Quebec Seeks to Ease Divisiveness

Alkistis Fleischer fleischa at
Fri Apr 18 23:02:01 UTC 2003

Yes, indeed, the French language is seen as a core value of a Québécois
identity, and groups differ in the extent to which they emphasize their
native tongues as core values. But I am having a hard time with the term
"stubborn," because it somehow implies that the speakers in question use the
French language consciously, in order to resist the powerful English
language:-) This "resisting" part implies a language shift situation, which
is not the case in Quebec. Would you ever think of English speakers in a
mainly Spanish-speaking neighborhood in Florida or California as "stubborn"
for speaking English? Or, let's move to Europe, German speakers in Berlin's
Kreuzberg neighborhood that has an increasingly high proportion of Turkish
speakers and where there are classrooms with the majority of pupils being
non-German? No, because English or German is the respective default choice
for these (usually monolingual) English or German spakers, as the larger
society is perceived to be Anglophone or Germanophone. Likewise, French
language use is in general the default choice for Quebec Francophones,
because the larger society is perceived to be Francophone. Of  course you
can get by with English in Montreal, but at least for Francophones speaking
English would be more of a marked choice.

Regarding the glorious past, I am glad you brought that up. Indeed, groups
with high degrees of language maintenance often carry inside them "a strong
sense of a glorious past" (diaspora Greeks, for example). In Quebec the "Je
me souviens" refers less to France, but as you suggest to a glorious past
before the battle at the Plains of Abraham, when New France was defeated by
the British. The "Je me souviens" (I remember) on Quebec's license plates
replaced "La Belle Province" (The Beautiful Province) two years after the
sovereignist Parti Québécois came to power in 1976. There has since been a
controversy about the meaning and the origins of the motto. Clearly "Je me
souviens" draws attention to a past - but which past? To find out what "Je
me souviens" means to Quebecers, director Thierry Le Brun set off across the
province and got "wildly differing views on the provincial motto." More
information about this recent documentary by the National Film Board of
Canada, "A license to remember: Je me souviens" (available in French and
English), can be found at the web site of the NFB:

Alkistis Fleischer

Candidate au doctorat en linguistique (sociolinguistique), Université

Stagiaire doctorale, Centre d'études ethniques des universités montréalaises
(CEETUM), Groupe de recherche ethnicité et société (GRES), Université de

fleischa at

----- Original Message -----
From: "Survey Coordinator Brazil" <survey_coord_brazil at>
To: <lgpolicy-list at>
Sent: Thursday, April 17, 2003 8:24 PM
Subject: Re: Quebec Seeks to Ease Divisiveness

> Maybe "stubborn" refers to the fact that French in Quebec strongly
> their language a core part of their identity.  Some other (less stubborn)
> groups, feel they can keep their identity without their language.  Other
> less stubborn groups don't care all that much about keeping their identity
> at all.
> As far as la glorie de la France, well, members of groups that retain
> language and identity for longer than expected often carry around inside
> them a strong sense of a glorious past.  I think that's true for
> but I don't know that they look so much to France's glory.  Not a whole
> of mutual love and admiration between France and Quebec.  Quebec's licence
> plates "je me souvien", certainly seem to show that they look back at a
> glorious past, though.  Being from English Canada, I'm not sure just what
> the Quebecois are remembering.  I think they're talking about a glorious
> past before the Plains of Abraham?
> Stan Anonby

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