First and foremost, intelligibility is at the core of our work; a close second is authenticity. If you cannot be understood by the audience, then all authenticity brought to the dialect is irrelevant. There will be moments when we make a choice that seems less authentic, but always for the purpose of clearer communication.
Rehearse and sing in dialect. Memorize your text in dialect. Revisit sound clips periodically to tap back into the sound/feeling of the dialect. ASK QUESTIONS if you are not sure about anything!
Canada’s two official languages are English and French, but the greatest concentration of francophones is in Quebec where 80% of the population speaks Canadian French. In 1534 French colonizers arrived in the Gulf of Saint Lawrence and imposed the French Language. Two hundred years later (1763) the British Crown took control of New France causing an exodus of the French elite, a decrease in overseas trading, and a rise of the English in the economy and politics. Around this time there is a mass exodus of French loyalists leaving the newly independent United States who settled in Quebec. Another hundred years pass and the Canadian Confederation is instated (1876). It is at this point an independent dialect of French that had begun to develop gains momentum in identity. This sound is a mingling of the French and English languages which came to be known as ‘joual’ [ʒwɜl]. (This term started as a derogatory slur meaning “to talk horse”. There is still some negative connotation today, as well as an embrace of the term by many Quebec-ers.)
The Quiet Revolution sweeps through Canada in the 1960s causing great social and political change. Language was a major focal point in defining identity of Canadians. In 1974 a law was passed in Quebec that French (along with English) is an official language and would be used in all labor, commerce, administration, and education in the province. All street signs and text on storefronts must be in French.
Just three years later, in 1977, the Charter of French Language known as Bill 101 was passed making French the sole official language of Quebec. After many years of planning and attempts to present a referendum, 1995 finally brought about the vote of Quebec sovereignty. The highest turnout of voters (94%) were nearly split evenly, preserving Quebec’s place as a province of Canada with 50.8% voting to stay and 49.42% voting for independence.
In the Quiet Revolution there was a significant separation or breaking away from the hold of the Catholic Church on society. Due to its strong influence throughout history, many religious items are used as slang or curse words: câlice (chalice), baptême (baptism), sacrement (sacrament), most common is tabarnack (tabernacle, also the equivalent to US [fʌkʰ]).
This rise of national pride was led by artists; perhaps most noticeably playwright Michel Tremblay. It is in the 60s that a distinct voice of Canadian French is rising in the written arts, no longer relying on the European French to carry their identity. The term Québécois becomes the preferred name of the language spoken.
Cédric, Québécois French
- Resting or thinking sound possibilities: /æ̈/ /ɛm/ /œ/ /ɜ/
- Jaw: held fairly close with a narrow opening between the teeth; can easily open to a much taller height when expression demands
Tonge: VERY ACTIVE!!!
tip/blade — rests behind bottom teeth with rapid movement to top teeth and roof of mouth; can be heavy and slow to articulate
body — slopes from open in front to close in back: (front/middle) rests cupped with easy raising movement to palate, (back) sits raised and braced
Easily pancakes into teeth
Corners — pinned, but easily advances
Body — tends to purse and can easily move into trumpeting
Velum: lowers in some vowels for nasal quality
Sound lives primarily in the front-middle of the mouth — be cautious of going to far forward that it takes you into European French
"Don't even know"
Prosody: Rhythm, Stress, Pitch
French is forward, sharp and direct in its prosody (pointy, dry, short, sweet). English carries longer vowel space with its diphthongs. Québécois has a little more rounding and blend of the two - using tempo and pitch play.
European French is syllable-timed, so all syllables except the final stressed are the same in length. Québécois is heavily influenced by this and will carry a great deal of staccato patter in their speech and the last vowel sound in a phrase, narrowed down to the word and syllable, will carry the emphasis.
Stretch in tempo manifests in elongated vowels (hello, diphthongs!) and the use of pitch to emphasize meaning. There is a great deal of circumflex within vowels and diphthongs.
In the midst of phrases, there is a loss of consonant detail through elision (i.e. vowels into fricatives especially front of mouth fricatives, three becomes tree with an elongated [ ʃ ], any spellings or sounds of s, ʃ, t͡ʃ , ts, j).
LABAN QUALITY: dab-dab-dab-gliiiiiiiide-FLICK
Three Notable Patterns
THE HOPSCOTCH → Pitch goes up and down fairly evenly until final word which is elongated and goes up up a little higher in pitch before sweeping down
“It was almost like uh a little oasis of resources"
The Dab-Dab-Dab-Dab-PUNCH → Crisp and strong behind the lips and teeth to elongate and drop in pitch on the final word of the phrase (+ volume/length focus on final word)
“He’s the guy that used to bully me in school”
The SLINKY DOWN THE STEPS: Stress w/ length and pitch on onset word, drops and rattles through phrase, last word is a rise and fall in pitch - like a slinky landing on each step as it walks down the stairs
“People tend to be nice”
Pronunciation: Salient Sounds
Consonants: In opposition to European Francophones, the Québécois will pronounce their vowels with greater energy than their consonants. Through this consonant reduction pattern in French, their English pronunciations will often drop ending fricatives and find ample opportunity for elision.
