Quebec English

Quebec English encompasses the English dialects (both native and non-native) of the predominantly French-speaking Canadian province of Quebec.[1] There are few distinctive phonological features and very few restricted lexical features common among English-speaking Quebecers.[2] The English spoken in Quebec generally belongs to Standard Canadian English, whose speech region comprises one of the largest and most relatively homogeneous dialect areas in North America. This standard native-English accent is common in Montreal, where the vast majority of native English speakers in Quebec live. English-speaking Montrealers have, however, established ethnic groups that retain certain lexical features: Irish, Jewish, Italian, and Greek communities that all speak discernible varieties of English.[2] Isolated fishing villages on the Basse-Côte-Nord of Quebec speak Newfoundland English, and many Gaspesian English-speakers use Maritime English. Francophone speakers of Quebec (including Montreal) also have their own second-language English that incorporates French accent features, vocabulary, etc. Finally, the Kahnawake Mohawks of south shore Montreal and the Cree and Inuit of Northern Quebec speak English with their own distinctive accents, usage, and expressions from their indigenous languages.

Quebec Anglophone English

The following are native-English (anglophone) phenomena unique to Quebec, particularly studied in Montreal English and spoken by the minority of Quebec Anglophone speakers in the Montreal area. Before the 1970s minority language English had the status of a co-official language in Quebec.:[3]


Anglophone Montreal speaks Standard Canadian English, which has the Canadian Vowel Shift and Canadian raising,[4] with some additional features:

  • Resistance to the merry–marry merger: unlike the rest of typical North American English, Montreal English tends to maintain the distinction in words like Mary/merry versus marry, perish versus parish, and Erin versus Aaron. The vowels remain, as in traditional East-Coast American English and often British English, /ɛ/ and /æ/, respectively.[5]
  • The PRICE vowel is relatively backed.[6]
  • The "short a" or TRAP vowel is not raised before /g/ as elsewhere in Canada, but it is raised somewhat before /n/ for ethnic British and Irish Montrealers. Among other ethnicities, such as Jewish Montrealers, there may be no raising of the vowel in any context.[7]
  • The following vowel sounds are linguistically-conservative: the sets of vowels represented by the words GOAT (back and monophthongal), FACE (monophthongal), and MOUTH (back).[8]
  • The way that Anglo Montreal speakers pronounce the last letter of the alphabet "Z", Anglophone Montreal Speakers pronounce with an extended "e" vowel to sound like /zi/. This differs from their Quebec Francophone Speakers who pronounce the last letter of the alphabet "Z" as /zɛd/,[3] as it is pronounced in the rest of Canada in English.


Quebec English is heavily influenced by English and French the phrases / words below shows the variation of meaning among the Quebec English dialect.

Delay: an amount of time given before a deadline. " I was given a delay of 2 weeks before my project was due"[3]

An Animator: is not an artist but is someone who meets and entertains children.[3]

In most of Canada, a sweet carbonated beverage is commonly referred to as a "pop," but in Montreal, it is a "soda" or "soft drink."[9] The phrase "in hospital" is often replaced by "in the hospital."

A Formation - this word in English would normally mean a routine stance used in a professional formation. (I.E. The men stood in formation ) in Quebec a Formation is reference to an education.[3]

A Pass - this phrase originates from Italian speakers, the phrase " Pass" is often used in phrase such as I am going to pass by a friend on the way to the movies. The phrase is comparatively used when already your already completing one action but can squeeze in another action on the way to your destination.[3]

In standard English this phrase "Your Bus will pass in 2 minutes " would mean that your are about to miss your bus or that you have already missed your bus. Alternatively in Montreal the Phrase " Pass " can also mean to arrive or stop as a way to show that the action will happen in a relatively short time frame. Example : " Your bus will pass in 2 minutes"[3]

Another Phrase is the word "Corner peel" this phrase is used in conjunction with media outlets and advertising agency in the Montreal area. In English when giving directions to a store you would normally say this store is at the corner of 1st ave and 2nd ave. However, in Montreal the phrase is changed to this store is located at the corner peel of 1st ave and 2nd ave.[3]

French-language toponyms

English-speakers commonly use French-language toponyms and official names for local institutions and organizations with no official English names. The names are pronounced as in French, especially in broadcast media. Examples include the Régie du logement,[10] the Collège de Maisonneuve, Québec Solidaire, the Parti québécois, Hochelaga-Maisonneuve, and Trois-Rivières.

