Quebec Seeks to Ease Divisiveness

Paul_Lewis at Paul_Lewis at
Tue Apr 15 18:54:35 UTC 2003

I think what Prof. Fishman would point out to us is that the stable
situations of which there are so many examples are places where there is
not only bilingualism but also diglossia - either Fergusonian OR Fishmanian
- the clearly established and socioeconomically supported functional
compartmentalization of the language varieties that are in use.

What causes language shift to take place is the destabilization that
results from the loss of that functional compartmentalization.  As far as I
can see, that almost always comes about as a result of social, economic, or
political changes which weaken the support for the then-current language
use configuration and which begins to provide rewards and benefits to those
who use their language(s) differently.

French hasn't been maintained in Louisiana because there are few(er)
rewards and benefits for those who do so.  French is stronger in Quebec
because the social, economic, and political rewards are there for those who
use it.  While there are some cases where solidarity with one's ethnic
group is reward enough to motivate language maintenance, solidarity seems
to have a hard time standing up against power -  economic or political - as
a motivator for acquiring or maintaining a language.

------- at -@- at -@- at ----------------
M. Paul Lewis
SIL Intl.
7500 W. Camp Wisdom Rd.
Dallas, TX 75236
(972) 708-7400 x2202  / Fax (972) 708-7387
paul_lewis at
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                      Ronald Kephart
                      <rkephart at>                  To:      lgpolicy-list at
                      Sent by:                            cc:
                      owner-lgpolicy-list at         Subject: Re: Quebec Seeks to Ease Divisiveness

                      04/15/2003 12:28 PM
                      Please respond to

At 9:07 AM -0700 4/15/03, Joshua Fishman wrote:

>Some Examples of Long-lasting (> 3 gens.) Societal multilingualisms: [...]

And there are lots of examples from the Caribbean, where I work. Some
involve a creole and a lexically related standard (Jamaica,
Martinique, etc.). Others involve a creole and a non-related standard
(St. Lucia, Dominica).

On Carriacou (Grenada), which is my field site, from the late 18th
until well into the 20th century there were people who were
trilingual (Creole French, Creole English, and the local variety of
standard English). There's a handful of these folks still around, but
they're going fast. This summer I'm hoping to record a few of them,
as Creole French seems to be just about gone on Carriacou, except to
the extent that it pervades Creole English (lexically and


Ronald Kephart
Associate Professor
English & Foreign Languages
University of North Florida

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