The way French is spoken in places as diverse as Gatineau, Shediac and New Orleans can tell us a lot about how francophone communities evolved in North America, and it's the subject of a major study beginning at the University of Ottawa, wrote the Ottawa Citizen March 17:
The $2.5-million project is led by Francine Martineau of the university's French department, but includes 13 fellow researchers and 59 "partners" from Canada, the United States, France and Japan.
The seven-year plan is to study 400 years of family histories to examine how language has shaped communities and cultures.
"We are looking at three fields of expansion from France that are all basically located across the St. Lawrence, which is New France, Louisiana and Acadia," explained co-investigator Raymond Mougeon of York University [Glendon and the Centre for Research on Language Contact].
"If we just focused on Canada, then we would miss some important components of North American francophonie, mainly Louisiana – and probably one of the most interesting colonial settings as well, because it involved not only colonization from France, but also secondary migration from Acadia – basically the French language continued to live, but in a completely different setting from the original."
According to Mougeon, the project team plans to reach beyond linguistics and also focus on history and sociology. The team includes experts in linguistics, anthropology, history, geography and computer science. "We believe that you can only understand the evolution of language if you can actually place it in its broader socio-historical setting," said Mougeon.
. . .
The research team received the grant from the Major Collaborative Research Initiatives Program of the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC).
The project’s focus includes four centuries of history of French on the North American continent in three main colonial settings: Louisiana, New France, which is now Quebec, and Acadia.
Mougeon was also interviewed by the Ottawa Sun on March 16 (video clip attached) and spoke about the study with CBC Radio Moncton, NB, March 17.
You can also read the project's press release on the SSHRC website.
Posted by Elizabeth Monier-Williams, research communications officer, with files courtesy of YFile – York University’s daily e-bulletin.