PhD Oral Exam - Annie Bergeron, Education
Second language speakers' attitudes towards the Québec French variety: An exploration of urban and rural Hispanic speakers
This event is free
School of Graduate Studies
When studying for a doctoral degree (PhD), candidates submit a thesis that provides a critical review of the current state of knowledge of the thesis subject as well as the student’s own contributions to the subject. The distinguishing criterion of doctoral graduate research is a significant and original contribution to knowledge.
Once accepted, the candidate presents the thesis orally. This oral exam is open to the public.
The province of Québec has been the scene of great political and linguistic changes in the past 60 years. These changes have often challenged Québec residents to reassess their existing or to develop new attitudes towards language and language use, and towards various ethnolinguistic groups, including French- and English-speaking communities. Despite its status as the sole official language of Québec, French—and more specifically the Québec French (QF) variety—has frequently been relegated to a lower status in favor of the Parisian “norm,” which is usually referred to as French from France (FF). Designated as the target variety for Radio-Canada newscasters, FF is also often adopted by teachers of French as a second language (L2) in Québec’s classrooms. It is little surprise, therefore, that L2 speakers of French tend to give negative evaluations to speakers of QF while not being able to reliably distinguish between the two varieties.
However, far less is known about L2 speakers’ attitudes towards the QF variety specifically, and the French variety that they would like to learn and use. There is also a lack of research examining the effects of L2 speakers’ attitudes on their production of QF speech patterns, in relation to their sense of belonging towards the majority (francophone) community. But most importantly, there is a need to investigate the attitudes that L2 speakers living outside urban centers hold towards the QF variety and its speakers, and to examine whether these attitudes change, particularly in contexts where L2 speakers such as foreign temporary workers—an essential labour force representing more than 12,000 Latin Americans yearly—are geographically and socially isolated. With a better understanding of these issues, it would be possible to create practical recommendations for L2 French teachers as well as employers and professionals in charge of hiring foreign workers. With these broad goals in mind, this doctoral dissertation includes three studies, all carried out from a sociolinguistic perspective.
Study 1 investigated L2 French speakers’ attitudes towards the QF speech variety as a function of their participation in the francisation (French-language instruction) program. Fifty-eight adult L2 French speakers listened to short sentences that either included or did not include QF speech patterns, rating these sentences for pleasantness, extent of their exposure to these and similar pronunciation patterns, and their preference to choose these patterns as a pronunciation model to follow. Focusing on the same 58 L2 French speakers, Study 2 examined the links between these speakers’ acculturation towards their home culture and the Québec culture and their preference for and their production of QF speech features, separately for those with and without experience in the francisation program. Finally, Study 3 targeted a group of 12 Guatemalan temporary workers living in rural areas, investigating longitudinally their attitudes and motivations towards learning and using L2 French, with qualitative analyses conducted to determine whether there was a change in the workers’ language use, attitudes, and motivation levels throughout their work experience in a French-speaking environment.