often /lɔŋˈɡeɪl/. Used by both Quebec-born and outside English-speakers, acronyms with the letters pronounced in English, not French, rather than the full name for Quebec institutions and some areas on Montreal Island are common, particularly where the English-language names either are or, historically, were official. For instance, SQSûreté du Québec (pre-Bill 101: QPPQuebec Provincial Police, as it once was); NDGNotre-Dame-de-Grâce; DDODollard-des-Ormeaux; TMRTown of Mount Royal, the bilingual town's official English name.

  • English toponyms in place of French (NS when written): Older generations of English-speaking Montrealers are more likely to informally use traditional English toponyms that vary from official, French-language toponyms. In a notable generational distinction, this is uncommon among younger English-speaking Quebecers.[10] Examples include Pine Avenue, Park Avenue, Mountain Street, Dorchester Blvd., St. James Street – often used without St., Blvd., Ave., Rd., etc. (names for the designations "avenue des Pins", "av. du Parc", "rue de la Montagne", "boulevard René-Lévesque", "rue St-Jacques"; the English-language official designations have reputedly been revoked, although evidence for this is difficult to find);[citation needed] Guy and Saint Catherine Streets; Town of Mount Royal, as it was chartered, and this charter has not been revoked; and Pointe Claire (English pronunciation [ˈpɔɪnt ˈklɛɹ] and typography, instead of official "Pointe-Claire" with French accent).

French loanwords

The use of a limited number of Quebec French terms for everyday place nouns (and occasional items) that have English equivalents; all of these are said using English pronunciation or have undergone an English clipping or abbreviation, such that they are regarded as ordinary English terms by Quebecers. Some of them tend sometimes to be preceded by the definite article in contexts where they could normally take a/an.

List of French loanwords
autoroute [ˌɒɾəˈɹuːt] instead of expressway
branché [bʁãˈʃeɪ̯] instead of trendy (colloquial)[1]
chansonnier instead of songwriter[11]
chez nous [ʃeɪ̯ ˈnuː] instead of "where we live"
the dep[2] – instead of corner, variety, or convenience store; from dépanneur
coordinates instead of contact information
fonctionnaire [ˌfõksjɔˈnɛːʁ] or [ˌfɒ̃ʊ̯̃ksjɔˈnaɛ̯ʁ] instead of civil servant[12]
formation instead of training[13]
the gallery – instead of balcony
the guichet [ɡiˈʃɛ] – instead of bank machine, even when all ATMs are labelled "ATM";
malaise - instead of malady or ailment[14]
the métro (or metro) instead of the subway; from the French chemin de fer métropolitain;[15][16] metro is used outside Canada, though, as in the Washington metro
poutine [puːˈtiːn] – French fries with gravy and cheddar cheese curds
primary one, two, three, in contrast to Canadian English grade one, two, etc.
resto – restaurant
the SAQ – the official name of the government-run monopoly liquor stores (pronounced "ess-ay-cue" or "sack"), the Société des alcools du Québec. This usage is similar to that in other provinces, such as in neighbouring Ontario where LCBO liquor stores are referred to as the "lick-bo" (for Liquor Control Board of Ontario).
stage – apprenticeship or internship, pronounced as [staːʒ]
subvention – government grant or subsidy. The word exists in both French and English, but is rarely heard in more general Canadian English outside Quebec.
terrasse [tɛˈʁas] – the French pronunciation and spelling of the translation for 'terrace' is common among anglophones in casual speech, and considered acceptable in semi-formal expression such as journalism.[17]
undertakingbusiness or enterprise

Pronunciation of French names

Use of French-language first and last names uses mostly French sounds. Such names may be mispronounced by non-French-speakers, for instance the "r" sound and silent "d" of "Bouchard" --> /buːˈʃɑrd/. French speakers, as most Quebec English speakers, are on the other hand more likely to vary pronunciation of this type depending on the manner in which they adopt an English phonological framework. This includes names like Mario Lemieux, Marie-Claire Blais, Jean Charest, Jean Chrétien, Robert Charlebois, and Céline Dion.