/r/ → [ ɹ̠̈ ]
The /r/ sounds are very similar to North American English but with greater muscularity in the root (retraction) and back body (braced/bunched): [ɹ̠̈]. The more experienced the accent, the less retracted [ɹ̈] it lands. Ending /r/ can potentially become retroflexed [ɻ].
I will transFORM // then he’s like thank you GEORge // I go to my aPARtment house // they only had the English VERsion // it’s HARD
[r] - in French, the /r/ can often be rolled. This is not a frequent sound in English speaking Quebecers, but a possibility, especially in fresher accents or older generations.
eveRYthing was very // for at least THREE three years before //and as the credits ROLLed
When an /r/ follows a plosive sound, it can have some lip rounding come into play, turning it into a voiced labial-palatal approximate [ɥ]. This comes into fruition with a fresher accent..
so I shake his hand and I’s like no PROblem eh
θ & ð →
[t̻] & [d̻]
Both the voice and unvoiced /th/ sounds (alveolar fricatives) tend to become laminal produced plosives or stops.
THROUGH the tree // ripped at my BREATH // WITHout me you wouldn’t have NOTHing // when THEY come here THEY have to speak // we understand each OTHer // a THEAter auTHOR from Quebec
When the /h/ sound comes at the beginning of a word is dropped.
invite HER inlaws you know // and now HER poor paw is HURT // I tend to HESITATE a little bit // over the HORIZON and above my house
Because in Canadian French many /l/ sounds are dropped, a strong reaction in their English is to pronounce them with greater retraction in the tongue back dorsum and root, velarizing them: [lˠ].
you speak ENGLISH // you know it’s Saturday night LIVE
d͡ʒ & t͡ʃ →
ʒ & ʃ
The fresher the accent the greater the likelihood that affricates will disappear, manifesting as the postalveolar fricative. This is a good one to play with various levels of the plosive to demonstrate English speech fluency. i.e. /ch/ → [ʃ] and vice versa
it’s a FUDGE // people were reLIGIOUS // going to the CHURCH // happened in the schoolyard STRANGELY
Vowels & Diphthongs
Lexical Set Keywords
Description // Additional Words
Most of this vowel appearance will maintain its back rounded with greater length [uː]. It is highly common for the palatal approximate to precede the vowel [ju]. In folks with greater European French influence an advanced [ʉ] could manifest. In younger folks a sound merging with FOOT was prevalent [ʊ̹] - called laxing.
the clichés are even not TRUE ya know // goin to the MOVIES // and it’s just BEAUtiful [ju] // my inFLUence it’s French [ʉ]
The TRAP and BATH vowels will be made more centralized in the mouth moving into an advanced or centralized [ɐ]. This vowel could also be raised at times moving towards an [ɛ].
went BACK to France // we learned the CATECHISM // they-they VANished // for EXAMPLE // I told my DAD what HAPPened
KIT & FLEECE
KIT words raise towards a FLEECE sound and FLEECE words tend to move mid central into a merger with KIT (known as laxing). When either of the vowels occur in a final syllable and are followed by a /v z ʒ ɹ/ then a lengthened [iː] FLEECE is used.
if you wanna do BUSiness // the St. Lawrence river is a BIG big river // you could do a PICNIC in the park // into my KIDS mind // then I saw a FILM that moves me // christmas trees into spaceSHIPS
THOUGHT/CLOTH → LOT merger
The THOUGHT, CLOTH, and LOT vowels are a mid-centralized open back vowel. Most younger folks will have the unrounded vowel [ɑ̽]. Older generations and fresher accents may round it [ɒ̽] and may even raise it [ɔ]. These can easily be nasalized, can sometimes be elongated into a diphthong, and can often be a long monophthong.
uh one hundred one LAW (thought) // which is aCROSS (cloth) the St. LAWrence (thought) river // it’s like waterFALLS (thought) // and it’s NOT (lot) // now I have a JOB (lot) // he’s gonna STOP (lot)
that make me FEEL much better // all the eLITE French // fresh water, TREES // PLEASE BE careful
DIPHTHONGS: in general, onset front vowels will become more centralized; closed back vowels will become rounder. Diphthongs can go one of two ways: lengthening so all sounds get shared value -or- super short or eradicated second vowel sound.
