English in Montreal is becoming a unique dialect, according to Charles Boberg in this article from the CBC site (via Pat).

It’s so special because it’s the only major city in North America where English is a minority language,” says Boberg.
A Montrealer, for instance, might say she’s looking for “a three-and-a-half close to a dépanneur” instead of a “one bedroom apartment near a corner store.”
“You had the same sort of intimate contact between English and French in 11th century England as you do today in Montreal,” according to Boberg.
“And that was responsible in the 11th century for the conversion of English from a basically pure Germanic language to a kind of a hybrid language.”

More in this McGill Reporter interview.
Addendum. Desbladet rips Boberg a new trou; I should have remarked on the silliness of Boberg’s last statement about a “hybrid language,” and I am glad that Des has done it for me in his inimitable style. Another example of the latter, from his post on a Whorf quote translated as « ce que nous appelons la “pensée scientifique” n’est qu’une spécialisation du langage indo européen de type occidental… »:

Finno-Ugric-speaking persons! Desist from your desultory, doomed attempts to mimic the superficial trappings of European culture! Return, instead, to your caves and play “Pin the Definite Article on the Indo-European Noun Phrase” and other such traditional drinking games. As a sign of goodwill, here are some shiny glass beads which you can trade for “wodka”. (It’s made from potatoes, you know.)

Everybody go read him—just don’t let him catch you saying something dumb!


  1. (*blush*) Thanks!

    I’m not always quite that unkind, I hope, but I do have issues with Whorf. (I idolise Sapir, on the other hand, which is a contributing factor…)

  2. The only major city in North America where English is a minority language? Mexico City being merely the largest city on the continent surely means it does not qualify.

  3. Picky, picky, picky. I think when we say “minority language” we mean the language of a population large enough to, you know, elect people and get parking tickets fixed and all that sort of thing. I doubt the gringos of Ciudad de Méjico reach that level. But what do I know? I’ve never been there.

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