France Gives In to the Hashtag.

William Alexander in the NY Times has fun with “the stunning announcement that France is giving up the fight to keep English words out of the French language”:

This sudden reversal of four centuries of French linguistic policy was issued by the minister of culture, Fleur Pellerin, who declared that France’s resistance to the incursion of English words was harming — rather than preserving — the language. “French is not in danger, and my responsibility as minister is not to erect ineffective barriers against languages but to give all our citizens the means to make it live on,” Ms. Pellerin told an audience assembled for the opening of French Language and Francophonie Week in March, acknowledging in one sentence both the futility and misguidedness of the battle. […]

Most of the debate today centers on dealing with English technology terms such as “hashtag” and “cloud computing.” But in fact the backlash against English encroachment into French started in the pre-computer age, when officials became alarmed over the country’s infatuation with “le jogging” and eating “les cheeseburgers” on “le week-end.” […]

Yet despite these many laws and commissions (at least 20 that govern the French language) there’s still that vexing “hashtag” (or as the Ministry of Culture would have you call it — at least up until a couple of weeks ago — mot-dièse) problem. The ministry relies on specialized terminology commissions for finding French replacements for new words of foreign influence, and in theory the task is straightforward: take a foreign term such as “Wi-Fi” and come up with a French equivalent other than “le Wi-Fi.” Unfortunately, the tendency of the French to be verbose works greatly to their disadvantage, especially in the Twitter age. The recommended replacement for “Wi-Fi” (which the French so adorably pronounce “wee-fee”) was the mouthful “accès sans fil à l’Internet,” literally “access without wire to the Internet.” Which is why you see signs for “Wi-Fi” all over France.

I suspect that the French don’t realize that “Wi-Fi” doesn’t even make sense in English.[…]

Thanks, Paul!

Comments

  1. Please, tell the Quebecois!

  2. My HS French teachers in the early 90s were part of the Old Guard, I guess. I was strenuously advised that “fin de semaine” was better than “le week-end”, etc. etc. Maybe they were Canadian. When I flip through my students’ French textbooks now, I’m SHOCKED at how much English is in there.

  3. Athel Cornish-Bowden says:

    When I was first in France I systematically said “fin de semaine” until I noticed that I was the only person who said that. Now I say “weekend” like everyone else.

    I’m curious to know whether Jean-Marie Le Pen will comment on Fleur Pellerin’s statement, given that she was born Korean. However, unlike Manuel Wals, who didn’t become French until he was 20 (and is fluent in Catalan and Castilian), Fleur Pellerin was adopted by a French family when she was a few months old, and probably speaks no Korean, so she’s as good a judge of proper French as Jean-Marie Le Pen is.

  4. Please, tell the Quebecois!

    Most likely time will do its thing and the Quebecois will become like the Cajuns of Louisiana.

  5. Wasn’t it JFK who said that the languages of the Quebecois and the Chinese would survive?

  6. J. W. Brewer says:

    When JFK was alive, the Quebecois had one of the higher birth rates of any sizeable ethnic group in North America – now they have one of the lower such birth rates, well below replacement rate — the survival of the language of the Quebecois (viewed as more distinctive than just “French”) will require either the survival of a critical mass of actual Quebecois individuals or good luck at assimilation of immigrants who are already Francophone or willing to give it a shot (and willing to assimilate to Quebecois norms rather than prestige-global-French norms of the sort I expect are reflected in French-as-a-second-language instruction even in Anglophone Canada).

  7. 1-Paul Ogden: actually, the younger generation (18-25 year olds) of Ontario anglophones, compared to their Quebec francophone counterparts, are in a tangibly worse socio-economic position (much higher youth unemployment rate, for example). As a teacher of French in anglophone Canada I have noticed that there is a growing number of young anglophone students whose interest in French is quite utilitarian and pragmatic: they know they will need a solid command of the language if they end up working in Quebec, and they are well aware that the Canadian job market is far too uncertain for them to count on never having to move there. A trend I welcome: they’re serious, motivated students, and I like to think I have helped many reach an acceptable level of French L2 fluency.

    If you want to worry about Cajunization…Ontario’s provincial deficit is already much worse than Quebec’s, and once the entire Ontario + Midwestern automobile industry relocates to Mexico, depriving your province of most of its tax base…frankly, “Cajunization” might be too weak a word to describe the result.

    2-J.W. Brewer: I can assure you that there already exists a substantial number of younger L1 speakers of Quebec French of non-French-Canadian ethnic background whose parents are first-generation migrants: this is especially common with Lebanese Christian and Haitian migrants’ children, and the rule with children of mixed marriages. Indeed, even children of mixed francophone-anglophone parentage, in Quebec, are to an ever-growing degree far likelier to be L1 speakers of (Quebec) French than of English. Finally, even children whose home language is the most standard Parisian French quickly become bi-dialectal for purposes of social integration (I’ve known several): Quebec French enjoys remarkably strong (often covert) prestige within Quebec, which from this point of view is very much an anomaly in the French-speaking world.

    As for the birth rate in Quebec, your information is out of date: at 1.7 children per couple the birth rate in Quebec is not especially low, indeed it is now substantially higher than that of neighboring Canadian provinces.

  8. gwenllian says:

    Time alone has little to do with it. It will depend on how the immigration and integration processes continue to play out. I’m a pessimist when it comes to language survival, but provincial selection of immigrants and the much-maligned Bill 101 give the Quebecois a fighting chance. Other French Canadians are toast, though, with the possible exception of those Fanco-Ontarians and Acadians living in areas adjacent to Quebec.

    If Quebec countinues to function as a mainly French-speaking society and its share of the country’s population in relation to the ROC (Rest of Canada) continues to decrease, I expect there to be a lot of tension in Canada’s future.

  9. gwenllian says:

    (and willing to assimilate to Quebecois norms rather than prestige-global-French norms of the sort I expect are reflected in French-as-a-second-language instruction even in Anglophone Canada).

    If you spend your childhood speaking French in Quebec, you’ll likely speak it with a Quebec accent. But the “cultivated Quebec accent” has already been brought much closer to the prestige variant of the language, starting long before the latest era of significant immigration.

  10. gwenllian says:

    Yikes, substitute dialect for accent. And I should’ve clarified that by speaking French in Quebec I don’t mean just in the classroom. I have no idea what is taught to non-francophone students in Quebec schools, though I imagine they are at the very least taught more about Quebec French than those in the rest of Canada, who, as you correctly suspect, are usually taught little to none.

  11. Yes, as some people have already pointed out, given that French is the usual working language of Quebec, immigrants typically end up speaking it, as well as their children, and a rather high number at this point end up integrating in French-speaking society. Just like immigrants integrate in English-speaking society elsewhere in North America.

    Also I’m always surprised when I discuss with English speakers, how much they assume the French spoken in Quebec to be totally unlike that which is spoken elsewhere. It’s not. It’s very similar, and most differences between national or regional dialects of French are seen in informal speech. Furthermore, Quebec French has moved closer to standard varieties from France since the 60s.

    I’m not sure if this will cause tension in Canada’s future, as gwenllian believes. It’s true that many Canadian English speakers still haven’t really accepted the fact that Quebec would truly be a French-speaking society (as opposed to a society like the rest of North America, but with cute, folkloric French people), but they’ll presumably have to accept that at some point.

    I also feel the need to mention that I find rather strange English speakers’ passion with the French language’s proverbial rejection of English words (and here they’ll often mention the Académie française, without necessarily knowing exactly what that is). The fact is, language is ultimately driven by usage, but there’s nothing inextricable about languages adopting more and more English words. It may happen, and the language may then adapt the spelling and pronunciation of the word to its own rules, or not, or else speakers may settle on some word that isn’t the same as the one English speakers use. All of this may happen, and there’s nothing inherently better about one or the other.

  12. The recommended replacement for “Wi-Fi” (which the French so adorably pronounce “wee-fee”) was the mouthful “accès sans fil à l’Internet,” literally “access without wire to the Internet.”

    Why didn’t they just suggest “sans fil” or some sort of acronym?

    Somebody invented the English word, I don’t get the implication that there was something impossible or futile about coining French equivalents.

    I wonder if the bemusement is English-triumphalism with a suit on.

  13. Yes, it’s possible that Americans like Chinese believe that resistance to their language and culture is futile.

  14. The fact is, language is ultimately driven by usage, but there’s nothing inextricable about languages adopting more and more English words.

    It’s not about adopting an English phrase here or an idiom there, nor about what language you use at the gas station or dry cleaners or around the dining table. It’s about the reality that you can’t act on the world stage today without English. That goes for IT, finance, medicine, science, engineering and probably a few other fields too.

    When the Institut Pasteur publishes in English, when Le Monde Diplomatique publishes an English edition, when Alstom and Bull conduct their business in English (as do Siemens and ABB, btw), it’s all over but the crying.

    Yes, this could change, he said looking anxiously over his shoulder to the east, but for the next century anyway, that’s the way it’s going to be.

  15. Il vergognoso says:

    San-fi would be quite nice, I think.

  16. Quebec would truly be a French-speaking society (as opposed to a society like the rest of North America, but with cute, folkloric French people)

    That’s rather a false opposition. It’s increasingly language and nothing else that makes Quebec a distinctive society: it’s rather well integrated into North America otherwise, and if you want weird, you go to Hawaii (which is politically if not geographically N.A.) or Alaska or NYC, not Quebec.

    English speakers’ passion with the French language’s proverbial rejection of English words

    Hexagonal French actually accepts English neologisms with enthusiasm, as m-l has amply documented here. What strikes anglophones as weird is not acceptance or non-acceptance, but the idea of official (as opposed to self-appointed) prescriptivism in the matter.

  17. Paul Ogden: English is the main language of international communication today (though not the only one), but here we’re talking about what words other languages use as part of their own lexicon, whether they are directly borrowed from English, adapted from English, or created or adapted from other sources. Those are two completely independent questions.

    John Cowan: well, Quebec has a lot of similarities with the rest of North America, but some differences as well. Having French as its main language makes it more permeable to cultural imports from the francophonie and from France than English-speaking places, for example. What language you speak daily really does affect how you perceive the world, not in any Worfian sense, but just because it affects how you interact with it. And I’m aware that French does borrow words from English (sometimes in informal language, sometimes in formal one), which is why I talked about the French proverbial rejection of English words. It’s more of a saying than a reality. Also, every organisation that publishes material has its own style rules which one is expected to follow, and this would include government agencies. The house style of the French government is of no particular interest to anybody not writing for the French government, but it still attracts a lot of attention and chuckles especially from English speakers.

    And yes, I’d generally refer to wifi as Internet sans fil.

  18. Paul (other Paul) says:

    Somebody invented the English word, I don’t get the implication that there was something impossible or futile about coining French equivalents.

    In fact the French did very well inventing their own terms in computing, which rather surprisingly stuck, perhaps because it was done early enough in the popular rise of computing: ordinateur for computer, logiciel for software, le reseau for the net, ficher for file, octet for byte, and others as straight translations – e.g. souris for mouse. And computer magazines have followed that usage, which has been influential I suspect.

    I had great trouble in phone conversations with Internet suppliers trying to sort out problems on my shaky phone line with their words for # and @ which I had never heard before – they had to refer me to a telephone keypad to explain diez and ar(r)obase, also apparently called un commercial though I’ve never heard that.

  19. Paul Ogden: the reality of English being the global lingua franca today does not thereby inevitably mean that L1 speakers of English enjoy socio-economic superiority compared to L1 speakers of other languages. Nor does it mean that shift to English monolingualism would inevitably improve the socio-economic lot of L1 speakers of other languages.

    This is true of lingua francas in general, by the way: Russian was the lingua franca of the former Soviet Union and Warsaw Pact, for instance, but I believe that at no point during their history were native russophones better off than native non-russophones in any tangible way (infant mortality, life expectancy, level of education…). Can any Hatter think of a counter-example, by the way? I cannot.

    John Cowan: I disagree with your claim that Quebec differs chiefly from the rest of North America in being French-speaking. I used to think so too…but then I left Quebec. And despite my being somewhat more fluent in English than most of my fellow Quebeckers, I repeatedly experienced serious culture shock. Looking back at my experience out of Quebec in retrospect, and at my years of teaching in anglophone Canada and in the U.S., it is clear to me that Quebec and its anglophone neighbors differ radically from one another in terms of basic cultural and mental outlook. This is difficult to detect at first, because indeed *on the surface* the similarities seem to outweigh the differences.

    Consider the following:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2012_Quebec_student_protests

    NOTHING of this magnitude has taken place anywhere else in Canada or in the United States (although similar things have taken place outside North America) over the past thirty years: I think I now understand why.

    If you or anyone else wants me to elaborate, I am willing to do so, of course (and I will have supporting scholarly evidence! I most certainly do not expect you, or indeed anyone, to take what I say on faith)…but must warn you that you will almost certainly find my conclusions highly unpleasant.

  20. The other Paul: the pound or hash sign is called dièse in French, as this is the word for the “sharp” sign (in music) which looks quite similar. (Flat is known as bémol in French, and this word is also used in metaphorical contexts.) As for @, I’m not sure it really has a (common) name in English; I feel English speakers would just call it “at”. In French it’s apparently known as arobase, but I had to check how to spell that since it’s not a very commonly used word. I interpret it as the “official” or “formal” name of this symbol, which nobody uses but is nevertheless how it’s “really” called and what should be used in official documents. Usually we’d refer to it as a commercial (un commercial I’ve never heard, are you sure you heard right?)

    In Polish it’s typically known as małpa, which means monkey. Apparently this is due to this symbol’s long “tail”.

    Etienne: I’m curious about what scholarly evidence you have about the differences between Quebecers and other North Americans. It makes sense to me that there are, I’ve also seen them first-hand (but then again there are also many similarities), but I’d like to see some actual studies on the subject.

  21. fisheyed says:

    but must warn you that you will almost certainly find my conclusions highly unpleasant.

    I can almost hear ominous music and the sudden flight of birds. Well, I want to read the elaboration!