Pie-IX (as in the boulevard, bridge and subway station) is pronounced /pinœf/ or [ˈpiːˈnɐf]. On the other hand, a final written consonant may be included or added in pronunciation if a historic English-language name and pronunciation exists among Anglophone or English-dominant Allophone communities that are associated with particularly neighbourhoods. Examples are "Bernard Street," which in French is known as rue Bernard. Montreal is always pronounced [ˌmɐntʃɹiˈɒl], following its historic official English-language name, but Quebec is pronounced [kwɪˈbɛk] or sometimes [kəˈbɛk]. English-speakers generally pronounce the French Saint- (m.) and Sainte- (f.) in street and place names as the English word "saint"; however, Saint-Laurent (the former city, now a borough of Montreal) can be pronounced as in Quebec French [sẽɪ̯̃lɔʁã], but Saint Lawrence Boulevard can be said as Saint-Laurent [sẽlɔʁã] (silent t) or as the original English name, Saint Lawrence. Sainte-Foy is pronounced [seɪntˈfwɑː]. Saint-Denis is often pronounced [ˌseɪnt dəˈniː], [ˌsẽɪ̯̃ dəˈni] or [seɪnt ˈdɛnəs]. Verdun, as a place name, has the expected English-language pronunciation, /vəɹˈdʌn/, but English-speakers from Verdun traditionally pronounce the eponymous street name as /ˈvɜɹdən/. Saint-Léonard, a borough of Montreal, is pronounced "Saint-Lee-o-nard" /seɪnt ˌlioʊˈnɑɹd/, which is neither English nor French. Some French-language place names are very difficult for English speakers to say without adopting a French accent, such as Vaudreuil, Belœil, and Longueuil in which pronunciation of the segment /œj/ (spelled "euil" or "œil") is a challenge and so most often pronounced as /voʊˈdrɔɪ/, /bɛˈlɔɪ/ and /lɔŋˈɡeɪ/ or less often /lɔŋˈɡeɪl/. Used by both Quebec-born and outside English-speakers, acronyms with the letters pronounced in English, not French, rather than the full name for Quebec institutions and some areas on Montreal Island are common, particularly if the English-language names are or were official. For instance, SQSûreté du Québec (pre-Bill 101: QPPQuebec Provincial Police, as it once was); NDGNotre-Dame-de-Grâce; DDODollard-des-Ormeaux; TMRTown of Mount Royal, the bilingual town's official English name.

  • English toponyms in place of French (nonstandard whenwhen written): Older generations of English-speaking Montrealers are more likely to informally use traditional English toponyms that vary from official, French-language toponyms. In a notable generational distinction, it is uncommon among younger English-speaking Quebecers.[11] Examples include Pine Avenue, Park Avenue, Mountain Street, Dorchester Blvd., St. James Street – often used without St., Blvd., Ave., Rd., etc. (names for the designations "avenue des Pins", "av. du Parc", "rue de la Montagne", "boulevard René-Lévesque", "rue St-Jacques"; the English-language official designations have reputedly been revoked, but evidence for that is difficult to find); Guy and Saint Catherine Streets; Town of Mount Royal, as it was chartered, and the charter has not been revoked; and Pointe Claire (English pronunciation [ˈpɔɪnt ˈklɛɹ] and typography, instead of official "Pointe-Claire" with French accent).

French loanwords

The use of a limited number of Quebec French terms for everyday place nouns (and occasional items) that have English equivalents; all of them are pronounced with English pronunciations or have undergone English clippings or abbreviations and so are regarded as ordinary English terms by Quebecers. Some of them tend sometimes to be preceded by the in contexts for which they could normally take a/an.

List of French loanwords
autoroute [ˌɒɾəˈɹuːt] instead of expressway
branché [bʁãˈʃeɪ̯] instead of trendy (colloquial)
chansonnier instead of songwriter[12]
chez nous [ʃeɪ̯ ˈnuː] instead of "where we live"
the dep[2] – instead of corner, variety, or convenience store; from dépanneur
coordinates instead of contact information
fonctionnaire [ˌfõksjɔˈnɛːʁ] or [ˌfɒ̃ʊ̯̃ksjɔˈnaɛ̯ʁ] instead of civil servant[13]
formation instead of training[14]
the gallery – instead of balcony
the guichet [ɡiˈʃɛ] – instead of bank machine, even when all ATMs are labelled "ATM";
malaise - instead of malady or ailment[15]
the métro (or metro) instead of the subway; from the French chemin de fer métropolitain;[16][17] metro is used outside Canada, though, as in the Washington metro
nappe – a tablecloth
poutine [puːˈtiːn] – French fries with gravy and cheddar cheese curds
primary one, two, three, in contrast to Canadian English grade one, two, etc.
resto – restaurant
the SAQ – the official name of the government-run monopoly liquor stores (pronounced "ess-ay-cue" or "sack"), the Société des alcools du Québec. That usage is similar to that in other provinces, like in neighbouring Ontario, where LCBO liquor stores are referred to as the "lick-bo" (for Liquor Control Board of Ontario).
stage – apprenticeship or internship, pronounced as [staːʒ]
subvention – government grant or subsidy. The word exists in both French and English, but it is rarely heard in Canadian English outside Quebec.
terrasse [tɛˈʁas] – the French pronunciation and spelling of the translation for 'terrace' is common among anglophones in casual speech and is considered acceptable in semiformal expression such as journalism.[18]
undertakingbusiness or enterprise

