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Sociolinguistics Symposium 19: Language and the City

Sociolinguistics Symposium 19

Freie Universität Berlin | August 21-24, 2012

Programme: accepted abstracts

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Abstract ID: 100

Thematic Session (Papers belonging to this Thematic Session)

Montreal, a francophone, anglophone and multilingual city

Authors: Remysen, Wim; Reinke, Kristin
Submitted by: Remysen, Wim (Université de Sherbrooke, Canada)

With its population of 3,8 million (Institut de la Statistique du Québec 2011), Greater Montreal is the largest and most populous urban area in the province of Quebec (the second largest in Canada) as well as its economic centre. Because of its complex and unique linguistic ecology, the metropolitan area of Montreal differentiates itself from all other major urban areas in Canada; indeed, Montreal presents quite a unique case of interacting language communities (Oakes and Warren 2007: 134 et seq.), even within an international perspective, which makes it of special interest for a sociolinguistic symposium dedicated to the situation in modern cities. The uniqueness of Montreal can be related to its three different faces, so to speak, and to the specific way these interact with each other: apart from being a francophone as well as an anglophone city, Montreal is fundamentally multilingual.

The colonial history of Canada explains the presence of French and English in the metropolis. The relationship between these two languages in the province of Quebec has been profoundly marked by a history of conflict and, more recently, of controversial language legislation. At present, French is the only official language in the province and it remains the majority language in Greater Montreal (Office québécois de la langue française 2008). However the metropolis, and especially the Island of Montreal in the center, still has an important English-speaking population with parts of the city being more anglophone in character. In addition, due to immigration that started in the late 19th century, different cultural communities settled in the region. Since then, Montreal has become one of the most important multiethnic centres in Canada where multilingualism and multiculturalism are a part of daily life and the city continues to attract people from various origins. This dynamic adds to the complexity of the original linguistic duality existing between French and English and it has been pointed out that this duality has favoured the maintenance of immigrant languages much more than in other cities in North America (Meintel 1998). More recently, the presence of the diverse heterogenic social groups has resulted in a specific Montreal identity claimed by a lot of Montrealers (Helly and Van Schendel 2001).

Needless to say, Montreal represents a dynamic microcosm and an ideal sociolinguistic laboratory. Its complex and unique situation has encouraged numerous scholars to conduct sociolinguistic research on the different communities living in the area. Yet those who are interested in Montreal often come from very different backgrounds (from a linguistic as well as a disciplinary point of view) and do not always have the opportunity to share their results with each other. This makes it difficult to obtain a full comprehension of the sociolinguistic dynamics that is going on in the city nowadays. Therefore, we would like to bring together, through a more global approach, scholars working on the different linguistic communities of Montreal. We welcome contributions focusing on one of the following topics that appear to be crucial in understanding the sociolinguistic situation in Montreal:

Helly, Denise and Van Schendel, Nicolas (2001). Appartenir au Québec. Citoyenneté, nation et société civile. Enquête à Montréal, 1995. Sainte-Foy: Institut québécois de recherche sur la culture/Presses de l’Université Laval.
Institut de la Statistique du Québec (2011). Estimations de la population des régions métropolitaines de recensement (RMR), 1er juillet des années 1996, 2001 et 2006 à 2010. Accessed 17 August 2011.
Meintel, Deirdre (1998). Les comportements linguistiques et la nouvelle pluriethnicité montréalaise. Canadian Studies 45: 83-93.
Oakes, Leigh and Warren, Jane (2007). Language, Citizenship and Identity in Quebec. Basingstoke/New York: Palgrave Macmillan.
Office québécois de la langue française (2008). Rapport sur l’évolution de la situation linguistique 2002-2007. Montréal: Gouvernement du Québec/Office québécois de la langue française.

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