The onset vowel of this diphthong moves more central [ë] and is all about length: the second vowel is very, very short or absent making the FACE sound a long monophthong [e:]. This sound is often/easily nasalized.
it’s the SAME company // that in American newsPAPERS // a hockey PLAYer back in the day // I could start MAKing // TAKing other classes // things that CHANGE a lot
The GOAT diphthong nearly becomes a single vowel sound [oːʊ̆] unless it is spelled with ‘ow’ - then it becomes a more equally realized diphthong or even a triphthong ([oʊ̆], [oːə], [ə̆oʊ̆]).
NO BOAT can cross // I did a COAching // and NO one KNOWS about it ya KNOW
The onset vowel in PRICE moves more mid central in the mouth [ɐ]. This sound is also easily nasal.
I think I was a very PRIVATE person // when I was really a young CHILD // but most LIKEly // gets WIDE
VOWEL(S) + /r/
In words where the /r/ follows a vowel there is most frequently no ‘coloration’ as we are used to in the US. Due to the strong retraction action of /r/ in this accent, it will get its own full realization without a syllable break in-between.
moves me to the CORE // whatcha do HERE man // I could stand THERE for hours // that’s what I LEARned with Julia
Below are recordings from interviews conducted with Quebecers. There is a variety of voices sampled below and demonstrates the scale of the accent as it ranges from experienced to fresh folk.
This sample is of a female (60s) who was born and raised speaking Québécois primarily, English as an L2. She is a good sample of an accent located on the fresher end of the spectrum.
This gender-fluid individual is of a younger generation that is a more experienced accent. They have a good balance of emphasizing some of the features listed on this breakdown while carrying less of them in total.
This individual is certainly on the far end of the experienced side of the accent spectrum. She is a born and raised Québécer who had an influence of Creole in the home in addition to her French (L1) and English (L2).
This native Québécois grew up in a rural area before living in Montreal. He is a trained actor and has great facility in adapting his accent. While it is harder to pick up on the elements of his highly experienced accent, he speaks to elements and nuances of the accent that provide valuable insight to the anatomy and cultural implications of the sound.
Play With It
Play with these sounds! The technical work is important, but don’t let it dictate the sounds you are making. Test the boundaries and find the flow of the prosody.
Vanessa's interview will teach you some slang phrases that can help lock in the prosody and oral posture. While all of the interviewees teach you how to curse like a true Québécer, the scene below is from a movie Félix speaks about in his interview.
Denis Villeneuve - film director (Dune, Blade Runner 2049, Arrival, Sicario, and more)
Georges St-Pierre - UFC Fighter
Filmmakers Denis Côte and Xavier Dolan
Celine Dion (early career especially)
René Lévesque - politician, journalist, nationalist, premier of Québec 1976-85
Joseph-Henri-Maurice Richard, “Rocket” - hockey player
Pierre Elliot Trudeau - prime minister from 1968-79
Jean Chrétien - prime minister of Canada 1993-2003
Glowzi - Hatian Québécois multimedia artist
Louise Arbour - Supreme Court judge ( much more Canadian influenced)
Jean-Marc Vallée - director, screenwriter, editor, producer
***Not previously linked/attributed in above breakdown***
Babbel.com, and Lesson Nine GmbH. “A Brief History of Québécois (A.k.a. Canadian French).” Babbel Magazine, 3 June 2021, www.babbel.com/en/magazine/a-brief-history-of-canadian-french-quebecois. Accessed 10 Mar. 2022.
Campbell, George L. Concise Compendium of the World’s Languages. 1998. 2nd ed., New York, Routledge, 2011, pp. 170–177. French.
Courtois Schirmer, Caroline. Personal Interview: Québécois. 8 Apr. 2022.
Daignault, Jean-François. Personal Interview: Québécois. 29 Mar. 2022.
Duval, Félix-Antoine. Personal Interview: Québécois. 5 Apr. 2022.
Fancy, Alexander, and Douglas C. Walker. “The Pronunciation of Canadian French.” The Modern Language Journal, vol. 70, no. 2, 1986, p. 186, 10.2307/327346.
“French Phonology.” Wikipedia, 11 Sept. 2020, en.wikipedia.org/wiki/French_phonology. Accessed 6 Apr. 2022.
Harris, Germaine. Personal Interview: Québécois. 1 Apr. 2022.
International Phonetic Association. Handbook of the International Phonetic Association : A Guide to the Use of the International Phonetic Alphabet. 1999. Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 2007, pp. 78–81. French.
Lepage, Cédrick. Personal Interview: Québécois. 4 Apr. 2022.
“Quebec French Phonology.” Wikipedia, 18 May 2020, en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Quebec_French_phonology. Accessed 3 Apr. 2022.
Schmit-Craan, Vanessa. Personal Interview: Québécois. 16 Mar. 2022.
“The Canadian English Accent Part 1.” YouTube, 17 May 2016, www.youtube.com/watch?v=jrTCDi3xbTw. Accessed 13 Mar. 2022.
Wells, J.C. Accents of English 1: An Introduction. 1982. Cambridge University Press, 1998.