Pronunciation of French names

The pronunciation of French-language first and last names uses mostly-French sounds may be mispronounced by speakers of other languages. For example, the pronounced "r" sound and the silent "d" of "Bouchard" may be both pronounced: /buːˈʃɑrd/. French-speakers and Quebec English-speakers are more likely to vary such pronunciations, depending on the manner in which they adopt an English phonological framework. That includes names like Mario Lemieux, Marie-Claire Blais, Jean Charest, Jean Chrétien, Robert Charlebois, and Céline Dion.

Quebec Francophone English

Francophone second-language speakers of English use an interlanguage with varying degrees, ranging from French-accented pronunciation to Quebec Anglophone English pronunciation. High-frequency second-language phenomena by francophones, allophones, and other non-native-speakers occur in the most basic structures of English, both in and outside of Quebec. Commonly called "Frenglish" or "franglais", such phenomena are a product of interlanguage, calques, or mistranslation and thus may not constitute so-called "Quebec English" to the extent that they can be conceived of separately, particularly since such phenomena are similar for Francophone-speakers of English throughout the world, which leaves little to be specific to Quebec.


Francophones speaking English often pronounce [t]/[d] instead of [θ]/[ð], and some also pronounce [ɔ] for the phoneme /ʌ/, and some mispronounce some words, some pronounce a full vowel instead of a schwa, such as [ˈmɛseɪdʒ] for message. Since French-speakers greatly outnumber English-speakers in most regions of Quebec, it is more common to hear French in public. Some Anglophones in overwhelmingly-Francophone areas use some of the features (especially the replacement of [θ] and [ð] by [t] and [d]), but their English is remarkably similar to that of other varieties of English in Canada (Poplack, Walker, & Malcolmson 2006 [19]).

Other speakers

There is also a pronunciation (NP) of the phoneme /ŋ/ as /n/ + /ɡ/ (among some Italian Montrealers) or /n/ + /k/ (among some Jewish Montrealers, especially those who grew up speaking Yiddish),[20] such as by high degrees of ethnic connectivity within, for instance, municipalities, boroughs, or neighbourhoods on Montreal Island, such as Saint-Léonard and Outremont/Côte-des-Neiges/Côte Saint-Luc. Such phenomena occur as well in other diaspora areas such as New York City.