  22. Etienne, I’m glad that you answered John Cowan’s comment as you did. Although I’m a relatively recent immigrant (10 years in Montreal after 50 years in America), I also experience Quebec as a unique place and culture, substantially different from anywhere else in North America — and not only for reasons of language.

    I’d also like to mention that students growing up in non-French-speaking households are required to attend French schools. Nearly all young Francophones — at least in the major cities – also become fluent in English. While there may have been greater tension over language in the past, the product of this policy now is a young but bilingual (and often trilingual, if one considers the many immigrants who come from non-English and non-French backgrounds) culture, and an openness to cross-cultural communication that I doubt is equaled in very many other places.There are die-hard French language defenders/preservationists who resist any anglicisms in the language, but of course “le weekend” and many other phrases are in regular use, without much damage to the linguistic fabric of the province. Among those of us who live here, and especially among younger Quebecois, bilingualism and trilingualism are seen as a strength and pleasure, but I also don’t see a trend toward losing Quebec’s unique identity. The recent elections in the province, as well as current protests, seem to point toward Quebec insisting on our own unique identity and future, and NOT going the way of the rest of North America, even as we remain a province of Canada rather than an independent nation. As an Anglophone who shares the values of Quebec and loves its particular and peculiar culture, I’m happy with that direction.

  23. Honestly if the word weekend is getting more use in Quebec than before, it’s probably more out of an attempt to adopt French terms (from France) than out of anglophone influence. I personally tend to use fin de semaine, and I think it’s still the most common term in Quebec, but it is uncommon in France, and out of linguistic insecurity Quebecers tend to believe that where they use different terms from the French, they are probably wrong. So they adopt the French term as the “more correct” one.

    Here is blogger Anne-Marie Beaudoin-Bégin speaking about this phenomenon (in French). Her blog is quite interesting for those curious about the sociolinguistics of Quebec French.

  24. David Marjanović says:

    In fact the French did very well inventing their own terms in computing, which rather surprisingly stuck, perhaps because it was done early enough in the popular rise of computing: ordinateur for computer, logiciel for software, le reseau for the net, fich[i]er for file, octet for byte, and others as straight translations – e.g. souris for mouse. And computer magazines have followed that usage, which has been influential I suspect.

    I think so. They tried early, and it worked. It has even spread: they say ordenador in Spain, or so I hear.

    Contrast the German attempt: somebody once tried to replace Computer by Datenverarbeitungsanlage “data-processing plant”, and, noticing that that was just too long, abbreviated it as DVA. I’ve encountered this twice in total, and find it exceedingly bureaucratic-sounding and embarrassing.

    As for @, I’m not sure it really has a (common) name in English; I feel English speakers would just call it “at”.

    That is a name.

    In Polish it’s typically known as małpa, which means monkey. Apparently this is due to this symbol’s long “tail”.

    Evidently related to German Klammeraffe “spider monkey” (klammern “cling”).

    NOTHING of this magnitude has taken place anywhere else in Canada or in the United States (although similar things have taken place outside North America) over the past thirty years: I think I now understand why.

    Is it because of the tradition of successful strikes and revolutions in Paris?

    Nearly all young Francophones — at least in the major cities – also become fluent in English.

    Is this also the case outside the big cities nowadays? I have two colleagues from Québec who only began to learn English when they transferred to an English-speaking university at the age of 20; in the case of one of them, that was less that 20 years ago.

  25. David Marjanović says:

    (I have to add that German has been unusually hostile to abbreviations since 1945/1990.)

  26. People in Quebec learn English at school, but if they don’t actually need to use it in daily life, which will generally be the case in French-speaking communities, they won’t necessarily become fluent. For the same reason, other Canadians, who also typically learn French at school, don’t usually ever become in any way fluent in it.

  27. I want to read the elaboration!

    Me too! I’ll try not to get the vapors.

  28. As an anglophone Canadian, Paul Ogden’s statement “Most likely time will do its thing and the Quebecois will become like the Cajuns of Louisiana” struck me as extremely inflammatory, and, frankly, bilious. Not the usual sort of comment on this generally soft-spoken blog.

    I, too, would love to hear what Etienne has to say.

  29. >As for @, I’m not sure it really has a (common) name in English; I feel English speakers would just call it “at”.

    That is a name.

    I’m not so sure about that. I think it might just be a pronunciation. “&” is pronounced “and,” but that isn’t its name. I think that the relationship between “@” and “at” is similar, although I’ll grant that it might be moving (rapidly) towards name status.

  30. what Etienne has to say

    Paul Ogden and Etienne have bumped heads here before.

    The formal ISO name of @ is “commercial at”, from its use in giving prices: 2 apples @ $1 meaning “two apples at one dollar [each]”.

  31. Matt, the word atpersat exists (barely), but it hasn’t caught on.

  32. gwenllian says:

    In Polish it’s typically known as małpa, which means monkey. Apparently this is due to this symbol’s long “tail”.

    Evidently related to German Klammeraffe “spider monkey” (klammern “cling”).

    In Serbian it’s apparently called majmunče (little monkey), and in Croatian, somewhat weirdly, it’s called monkey.

    As an anglophone Canadian, Paul Ogden’s statement “Most likely time will do its thing and the Quebecois will become like the Cajuns of Louisiana” struck me as extremely inflammatory, and, frankly, bilious. Not the usual sort of comment on this generally soft-spoken blog.

    I disagree with Paul (time alone doesn’t really mean much in this case), but I just see it as an opinion. Many people hold it, even some francophone Quebecers. But it would definitely be a somewhat scandalous one to express out loud for a Canadian politician or any public figure, save the Don Cherry types.

  33. gwenllian says:

    Marc:

    Just like immigrants integrate in English-speaking society elsewhere in North America.

    Still very different than linguistic integration and assimilation in anglophone North America but, encouragingly for the Quebecois, last year for the first time showed a slight majority of immigrants assimilating to French.

    Also I’m always surprised when I discuss with English speakers, how much they assume the French spoken in Quebec to be totally unlike that which is spoken elsewhere. It’s not.

    The myth of poor Quebec trying in vain to communicate with the rest of the francophone world is very persistent.

    I’m not sure if this will cause tension in Canada’s future, as gwenllian believes. It’s true that many Canadian English speakers still haven’t really accepted the fact that Quebec would truly be a French-speaking society (as opposed to a society like the rest of North America, but with cute, folkloric French people), but they’ll presumably have to accept that at some point.

    My impression is that the position of anglophone Canada towards Quebec is still overwhelmingly negative. That is not to say that anglophone Canadians are especially intolerant or anything, it’s just the (almost?) universal position of a linguistic majority to a linguistic minority anywhere (although the Quebec-RoC issue is more than just language, of course).But I see the potential for tension as mostly related to hard numbers. Demographic trends indicate Quebec will have less and less of a role in Canada as the years go by. I believe that, at some point, that’s likely to cause a panic in Quebec and a more widespread feeling that, under the new circumstances, provincial status is not enough to protect a distinct society.

    fisheyed:

    Why didn’t they just suggest “sans fil” or some sort of acronym?

    Good question. So many purist suggestions are so obviously unwieldy and doomed, you’d think their authors are trying to sabotage their own work.
    nts.

    I wonder if the bemusement is English-triumphalism with a suit on.

    In my opinion, not always, but fairly often.

  34. I could have sworn that I heard David Malki! explaining in an interview that he named his webcomic “Wondermark” after a name for the @ symbol he heard somewhere, but I can’t find anything online to back my recollection up.

  35. Ian Press says:

    For ‘Paul (other Paul)’: ‘fichier’ is a file.

    Ms Pellerin’s approach makes sense – I’m not sure we have much control over what happens, thank goodness: makes it interesting for us language obsessives. I so hope people just carry on speaking whatever they’re speaking.

  36. So many purist suggestions are so obviously unwieldy and doomed, you’d think their authors are trying to sabotage their own work.

    I suspect their motivations are, unfortunately, rather elitist. The argument I can accept for keeping at least some English words out of French (or German, Russian, Mandarin, etc.) is that too often English is used as a shibboleth by the trend setters and the elites to mock or exclude the less educated and less worldly. (Or by the young to mock the old). Rather than trying to find a golden mean to make every day language more inclusive, too many “purists” seem interested in simply creating shibboleths of their own.

  37. a different Marc says:

    Why do speakers of certain languages tend to use translations of foreign words (Finnish, Icelandic) while speakers of other languages tend to borrow the foreign words (French, Japanese)?

  38. Why do speakers of certain languages tend to use translations of foreign words (Finnish, Icelandic) while speakers of other languages tend to borrow the foreign words (French, Japanese)?

    Habit, mindset… Mentalities are very hard to shake off.

  39. “And despite my being somewhat more fluent in English than most of my fellow Quebeckers, I repeatedly experienced serious culture shock.”

    Etienne, try going from California to Alabama. Or from Minnesota to Alabama – or California. Or try moving to Nuevo Leon or Oaxaca, or just from Oaxaca to Nuevo Leon, as so many people have. These are basically all foreign countries for people making these moves. Every region of North America is profoundly different from the others and language is only one, and probably not the most significant, point of difference.

  40. And yet Paul Ogden himself wrote here:

    For 20 years I’ve lived in Israel, where to the average Israeli I am indistinguishable from an American, a Brit (including Scots and Irishmen), an Australian, a New Zealander, or a South African (anglophone of course; the only kind here). In fact, there is a common name for us: we are all Anglo-Saxons. We view Israeli culture through an identical “Anglo-Saxon” lens, and see little but cosmetic differences among the countries of our birth.

    What is the same, what is different, these things change with the point of view. “Where you stand depends on where you sit.” (Miles’s Law)

  41. gwenllian says:

    Most of the western world is quite similar nowadays. I think sometimes when anglophones speak about Quebec, they imagine other parts of the west as more exotic (and less americanized) than they really are. If anywhere in the “first world” west can really be called distinct nowadays, I’d say Quebec qualifies. Some interesting maps of political opinions across Canada:

    http://www.reddit.com/r/MapPorn/comments/2ip364/maps_illustrating_the_difference_between/

    http://i.imgur.com/w3uoK9W.jpg

  42. gwenllian says:

    Somebody invented the English word, I don’t get the implication that there was something impossible or futile about coining French equivalents.

    The world’s mostly too fast for that nowadays. Somebody invents an English word when something’s brand new and there’s no other word for it. By the time somebody invents the French word, French people (and most everyone else) are already using the English one.

    What strikes anglophones as weird is not acceptance or non-acceptance, but the idea of official (as opposed to self-appointed) prescriptivism in the matter.

    But it’s so often seen as a wacky French concern, a France against the world thing, when it’s actually very common, and many languages have a regulating body dealing with such questions. The power of English is undeniable and, though I disagree with overly purist reactions to it, it’s hard not to understand the worry and insecurity it produces in speakers of other languages.

    I’d also like to mention that students growing up in non-French-speaking households are required to attend French schools.

    Only those who don’t have a parent or grandparent who attended an English language school in Canada. By the way, could somebody share a video of a younger Anglo-Quebecer speaking French? I’m curious about the French taught in Quebec anglophone schools.

    Ms Pellerin’s approach makes sense – I’m not sure we have much control over what happens, thank goodness: makes it interesting for us language obsessives. I so hope people just carry on speaking whatever they’re speaking.

    I feel that, when it comes to outside influences, things were so much more interesting in the past. Now the only really significant external influence on most European languages (those are the only ones I know anything about) is English. Obviously, that’s not true for minority languages in non-English speaking countries, and it can be interesting to see how the different languages incorporate English elements, but it still seems like the same thing over and over again much of the time to me.

    Why do speakers of certain languages tend to use translations of foreign words (Finnish, Icelandic) while speakers of other languages tend to borrow the foreign words (French, Japanese)?

    I often hear people mention strict Icelandic purism, but then you also hear a lot about French purism. Is the Icelandic purism (and Finnish, which I haven’t heard much about) real or mostly exaggerated?

  43. David Marjanović says:

    The formal ISO name of @ is “commercial at”, from its use in giving prices: 2 apples @ $1 meaning “two apples at one dollar [each]“.

    In German we use à for that. I’m not kidding.

  44. Linguistic purism in Icelandic is very real and powerful, though not almighty.

  45. marie-lucie says:

    France: le week-end vs Canada: la fin de semaine

    I remember this being discussed here some years ago.

    When I was growing up (in France) the work week had 6 days, and only Sunday was a day of rest. The term fin de semaine existed and referred to the two days at the end of the work week. For instance, on Monday you could promise to have something done, or to meet someone, en fin de semaine, meaning Friday or Saturday. La fin de la semaine meant Saturday or Sunday and referred to a time period, regardless of the typical activities taking place. Le weekend (meaning Saturday and Sunday) was known as a foreign concept, something existing in anglophone countries but not corresponding to a French cultural reality. Nowadays more and more people take at least Saturday afternoon off, if not the whole of Saturday.

    In Quebec on the other hand, the work week was organized on the Anglo-American schedule, so the weekend was translated literally as la fin de semaine.

    they assume the French spoken in Quebec to be totally unlike that which is spoken elsewhere. It’s not.

    It used to be close to rural dialects of Western France (the area where I grew up), but with the considerable investment in French L1 education in Quebed since the 60’s, it has become much closer to “international French” (which is based on “Standard French”). I have never lived in Quebec and have only been there for short stays. When I first came to Montreal in the 60’s I could not understand people in stores or cafés and (much to my embarrassment) had to resort to English. This has not been the case in a long time.

    Many anglophone Canadians above a certain age have told me that they had learned “Parisian French” and therefore were unable to understand Quebec French. That made some sense for the time they would have been in school, although I am sure that what they assumed to be “Parisian French” was heavily influenced by the English-tinged pronunciation of their teachers.

  46. Trond Engen says:

    David M.: In German we use à for that. I’m not kidding.

    In Norway too, of course, since we used to calque everything German. It’s also what the French say, and what the @ means. Historically @ is a ligature for the ubiquitous ad(-) in the same way as & for et. In French it was used for the local spoken form in formalized contexts. In English it was transferred to the at. Still much like &.