Quebec Francophone English

Francophone second-language speakers of English use an interlanguage with varying degrees, ranging from French-accented pronunciation to Quebec Anglophone English pronunciation. High-frequency, second-language phenomena by francophones, allophones, and generally non-native-English speakers occur, predictably, in the most basic structures of English, both in and outside of Quebec. Commonly called "Frenglish" or "franglais", these phenomena are a product of interlanguage, calques or mistranslation and thus may not constitute so-called "Quebec English", to the extent that these can be conceived of separately – particularly since such phenomena are similar among English-subsequent-language French speakers throughout the world, leaving little that is Quebec-specific.


Francophone English speakers often pronounce [t]/[d] instead of [θ]/[ð]; some speakers pronounce [ɔ] for the phoneme /ʌ/; some speakers mispronounced some words; and some pronounce [ˈmɛseɪdʒ] for the word message. Since French-speaking Quebecers greatly outnumber English-speakers in most regions of Quebec, it is more common to hear this in public areas. Some English-speakers in overwhelmingly francophone areas exhibit some of these features (such as replacement of [θ] and [ð] by [t] and [d]), but their English is remarkably similar to that of other varieties of English in Canada (Poplack, Walker, & Malcolmson 2006 [18]).

There is also a pronunciation (NP) of the phoneme /ŋ/ as /n/ + /ɡ/ (among some Italian Montrealers) or /n/ + /k/ (among some Jewish Montrealers, especially those who grew up in Yiddish-speaking environments),[19] for instance due to high degrees of ethnic connectivity within, for instance, municipalities, boroughs or neighbourhoods on the Island of Montreal such as Saint-Léonard and Outremont/Côte-des-Neiges/Côte Saint-Luc. These phenomena occur as well in other diaspora areas such as New York City.

Vocabulary and grammar

Close the TV – Turn/shut off the TV.[2]
Close the door. – Lock the door.
Open the light. – Turn on the lights.[2]
Close the light. – Turn off the lights.[2]
Take a decision. – Make a decision. (NB "Take" is the older British version. Compare French Prends/Prenez une décision)
Put your coat. – Put your coat on (from French Mets ton manteau/Mettez votre manteau).
Pass someone money. – Lend someone money.
Pass the vacuum. – Run the vacuum (or do the vacuuming)
  • The use of French grammar (NS): Many of these constructions are grammatically correct but only out of context. It is both the calquing and linguistic transfer from French and the betrayed meanings that make these sentences foreign to English.
He speak/talk to me yesterday. – He spoke/talked to me yesterday. (verb tense)
Me, I work in Laval. – I work in Laval. (vocal stress on "I". From French Moi, je travaille à Laval.)
It/He have many books. – There are many books. (from French il y a meaning "there is/are")
I like the beef and the red wine. – I like beef and red wine. (overuse of definite article to mean "in general". From French J'aime le bœuf et le vin rouge.)
You speak French? – Do you speak French? (absence of auxiliary verb; otherwise it means surprise, disbelief or disappointment when out of context)
We were/are four. – There were/are four of us. (from French "nous sommes" and "nous étions")
We're Tuesday – It's Tuesday. (from French "nous sommes")
I don't find my keys. – I can’t find my keys. (lack of English modal auxiliary verb)
At this moment I wash the dishes. – I’m washing the dishes right now. (verbal aspect)
I can't join you at this moment because I eat. – I can't join you right now because I'm eating. (verbal aspect)
My computer, he don’t work. – My computer won’t work. (human pronoun, subject repetition, uninflected auxiliary verb)
I would like a brownies. – Could I have a brownie? (plural –s thought to be part of the singular word in relexification process; other examples: "a Q-tips", "a pins", "a buns", "a Smarties", "a Doritos", etc.)
I would like shrimps with broccolis. – Could I have some shrimp and broccoli? (use of regular plural instead of English unmarked plural or non-count noun; this is not a case of hypercorrection but of language transfer).
Do you want to wash the dishes? – Will/would you wash the dishes? (lack of English modal verb; modal vouloir from French instead – Voulez-vous faire la vaisselle?)
We have to go in by downstairs – We have to go in downstairs (via the non-standard French 'entrer par')
You're going to broke it! – You're going to break it! (mixing of homonymic French tenses; "cassé", past, versus "casser", infinitive)
  • False cognates or faux-amis (NS): This practice is quite common, so much so that those who use them abundantly insist that the false cognate is the English term even outside of Quebec. Note that these French words are all pronounced using English sounds and harbour French meanings. While the possibilities are truly endless, this list provides only the most insidious false cognates found in Quebec.
a stage – an internship (pronounced as in French, from the French word for internship, "un stage".)
Cégep [seɪ̯ˈʒɛp] (cégep; collégial, cégepien) – the acronym of the public college network preceding university in Quebec.
Chinese pâté [t͡ʃʰaɪ̯ˈniːz pʰætʰˌeɪ̯] or [t͡ʃʰaɪ̯ˈniːz pʰɑːˌtʰeɪ̯]shepherd's pie (pâté chinois; Quebeckers' pâté chinois is similar to shepherd's-pie dishes associated with other cultures)
a cold plate – some cold-cuts (reversed gallicismassiette de viandes froides)
coordinates – for address, phone number, e-mail, etc.
(a) salad – (a head of) lettuce
a subvention – a (government) grant
a parking – a parking lot/space
a location – a rental
a good placement – a good location
That's it. – That is correct. (from C'est ça.)
all-dressed pizza – a deluxe pizza with pepperoni, mushrooms and green peppers (from pizza toute garnie.)
soup, two times – two soups, or two orders of soup (from "deux fois.")