Vocabulary and grammar

Close the TV – Turn/shut off the TV.[2]
Close the door. – Lock the door.
Open the light. – Turn on the lights.[2]
Close the light. – Turn off the lights.[2]
Take a decision. – Make a decision. (NB "Take" is the older British version. Compare French Prends/Prenez une décision)
Put your coat. – Put your coat on (from French Mets ton manteau/Mettez votre manteau).
Pass someone money. – Lend someone money.
Pass the vacuum. – Run the vacuum (or do the vacuuming)
  • The use of French grammar (NS): Many of these constructions are grammatically correct but only out of context. It is both the calquing and linguistic transfer from French and the betrayed meanings that make these sentences foreign to English.
He speak/talk to me yesterday. – He spoke/talked to me yesterday. (verb tense)
Me, I work in Laval. – I work in Laval. (vocal stress on "I". From French Moi, je travaille à Laval.)
It/He have many books. – There are many books. (from French il y a meaning "there is/are")
I like the beef and the red wine. – I like beef and red wine. (overuse of definite article to mean "in general". From French J'aime le bœuf et le vin rouge.)
You speak French? – Do you speak French? (absence of auxiliary verb; otherwise it means surprise, disbelief or disappointment when out of context)
We were/are four. – There were/are four of us. (from French "nous sommes" and "nous étions")
We're Tuesday – It's Tuesday. (from French "nous sommes")
I don't find my keys. – I can’t find my keys. (lack of English modal auxiliary verb)
At this moment I wash the dishes. – I’m washing the dishes right now. (verbal aspect)
I can't join you at this moment because I eat. – I can't join you right now because I'm eating. (verbal aspect)
My computer, he don’t work. – My computer won’t work. (human pronoun, subject repetition, uninflected auxiliary verb)
I would like a brownies. – Could I have a brownie? (plural –s thought to be part of the singular word in relexification process; other examples: "a Q-tips", "a pins", "a buns", "a Smarties", "a Doritos", etc.)
I would like shrimps with broccolis. – Could I have some shrimp and broccoli? (use of regular plural instead of English unmarked plural or non-count noun; this is not a case of hypercorrection but of language transfer).
Do you want to wash the dishes? – Will/would you wash the dishes? (lack of English modal verb; modal vouloir from French instead – Voulez-vous faire la vaisselle?)
We have to go in by downstairs – We have to go in downstairs (via the non-standard French 'entrer par')
You're going to broke it! – You're going to break it! (mixing of homonymic French tenses; "cassé", past, versus "casser", infinitive)
  • False cognates or faux-amis (NS): This practice is quite common, so much so that those who use them abundantly insist that the false cognate is the English term even outside of Quebec. Note that these French words are all pronounced using English sounds and harbour French meanings. While the possibilities are truly endless, this list provides only the most insidious false cognates found in Quebec.
a stage – an internship (pronounced as in French, from the French word for internship, "un stage".)
Cégep [seɪ̯ˈʒɛp] (cégep; collégial, cégepien) – the acronym of the public college network preceding university in Quebec.
Chinese pâté [t͡ʃʰaɪ̯ˈniːz pʰætʰˌeɪ̯] or [t͡ʃʰaɪ̯ˈniːz pʰɑːˌtʰeɪ̯]shepherd's pie (pâté chinois; Quebeckers' pâté chinois is similar to shepherd's-pie dishes associated with other cultures)
a cold plate – some cold-cuts (reversed gallicismassiette de viandes froides)
coordinates – for address, phone number, e-mail, etc.
(a) salad – (a head of) lettuce
a subvention – a (government) grant
a parking – a parking lot/space
a location – a rental
a good placement – a good location
That's it. – That is correct. (from C'est ça.)
all-dressed pizza – a deluxe pizza with pepperoni, mushrooms and green peppers (from pizza toute garnie.)
soup, two times – two soups, or two orders of soup (from "deux fois.")

Few anglophone Quebeckers use many such false cognates, but most understand such high-frequency words and expressions. Some of these cognates are used by many francophones, and others by many allophones and anglophone accultured in allophone environments, of varying English proficiencies, from the bare-minimum level to native-speaker level.

See also


  1. Ingrid Peritz, "Quebec English elevated to dialect," Montreal Gazette, 20 August 1997
  2. Scott, Marian (February 12, 2010). "Our way with words". The Gazette. Retrieved 15 March 2011.
  3. Boberg, Charles (2012). "English as a minority language in Quebec". World Englishes. 31 (4): 493–502. doi:10.1111/j.1467-971X.2012.01776.x.
  4. Labov, Ash & Boberg (2006), pp. 219-220, 223.
  5. Labov, Ash & Boberg (2006), p. 56.
  6. Labov, Ash & Boberg (2006), p. 97.
  7. Labov, Ash & Boberg (2006), pp. 181-182, 223.
  8. Labov, Ash & Boberg (2006), p. 223.
  9. Labov, Ash & Boberg (2006), p. 290.
  10. "Régie du logement – Welcome". Gouvernement du Québec. 24 November 2006. Archived from the original on 11 December 2006. Retrieved 25 June 2009.
  11. Scott, Marian. "One of Montreal's linguistic divides is generational". Montreal Gazette. Retrieved July 20, 2012.
  13. "Equality Party". Archived from the original on March 6, 2005.
  16. "Frequently Asked Questions".
  18. Chez Alexandre owner takes down terrasse to comply with city bylaw
  19. Shana Poplack, James Walker & Rebecca Malcolmson (2006) An English "like no other"?: Language contact and change in Quebec. Canadian Journal of Linguistics. 185–213.
  20. Scott, Marian (February 15, 2010). "That 'aboat' sums it up". The Gazette. Retrieved 15 March 2011.
  • Labov, William; Ash, Sharon; Boberg, Charles (2006). The Atlas of North American English. Berlin: Mouton-de Gruyter. pp. 187–208. ISBN 978-3-11-016746-7.
  • Bill 199 Charter of the French and English Languages
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