Dienstag, 19. Mrz 2019, 18:30 - 20:00 iCal

Guest lecture by Prof. Annette Boudreau

(Département d'études françaises, Université de Moncton, Canada)

Linguistic insecurity and the legitimate speaker. The case of Francophones in Canada (Acadie)

Hörsaal 1, Institut für Sprachwissenschaft (1. OG)
Sensengasse 3a, 1090 Wien


In 1972, William Labov introduced the concept of linguistic insecurity as a means to measure language variation and change. Interestingly enough, most studies conducted on the subject afterwards where initiated from scholars in Western francophone spaces, most notably in Belgium (Francard 1993-1994) and in Switzerland (De Pietro 1995; Singy 1999) where the ideology of the standard plays a major role in categorizing speakers. Studies were also conducted in francophone Canada, especially in L’Acadie (Boudreau 2009; 2016; 2019) which emphasized the social and political aspects of linguistic insecurity.

Drawing on ethnographic studies carried in the provinces of New Brunswick and Nova Scotia between 1995 and 2015, I will examine the phenomenon as witnessed in different situations and as related in interviews by Acadians themselves. I will argue that linguistic insecurity is a consequence of the strength of the ideology of the standard in Canada where the French language spoken in France was long considered the only legitimate variety of French, especially in the 1950s and 1960s when francophone institutions gained in recognition and in power. Yet this conception of language meant that bilingual speakers (e.g. Acadians living in minority settings) were often considered illegitimate French speakers because of their alleged abundance of English borrowings.

I will start by reviewing the main features of language insecurity, ranging from detectable phonological, lexical and morpho-syntactic features, to examining its broader attributes which includes body language and varies from refusing to speak in public spaces, to refraining to participate in debates and to finally being shameful of one’s language (and one’s self).

This description will be intertwined with the story of the historical events that led to the challenging of the ideology of the standard in the 1970s, when Québec and L’Acadie claimed the right to have « une langue à soi », a French of their own, in conjunction with the desire of Québec to become an independent nation. Tensions between standard and vernaculars (e.g. “chiac” in Acadie or “joual” in Québec) became the center of discourses challenging the claim that “standard” or “international” French was the only acceptable form for French speakers of these two provinces (Boudreau et LeBlanc 2000). Finally, I will examine strategies used by speakers as ways to counter linguistic insecurity, such as changing identities or adopting a counter-legitimate stance, strategies that create new discourses on different ways of “being Acadian”.


References :

BOUDREAU, Annette (2009). « La construction des représentations linguistiques : le cas de l’Acadie » dans Mireille Tremblay (dir.), Canadian Journal of Linguistics/Revue canadienne de linguistique, no 54(3) : 439-459.

BOUDREAU, Annette (2016). À l’ombre de la langue légitime. L’Acadie dans la francophonie ; Collection : Linguistique variationnelle dirigée par Françoise Gadet et André Thibault, Classiques Garnier, Paris.

BOUDREAU, Annette (2019). « Du lieu et ses manifestations discursives » dans Laurence Arrighi et Émilie Urbain (dir.), Inclusion, exclusion et hiérarchisation des pratiques langagières dans les espaces plurilingues au 21e siècle, Minorités linguistiques et société (accepté).

FRANCARD, Michel, avec la collaboration de Geneviève Geron et Régine Wilmet (1993-1994). L’insécurité linguistique dans les communautés francophones périphériques : actes du colloque de Louvain-la-Neuve, 2 vol., Cahiers de l’Institut de linguistique de Louvain, Louvain, Peeters, vol. 19, nos 3-4, et vol. 20, nos 1-2.

HELLER, Monica and LABRIE, Normand (2003). « Langue, pouvoir et identité : une étude de cas, une approche théorique, une méthodologie », in Heller, M. and Labrie, N. (ed.). Discours et identités. La francité canadienne entre modernité et mondialisation. Cortil-Wodon : Éditions Modulaires Européennes : 9-39.

LABOV, William, (1976) [1972]. Sociolinguistique. Éditions de Minuit, Paris.

PIETRO (de), Jean-François (1995).« Francophone ou Romand ? Qualité de la langue et identité linguistique en milieu minoritaire », in Jean-Michel Éloy (dir), La qualité de la langue ? Le cas du français. Paris: Champion : 223-250.

SINGY, Pascal (1996). L’image du français en Suisse romande. Une enquête sociolinguistique en Pays de Vaud, Paris, L’Harmattan.

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Wiener Sprachgesellschaft


Mi-Cha Flubacher
Institut für Sprachwissenschaft
Angewandte Sprachwissenschaft