    We call it krøllalfa, by the way, or alfakrøll.

    marie-lucie: France: le week-end vs Canada: la fin de semaine

    Danish weekend vs. Norwegian and Swedish helg. We extended our old word for (the old meaning of) ‘holiday’.

  47. German has Wochenende (a calque of the English, I assume). German had periods with massive influx of loans changing with purist periods where language reformers tried to replace those loans with “native German” coinages.

  48. Somewhat germane to this discussion, last night my wife and I had dinner with a delightful German student studying at a university here (U.S.) She is studying Arabic so much of our discussions were about language. During the discussion, I mentioned my observation that German seems to be the predominate second language in some of the East European countries. She said that this was true of my generation (ancient), but that English was the overwhelming preference of her generation.

    George

  49. Wikipedia on the at sign, with various theories of origin.

  50. Internal evidence from Kerouac’s novels suggest that at one time, Catholic public schools in Quebec (no secular education there until 2000) were closed on Thursdays and Sundays, French-style; there are references to “Wednesday or Saturday night dates”, for example. I also found hits for the same practice in U.S. Catholic schools at the end of the 19C.

  51. “My impression is that the position of anglophone Canada towards Quebec is still overwhelmingly negative.”

    20 years ago, I think was true. I’m not so certain it’s the case anymore though. You’re still going to have the blowhards on both sides shouting about English vs French but I think they do that to try and make themselves sound important. Modern Canada seems to have moved on.

    There’s more of a prestige about being able to speak both official languages. In fact, the Ontario town I am living in an hour north of Toronto is building a French school. This doesn’t happen if there isn’t a strong demand for bilingualism.

  52. J. W. Brewer says:

    The immigration thing does seem to be a wild card for the future of Canadian language politics. Even if immigrants to Quebec get assimilated to French the way immigrants to the ROC get assimilated to English, the percentage distribution of immigrants between the two will have an effect (either positive or negative) on the long-term trend whereby Quebec’s percentage of the national population slowly but steadily declines. And you might also expect the children/grandchildren of new non-Western immigrants to care less. If your parents came to Vancouver from Hong Kong or to Toronto from the Punjab, you’re probably going to be harder to guilt-trip about how mean who was to whom in previous centuries, the whole mythology of Confederation as being a grand bargain between two groups of white people will not resonate with you, and the notion of Francophones in the ROC having rights that Sinophones etc don’t have will come to seem arbitrary, if not racist. (Shorter version: modern globalization/multiculturalism is in considerable tension with having Two Official Languages, or Two Official Anythings, because why stop at two?)

  53. John Cowan: I don’t know what the practices were in Quebec’s Catholic schools in the early part of the 20th century, but it’s definitely not true that there was no secular education in Quebec until 2000. I’d say it was true until the establishment of the ministry of Education during the 1960s. Afterwards, school boards were still officially either Catholic or Protestant until 1997 when a constitutional amendment was passed to make them language-based, but education was now under the responsibility of the government, and therefore secular. Schools then still offered (non-compulsory, of course) Catholic or Protestant religious instruction classes until 2010 or so, when this was replaced with education on world religions.

    siggian: Well, anglophone Canadians pride themselves on their niceness, politeness and political correctness, so you may not hear much overt hostility towards Quebec. But the fact is that for the most part, anglophone Canadians don’t know much about Quebec, about the French-speaking society in Quebec at least, and don’t really understand what this is all about. They feel that since the 1960s or so, francophones in Quebec are going against what they perceive as the normal direction of human or at least Canadian history, and they feel hurt and offended by the fact that Quebecers are striving to build a society that’s Canadian, but distinct from the general Canadian society. So there definitely is some resentment.

    I’ve read with some interest the thread John Cowan linked to somewhere earlier in the comments. Granted, Etienne’s hypothesis that some Canadian anglophone students psychologically cannot pronounce French sounds because of subconscious prejudice, while interesting, certainly isn’t anything close to proven, but Paul Ogden’s responses to him mentioned Mirabel Airport, francophones supposedly pretending they cannot speak English even though they can, the FLQ, the conscription crises, and his perception that Quebecers reject the Canadian ethos or are insufficiently patriotic. So it’s obvious that there is a lot of pent-up frustration there. (Although this is the first time I’ve heard somebody describe Mirabel Airport as an “outright sop to Quebec” as he puts it.)

    Also, is this “French school” that’s being built where you are a French immersion school, for anglophone students, or truly a French school for francophone students?

    marie-lucie: I’m curious why you couldn’t understand people in Montreal in the 1960s, if the way they spoke sounded like Western French dialects, where you grew up. As for the anglophone Canadians you’ve met, what might have happened is that they learned some French, but not to the level of becoming conversational with native speakers. They can understand slowly spoken and carefully enunciated French, maybe with some extra formalism (such as using nous instead of on), but they’re lost when placed in real-life contexts. But instead of recognizing that they’re just not fluent in French, they assume that what they learned is “Parisian French” and that what people speak in Quebec is some degenerate patois, because that’s already a fairly popular myth in Canada, including among francophone Quebecers. I don’t think they’d be able to have very meaningful conversations in Paris either. I guess it’s possible that their textbooks may have taught them some popular expressions from France.

  54. J. W. Brewer: The fact is that probably the majority of French-speakers in Quebec don’t care about official Canadian bilingualism. As long as Quebec gets to determine its policy in regard to official language, what the rest of the country does is of no real importance. They know that if they leave Quebec, they have to speak English, and French signs in national parks or airport workers greeting travellers with “Hello! Bonjour!” isn’t going to change this (correct) perception.

    This may sound strange, because a good number of anglophones would think of official bilingualism as “an outright sop to Quebec,” to reuse Paul Ogden’s expression. (They also think it’s much more prevalent than it actually is; I’ve been told before that I could expect to be served in French in a hospital in Calgary, Alberta, for example. This is very unlikely to actually be the case.) So while immigration, to Quebec or to elsewhere in Canada, will probably change language politics, it could do so in a way that’s not what you’d expect.

  55. gwenllian says:

    marie-lucie, how would you describe Acadian French in terms of intelligibility? I’m also curious about Newfoundland French, may it rest in peace, but I guess it’s unlikely you’ve ever happened upon a speaker.

    Marc, same question about intelligibility? Also, could you help me with my curiosity and tell me what’s taught in anglophone schools in Quebec? From what I can tell, RoC students still complain a lot about learning Parisian French and not being able to understand Quebecois French. I agree with you that those who complain about that are overestimating their ability in French, but I do think RoC schools should teach their students more about Canadian French. Are anglophone students in Quebec taught any Quebecois dialect? At least vocabulary? Is acquiring a Quebecois accent in French frowned upon in anglo schools?

    Thanks!

  56. I’d say it was true until the establishment of the ministry of Education during the 1960s.

    Ah, thanks.

    Quebecers are striving to build a society that’s Canadian

    Well, some of them. Or is sovereignty really dead as an opinion (quite apart from whether it’s likely to happen)?

    don’t care about official Canadian bilingualism

    Not even at the federal level? Would francophone Quebecers be content to fill out their forms in English?

  57. To a francophone Quebecer’s ears, Acadians have a distinctive accent but are perfectly understandable. I guess elderly, rural Acadians might be harder to understand, but otherwise there are no communication problems. And I know this question wasn’t asked, but French speakers from Ontario (and possibly from elsewhere in Canada as well, but I have less experience speaking with them) also have a distinctive accent that to me sounds a bit like an anglophone speaking French. I guess I’m picking up on some particularities of their speech that resemble this to a certain extent. They’re also perfectly understandable.

    As for Quebec anglophones, I’m not very familiar with what they’re taught in school, but I know that especially the younger ones are among the most bilingual (English-French) demographic in Canada. So they are taught French, and I know French immersion is also quite popular among them. Many of them actually come from mixed language families, so they have opportunities to speak French in a natural setting. I’d say that most (but not all) younger Quebec anglophones manage to reach fluency in French. Somebody who knows more about the question could probably give a more accurate answer.

    What I tend to hear about are Quebec’s English-language universities, especially McGill, which given its excellent reputation attracts students from all over Canada and the world, but (even in professional programs, such as medicine) does not encourage them to learn French. The result is that the Quebec government pays to form doctors who are unqualified to practice in Quebec because of lack of language skills, and will therefore go practice somewhere else in Canada right after. Especially in a period where there seems to be a shortage of doctors, this is seen as a very bad idea.

  58. Not even at the federal level? Would francophone Quebecers be content to fill out their forms in English?

    Well okay, I shouldn’t be too categorical about it. Quebecers care about Canadian language policy inasmuch as it affects them as residents of Quebec. So yes, they expect the government to serve them in French in Quebec, and (as seen in one of the maps gwenllian linked to) unlike most other Canadians, they expect Supreme Court judges to be fluent in both official languages. Because it could be hard for a judge not fluent in French to truly understand a cause that’s being argued in this language. What they don’t have is any expectation that language rights should follow them elsewhere in the country.

    Well, some of them. Or is sovereignty really dead as an opinion (quite apart from whether it’s likely to happen)?

    No, it’s not dead. But what I mean is that Quebecers want to build a society that’s Canadian in the sense that it’s a modern, liberal, secular Western society, but with some differences from the “pan-Canadian” society. This would be true whether it be in an independent Quebec or in a Quebec that’s a Canadian province. The goal is ultimately the same, the debate is on the means. If a good proportion of Quebecers support independence, it’s because they perceive other Canadians as not willing to let this happen in their country.

  59. J. W. Brewer says:

    Marc: If what you’re saying is that in e.g. Calgary you see just enough Official French Stuff to be aggravating to (some) Anglophones but not enough to be functionally useful to Francophones, that sounds entirely plausible, politics being what they are. And the less agitated Anglophones presumably feel like they ought to get credit for the symbolic gesture (the whole point of a “sop” is that it is of little intrinsic value but sends some sort of social signal of acknowledgement or respect*), while many of the putative beneficiaries don’t feel sufficiently overwhelmed with gratitude to give it to them, which makes the former group grumpy in a passive-aggressive way. So not necessarily a stable situation, long-term.

    But the lack of historical consciousness among new immigrants cuts both ways, of course, so e.g. the non-Western-ancestry new Anglophones in Toronto and BC are unlikely to be grumpy about the same historical aspects of Quebecois nationalism as Paul Ogden was, because it was all a long time ago and won’t seem relevant to them.

  60. J. W. Brewer:

    Marc: If what you’re saying is that in e.g. Calgary you see just enough Official French Stuff to be aggravating to (some) Anglophones but not enough to be functionally useful to Francophones

    Exactly. It’s the worst of both worlds.

    And the less agitated Anglophones presumably feel like they ought to get credit for the symbolic gesture (the whole point of a “sop” is that it is of little intrinsic value but sends some sort of social signal of acknowledgement or respect*), while many of the putative beneficiaries don’t feel sufficiently overwhelmed with gratitude to give it to them, which makes the former group grumpy in a passive-aggressive way.

    Also quite right. I’ve seen somebody compare this to giving somebody a pair of ice skates when they’ve expressed a desire to start biking to work. And then wondering why their reaction is to say “Erm, thanks…” and to keep asking for a bike.

    But the lack of historical consciousness among new immigrants cuts both ways, of course, so e.g. the non-Western-ancestry new Anglophones in Toronto and BC are unlikely to be grumpy about the same historical aspects of Quebecois nationalism as Paul Ogden was, because it was all a long time ago and won’t seem relevant to them.

    Maybe, but they do adopt Canadian culture and national sentiment at some point. What Paul Ogden complains about, and he’s far from the only one, is that he has the impression that Canada is bending over backwards to accommodate Quebec, while Quebec just whines and complains, isn’t thankful for anything, and basically just rejects Canada. Now that’s really not at all accurate, but it’s a common perception. New anglophones in Toronto and BC will be exposed to this perception even if they can’t actually point to examples of why it’s supposedly true, and also won’t be exposed to francophones from Quebec explaining their point of view. One of the problems between Quebec and the rest of Canada is that there’s actually very little communication between them, and language differences are a big part of that.

  61. What they don’t have is any expectation that language rights should follow them elsewhere in the country.

    That’s typical of European minority groups: minority rights, where they exist (not in France!) are territorial, not personal. In Nordslesvig there are German-language rights, and the Danish government doesn’t care if you are a Schleswiger, a German citizen, or an anglophone American whose German is better than their Danish. But outside that region of Denmark, no services.

  62. Okay, as requested, my theory of Life, the Universe, Everything, and the core cultural difference between Quebeckers and Americans (slow build-up of B-movie-grade “drama” music)…QUARANTE-DEUX!

    Okay, maybe I should be clearer:

    My theory is that at an unconscious level Americans, at the core, remain just as staunchly Calvinistic as their forefathers in colonial times were (since the loyalist migrants who founded anglophone Canada -minus Newfoundland-came from the thirteen colonies it will be understood that I include them as “Americans”). Quebec, quite apart from its linguistic distinctiveness, remains deeply Catholic in its basic mindset.

    Now, Calvinism, with its doctrine that we mortals are already divided into the saved and the damned, *and that nothing we say or do individually or collectively can change our status*, is radically different from Catholicism, with its doctrine that potentially all Catholics, if they truly believe, truly repent their sins and respect Church teachings, can be saved.

    Now, since I am from Quebec, I can get away with saying this: as a first world society Quebec is NOT a distinct society. From an American perspective Quebec certainly looks exotic: but seen from Western Europe Quebec looks quite banal. Virtually all of the features other than language whereby Quebec stands out from the United States align it with the rest of the first world.

    What I find telling is that ALL of these distinctive American features are natural consequences of a Calvinistic world-view, i.e. a mindset which takes it for granted that human beings are *inherently* divided into two groups: the saved and the damned. Witch-hunts in colonial New England, Slavery and the persistence of a racial divide, what has been called a “paranoid tradition” in American politics, the rise of extreme socio-economic inequalities over the past thirty years, in popular culture such quintessentially American phenomena as the LEFT BEHIND series of novels …all of this stems quite naturally from a Calvinistic mind-set. As does, I hasten to add, the remarkable political and institutional stability of the United States since the late eighteenth century: it has been argued (convincingly, to my mind: see my first reference below) that the presence of Blacks as a designated “Pariah” group is the core of what made democracy and the assimilation of immigrants possible for White America.

