Linguistic Chaos in
1995 Referendum
History of Montreal
Northern Entry to the Continent
Orig. Iroquois settlement called Hochelaga
“Discovered” in 1535 by Jacques Cartier
Settlement of Montreal
Settlement of Montreal
Orig. Iroquois settlement called Hochelaga
► “Discovered” in 1535 by Jacques Cartier
► Ville Marie founded 1642 (Iroquois gone)
► Defensible and accessible site
► Center of French settlement & fur trade for 120 yrs.
► Center of English commerce & industry after 1760
Canal de Lachine
Downtown Montreal viewed from the
Canal de Lachine
Settlement of Montreal
Orig. Iroquois settlement called Hochelaga
“Discovered” in 1535 by Jacques Cartier
Ville Marie founded 1642 (Iroquois gone)
Defensible and accessible site
Center of French settlement & fur trade for 120 yrs.
Center of English commerce & industry after 1760
Canal de Lachine creates industrial axis & immigration
Golden Square Mile 1850-1930: 70% of Canada’s wealth
St. Lawrence Seaway 1959
Montreal Today
Montreal Today
Population Density
The Order of Chaos
► Bilingualism
 below 40% outside Montreal
 40-100% on Island of Montreal
► Political
tension around language
Canada officially bilingual, mostly Anglophone
Quebec officially monolingual
language choice is politicized in Montreal
impacts of politicization may be contradictory and
► Complicated
linguistic geography
Schematic Diagram of Montreal’s
Linguistic Geography
French and English mix
► many
words like cool, gang, show, and “tripper”
have found their way into French
► a few words like metro, dépanneur, CEGEP, and
“confessional” (denominational) have found their
way into Montreal English
► conversations flip-flop as bilingual friends with
different mother tongues converse
► sentences flip-flop: “These shoes hurt here et
juste en arriere” (overheard on street) “C’est pour
ça que I’ve been wanting to talk to you”
(overheard in café)
Language Politics
► As
suggested above, the language games
resemble a dance, a promiscuous mingling
of languages
► People take delight in shifting from
language to language at whim
► Nevertheless, language is a locus of heartfelt struggle in Quebec and in Montreal
The dance of English and French
is less chaotic than it appears.
Language Games
► Mr.
Smith starts in French to show that he accepts
that French is the official language of Quebec
► Mr. Tremblay switches to (almost perfect) English
to show his good will and/or to avoid confusion
► If Smith does not acknowledge this good will by
abandoning his attempt to speak French, this will
be taken as a sign that Tremblay’s English is not
good enough (a snub) and a sign of stupidity
and/or vanity because Smith overestimates his
(undoubtedly flawed) French
► However, if Jones becomes complacent and uses
English first, he will encounter “incomprehension”
or somewhat surly use of English
Axes of Variation in Language Games
 centuries (???)
 decades
 months
East Island vs. West Island
on island vs. off island
public vs. private space
Francophone vs. Anglophone establishments
► e.g.
donut shop vs. pastry shop
 Anglophones are not necessarily Anglos!
 Many Italians, Greeks, Arabs, etc.
 Jewish population predominantly Anglophone
Political Context
a linguistic island “six millions de francophones perdus
dans un océan d’anglophones”
► René Lévesque (founder of the Parti Québécois): “To be
unable to live as ourselves, as we should live, in our own
language and according to our own ways, would be like
living without an arm or a leg—or perhaps a heart.”
► linguistic peculiarity increasing through out-migration and
► Open conflict
two failed referenda on sovereignty
several unresolved constitutional battles
rise of the nationalist Parti Québécois
a spate of laws supporting “Francisation”
1995 Referendum
What is the meaning of the
“sovereignty” movement?
► To
redress historical wrongs
► To earn recognition as a “distinct society”
► To achieve autonomy in areas like media
regulation and immigration policy
► To perpetuate French culture in North
Law 101, of 1977
► most
famous of many language laws signed into
law under the P.Q.
► had three objectives:
 restrict outdoor signage to French
 designate French as the official language of all
workplaces in Quebec
 ensure that children of immigrants to Quebec will be
educated in French
► was
softened by constitutional challenges, but
remains largely intact
Three signs in the Montreal area,
one controversy
Regulation of Signage
► General
perception of Francophones: a worthwhile
► General perception by Anglophones: vindictive and
pointless regulation
 confusing eradication of the apostrophe: Joe’s  Joes
 confusing bilingual signs: “Av. Sherbrooke Ave.”
► Richard
Y. Bourhis (Psychology, UQAM)
 linguistic landscape is the strongest predictor of people’s
perceptions of ethnolinguistic vitality
 so the sign law serves a purpose, whether or not it’s a
purpose the Anglophones understand or support
The only English signs are relics of
an earlier era
Immigrant zones are key sites of
linguistic struggle
Why did Quebec lose in 1995?
► Jacques
Parizeau (Quebec’s premier): “It’s
true that we were beaten, but by what?
Money and ethnic votes.”
► Universally recognized as a tasteless
expression of anger, and a political gaffe
Other signs of ethnic division in the
Montreal urban landscape
► French:
dense, urban, stone/brick/concrete,
sociable, prioritizes chance encounters and
the sense of community
► English: serene, suburban (lawns),
dignified, prioritizes the protection of
personal and familial privacy
► Other ethnicities: conforms to English or
French standard, though Italians have a
special style
French districts:
e.g. PlateauMont-Royal
English districts:
e.g. a street in Westmount
Italian row houses in Lasalle
A quiet, civilized afternoon,
lawn bowling in Westmount
A less civilized pass-time,
shopping at Marché Jean-Talon
The Zone of Linguistic
Confusion (Z.L.C.)
Virtually all of Montreal’s tourist
zone, plus the contact zone between
East Island & West Island
The zone of linguistic confusion
(Place d’Armes)
The zone of linguistic confusion
(la Vieux Porte)
The zone of linguistic confusion
(Gare Central)
The zone of linguistic confusion
(the Métro and Parc Mont Royal)
The zone of linguistic confusion
(Sherbrooke St. to The Village)
► Montreal’s
linguistic landscape can feel chaotic to a
visitor, particularly since the tourist zones are in
the Z.L.C.
► This chaos reflects history and geography
 Rise, fall, and resurrection of French control of Quebec
 Montreal as an island in an island (linguistically
 centripetal and centrifugal forces
► “Allophone”
populations add to the complexity
► Political struggle over language adds to the
Nevertheless, most
Montrealers wouldn’t want
to live anywhere else
What accounts for the magic of
this city?
Why do people fall in love with it?
Concluding Thoughts
► The
key may lie in the role played by
Montreal’s abundant public spaces
pedestrian streets
“underground city”
► The
“Other” can never be truly a stranger in
this kind of city
Great Greenspaces
► Parc
Mont Royal: 494 acres
(just over half the size of Central Park, NY, but
bigger than Zilker Park)
► Île
St. Hélène: 336 acres (1/2 = fill)
► Parc Angrignon: 200 acres
► Île Notre Dame, Parc Maisonneuve,
Botanical Gardens, banks of the Canal de
Lachine, banks of the St. Lawrence, etc.
► includes 67 miles of bike paths
Underground City
► 18
miles of interconnected spaces
► linked via the Métro
► provides access to:
office buildings
indoor skating rink
restaurants & cafés
four universities
Montreal’s main performing arts center
Underground City
The dense urban fabric encourages
communication across political lines
Could these spaces be
the “glue” that holds it
all together?

Linguistic Chaos in Montreal