Mitchif vs. French vs. English

Mike Cleven ironmtn at BIGFOOT.COM
Sat Mar 6 03:29:39 UTC 1999

At 11:11 PM 3/5/99 -0400, The McDonald Family wrote:
>At 06:30 PM 3/5/1999 -0800, you wrote:
>>At 05:09 PM 3/5/99 -0400, The McDonald Family wrote:
>>>At 09:14 PM 3/5/1999 +0000, you wrote:
>>>>> I have no idea how much Michif
>>>>> or French were spoken relatively to each other; that's an interesting
>>>>> subject that it'll be good to hear any info Bob has on it.  Metis
>>French is
>>>>> an old branch of the French language in North America, and is distinct
>>>>> Quebecois as much as Acadien or Ontarien or Manitobaine is; I don't
>>>>> it's spoken as much nowadays, though, as English is pretty much the only
>>>>> intercommunal language in western Canada's land of multi-ethnicity.  I
>>>>> franco-manitobaines in the Red River Valley (s. of Winnipeg) still speak
>>>>> French at home and at the local store, but they're mostly a different
>>>>> element historically distinct from the Metis, who have been in the West
>>>>> much longer and have a separate history.
>>>Not necessarily -- there was a fair amount of intermixing between the Métis
>>>and recently arrived French Canadian settlers in the late 19th century, and
>>>apparently some Métis chjose to adopt French Canadian identities, to
pass as
>>>it was, in order to avoid pervasive anti-Native/Métis/Asian/[fill in a
>>>blank] prejudice. 
>>>And in passing, I'd say that there are really only two major dialect areas
>>>of French in Canada, the Acadien and the French
>>>Acadie and Canada were both settled at different period by different
>>>populations from France -- most French Canadians trace their ancestry to
>>>Norman and Breton migrants, most Acadiens have ancestors from Poitou,
>>>and Saintonge, though there are of course exceptions. Franco-Ontarien
may be
>>>a nascent dialect, but then again it probably is just a waystation on the
>>>route to the assimilation of Ontario's Francophones. From what I've seen of
>>>Mitchif, I'd classify it as a French-based creole, like _biche-la-mer_ in
>>>New Caledonia/Nouvelle-Calédonie/Kanaky or Haitien creole.
>>Kanaky - I haven't heard that for a long while!  Now that I hear it, I
>>remember old-timers using it and not knowing quite what it meant; I never
>>associated it with Kanaka Creek or Kanaka Bar (which were in the vicinity
>>of where we lived, and whose Hawaiian connection we knew as part of the
>>local network of communities).  Oops - I just realized you're talking about
>>the New Caledonia down by Australia; still, it rings a bell....
>Kanak was/is the term for Hawai'ian? That rings a bell -- I remember an
>article from _Canadian Geographic_ about the Hawai'ian diaspora in British

Kanaka is the Jargon term for Hawaiian, indeed, and occurs on the BC map in
several locations where the Hawaiians settled or worked.  The original
Hawaiian is kanakamaoli - "local guy" - and was adopted into the Jargon (as
well as English in the region at the time) as the designation for Hawaiians.

>>As far as the forms of North American French, I'd been under the
>>understanding that there were different accents in manitobaine and Metis
>>French - perhaps not completely "dialects", but certainly there must have
>>been special local words as there are in English in Western Canada (and
>>variants of many other immigrant languages). I'm not as skilled in French
>>as I should be (although I can hold my own more than most born-British
>>Columbians!), but a lot of my old housemates over time were from Quebec or
>>franco-ontario (mostly Ottawa and North Bay).  A lot of those guys, on the
>>other hand, spoke mixed English-French resulting from their upbringing at
>>different schools, and often had an accent in either language (as Chretien
>>is said to, perhaps; I can't tell).  Quite a few of the people from Quebec
>>were from the Saguenay, East Montreal, etc. so I got a good taste of
>>hard-core country Quebecois; I'll admit I still can't understand most of
>>it, although I can express myself fairly well.
>I was talking to a friend of mine at the UPEI newspaper who's from Québec
>province -- actually, Québec city, to be precise. She said that quite a few
>people in the greater Montréal area, both Anglophone and Francophone, pick
>up both languages too young (?) and end up speaking both languages with a
>heavy accent.

Some of the guys in question were "army brats" and had lived on bases all
over Canada and the world; a milieu in which English and French _are_
spoken on an intermingled basis all day long (CFBs in B.C. are or were a
notable part of BC's sketchy network of francophone communities).

>I'm not particularly familiar with Québécois, so much as Acadien French.
>Once, a couple of years ago, I went to the town of Caraquet on the Acadien
>Peninsula in northern New Brunswick. Caraquet is almost entirely
>Francophone, something like 98% of the population has French as L1. I
>attended a play by one Laval Goupil, _Ler djibou_, written in Acadien
>dialect. I like to consider myself bilingual, but I couldn't barely grab the
>gist of the plot.

Acadian mystifies me.  I think it's a secret code.....;-)

>>The historical comment on where Acadien came from in France is very
>>interesting; obvious, but hadn't occurred to me before.  There's some
>>interesting geography to the history of English dialects throughout the
>>world; Australian, for example, is supposed to be London's old Newgate
>>accent, which disappeared from England when most of its speakers were
>>"transported" to the Antipodes; Maritime English in all its variety is
>>distinctly Irish in origin, while out West here there's a subtle mix of
>>Scots, Welsh, Irish, Scandinavian, Slavic and other influences (including
>>native and frontier English) that's somehow different from Central Canadian
>>English, although in the age of broadcasting and large-scale internal
>>migrations this distinction has become obscured.
>Well, I wouldn't say Atlantic Canada's dialect of English is dominated
>entirely by Irish, though Irish certainly is a major component: There was
>very heavy Scottish immigration, particularly to my native and current home
>of PEI, and to Nova Scotia. I know some older people in their 30's who go to
>UPEI and speak with a slight Scottish burr. 

I was aware of the Scots influence and hadn't meant to leave them out....

>But yes, I do agree with you
>that the origins of a region's main population has a major effect on the
>future dialect of its population -- most French Canadians came from the
>northern coast of France, Acadiens from the western coast, and _pieds noirs_
>from southern France, along with Spain and Italy. All three major settlement
>colonies of the French ended up developing distinct dialect, though that of
>the _pieds noirs_ certainly disappeared not long after 1962.

Pieds noirs?  I'm at a loss; is this a reference to Louisianan?

>One thing -- my posts don't seem to be showing up on the mailing list. Can
>you tell me the address I'm to send it to?

You have to make sure you've got the list in the "To:" header of your
e-mail; I use Eudora which has a "reply to all" function; can't remember if
Communicator or Outlook Express has that.  What you just sent me was only
addressed to me, rather than to the list as well.  You also won't see your
own posts coming back at you, as the list isn't configured that way.
Ideally, it should be set up so that the List remains the main reply
addressee, rather than the individual member, as this confusion happens
from time to time.....

I've added the List to the "to" header of this reply......

Mike Cleven
ironmtn at

The thunderbolt steers all things.
                           - Herakleitos

More information about the Chinook mailing list