    Now, this mentality is so ubiquitous among Americans that something which non-Americans need to grasp (Heavens knows it took me a while!) is that most “debates”/”exchanges” in American society are not debates at all: they’re ritual theatre, wherein the “saved” and the “damned” each re-affirm their positions, almost reassuring one another through the sheer predictability of the positions they repeat. Non-Americans such as myself need to get used to the idea that, just in the same way that “How ya doin’?” is a greeting and not a request about one’s well-being, most conversations involving Americans are pre-scripted and not related to the surface meaning of the conversation.

    Indeed, Paul Ogden, in this thread, has given a specimen of this mentality that is such a perfect specimen of the genre that I can’t resist bringing it up. Look at his two separate claims: that Quebec is going to go the way of the Cajuns, and that the status of English as the global lingua franca dooms Quebec.

    This has NOTHING to do with exchanging opinions and information. As a Torontonian native speaker of English (=culturally an American, see above) he is simply establishing that he is one of the Elect, one of the saved. Now, the way I was supposed to respond was to say that it is true, it is such a pity, such is the relentless march of progress (=the language of the Elect). In short, I was supposed to recognize that I am one of the damned. He in turn would have adopted a much friendlier tone (well, to his mind: to me it would have seemed arrogant, insulting and condescending), perhaps conceding that the folklore and songs of my doomed language indubitably have some appreciable charm. Thus would the “exchange” have ended.

    And after such an exchange he would have been able to spend the rest of the day knowing that some things change, but that he is one of the elect, and that the damned know their place. As it has always been and must always be.

    The problem is that I did not follow the script. What I did was not a FAUX PAS: it was the cultural equivalent of screaming out loud at a library. I challenged both of his claims. This upsets him. Not because I have proven him wrong (In ritual theatre, reality is not relevant): it upsets him because I did not follow the script which his culture required I follow. The damned do not question their status. What is worse, from his point of view, is that my challenging his claims called his status as one of the Elect, as one of the Saved, into question. That he reacts so angrily as a result is thus quite unsurprising.

    So: comments? Questions?

    Well. My thanks for your patience, and apologies to whomever I may have offended.

    Okay, a few outside sources to back up my claims:

    1-Emmanuel Todd, LE DESTIN DES IMMIGRES: ASSIMILATION ET SEGREGATION DANS LES DEMOCRATIES OCCIDENTALES. Not available in English, alas, which is a pity: Todd is an anthropologist whose historical sketch of ethnic relations in the United States in a comparative light is fascinating, highlighting the core importance of Blacks as a “Pariah” group, i.e. a group of “damned” people, allowing white Americans to assimilate newcomers (who, not being black (damned) could thus be considered “saved” by default, so to speak). He also shows how the post-civil rights United States is a remarkable case of a society whose conscious (=all men are created equal) and unconscious (=all men are NOT created equal) beliefs are in open conflict.

    2-That Black Americans still play this role to a large degree in American society is the only conclusion which I could reach after reading Michelle Alexander’s THE NEW JIM CROW. This is however accompanied by growing emphasis on class rather than race as the criterion whereby one is “saved” or “damned”: which brings me to…

    3-…the profound internalization of “damned” status by the average American: see Mark Ames, GOING POSTAL, Soft Skull, 2001. Reading his portrait of American high schools actually caused a bit of a shock of recognition: I realized that the extremely passive behavior of the undergraduates I taught to in the American South made perfect sense if I accepted that this was the kind of school environment they were used to. Mark Ames was a journalist in Russia, by the way, and his contrast of American and Russian culture is fascinating.

  63. marie-lucie says:

    not understanding French in Montreal in the 60s

    I did not spend enough time there at the time (only a couple of days) to get used to local speech, and it is also possible that there were some vocabulary items or colloquial expressions that I was not familiar with.

    To a francophone Quebecer’s ears, Acadians have a distinctive accent but are perfectly understandable. I guess elderly, rural Acadians might be harder to understand, but otherwise there are no communication problems.

    While I was teaching French in Nova Scotia, in upper level courses we always had a number of Acadian students. In class they would sound quite “standard” rather than Québécois, but in conversations between themselves they were much harder to understand.

    A few months ago I took a bus from Halifax to Moncton (New Brunswick, the only officially bilingual province) and back. After I took my seat, behind me sat two women apparently of my generation, who started conversing in an unknown language, in which the sound “x” (as in Russian, or German “(a)ch”) occurred quite frequently. Listening carefully, I was surprised to hear the occasional French word among a totally unintelligible mass of sound. After a while I reallzed that I was hearing an Acadian form of speech in which this sound corresponds to French “ch” (= English “sh”). or “j” (= “zh”) I was looking forward to listening and understanding more and more in the five hours the trip would take, but unfortunately the ladies got off at one of the earliest stops.

    This sound correspondence is not peculiar to Acadian dialects: it occurs in rural French dialects of the mid-Atlantic French coast, where the ancestors of the Acadians came from. I have also heard it from some francophones from the Canadian prairies, but not recently.

    One major difference between Acadian and Quebec pronunciations is the realization of the nasal vowels. The Acadian vowels sound to me basically the same as my own (although some areas make a difference between the vowels of tente ‘tent’ and tante ‘aunt’, or the two vowels of enfant ‘child’), while the Quebec ones appear to have shifted in a direction opposite to that of the corresponding nasals in France. (My own pronunciation, being “older”, is no longer representative of the “standard” one). There are many other differences as well, and there are several Acadian dialects.

  64. Eli Nelson says:

    @Etienne: As a United-States American, I’m not really sure that Calvinism has had such a huge influence on us as you claim? Though recently in another online forum, I was defending an actual religious Calvinist (from the Netherlands) in a discussion with some other Europeans, so perhaps I’m unconsciously more of a Calvinist than I thought. I feel like the idea that English will inevitably outcompete other languages in the modern world (even down to the allusion Paul Ogden makes to the fatalistic idea that Chinese is next in line and will replace English in turn) is common among inhabitants of any religious background living in English-majority countries. I’m not sure what control group could be used to distinguish between historical language differences vs. historical religious differences, though.

    Regarding classifying people into the categories of “saved” vs “damned”, that certainly resonates with what I see everywhere in American politics; another point you made that I’ve often wondered about is the relative stability of American politics compared to European ones.

    As an American, though, I’m having a hard time imagining the specifics of what the (presumably contrasting) attitude of someone from a “Catholic society” would be like.

  65. 1-On Acadian French: a sharp distinction should be made between those Acadian French-speaking communities where education in French is the norm (outside of Quebec, this basically means northern New Brunswick) and those where it is not (=the rest of Atlantic Canada, by and large). Members of the former communities can adjust their speech to a more standard-like French when in the presence of a non-francophone interlocutor, unlike members of the latter communities, whose speech as a result can often be difficult for non-Acadians to understand.

    Back in the late nineties, in the very first linguistics course I ever taught, I had an Acadian student from northern New Brunswick who came by my office for questions, and over the semester as she grew more relaxed in my presence the number of Acadianisms she used grew noticeably, especially third person plural -ONT forms of the “ils pensiont”, “ils voulont” type (among the younger generation of Acadian French speakers in Northern New Brunswick this ending is quite alive and kicking, unlike the other two morphological peculiarities of Acadian French, that is to say preterite verbal forms in /i/ (singular) and /ir/ (plural) on the one hand and first person plural JE (je pensons “we think”) on the other).

    Marie-Lucie: /x/ in the place of French palatal sibilants is known in some varieties of Quebec French too, but I am quite convinced that this was not a feature of either variety of French when they was transplanted to the New World, and thus that the similarity to similar developments in parts of France is a coincidence.

    2-An addendum to my earlier message: see

    http://thearchdruidreport.blogspot.ca/2013/08/the-ritual-theater-of-progress.html

    for a beautifully detailed description of Ritual Theatre.

  66. J. W. Brewer says:

    Calvinism as such has been highly marginal for a very long time in American Protestant culture, which became majority Arminian well before 1776, and has since evolved into a variety of other highly non-Calvinist phenomena, including what is pejoratively called “moralistic therapeutic deism.” The relentless self-improvement and boosterism and forced neighborly cheer and sometimes-empirically-implausible belief in the potentialities of free will and hard work and diverse other phenomena can usually be traced back via a longer or shorter causal chain to John Wesley or maybe (very lapsed Calvinist) Ben Franklin, but not to Jonathan Edwards. He’s a very American figure but kind of a crazed-genius bachelor great-uncle, who doesn’t really resemble any cousins our own age. My more rigorously Calvinistic colonial ancestors (some of whom were Francophones who came to colonial New York since they were even less welcome in New France then they had been in old France) would probably find it depressing.

    One can obviously claim that even very post-Calvinist societies bear the marks of their ancestry, but e.g. the rigorous Calvinism the Dutch practiced four hundred years ago is somehow part of the causal chain of everything from South African apartheid to Amsterdam hashish emporia to a certain strata of loanwords in Japanese, so . . . anything that explains that much is not necessarily very helpful.

  67. Hmm, I’m not sure if I agree with Etienne’s very essentialist explanation of anglo North American culture, but he is right on some points. For example, I’ll definitely agree that anglophone North Americans (and here it doesn’t really matter if we’re talking about Americans or Canadians) have a very narrow view of history and culture, as well as of diversity. To me, this is due to the fact that when one’s culture is the globally dominant one, one loses some perspective about the total cultural diversity of the world. It’s been well-observed, for example, that anglo North Americans tend to not be very aware of non-English cultural products, even those that otherwise enjoy international popularity. Living abroad, I’ve also noticed that anglo expats often describe instances where the country where they live differs in terms of culture or practices from the country where they’re from in terms of the former being “wrong”. And if we add to this the fact that they often believe they are the truest example of diversity in the world, being based on immigration and strong on celebrating cultural diversity (even though from where I’m standing it looks more like a celebration of folklore than of true diversity), we can see why they sometimes not understand cultural exceptions like Quebec.

    And the thing is that Etienne is also right that Quebec society is not such an exception. It’s interesting, but not really unique; what’s most special about it is that it’s geographically located smack dab in the heart of anglo North America, so it’s bound to attract the attention of anglophones who wonder what that’s all about. And this is where Paul Ogden’s assertion that the status of English as the global lingua franca dooms Quebec comes in play. There is no obvious reason why this should be the case, but he believes, and so do many like him, that there is only one direction the history of Quebec can take. It’s to basically become English-speaking, but while maintaining some cultural traditions (what Etienne deems folklore and songs), which will enrich the Canadian cultural mosaic. But they won’t otherwise “cause problems” by being different. So Quebec history since the 1960s tends to be framed by such people in terms of going against the very direction of human history and progress. But the fact is that it’s only this way if we accept a very narrow view of the diversity of world cultures.

    John Cowan:

    That’s typical of European minority groups: minority rights, where they exist (not in France!) are territorial, not personal.

    I’ll agree with this, with the caveat that francophone Quebecers would not perceive themselves as a “minority group”, at least within the boundaries of Quebec.

  68. seen from Western Europe Quebec looks quite banal

    Seen from Australia, however, it looks quite North American:

    OK, I don’t think I was actually at any risk of life or limb. Except if I kept eating poutine. Put on almost 2 kg in 10 days. They really do eat like North Americans there. That was my first eye-opener that no, this was not France: they may not all want to make common cause with Anglo-Canada, but they still have a lot more in common with Anglo-Canada or the States than with Vieille-France. The other thing they do differently than France is French […].

    Now, Calvinism, with its doctrine that we mortals are already divided into the saved and the damned, and that nothing we say or do individually or collectively can change our status, is radically different from Catholicism, with its doctrine that potentially all Catholics, if they truly believe, truly repent their sins and respect Church teachings, can be saved.

    Umm, well, not so much. The doctrine of unconditional election, namely that we are all sitting in a pot, and God pulls some of us out to be sent to Heaven and leaves the rest in the pot (to be boiled later), is Calvinist, but it is not inconsistent with Catholicism. Thomas Aquinas explained it thus, long before Calvin:

    God wills to manifest his goodness in men: in respect to those whom he predestines, by means of his mercy, in sparing them; and in respect of others, whom he reprobates, by means of his justice, in punishing them. This is the reason why God elects some and rejects others […]. Yet why he chooses some for glory and reprobates others has no reason except the divine will. Hence Augustine says, ‘Why he draws one, and another he draws not, seek not to judge, if thou dost not wish to err.’

    Catholics are free to accept this doctrine with Aquinas or reject it with Molina. What Catholics are not free to accept (and only a minority of Calvinists believe) is the doctrine of “double predestination”, that God actively pushes the majority of mankind into the pot. Not so: our sins are quite enough to damn us.

    What is more, under unconditional election, whether Catholic or Calvinist, the apparent cause and effect are reversed: God does not choose for salvation those who “truly believe, truly repent their sins and respect Church teachings”; rather, they truly believe etc. etc. because God has chosen them.

    Now I grant that at the level of popular understanding, Catholics tend to reject unconditional election because it is Calvinist, but not so the Church.

    the core importance of Blacks as a “Pariah” group

    See WP on mudsill theory. Unsurprisingly, the term was invented by a pre-Civil-War governor of South Carolina, which is at the extreme of American society in so many ways.

    extremely passive behavior of the undergraduates I taught to in the American South made perfect sense

    I haven’t read the book, but every American with half a brain knows that post-elementary education is a farce, something to be gotten through with as little investment in learning as possible. Essentially all my own education was and is self-education, and I think that’s true of most educated Americans.

  69. francophone Quebecers would not perceive themselves as a “minority group”

    I meant in the context of Canada as a whole.

  70. every American with half a brain knows that post-elementary education is a farce, something to be gotten through with as little investment in learning as possible.

    It is quite possible I have less than half a brain, but I must dissent from this. I learned a great deal in my post-elementary education. (It’s true that until I got to college that education did not take place on American soil, but you did not make that a postulate of your statement.)

