Quebec Seeks to Ease Divisiveness

Christina Paulston paulston+ at
Sat Apr 19 04:07:52 UTC 2003

Language shift was the situation in Quebec - go back and read S Lieberman
1970 *Lge and Ethnic Relations in Canada* It was the background to the
Gendron report. cbp

>From: Alkistis Fleischer <fleischa at>
>To: lgpolicy-list at
>Subject: Re: Quebec Seeks to Ease Divisiveness
>Date: Fri, Apr 18, 2003, 7:02 PM

> 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
> Georgetown
> Stagiaire doctorale, Centre d'études ethniques des universités montréalaises
> (CEETUM), Groupe de recherche ethnicité et société (GRES), Université de
> Montréal
> 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
> consider
>> 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
> their
>> 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
> Quebecois,
>> but I don't know that they look so much to France's glory.  Not a whole
> lot
>> 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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