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For a very long time, French was, well, the lingua franca. All courts spoke French, from England to Russia. Everyone else, as always, tried to emulate what the nobles were doing, and learned French if they could.

This made me wonder - what did that mean for bilingual nations? The Quebecois have a unique position in that their side was the losing one, and Canada was an English possession. But they still spoke French, this fancy language of the courts and nobles. Did this ever work in their favour - were they seen (either in Canada or abroad) as more sophisticated than their English-speaking countrymen?

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    It appears to have been the reverse, leading to the 1960s Quiet Revolution - see Wikipedia article. – TheHonRose Mar 12 '17 at 12:37
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    My impression is that the French don't believe that what the Quebecois speak is actually French. – jamesqf Mar 28 '17 at 17:57
  • I disagree with 'all courts spoke French'. Many judges perhaps did, but all the courts from England to Russia? Absolutely not. – Jos Dec 30 '17 at 23:38
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    French was the lingua franca - but the status came from being educated; a French peasant was still less interesting than an Italian noble. The point wasn't "french", it was "educated". – Mark C. Wallace Jan 1 '18 at 2:23
  • @Jos: I believe the OP is using "courts" in the sense of a royal court en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Court_(royal) rather than a court of law. – jamesqf Jan 1 '18 at 2:51
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In short, no. The only time les habitants were ever considered superior to the colonialists was when they were under the dominion of the French king. When Wolfe had vanquished the French armies at the Plains of Abraham, it was always assumed that the British would hold domain over these settlers. To prevent further conflicts, the British armies would relocate French colonialists living in Acadia and transported them to Louisiana.

To maintain peace, an act and a treaty was signed by the King: The Treaty of Montreal and the Quebec Act. This allowed the French language to survive in Quebec and allowed their allies (the Mohawk) to control some lands for themselves. Under this arrangement, the narrows of the St. Laurence would be administered in both French and English. However, English would always remain superior.

When Canada entered Confederation in 1867, the importance of British control was contentious. The Tories who descended from the Family Compact ensured that English would be of increasing importance. The key moment that indicated the erosion of the esteem and participation of the French language within Canada was the Manitoba School Question, 1891. The following period up until the death of Premier Ministre Duplessis in 1959 would see several setbacks for the use of the French language.

It is curious to note that between USA and Canada, the trajectory of the role of the French language would switch in 1960. French would be ascendant in Canada while the French dialects of the US (Cajun, Acadian and Paw-Paw) would become endangered under differing educational policies. Only the métis creoles like Mitchif would become extinct in Canada.

  • It is interesting that if Quebec had joined the 13 Colonies in rebellion, we might have ended up with a strong French language in the USA and possibly a multilingual US government. Quebec might have helped keep US French dialects alive if there had been greater ties between, e.g. Quebec and Louisiana. – Robert Columbia Mar 28 '17 at 20:26
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    @RobertColumbia: Have you read the Declaration of Independence? Several of the egregious "injuries and usurpations" of George III related to allowing the Quebecois to retain their language and religion (Roman Catholicism) rather than being forcibly integrated into English Protestant society. – Pieter Geerkens Dec 30 '17 at 14:35
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No. Quebecois were very definitely lower class.

The stereotype was British overseers and Quebecois workers.

The reactions to this class/language discrimination very much influence Quebec even today.

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    I believe this is 100% accurate - but when presented as just opinion I can't up-vote. – Pieter Geerkens Jan 1 '18 at 5:14

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