  71. Good point, but the restriction was implicit: education elsewhere is something I know little about. Seee Paul Graham’s classic 2003 essay “Why Nerds Are Unpopular”:

    Kids are sent off to spend six years memorizing meaningless facts in a world ruled by a caste of giants who run after an oblong brown ball, as if this were the most natural thing in the world. And if they balk at this surreal cocktail, they’re called misfits.

    […]

    In my high school French class we were supposed to read Hugo’s Les Miserables. I don’t think any of us knew French well enough to make our way through this enormous book. Like the rest of the class, I just skimmed the Cliff’s Notes. When we were given a test on the book, I noticed that the questions sounded odd. They were full of long words that our teacher wouldn’t have used. Where had these questions come from? From the Cliff’s Notes, it turned out. The teacher was using them too. We were all just pretending.

    […]

    We have a phrase to describe what happens when rankings have to be created without any meaningful criteria. We say that the situation degenerates into a popularity contest. And that’s exactly what happens in most American schools. Instead of depending on some real test, one’s rank depends mostly on one’s ability to increase one’s rank. It’s like the court of Louis XIV. There is no external opponent, so the kids become one another’s opponents.

    When there is some real external test of skill, it isn’t painful to be at the bottom of the hierarchy. A rookie on a football team doesn’t resent the skill of the veteran; he hopes to be like him one day and is happy to have the chance to learn from him. The veteran may in turn feel a sense of noblesse oblige. And most importantly, their status depends on how well they do against opponents, not on whether they can push the other down.

    Court hierarchies are another thing entirely. This type of society debases anyone who enters it. There is neither admiration at the bottom, nor noblesse oblige at the top. It’s kill or be killed.

    This is the sort of society that gets created in American secondary schools. And it happens because these schools have no real purpose beyond keeping the kids all in one place for a certain number of hours each day. What I didn’t realize at the time, and in fact didn’t realize till very recently, is that the twin horrors of school life, the cruelty and the boredom, both have the same cause.

  72. gwenllian says:

    Marc, thanks for the informative post! I’d assumed intelligibility with Ontario French (and French west of Quebec in general) given its descent from Quebecois French so I didn’t ask but I’m really glad to have your impressions of it. When you say „I guess I’m picking up on some particularities of their speech that resemble this to a certain extent“, are you saying you think Franco-Ontarians sound like that not because of English influence but because of some other dialectal particularities?

    This sound correspondence is not peculiar to Acadian dialects: it occurs in rural French dialects of the mid-Atlantic French coast, where the ancestors of the Acadians came from. I have also heard it from some francophones from the Canadian prairies, but not recently.

    I’d love to be able to hear this!

    One major difference between Acadian and Quebec pronunciations is the realization of the nasal vowels. The Acadian vowels sound to me basically the same as my own (although some areas make a difference between the vowels of tente ‘tent’ and tante ‘aunt’, or the two vowels of enfant‘child’), while the Quebec ones appear to have shifted in a direction opposite to that of the corresponding nasals in France. (My own pronunciation, being “older”, is no longer representative of the “standard” one). There are many other differences as well, and there are several Acadian dialects.

    Thanks, m-l! I only have a very limited passive knowledge of French. Things like –ont third person plural endings and the alveolar r are what jumps out at once, but most everything else just flies over my head. Too bad the alveolar r is doomed, I think it sounds lovely in French. Unpopular opinion, I know.

    1-On Acadian French: a sharp distinction should be made between those Acadian French-speaking communities where education in French is the norm (outside of Quebec, this basically means northern New Brunswick) and those where it is not (=the rest of Atlantic Canada, by and large)

    I think education is French for native French speakers has been the norm throughout Atlantic Canada for a while now. Certainly in SE New Brunswick. Googling it now, the Acadian school board in Nova Scotia is the only one in NS seeing an enrolment surge (not actually good for the preservation of a French-speaking environment, since it indicates quite a few of the children enrolling are English-speaking, but it does seem most French-speaking children get an education in French).

    I am quite convinced that this was not a feature of either variety of French when they was transplanted to the New World, and thus that the similarity to similar developments in parts of France is a coincidence.

    Could you explain this a bit more?

  73. My theory is that at an unconscious level Americans, at the core, remain just as staunchly Calvinistic as their forefathers in colonial times were (since the loyalist migrants who founded anglophone Canada -minus Newfoundland-came from the thirteen colonies it will be understood that I include them as “Americans”). Quebec, quite apart from its linguistic distinctiveness, remains deeply Catholic in its basic mindset.

    Now, Calvinism, with its doctrine that we mortals are already divided into the saved and the damned, *and that nothing we say or do individually or collectively can change our status*, is radically different from Catholicism, with its doctrine that potentially all Catholics, if they truly believe, truly repent their sins and respect Church teachings, can be saved.

    Being born into it, perhaps in most respects I have been culturally assimilated into the Toronto chapter of the North American anglophonie. My heritage, though, says almost nothing about salvation and damnation. It does say that God will not grant me forgiveness for a sin that I have committed against another person. Only that person can grant me forgiveness.

    __________________________________

    This entire Quebec vs ROC bit is tiring.

  74. John Cowan: actually, seen from Australia or New Zealand Quebec looks far more normal than the United States does. In terms of life expectancy, infant mortality, social mobility/gini index, murder rate and the like, all three societies have more in common with one another than any does with the United States. Place Quebec in the South Pacific between Australia and New Zealand (considering that most of Quebec has just experienced the coldest month of February on record, I think that most would love the idea), and it most definitely would not stick out socially except linguistically.

    (Well, okay, most of our culinary traditions would also have to go: the thing about poutine is that eating it is not that harmful to your waistline if you spend a fair amount of time outside in wintertime up here, but I could see that in an Australian-type climate regular consumption would swiftly prove lethal).

    Which is quite odd, because all three societies are heavily influenced by the United States and have little/limited direct contact with one another (for rather obvious geographical reasons). The same could be said of most first world societies. My theory may or may not be true, but I am convinced that it is heuristically sound: there is a set of properties relating to American society that are not found elsewhere in the first world, despite heavy American influence.

    Finally, Mark Ames’ book seems to be very much in agreement with Paul Graham’s essay.

    Eli Nelson: Emmanuel Todd actually explicitly argues that Mexico is practically the mirror image of the United States: a Catholic Latin country with little racial conflict, but extreme instability of political institutions. I suspect that among first world countries the same could be said of Italy. If you do not read French I strongly recommend you read those books of his which have been translated into English: there is no way I could do their contents justice in these comments.

  75. J. W. Brewer says:

    Homicide rates vary dramatically by region in both the US and Canada. Interestingly enough, with the notable exception of Michigan, which does not have a land border, every US state bordering Canada has a well-below average homicide rate,and Quebec-bordering Vt. and N.H. are in the bottom 5 out of the 50 states, with Me. just a tiny bit higher than that. Things get more violent in Canada as you head west – Manitoba’s rate would be around median within the 50 states but is notably higher than the US states it borders. Montana’s rate is higher than Alberta but lower than Saskatchewan. BC is tied with Idaho, but better than Washington state. (These are all 2013 figures, which generally reflect overall decreases in homicide rate on both sides of the border.)

    If Australia and NZ resemble Quebec, then ancestral Calvinism-v.-Catholicism is not providing much explanatory power. (We do have to this day an ancestrally Calvinist Francophone society in parts of Switzerland, so that could be another datapoint.)

  76. marie-lucie says:

    immigrants to Quebec

    Immigrants might prefer to learn English (although their children will go to French language schools), but there are many immigrants from French-speaking countries too, notably Haiti and North and West Afroca, in addition to some from France and Belgium.

    Acadian French

    I mention some peculiarities of pronunciation, leaving aside the differences in morphology, since pronunciation is what most strikes outsiders faced with an unfamiliar dialect. You first need to recognize a majority of familiar words before you notice oddities of conjugation and other grammatical features.

  77. Gwenllian: it’s quite simple really. A shift from palatal sibilants to velar fricatives (such as /x/) is quite common, cross-linguistically, in languages which did not have velar fricatives to begin with. The reason is that phonemes do not exist in isolation: they exist in relation to other phonemes, and thus, if a language has dental and palatal sibilants (such as French or Medieval Spanish), for the latter to move further back to the mouth and become velar maximizes the acoustic distinctiveness between the two sets of phonemes…again, if there didn’t exist any velar fricative phoneme to begin with.

    Now, tellingly, this is exactly what happened to Spanish, starting in the sixteenth century. As Spanish influence upon Acadian or Quebec French, or vice-versa, is quite out of the question, the possibility exists that the shift of palatal sibilants to /x/ in varieties of Acadian and Quebec French might likewise not be related to similar such changes in parts of France. In the case of Quebec French, linguistic geography points to this rise of /x/ as a late innovation, which began North of Quebec City: tellingly, further South, no trace of such a pronunciation is found. This is incompatible with the idea of its being an inherited pronunciation, because when older linguistic features are lost they typically survive in *various* isolated areas. Indeed, in the French spoken by the Metis in the Canadian prairies, which must have broken off from “mainstream” Quebec French the earliest, there is no trace of this pronunciation.

  78. Re: global hegemony of English.

    Anglo-American linguistic arrogance and expectation that everyone, everywhere should speak English is not unique. I haven’t encountered its French equivalent, but I’ve seen similar attitude among Russians frequently enough.

    Most striking example occured in Paris, in a small cafeteria on Eiffel Tower. Two provincial looking middle-age Russian women were ordering hamburgers in very loud Russian from Algerian-looking waiter with absolute certitude that they would be understood and served correctly.

    Scenes like that occur everyday in every place frequented by Russian tourists throughout the world. And such arrogance backed with purchasing power does produce results – Russian could be heard spoken by shopkeepers and waiters in strangest places which never had any connection to Russia before.

  79. …anglo expats often describe instances where the country where they live differs in terms of culture or practices from the country where they’re from in terms of the former being “wrong”. And if we add to this the fact that they often believe they are the truest example of diversity in the world, being based on immigration and strong on celebrating cultural diversity (even though from where I’m standing it looks more like a celebration of folklore than of true diversity)…

    I’m pretty sure that Calvinism isn’t up to bearing the load Etienne has placed on it, but this might just be a matter of labels. What Marc describes in the quote above is certainly my experience abroad. Many American expats in particular can be absolutely insufferable on this point. And when challenged by myself, their countryman, the response is almost always a revealingly incredulous “Are you saying you approve of/ defend/ think people should uphold [cultural practice X]!?” As if one right way of being had to be decided upon! As if we were the deciders!

    I’d be really interested to know at what point the pageant of the world’s diversity began to be experienced, quite literally, as so many candidates implicitly presenting themselves for our evaluation. Can such a mindset truly go back to the Colonies?

  80. every American with half a brain knows that post-elementary education is a farce, something to be gotten through with as little investment in learning as possible. Essentially all my own education was and is self-education, and I think that’s true of most educated Americans.

    I don’t think so, and I feel sorry for you if your schooling was that bad. My high school had many engaged and knowledgeable teachers, particularly in German, English and History. From what I have seen lately, the school systems in the Boston suburbs, at least, are still full of motivated, intellectually curious students. Of course any generalization about a country as large and diverse as the US is probably easily countered with specific examples.

  81. I’m pretty sure that Calvinism isn’t up to bearing the load Etienne has placed on it, but this might just be a matter of labels. What Marc describes in the quote above is certainly my experience abroad.

    I agree with both points. I doubt it’s Calvinism, but the phenomenon is real.

  82. gwenllian says:

    Linguistic purism in Icelandic is very real and powerful, though not almighty.

    You’d think Icelandic linguistic purism would be even more doomed than most. Fluency in English is very widespread and it’s the nation with the highest percentage of Internet users.

    Somewhat germane to this discussion, last night my wife and I had dinner with a delightful German student studying at a university here (U.S.) She is studying Arabic so much of our discussions were about language. During the discussion, I mentioned my observation that German seems to be the predominate second language in some of the East European countries. She said that this was true of my generation (ancient), but that English was the overwhelming preference of her generation.

    English is definitely number one. It has no real competition for that spot. Not sure how it functions elsewhere, but here students in gymnasiums have to take a second modern foreign language. Usually it’s German or, in certain parts of Slovenia and Croatia, Italian. But more importantly, those languages are still seen as useful, even if nowhere close to the way they were seen in the past. So they’re still around.

  83. On April 8, the Ottawa Citizen published a story based on a federal government study called “Portrait of Official Languages Groups in the Ottawa Area.”

    I’ll post the entire article with a link at the bottom.

    French losing ground to English, immigrants in Ottawa
    A new study shows that demographic forces are slowly eroding the French character of Ottawa.

    Andrew Duffy
    April 8, 2015

    The growth of Ottawa’s francophone community has not kept pace with the English-speaking community, which has been bolstered by a steady influx of immigrants, the vast majority of whom adopt English after their arrival. English is now the first official language spoken by 82.3 per cent of the 872,000 people in the Ottawa census area, according to the study published by the Office of the Commissioner of Official Languages.

    French is the first official language for 16.4 per cent of residents — down from 19.5 per cent in 1981.

    A small percentage of people report that they speak neither official language.

    The federal study, Portrait of Official Languages Groups in the Ottawa Area, is based on an analysis of Statistics Canada census data. It shows that the city’s overall population increased by more than 330,000 between 1981 and 2011.

    Ottawa’s French-speaking community — defined as those whose mother tongue is French — grew by 26.1 per cent during that time span. But the English-speaking community enjoyed much more robust growth (45.9 per cent) as did the population of immigrants whose first language is neither English nor French (225.1 per cent).

    What’s more, since immigrants tend to learn English after their arrival, the proportion of Ottawa residents who use English has gone up by 2.7 percentage points during the past three decades, while the proportion of those who use French has gone down by 3.2 percentage points.

    Jacques de Courville Nicol, leader of a group dedicated to making Ottawa officially bilingual, said the study shows that the city is headed toward a unilingual future unless more is done to secure the place of the French language.