Few anglophone Quebeckers use many such false cognates, but most understand such high-frequency words and expressions. Some of these cognates are used by many francophones, and others by many allophones and anglophone accultured in allophone environments, of varying English proficiencies, from the bare-minimum level to native-speaker level.

See also


  1. ^ Ingrid Peritz, "Quebec English elevated to dialect," Montreal Gazette, 20 August 1997
  2. ^ a b c d e f Scott, Marian (February 12, 2010). "Our way with words". The Gazette. Retrieved 15 March 2011. 
  3. ^ Labov, Ash & Boberg (2006), pp. 219-220, 223.
  4. ^ Labov, Ash & Boberg (2006), p. 56.
  5. ^ Labov, Ash & Boberg (2006), p. 97.
  6. ^ Labov, Ash & Boberg (2006), pp. 181-182, 223.
  7. ^ Labov, Ash & Boberg (2006), p. 223.
  8. ^ Labov, Ash & Boberg (2006), p. 290.
  9. ^ "Régie du logement – Welcome". Gouvernement du Québec. 24 November 2006. Archived from the original on 11 December 2006. Retrieved 25 June 2009. 
  10. ^ Scott, Marian. "One of Montreal's linguistic divides is generational". Montreal Gazette. Retrieved July 20, 2012. 
  11. ^
  12. ^ "Equality Party". Archived from the original on March 6, 2005. 
  13. ^
  14. ^
  15. ^ "Frequently Asked Questions". 
  16. ^
  17. ^ Chez Alexandre owner takes down terrasse to comply with city bylaw
  18. ^ Shana Poplack, James Walker & Rebecca Malcolmson (2006) An English "like no other"?: Language contact and change in Quebec. Canadian Journal of Linguistics. 185–213.
  19. ^ Scott, Marian (February 15, 2010). "That 'aboat' sums it up". The Gazette. Retrieved 15 March 2011. 
  • Labov, William; Ash, Sharon; Boberg, Charles (2006). The Atlas of North American English. Berlin: Mouton-de Gruyter. pp. 187–208. ISBN 3-11-016746-8. 

External links

  • Bill 199 Charter of the French and English Languages
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