    “Sadly, I think we’re on the road to becoming a unilingual capital, which is not a great signal to send to the rest of the country and the rest of the world,” he said.

    De Courville Nicol said English and French must have equal status, rights and privileges within the City of Ottawa. Ottawa has a bilingualism policy that commits the city to offering services in both official languages, but it stops short of the kind of official bilingualism that governs federal institutions.

    “I get discouraged when I see so little concern outside of Quebec for the French language and the French community,” De Courville Nicol said.

    The federal study on language communities includes other statistics that point to the erosion French’s historic place within Ottawa.

    For one thing, fewer people speak the language inside their own homes. Even though 15 per cent of Ottawa residents reported French as their mother tongue, only six per cent told Statistics Canada in 2011 that they use French exclusively at home.

    Not surprisingly, English also dominates the workplace. Among Ottawa workers who reported English as their mother tongue, 17.8 per cent said they used French at work, mostly as a secondary language.

    By contrast, the vast majority (90.6 per cent) of workers whose first language was French reported using English at work. More than half of those employees (60.9 per cent) said they used English more than French in the workplace.

    Another demographic factor is also working to dilute Ottawa’s French flavour: age. As compared to francophones, the city’s English-speaking community has a larger proportion of people under the age of 34, and a smaller proportion over the age of 45.

    Ottawa’s francophones are best equipped to manage in a bilingual environment. Overall, 36.9 per cent of people in Ottawa said they could conduct a conversation in both official languages. Those who reported French as their mother tongue were much more likely (90.9 per cent) to be bilingual than those who cited English (29.4 per cent).

    The linguistic ability of francophones has economic consequences. In 2011, members of the city’s French-language community enjoyed a lower unemployment rate (5.2 per cent) than their English counterparts (6.7 per cent), while also bringing home slightly larger average paycheques.

    Key dates in Ottawa’s francophone history

    1926: A secret society, The Order of Jacques Cartier, is established to promote the interests of French Canadians, who face discrimination in schools and workplaces

    1949: The province’s first bilingual public high school, Eastview High School, is founded

    1953: Ontario’s only French-speaking hospital, Montfort Hospital, is established

    1969: École André-Laurendeau becomes the province’s first French-speaking public high school

    2001: Ottawa City Council enacts a bilingualism policy, affirming its commitment to providing services in both official languages

    http://ottawacitizen.com/news/local-news/french-losing-ground-to-english-immigrants-in-ottawa

    There’s a link to the study at the Ottawa Citizen page, as well as an informative graphic.

  84. The Portrait of Official Languages Groups in the Ottawa Area published by the Office of the Commissioner of Official Languages contains lots and lots of data. It’s about 10K words, where words also indicate numbers (the count is from Microsoft Word). The publication date is not directly mentioned, though the introduction says it was written in June 2014.

  85. J. W. Brewer says:

    Re the Ottawa numbers, given that even 30 years prior local Anglophones already outnumbered local Francophones by almost a 4:1 ratio, it seems highly unsurprising that newly-arrived allophone immigrants have disproportionately adopted English rather than French. The “natural experiment” you would want data on would be an area where the native-born Anglo and Franco populations are almost the same size, to see whether new immigrants disproportionately favored one over the other.

  86. J. W. Brewer says:

    Also FWIW the Ottawa figures seem to be for the city proper, not the entire metropolitan area. Since about 25-30% of the metropolitan area’s population is on the Quebec side of the river and that population is about 80% Francophone (and apparently some federal office buildings are for historical/political reasons located on the Quebec side of the river and no doubt some people who work on the Ontario side commute in from the Quebec side), that might materially change the overall picture of the “capital region” if not the capital strictu sensu.

  87. David Marjanović says:

    One major difference between Acadian and Quebec pronunciations is the realization of the nasal vowels. The Acadian vowels sound to me basically the same as my own (although some areas make a difference between the vowels of tente ‘tent’ and tante ‘aunt’, or the two vowels of enfant ‘child’), while the Quebec ones appear to have shifted in a direction opposite to that of the corresponding nasals in France.

    Yep. The dictionaries claim that the in vowel is [ɛ̃], differing from è only by nasality. I have not actually heard such a pronunciation (perhaps because I’m young and haven’t traveled that much). In France today, it’s [æ̃], while in Quebec it’s [ẽ], differing from é only by nasality: Canadien [k̟anad͡zjẽ].

    On the other hand, the an/en vowel is still unrounded in Quebec, [ɑ̃], as the dictionaries would have it. In France it’s rounded (and usually central rather than back, I think, so “[ɒ̃]” isn’t quite accurate – wait, some seem to have rotated it further, so it encroaches upon on territory, which is back).

    “How ya doin’?” is a greeting and not a request about one’s well-being

    For two weeks in France in 2004, one guy “asked” me ça va ? every day, and eventually explained that that was just a greeting. He was from La Réunion, though; maybe that changes things…

    first person plural JE

    what is this I can’t even

    OK, Nostratic and the like just became a whole lot more plausible. 😉

    Being born into it, perhaps in most respects I have been culturally assimilated into the Toronto chapter of the North American anglophonie. My heritage, though, says almost nothing about salvation and damnation.

    I keep being struck by how “evangelical” Catholics in the US are.

    argues that Mexico is practically the mirror image of the United States: a Catholic Latin country with little racial conflict, but extreme instability of political institutions

    What about the Party of the Institutionalized Revolution that governed for 70 years straight? 🙂

  88. gwenllian says:

    The “natural experiment” you would want data on would be an area where the native-born Anglo and Franco populations are almost the same size, to see whether new immigrants disproportionately favored one over the other.

    That Ottawa will be less and less French is obvious even without looking at the data. In Quebec it took compulsory French education and other regulations to turn the tide and get allophones to start choosing French. Almost half still don’t. People can say anything they want about Bill 101, but, without it, French in Montreal is dead. And without Montreal…

  89. Elessorn, Hat, Marc: actually, in my own experience the French are far more consistently haughty and aloof abroad than Americans, and a bit paradoxically I think the Calvinistic mentality may help explain this: in my experience Americans whose background makes them socially disadvantaged in some ways (non-white, working class, rural…) tend to experience life abroad as a form of liberation, and indeed of the several Americans I have known in Quebec it is the ones from such a socially disadvantaged background who tended to be the least socially remote (a few made some very shrewd observations about Quebec society too).

    By contrast, French expatriates and immigrants in Quebec remain, in my experience, arrogant and clueless to an almost autistic-like degree, no matter what their social class is.

    My hunch (it’s no more than that) is that American expatriates from a disadvantaged background, or who are socially peripheral in some other way (ideas, interests, ideologies…) experience life abroad as a form of liberation from the constraint of their status as a “damned” caste within the United States. By contrast, French expatriates with a similar background experience no such liberation and hence remain as aristocratic and aloof, abroad, as their social “betters”.

    Consider the role played by Paris as a haven for American artists and writers in the twentieth century, especially Black Americans. By contrast, expatriation seems to have played a much more limited role for French writers/artists, including those who were closer to the bottom than to the top of the social pecking order in France itself.

  90. J. W. Brewer says:

    Just re the “without Montreal,” point, that assumes that Montreal will require a continuous influx of allophone immigrants in order to be able to survive and flourish, so the status of French depends on success in getting those immigrants to assimilate to French rather than English. But that whole assumption (to return to an earlier theme) would not (necessarily) need to be the case if the indigenous Quebecois had a higher birthrate.

  91. without Montreal

    Few, if any, cities could survive on natural increase alone. Historically this was due to bad sanitation; now it’s probably due to the lack of economic pressure to have children as low-wage family laborers.

    Paris as a haven

    But it was equally a haven for (mostly Arminian) Brits during the same period, suggesting that it was more about Anglo-Saxonism than Calvinism.

  92. marie-lucie says:

    David M: first person plural JE

    Like Etienne said, this means using JE instead of NOUS together with the plural verbal form, so : 1st singular: je pense, 1st plural: je pensons. As in colloquial standard French, using NOUS only as a non-Subject pronoun. The -on- formant is generalized to the 3rd plural: ils/elles pensont. Similarly j’avons, ils/elles avont (instead of Standard nous avons, ils/elles ont).

    The history of many languages shows that the 1st and 2nd Singular pronouns are highly resistant to change (barring phonetic changes shared throughout the language), but the 1st Plural equivalents are much more likely to be replaced, as with French ON which started as an indefinite pronoun but has now largely taken over from NOUS as the 1st Plural Subject pronoun. When I started learning English I was astonished that in English, even children used “we” all the time. It was supposed to mean NOUS, which French children never used for a Subject!

  93. marie-lucie says:

    David: The dictionaries claim that the in vowel is [ɛ̃], differing from è only by nasality. I have not actually heard such a pronunciation (perhaps because I’m young and haven’t traveled that much). In France today, it’s [æ̃], while in Quebec it’s [ẽ], differing from é only by nasality: Canadien [k̟anad͡zjẽ].

    The dictionaries tend to follow older descriptions of French phonology unless the pronunciation has become markedly different. I have not found a dictionary that differentiated in and ain, as in pin ‘pine (tree) and pain ‘bread’, although I can differentiate them (but the difference is slight). As an exemple, in a recent conversation with one of my sisters (who has always lived in France, mostly in the Paris area), she mentioned a musical piece, the title of which I interpreted as Les pains de Rome ‘the loaves of Rome”. Puzzled, I repeated these words, and she said Non! les PINS de Rome! “the Pines of Rome’. But a more open pronunciation of both with [æ̃] is considered standard now. Actually, when I was a student in Paris in the early 60’s I had already noticed that young Parisians were saying main ‘hand’ with a vowel which reminded me of older people’s pronunciation of un, and this pronunciation has actually gained ground. As for that of an, the back rounded pronunciation is also relatively recent. It used to be back, but not rounded.

  94. marie-lucie says:

    Etienne: expatriation and liberation

    I think that there is quite a bit of truth in what you say, but just a few comments.

    France has always been a country of refuge rather than expatriation. With respect to recent French immigration to Quebec, I understand that after the Algerian war and the repatriation of most Pieds-Noirs (colonists of non-Arab origin), those people, many of whom were not ethnically French (but rather of Spanish, Italian, Jewish origin, so that they had no relatives in France) were only grudgingly accepted within France and found a more congenial, “liberating” French-speaking environment in Quebec, where they were considered as “French”. The fact that they came at a time when most Quebec speech at the time sounded quite different from their own (which was distinctly recognizable to French ears in France but more “standard” than that of most Quebecois of the period) would have reinforced their “arrogance” (both perceived and actual).

    I think that any French writers and artists who became expatriates or immigrated elsewhere mostly did so for personal reasons, not as an identifiable group such as the American writers (Hemingway etc) between the two wars and the black musicians and other artists after WWII. Those two American groups were expatriates, not immigrants, since they did not intend to settle in France permanently and their cultural ties were with the US.

  95. marie-lucie says:

    Most of the comments here with respect to immigration into Quebec (and Ottawa) seem to assume that the future of French will depend on “allophone” immigrants learning French rather than English. But as I said earlier, there are large numbers of French-speaking immigrants from Haiti and other French-speaking islands and the former French colonies in West Africa.

  96. J. W. Brewer says:

    John C.: it’s not necessarily the city’s own natural increase in isolation but can be internal migration to the Big City from a relevant hinterland where people speak the same L1. For example, much of the population growth of Rio de Janeiro over the last few generations has been people coming in from the more rural parts of Brazil rather than non-Lusophone immigrants coming from outside the country.

    Obviously marie-lucie took the precaution of going to Nova Scotia so she wouldn’t be perceived as arrogant by the locals . . .

  97. JWB: Oh, absolutely: most of the in-migration to most cities is from their own hinterlands (I’m one of those myself, having grown up in New Jersey).

  98. J. W. Brewer says:

    marie-lucie, I think some of the stats posted earlier treated Haitian immigrants to Quebec as allophones (because of not classifying Kreyol as a mere variety of French) and then gave them full credit for becoming functional in French as if it were a brand-new L2 for them. How much exposure to or competence in standard French they might already have upon arrival as a result of their experiences in Haiti (in school and elsewhere) no doubt varies by individual.

  99. By the way, having had the pleasure of meeting Marie-Lucie in person at a conference a couple of years ago, I wish to assure hatters most emphatically that my less than flattering words about the typical French migrant or expatriate were definitely *not* meant to include her! My apologies, I really should have included that in my original comment…

  100. gwenllian says:

    International immigration is today the main source of Montreal’s growth.

    Most of the comments here with respect to immigration into Quebec (and Ottawa) seem to assume that the future of French will depend on “allophone” immigrants learning French rather than English. But as I said earlier, there are large numbers of French-speaking immigrants from Haiti and other French-speaking islands and the former French colonies in West Africa.

    All of them (and French-speaking Arabs) are counted as allophones as long as French isn’t their 1st language. Which actually shows us how vulnerable French is in Montreal. Even with all these allophones who are already familiar with French, almost half of the allophone population assimilates to English. Which means that Quebec still has great difficulty getting the many allophones who aren’t already familiar with the language to choose French. The exceptions are Spanish and Portuguese speakers, for obvious reasons. And even this slight majority of all allophones (familiar with French or not) choosing French took many years to get to and is by no means secure and stable at this time.

  101. marie-lucie says:

    Merci, Etienne! I did not think you had me in mind. It was a pleasure to meet you too.

    Having taught in a department with colleagues who were mostly from France, none of whom knew anything of linguistics, let alone sociolinguistics, I have encountered the attitudes you describe. But i don’t consider myself the typical French academic migrant. I had had more varied experiences than my colleagues had, including several years in a native community in BC, so I was not as culturally bound as they were. They thought I was “very assimilated”.

  102. I have never seen the term “allophone” used as it is here. What is the origin of this term (as used here).

  103. marie-lucie says:

    I think “allophone” was coined in Quebec (by the government agency in charge of creating new words) to refer to speakers of languages “other” than English and French (so a counterpart to “anglophone” and “francophone”). The identity with the linguistic termn is unlikely to cause communication problems since the contexts of use are so different.

  104. Indeed, it had never even occurred to me that the two words are homonyms, so little did I associate them with each other.

  105. George Gibbard says:

    marie-lucie, can you describe (in IPA or otherwise) what your distinction between pin and pain actually sounds like?

  106. gwenllian says:

    In the case of Quebec French, linguistic geography points to this rise of /x/ as a late innovation, which began North of Quebec City: tellingly, further South, no trace of such a pronunciation is found. This is incompatible with the idea of its being an inherited pronunciation, because when older linguistic features are lost they typically survive in *various* isolated areas. Indeed, in the French spoken by the Metis in the Canadian prairies, which must have broken off from “mainstream” Quebec French the earliest, there is no trace of this pronunciation.

    Sorry, I missed this. When would you say the innovation developed in Canada?

  107. Marc – April 12, 2015 at 3:46 pm: the pound or hash sign is called dièse in French, as this is the word for the “sharp” sign (in music) which looks quite similar.

    Similar but not identical. A number of learned people disagree about the fact that the hashtag is a dièse (musical sign), which has inclined ‘horizontal’ lines whereas the croisillon is the one with perfectly horizontal lines. http://rocbo.lautre.net/spip/IMG/gif/HashtagAndDiese.gif

     
    Étienne – April 11, 2015 at 6:39 pm: Quebec French enjoys remarkably strong (often covert) prestige within Quebec, which from this point of view is very much an anomaly in the French-speaking world.

    I don’t think it is such an anomaly. The local form of French is often a sine qua non to be seen as someone really belonging to the land. French forms of French would be understood of course, but there would always be the feeling that those speaking like that are foreigners, i.e. not part of “our group”, not part of “our place”. Even if some people might be tempted to speak the “French way” with French people (to show they are not the ordinary rabble), a large number would not be ashamed at all to talk with their local accent and their local expressions. Too bad if the other doesn’t get the message — he’s in your country after all.

     
    “Journal Officiel de la République Française n°0019 du 23 janvier 2013 page 1515 – texte n° 103
    mot-dièse, n.m.
    Domaine : Télécommunications-Informatique/Internet.
    Définition : Suite signifiante de caractères sans espace commençant par le signe # (dièse), qui signale un sujet d’intérêt et est insérée dans un message par son rédacteur afin d’en faciliter le repérage.”
    http://www.legifrance.gouv.fr/affichTexte.do?cidTexte=JORFTEXT000026972451

    It is always amazing, and somewhat baffling, to see a country passing laws telling people how they should speak and what words they should use. I wonder how many states in the world have this type of legislation.

  108. marie-lucie says:

    Quebec French prestige:

    Not too long ago I read something written by a professor from France teaching literature in a university in Montreal. The students were all Quebecois and had the local accent. But once (in a seminar or small class) one girl was now speaking with a perfect standard accent! He was amazed and his facial expression made this obvious, whereupon the whole class exploded in laughter: the girl was actually mocking his own accent! He was a good sport about it and got the point.

    prescribing vocabulary

    No, this is not “language police” listening to people and giving them tickets (or worse) for using the wrong word. It is more about using a standardized vocabulary for technical purposes, as in instruction manuals. Words or phrases that are too cumbersome (like the suggested equivalent for WiFi) will be ignored in general use.

  109. David Marjanović says:

    Actually, when I was a student in Paris in the early 60′s I had already noticed that young Parisians were saying main ‘hand’ with a vowel which reminded me of older people’s pronunciation of un

    Interesting. Not the other way around?

    I ask because in and un have indeed merged in Paris, recently enough that the merger hasn’t spread far (and is of course not reflected in dictionaries or textbooks); indeed, the colleague from southern France complains about it. 🙂 But the merger is one of un into in, so that both are pronounced [æ̃] in Paris; unmerged un is rounded, [œ̃], exactly as the reference works transcribe it.

    Before this thread I had never heard of a lack of the pin-pain merger. Please tell us more! 🙂

  110. David Marjanović says:

    It is always amazing, and somewhat baffling, to see a country passing laws telling people how they should speak and what words they should use.

    I’m even more amazed that the description of what a hashtag is is correct! 🙂

  111. gwenllian says:

    In the case of Quebec French, linguistic geography points to this rise of /x/ as a late innovation, which began North of Quebec City: tellingly, further South, no trace of such a pronunciation is found. This is incompatible with the idea of its being an inherited pronunciation, because when older linguistic features are lost they typically survive in *various* isolated areas. Indeed, in the French spoken by the Metis in the Canadian prairies, which must have broken off from “mainstream” Quebec French the earliest, there is no trace of this pronunciation.

    Sorry, missed this. When would you say it developed in Canada?

    In case Etienne sees this, or anyone else knows, I’m asking because it’s apparently also present in Louisiana French.

  112. marie-lucie says:

    The French-speaking Acadians of Louisiana had the same origin as the ones in Nova Scotia, so it is not surprising that their speech should have some of the same features.

  113. marie-lucie says:

    pin/pain

    The distinction is very slight but does exist although it is not usually described. In one of Henriette Walther’s books she cites the case of a young woman who insisted that she made a difference between vin and vain, and Walther and her team had to agree that she did make an audible difference.

    I think that I say [ɛ̃] in pin, vin and [æ̃] in pain, vain, although if in the middle of a sentence I might use an intermediate vowel. The two vowels have a different “mouth feel”.

  114. op tipping says:

    My Indian colleagues name the @ “at the rate”, eg they will give an email address as “vinu dot shastri at the rate hotmail dot com”. Confused me at first.

    Re French: It must be hard to admit that a huge effort supported by a large committee has been completely pointless. It’s hard to know what made them think it would help save French. English became the dominant language over a fairly short span despite being unregulated and chockful of loan words.

  115. gwenllian says:

    The French-speaking Acadians of Louisiana had the same origin as the ones in Nova Scotia, so it is not surprising that their speech should have some of the same features.

    Did this pronunciation come to Louisiana with the Acadians?

    Etienne wrote

    I am quite convinced that this was not a feature of either variety of French when they was transplanted to the New World, and thus that the similarity to similar developments in parts of France is a coincidence

    and pointed out that this pronunciation’s absence from Metis French points to it being a late innovation in Quebec French. If the pronunciation in Louisiana was brought there by Acadians, then it can’t have been a late development in Acadia, and I’m not sure why it couldn’t have been transplanted there from France.

  116. David Marjanović says:

    I think that I say [ɛ̃] in pin, vin and [æ̃] in pain, vain, although if in the middle of a sentence I might use an intermediate vowel. The two vowels have a different “mouth feel”.

    Very interesting; I’ll try to pay attention to this.

    (I should be able to hear the difference, because I’ve noticed that the Polish ę, [ɛ̃], isn’t quite the same as the French [æ̃] I’m used to.)

  117. marie-lucie says:

    David, you might not encounter a difference, especially among young people. In my own speech I feel the difference more than I hear it. But I also see a difference in lip position when looking in the mirror while saying a minimal pair. But I grew up in a linguistically conservative area and was also influenced by my father’s old-fashioned Parisian pronunciation.

    The loss of this difference is not new. As a girl, the future George Sand spent a few years in a boarding school run by English nuns (le couvent des Anglaises), where she learned some English. Her last name was Dupin, and some of her classmates mocked her because her name meant “Some bread” (du pain).

    Perhaps maintaining the difference in the nasal vowels parallels the case with the two [ɛ]’s, as in faite and faîte, or mètre, mettre and maître, where vowel in the second half of the pair is not only longer but lower. Not too long ago I heard someone on the French radio pronouncing kilomètre as if written “kilomaître” (suggesting “kilomaster”). The vowel probably indicated some sort of stylistic rather than phonemic difference.

  118. mètre, mettre and maître

    I’m not sure that I could hear a difference between the first two. The third, it seems to me, would be pronounced with a touch more (English) ‘ray’, as in hurray.

  119. gwenllian says:

    The French-speaking Acadians of Louisiana had the same origin as the ones in Nova Scotia, so it is not surprising that their speech should have some of the same features.

    Why did the Acadian name become so popular among French speakers in South Louisiana? Many (maybe even most?) Cajuns have little Acadian ancestry, and Acadian French seems to have had a very limited effect on the French spoken in Louisiana. The Acadian arrivals were not an influential elite, they were a rural and impoverished group. How did their name come to be adopted so widely in so many areas with little to no Acadian settlement?

  120. marie-lucie says:

    PO; mètre, mettre and maître

    Indeed there is no difference between the first two.

  121. Covert prestige, if I had to guess.

    Non-standard dialects are usually considered low-prestige, but in some situations dialects stigmatized by the education system still enjoy a covert prestige among working-class men for the very reason that they are considered incorrect. These situations occur when the speaker wants to gain recognition, acceptance, or solidarity with a specific—and non-prestigious—group of people, or to signal to other speakers their identification with that group. The idea of covert prestige was first introduced by William Labov, who noticed that even speakers who used non-standard dialects often believed that their own dialect was “bad” or “inferior”. Labov realized that there must be some underlying reason for their use of the dialect, which he identified as a signal of group identity.

  122. Edwin Edwards surely calls himself a Cajun, though he apparently has French but not Acadian ancestors, because he thought it would benefit him politically, though he may well also think that all, or at least all white rural, francophones in Louisiana now count as Cajuns.

    In Roach v. Dresser, the U.S. District Court ruled that “Acadian” counts as a national origin for the purpose of federal anti-discrimination laws, although it also asserted obiter that non-Acadian Cajuns would not be so protected. Not all Acadians were of French origin, so the court recognized Acadian ethnogenesis but not Cajun ethnogenesis, apparently because the former happened outside the U.S.

    Oddly, you can make a claim of national-origin discrimination if you can show that your name is associated with a particular national origin, even if you personally are not. As a hypo, you might claim that your employer discriminated against people of English national origin, and that you got caught up in that because your name is Davidson, even though you’re really an anglicized Russian Jew whose ancestors were probably named Davidovitch. On the other hand, the fact that Antisemites talk about the “Jewish race” doesn’t mean that antisemitism is a form of racial discrimination.

  123. gwenllian says:

    Interesting case. I googled Mr. Roach, and an article on his death calls him a hero of the Cajun pride movement.

    In Roach v. Dresser, the U.S. District Court ruled that “Acadian” counts as a national origin for the purpose of federal anti-discrimination laws, although it also asserted obiter that non-Acadian Cajuns would not be so protected. Not all Acadians were of French origin, so the court recognized Acadian ethnogenesis but not Cajun ethnogenesis, apparently because the former happened outside the U.S.

    I don’t know much about US laws. Is there any basis on which a non-Acadian Cajun and others in a similar situation could sue, other than the one of national origin (apparently defined by the Supreme Court as the country where a person was born, or, more broadly, the country from which is or her ancestors came)? For example, discrimination on the basis of ethnicity, as opposed to national origin? The purpose of these laws is presumably to protect people from discrimination, and, if no law protects people in this sort of situation, then surely that purpose is not really fulfilled. It would seem especially silly in case, since apparently it revolved around the term coonass, which isn’t a slur against Acadians but against Cajuns, regardless of their origin.

    Oddly, you can make a claim of national-origin discrimination if you can show that your name is associated with a particular national origin, even if you personally are not.

    This seems fair to me. If it can be proven that your employer treated you unfairly because he believed you to be of a certain national origin, that should be all that matters. Also, how is associated defined here? You could say a name like Brouillette (Edwin Edwards’ mother’s maiden name) is associated with Acadian origin. It’s not actually Acadian, but I’d bet pretty much all anglophone-descend and many francophone-descended people in Louisiana (including a lot of Brouillettes themselves) believe it to be.

    On the other hand, the fact that Antisemites talk about the “Jewish race” doesn’t mean that antisemitism is a form of racial discrimination.

    Again, I’d say it’s the way the employer sees the person they are discriminating against should matter for a lawsuit. I think a Jewish person should be able to sue for racial discrimination if it can be proven that the employer treated them unfairly because of racist beliefs. But I’m no lawyer, so this is just my not very well informed opinion.

  124. I don’t know much about US laws.

    Under Federal law (per Wikipedia), employers generally cannot discriminate against employees on the basis of: race, sex, pregnancy status, religion, national origin, disability (physical or mental), age (over 40), military service or lack thereof, bankruptcy or bad debts (even if owed to the employer!), genetic information, or citizenship status (for those legally resident in the U.S.) But you can discriminate against people from a particular state, or people brought up in a city rather than the country, if you want to. More restrictive local laws exist: LGBT-based discrimination is illegal in NYC but not nationally. If the employer can show a “bona fide occupational qualification”, that is, a reason to discriminate relevant to the job (e.g. sex discrimination in bathroom attendants), they can escape these provisions.

    I’d say it’s the way the employer sees the person they are discriminating against

    That’s what the Jewish plaintiffs in this case (which I can’t now find) thought, but the judge ruled that the definition of “race” is intersubjective, not merely subjective. If someone refused to hire David Marjanović because they thought he was black (confusing native Austrians with Native Australians, no doubt), he wouldn’t be able to sue on grounds of racial discrimination.

    However, in Shaare Tefila Congregation v. Cobb, the Supremes held unanimously that “Jewish” was a race if the defendants thought it was and Congress would have agreed at the time the relevant law was passed in 1866. That was not an employment case, however; it was about desecrating a synagogue, therefore a property law and equal protection case.

  125. Rodger C says:

    In Cincinnati it’s illegal to discriminate against persons of Appalachian origin.

  126. per incuriam says:

    I wonder if the bemusement is English-triumphalism with a suit on

    Yes, it’s hard to think what other hook the story might have for English-speaking readers, who will have no idea what sounds good or bad in French. Even in terms of “fun”, it is surely English loanwords rather than the official coinages that would be found amusing – “hashtag” pronounced à la française might elicit a smirk, not “mot-dièse”.

    And yet the story is widely reported in the English-language media, vigilant as ever on this beat. Several of the British papers carry a similar piece to the NYT’s. And given the content and tone (“stunning announcement”, “sudden reversal of four centuries of French linguistic policy”, Richelieu “rolling in his grave” etc.) you’d expect it to be all over the news in France itself, the country directly concerned. The Guardian article actually starts off “In most places it would have barely made the news. In France, it was near-revolutionary”.

    Yet there was precisely nothing about this in France. Not a word in Le Monde, or in Libération, or even in the very conservative Le Figaro.

    So somebody is indeed being seriously ridiculous here, but looks like it’s not “the French”

  127. Well, I can’t speak for the British papers, but I’m pretty sure Alexander (in the NY Times) had his tongue firmly in his cheek. He doesn’t actually think it’s stunning.

  128. per incuriam says:

    He doesn’t actually think it’s stunning
    No doubt, but we are given to understand that there are those that do.

  129. gwenllian says:

    Thanks, John.

    Under Federal law (per Wikipedia), employers generally cannot discriminate against employees on the basis of: race, sex, pregnancy status, religion, national origin, disability (physical or mental), age (over 40), military service or lack thereof, bankruptcy or bad debts (even if owed to the employer!), genetic information, or citizenship status (for those legally resident in the U.S.)

    It seems strange to me that discrimination on the basis of ethnicity (as opposed to race or national origin) isn’t explicitly banned.

    But you can discriminate against people from a particular state, or people brought up in a city rather than the country, if you want to.

    I hadn’t even thought of these. So discriminating based on somebody’s place of origin is legal as long as that place of origin is within the US.

    More restrictive local laws exist: LGBT-based discrimination is illegal in NYC but not nationally.

    Still not illegal nationally? That’s surprising. Hopefully it will change soon.

    That’s what the Jewish plaintiffs in this case (which I can’t now find) thought, but the judge ruled that the definition of “race” is intersubjective, not merely subjective. If someone refused to hire David Marjanović because they thought he was black (confusing native Austrians with Native Australians, no doubt), he wouldn’t be able to sue on grounds of racial discrimination.

    So, what kind of lawsuit is available to a Jewish person targeted by a racist employer? Did the plaintiffs in the case you mention have the option to sue for religious discrimination?

  130. It seems strange to me that discrimination on the basis of ethnicity (as opposed to race or national origin) isn’t explicitly banned.

    Growing the list isn’t easy. Pretty much you have to get a plaintiff (better, many plaintiffs) with a strong case, follow it through the courts, lose (on the grounds that the ground alleged is not a protected one), and then convince both Congress and the President, assuming they are on speaking terms, to add to the list. And you have to deal with a large minority that thinks all these laws are unwarranted interference with the freedom of (non)-association. In a wider view, it’s difficult to legislate against irrational feeling, because nobody stands up to defend it, but those who have it are not (by definition) going to be convinced by argument. The only way I’ve ever gotten a linguistic peever to stand down is with a contrary appeal to authority.

    Did the plaintiffs in the case you mention have the option to sue for religious discrimination?

    I don’t know; as I said, I can’t find the case again. But I think it’s probably easier to show that an employer discriminates against Jews tout court than that he discriminates against that subset of Jews who follow the Jewish religion.

  131. J. W. Brewer says:

    Usually you can get ethnicity-based discrimination characterized as based on either “race” or “national origin,” especially since “race” was a vaguer concept when some of the early federal civil rights statutes were enacted in the 1860’s. See e.g. https://supreme.justia.com/cases/federal/us/481/615/case.html (holding that Jews-considered-as-an-ethnic-group are a “race” in the particular context and that the same had been held for Arabs). Although historically the decision of the US census to treat Ashkenazicness as purely a religious thing (and thus improper for the gov’t to be asking people questions about) rather than an ethnicity has caused all sorts of shortcomings and limitations in demographic data. And you do get weird cases where courts muse about whether all Sephardim are “Hispanic” for US-discrimination-law purposes and what does that mean for Ashkenazim who personally immigrated to the U.S. from e.g. Argentina or Venezuela.

    There are a few important federal statutes (notably TItle VI, which applies to educational institutions both at the K-12 and university levels) that for whatever contingent historical/political reasons do NOT bar religious discrimination but do bar race-and-national-origin discrimination.* This has been a source of concern for some Jewish advocacy groups, especially since it can be difficult to characterize a particular instance of alleged anti-Semitism as being religious bias versus ethnic bias. (I was once personally involved in a discrimination lawsuit against the NYC public schools where we had the same issue because if the alleged discrimination was motivated by dislike of Muslims it was not a violation of that particular but if it was motivated by dislike of ethnic-Albanians it was.)

    *It obviously makes sense for a religious school to have the freedom to openly prefer students/faculty associated with the sponsoring religion to others, but this omission is wider than that and applies to secular/public schools as well.

  132. @J. W. Brewer: I remember that the issue of whether Sephardim are “hispanic” came up when Sonia Sotomayor was nominated to the Supreme Court. She was often characterized as “the first hispanic justice,” a distinction that many felt belonged to Benjamin Cardozo. In fairness, Cardozo’s family had come to America before the revolution, and they would have traced their descent back to Portugal by way of England and Holland. So there are a lot of confounding factors to Justice Cordozo’s hispanic identity besides his Jewishness.

    On a mostly off-topic but still linguistic note: I also noticed recently that there seems to be a conflict among scholars of the Jewish identity (in Israel at least) over who counts as the Sephardim and who the Mizrahim. To me, “Sephardic” implies “Iberian” origin and Mizrahi implies Iranian. However, there are plenty of Jews whose families originated elsewhere in the middle east and north Africa. Often, “Sephardic” is used to denote all of them, with the Mizrahi as a subgroup. However, I have recently seem some writers switch the the usages around, making “Mizrahi” a general term, with the “Sephardim” a specific subgroup.

  133. I have recently seem some writers switch the the usages around, making “Mizrahi” a general term, with the “Sephardim” a specific subgroup.

    That seems reasonable. If Ashkenazi refers broadly to Jews of central and eastern European heritage, then Mizrahi is an appropriate term for (almost) all others, with Sephardi Jews — descendants of 15th century Iberian Jews — being a subset of Mizrahi. The Ashkenazi-Mizrahi/Sephardi differentiation is traditionally based on synagogue rites.

    Almost: Jews from Yemen have a somewhat different synagogue rite (and a slightly different way of pronouncing Hebrew too). There are also tiny pockets of Jews who don’t fit these rubrics, such as those of Cochin and the nearly vanished Romaniots of Greece. The Lemba are a whole other discussion.

  134. Italian Jews, particularly those in Rome and points north, weren’t exactly Ashkenazim either, as many of them descended directly from Jews who had immigrated to Italy in classical times. After 1492 and the takeover of the south by Spain, things changed: they got more complicated (and often nastier, though not always). Italy was about the only place in the world where one could consistently be both Jewish and a Fascist, and before the German invasion in 1943, it was a fairly safe place to be Jewish in Axis Europe.

  135. Years ago, I met a Jew who had lived in Rhodes and was a fascist youth leader in her teens. (I don’t know anything about her family background, but her appearance was strongly Sephardic.) However, her support for Mussolini didn’t save her from being deported to Auschwitz in the later years of the war, but she was young and fit enough to be selected for work rather than extermination.

  136. gwenllian says:

    Law can be pretty crazy. Or at least extremely complicated. Seems like some things could really use clearing up, but I understand that the process of changing this sort of thing is arduous.

    That seems reasonable. If Ashkenazi refers broadly to Jews of central and eastern European heritage, then Mizrahi is an appropriate term for (almost) all others, with Sephardi Jews — descendants of 15th century Iberian Jews — being a subset of Mizrahi.

    As I understand it, Sephardi being a subset of Mizrahi doesn’t really work with any existing definition of Mizrahi. What about the many Sephardi Jews who never left Europe after the expulsion from the Iberian Peninsula?

  137. As I understand it, Sephardi being a subset of Mizrahi doesn’t really work with any existing definition of Mizrahi. What about the many Sephardi Jews who never left Europe after the expulsion from the Iberian Peninsula?

    Never left Europe? Hmm.

    Most Jews expelled from the Iberian Peninsula went to lands in Muslim hands: North Africa (where they joined existing communities, and in large measure lost their ‘Sephardi’ identity) or to places such as Salonika (today’s Thessaloniki) and Istanbul (which had fallen to the Turks only a few decades earlier). Smaller numbers went to Holland (cf Spinoza), Italy and, a bit later, to the New World (see here).

    The woman from Rhodes to whom Brett refers was in all likelihood Sephardi. (I’m acquainted with a woman from Porto Alegre, Brazil, whose family hails from Rhodes, and who identifies as Sephardi.) John Cowan is correct in that the Jews of Italy historically formed a unique community, neither Ashkenazi nor Sephardi.

  138. Pancho says:

    I remember that the issue of whether Sephardim are “hispanic” came up when Sonia Sotomayor was nominated to the Supreme Court. She was often characterized as “the first hispanic justice,” a distinction that many felt belonged to Benjamin Cardozo.

    I suppose a lot depends on whether a person identifies him or herself as Hispanic. Some of you may remember the late singer Eydie Gormé, who was of Sephardic Jewish heritage. I don’t know if she ever identified herself as Hispanic but she recorded some successful albums singing in Spanish with the Trio Los Panchos: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UQ4FN95B8Og

  139. gwenllian says:

    Never left Europe? Hmm.

    Most Jews expelled from the Iberian Peninsula went to lands in Muslim hands: North Africa (where they joined existing communities, and in large measure lost their ‘Sephardi’ identity) or to places such as Salonika (today’s Thessaloniki) and Istanbul (which had fallen to the Turks only a few decades earlier). Smaller numbers went to Holland (cf Spinoza), Italy and, a bit later, to the New World (see here).

    Yes, I was mostly thinking of the Dutch Jews and the Jews who settled in the European part of the Ottoman Empire. I don’t know much about the sense of identity and traditional everyday lives of Sephardic Jews of Istanbul, or indeed Thessaloniki, but I’d think the community in Bosnia would think of itself as part of a wider cultural group of various Sephardic, traditionally Judaeo-Spanish speaking groups in Europe and the Maghreb, but not really as part of a group including Iranian or Iraqi Jews (except of course for the wider Jewish group, encompassing all Jews regardless of cultural variation and location).

    Of course, today the once thriving community in Bosnia is sadly down to a few hundred people. It was decimated in the Holocaust, and those survivors who didn’t move to Israel after WW2 mostly did so in the 90s. Most people descending from the community would have by today blended into the Israeli cultural mainstream and are likely to have several cultural backgrounds.

  140. GeorgeW says:

    “Most Jews expelled from the Iberian Peninsula went to lands in Muslim hands: North Africa (where they joined existing communities, and in large measure lost their ‘Sephardi’ identity)”

    I would disagree with this statement somewhat. This would not be true of Egypt with which I am most familiar. in Egypt, Sephardic Jews were the majority and maintained their separate identity. Others included a small number of indigenous Jews as well as Ashkenazi who began arriving in the 16th century. Also, there were the Karaites, an interesting group whose origin isn’t so clear. Each of these groups maintained separate identities. The Sephardic also divided into groups according to place of origin. Unlike Israel, in Egypt, the Sephardic were the elite among the Jews.

  141. I’d think the community in Bosnia would think of itself as part of a wider cultural group of various Sephardic, traditionally Judaeo-Spanish speaking groups in Europe and the Maghreb, but not really as part of a group including Iranian or Iraqi Jews (except of course for the wider Jewish group, encompassing all Jews regardless of cultural variation and location).

    Yes. The divide, such as it is, centers on religious ritual (primarily Ashkenazi-Mizrahi) and more loosely on language. The latter gets muddier, as it can only loosely be based on the use of Yiddish vs. Ladino. Only ex-Iberians would use Ladino, while many German Jews and perhaps most Hungarian Jews lost Yiddish.

    A few years ago I met a young Jewish lawyer from Zagreb. A dwindling community, he told me.

  142. gwenllian says:

    A few years ago I met a young Jewish lawyer from Zagreb. A dwindling community, he told me.

    Yes, all the communities in the region are dwindling. Bosnia’s Jewish community is mostly Sephardi. Croatia’s mostly Ashkenazi. In Serbia I believe there is more of a mix. Today the countries’ Jewish communities number around 500 people each. I know several people of recent Jewish descent, but I think only a couple of them identify as Jewish. And it seems unlikely many of their children will. The community is probably too small for that today, despite the revival of Jewish institutions and the opening of a Jewish school.

    In the 90s an Israeli rabbi filled the spot of the Chief Rabbi of Croatia which had been unoccupied ever since the last Chief Rabbi was killed in the Holocaust. Some ten years ago, when his contract was up, a new Chief Rabbi was brought in, which resulted in a lot of controversy in the community, and the formation of a splinter group. Now there are basically 2 Chief Rabbi positions, although it seems only one of the rabbis bears that title. Here’s the Wikipedia article. I’m not sure what caused the controversy. Some articles mention that some complained that the Chief Rabbi was too Orthodox, but I don’t know how trustworthy the articles are. Rabbi Da-Don is Sephardi, and the majority of the community Ashkenazi, but the religious rite division doesn’t seem to have played a part.

  143. @Paul Ogden: I find the idea of distinguishing Jewish sub-ethnicities on the basis of differences in their traditional rites rather problematic. My viewpoint is obviously informed by my own American, Reform, cafeteria-style Judaism, but it seeps quite inappropriate to couple creed and ethnic background so closely.

  144. I find the idea of distinguishing Jewish sub-ethnicities on the basis of differences in their traditional rites rather problematic. My viewpoint is obviously informed by my own American, Reform, cafeteria-style Judaism, but it seeps quite inappropriate to couple creed and ethnic background so closely.

    Sure, but you live in melting-pot America and I live in everything-is-arguable Israel, where there are even political parties based on these sub-groups. And though assuredly an anachronism, a Sephardi chief rabbi and and an Ashkenazi chief rabbi.

  145. As Jewish culture increasingly coalesces around two poles—in America and Israel—those national identities may have already become the most salient division in the Jewish ethnicity.

  146. Huh. An interesting point — obvious when you think of it that way, but I’d never thought of it that way.

  147. Yup!

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